A New Epoch for Canadians with Disabilities

So, to get us started on this webinar my first question is… can you tell us more about why you wanted to organize this webinar? Why do you think it is important to discuss people with Disabilities in a Post Covid-19 world at this time? This Life After Covid-19 with Max Brault interview continues.

Max: Well, I think that we’re now living more and more in an atmosphere where we get a lot of information from various different sources. We’re getting information from the TV, from the Internet, and from our conversations that we’re having with people via various kinds of applications. This Life After Covid-19 with Max Brault interview continues.

PWD’s Need to Start Talking

But I believe more and more that as this progresses, this pandemic environment, that we as a community of Persons With Disabilities, need to start having conversations amongst ourselves. And we need to start having some honest conversations about where we’re moving forward, how we’re dealing with today, how we’re dealing with a lot of fun stuff. And my fun stuff is relative, I guess how to deal with a lot of stuff that we’re not aware of.

And I think that more and more this is an opportunity for our community for us all get together and start having some conversations about what is this that it’ll look like afterwards. And to ensure that, based on the new act that were being hurt, and that whatever kind of decisions that the federal government is thinking about a provincial governments or being are thinking about that were being considered.

It’s a great statement here that somebody said that there there’s not a lot of announcements concerning people with disabilities. Recently, we’ve heard a lot of announcements for various different things. We heard a little bit about mental health, but we haven’t heard a lot about persons with disabilities. So, I thought this was a great time to start getting some experts together and having this discussion. This Life After Covid-19 with Max Brault interview continues.

Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

Beth: So, we obviously, much like you, mentioned we can’t escape the negative impacts of Covid-19 by any means. However, these are extraordinary circumstances. Do you think that the exceptional circumstances of this pandemic may offer some opportunities as well? Especially when it comes to inclusion and employment equity for people with disabilities?

This, I have to say, is a loaded question. We are, for the first time in the history of the world, as individuals with disabilities have the ability to be heard through a crisis of this kind of nature. The last one that occurred, well there was two, was 60 to 70 years ago. The last time this happened, the community was fighting the Pandora’s box of eugenics.

We’ve been fighting to be heard for a long time. And during the sixties and 70 years ago, the United States was just, the United Nations was just starting to be put together. And so they were trying to create some kind of peace and trying to get rid of all these generations of rivalries.

Now with the U. N. Convention of Persons with Disabilities, and as I like to say technology, we as a community have the ability to reach out and connect. And this is the most important part is to be heard.

We have that ability now. We’re living through some of these times that everything changes from this moment. Forward we’re going to be referring to before and after.

And I like to use this particular quote from an author from The Wall Street Journal by Ken Fallon about what we’re experiencing. And this is kind of my joke for today. This Life After Covid-19 with Max Brault interview continues.

Pandemic is Golden Opportunity for PWD’s

We’re locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences, and it comes across as totally irrational. I know a lot of people are sitting here thinking this doesn’t make sense. And it comes across like an elephant being attacked by house mouse or by house cat. Frustrated by trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off the cliff and dies.

You know, we’re all watching stuff going on, and we’re all kind of getting a little confused about what’s going on. But I do not want to talk and get people in the impression that this is a fearful situation that we should embrace. No, I believe we’re living in what I like to believe is a golden opportunity. We have an opportunity to be heard.

So, bear with me here. I’m going to bring up of some really interesting stuff that most of you probably already heard about. Canadian employers were making massive changes due to the Corona virus. Some of them should be even be temporary, but for some changes that have dramatically increased the workplace accessibility and should be permanent.  Just four months ago many individuals who could not find work remotely, with a disability, are now doing so from home. Now this is a realization that much could be done remotely. Not all work needs to be done on site. This Life After Covid-19 with Max Brault interview continues.

Max Brault of BDO Canada is interviewed b y Beth Robertson of the Conference Board of Canada about Life After Covid-19 for persons with disabilities on Accessibility TV

Employers & New Accessibility Canada Act

You know, we this is one of those before and after situations. Canadian employers should take note that the New Accessibility Canada Act, which removes and prevents barriers to accessibility, included in the workplace. To work from home, for example, is a reasonable request for accommodation?

Following Covid-19, businesses should have a hard time arguing that working in the office is always required when it’s not required right now. Making it possible for employees to continue working from home will benefit employees for years to come. Many organizations will come to discover that things really you work better when employees are not in the office.

I heard last night on the radio, for example, it was said that oddly enough they were expecting productivity to be dropped by almost 50% and now they’re seeing that it’s been up by 30%. And so, you know, people are really, when they’re taking their time to work from home, are really dedicating themselves. This Life After Covid-19 with Max Brault interview continues.

Moving Forward with Remote Work

Anyway, moving forward, companies and workforce will likely be looking for more options and choices. Hence, we may see more blended models in the future. Going forward, we’ll likely see remote distributed work programme to be expanded and be part of the work ecosystem.

More and more heads down, concentrated work happening outside the office and what was defined as office might be involved to be a more gathering space designed for collaborative and communitive.

But how is this being done by many nations? And this is why it is important that we connect with their counterparts in other nations and start building the best practices. And where his progress is stalled, we encourage and push them forward in direction.

Max Brault Bio

Max Brault is a person with a disability with almost 20 years of experience focused on employment equity and the advancement of workplace accessibility. Unafraid to challenge convention to make positive change for the disability community, Max is currently the vice president of BDO Consulting (Strategy & Operations). His aim is to identify accessibility issues for corporations, governments, and non-governmental agencies, and to provide strategic solutions to address them. Before his work with BDO, Brault was a policy leader with the federal government who played a key role in the development of the Accessible Canada Act.

Beth A. Robertson Bio

Beth A. Robertson is the Senior Research Associate for Inclusion; Education and Skills; Future Skills at the Conference Board of Canada in Ottawa. She is a social scientist who specializes in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, with expertise in the areas of gender, disability, technology and industry. She has served as Director of the $1.1 million small grants program “Gendered Design in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) for Low and Middle Country,” based out of Carleton University with funding from the International Development Research Centre.

In addition, she was Adjunct Curator of Gender and Globalization for Ingenium: Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation. Robertson has hosted mini-documentaries for Accessibility TV and was co-primary investigator of Carleton University’s Disability Research Group. She has curated exhibits, published articles, given public presentations, organized symposiums and developed pedagogical materials related to accessibility, human rights and technology.

Accessibility TV

Accessibility TV is a Canadian entity which reaches individuals, companies, organizations and governments related to Accessibility issues, information and ideas. Our audience exceeds the 4.4 million Canadians who live with a disability by including policy makers, corporations, companies and the army of family, friends and organizations who directly support the 1 in 7 Canadians with a disability on a daily basis.

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