Increased workplace accessibility would result in economic benefit: paralympian Rick Hansen

‘If you’re not accessible, you’re losing that market,’ says Hansen

Rick Hansen, once a paralympian, has moved into philanthropy and advocacy for those with disabilities. (Rick Hansen Foundation)

Making workplaces and communities accessible to those with disabilities will have a positive impact on Canada’s economy.

That’s the finding of a report released Friday by the Rick Hansen Foundation in partnership with the Conference Board of Canada.

B.C. paralympian Rick Hansen said there isn’t enough emphasis on the economic benefits of increased accessibility.

His foundation teamed up with the conference board to conduct research into the issue.

“No one speaks to the opportunity,” said Hansen during CBC Radio One’s The Early Edition.

Living with disability

The report showed that 2.9 million Canadians live with a physical disability that impairs either their vision, mobility or hearing and that the number will increase by 1.8 per cent annually over the next 13 years.

The report stated that in 2017, Canadians with disabilities contributed to the country’s economy by spending $165 billion dollars as a whole.

The conference board obtained data for the report by surveying Canadians with disabilities and and assessing how they interact with their communities.

The report showed that since the number of Canadians with disabilities is expected to increase annually, total real spending of this group will rise to $316 billion by 2030, increasing from 14 per cent to 21 per cent of the total consumer market.

Accessibility affordability

To tap into that population growth, Hansen said investments in workplace accessibility need to be made, so Canadians with disabilities can participate more fully in the workforce.

“If we made the workplace more accessible we would have a massive gross in GDP,” said Hansen.

Hansen said the cost of any government investments toward workplace accessibility would be a drop in the bucket compared to the report’s finding of a GDP increase of $16.8 billion by 2030.

“About a half a million people …have a potential to work longer and obviously become employed, it has a huge net gain to our country,” said Hansen.

“It’s time governments and the private sector really accelerate their attention to this because who would want to leave that on the table?”

Hansen called the growing population of Canadians with a disabilities a pool of untapped potential.

Hansen says as more people with a disabilities are able to work, the more they will give back to local economies.

“They want to go out and be part of a restaurant experience, they want to go to retail stores, they want to travel just like anyone else,” said Hansen.

“But if you’re not accessible you’re losing that market, and they’re going other places or they’re not going at all.”

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