Canadian Down Syndrome Week helps show the world that Canada is where ALL people are valued, fully participating citizens. It is a week to celebrate people with Down syndrome and teach others to “See the Ability.” Created by the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS), Canadian Down Syndrome Week (formerly National Down Syndrome Awareness Week) is celebrated every November 1 to 7.
At LiveWorkPlay we help the community welcome people with intellectual disabilities (including Down syndrome, autism, and more) to live, work, and play as valued citizens. People with Down syndrome have always been important contributors to our organization and to the rest of the Ottawa community (including workplaces, arts, sports, recreation, education – everywhere!).
Pictured above left, Tara Pahwa (between David Keay and Graham Kay) is celebrated with the Ambassador Award at Make A Buzz Ottawa 2018 (see her amazing video developed in partnership with ISED below). That’s Analisa Kiskis in the middle, she’s been a pioneer of post-secondary education and is helping pave the way for others. And finally that’s Paul Knoll and Daniel Pinsonneault (Helen Ries in the middle), co-hosts of our commemoration of World Down Syndrome Day (March 21) at our annual Celebration of Inclusion event. Daniel is also a Costco employee, an employer that LiveWorkPlay works with in the Ottawa area, and a recipient of the Ontario Disability Employment Network 2018 Business Champion Award!
Tara’s employment video sends a message that stands in stark contrast to regressive sub-minimum wage practices, known as sheltered workshops. Sheltered workshops benefit from an archaic labour code exemption that allows for wages of any amount, no matter how small (many sheltered workshop participants in Ontario are paid less than $1 an hour). Although the failures of sheltered workshops (poverty and exclusion) have been well documented since the 1970s, it took until 2018 with the passing of Bill 148 by the previous Ontario government that sheltered workshops were at long last to be legislated out of existence (by removing the labour code exemption).
With Bill 148 being replaced by the new Bill 47, removal of the exemption has been postponed, and as yet there has been no clarity about the future of sub-minimum wage for people with intellectual disabilities. We stand with CDSS and their public stance on this issue, first announced in May 2018 (prior to the repeal of the law that would close the sub-minimum wage loophole), which we have reproduced in part (below Tara’s video).
The Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) promotes the opportunity to be a fully participating Canadian Citizen, which includes the opportunity to work in the community in an integrated setting. CDSS agrees with Ontario in eliminating the opportunity for people with disabilities to work for less than minimum wage.
The Canadian Down Syndrome Society believes that the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce has a positive financial impact on our economy, generating income that is ultimately returned in the form of tax revenues. “Many individuals with intellectual disabilities are either unemployed or underemployed, despite their demonstrated ability, desire, and willingness to engage in meaningful work in the community” said Laura LaChance, CDSS Board Chair. “Our country is becoming more diverse and Canadians with disabilities should be included in diversifying the workforce. This can be achieved through established supported employment practices.”
Improving employment outcomes for Canadians with disabilities at the national, provincial, and local level requires a holistic approach that communicates a clear message, incorporates policy change, funding, capacity development, inter-agency partnerships, outcome measurement and service innovation. It is vital that people with disabilities, and all people have the proper supports with clearly articulated goals and progress tracks, with this people with disabilities can become contributors to the economy.
“The Canadian Down Syndrome Society believes that all Canadians including those with intellectual disabilities should have the opportunity for jobs alongside other citizens based upon their preferences, interests, and demonstrated strengths and earn wages and benefits that meet labour standards.”
CDSS believes in supporting individuals in gaining access to supports [such as those provided by LiveWorkPlay!] that help them to participate in the labour force as a valued and fully paid member of a team.