FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement was released today by Randy Dickinson, chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission:

From May 27 to June 2, New Brunswick will be celebrating its 25th Disability Awareness Week. The Premier's Council on the Status of Disabled Persons, its partners and many local groups are organizing numerous activities throughout the province to mark this week.

This year's theme is Ready and Able to Work! It is timely as New Brunswick's educational system continues to produce qualified high school and post-secondary graduates who have a physical or mental disability. As a province, we have invested in their education, and now they are ready to join our workforce and contribute to our economy.

In many cases, these graduates will fit readily into their new jobs without requiring any accommodation. In other cases, they may need various accommodations, like accessible washrooms or special equipment or software. Most such accommodations are no-cost or low-cost.

Over the years, the educational system has gained considerable experience in enabling students with a disability to achieve their full potential. Now, it is up to employers to learn how to make the most of the skills that these graduates have to offer.

There are also other persons with disabilities already living in their communities who are seeking suitable employment opportunities.

The employers who are most open to, and capable of, making the necessary accommodations will be the ones who will be best able to unlock the full potential of their work force. Many customers like to support businesses that are demonstrating respect for diversity.

While there are good business reasons why employers should make the necessary accommodations to be able to hire qualified employees with a disability, it is not just a matter of economics or fairness.  It is a requirement of the Human Rights Act. Employers are required by law to make reasonable accommodations to enable employees with a physical or mental disability to enter and remain in the workforce.

Complaints of discrimination based on physical or mental disability accounted for 43 per cent of the discrimination complaints filed with the Human Rights Commission in the 2010-11 fiscal year. More than three quarters of the complaints concerned employment. Many involved the failure to reasonably accommodate employees with a disability.

Employers can avoid such complaints by becoming familiar with the legal requirements under the Human Rights Act with respect to accommodation. The Human Rights Commission has published a guideline that explains these requirements. It is available on the commission's website.

With the necessary accommodations in place, New Brunswick employers can recognize the true potential of the thousands of New Brunswickers with a disability who are indeed ready and able to work.


●    New Brunswick Human Rights Commission