My mother was diagnosed with a disability when I was very young. I remember the many medical appointments, my family’s hushed voices when discussing her condition, and the fear of the unknown. I would have given anything to help her get better.
But most of all, I remember all the people who helped her. My mother was a kind, skilled and passionate nurse, and fortunately her workplace was an excellent model of a positive return-to-work culture. I am thankful that her employers made creative modifications and adaptations to her role. They empowered her to stay in the workforce as long as possible.
For close to 10 years, my mother gave her employer her best work every day as a contributing, committed employee in a modified role. For my mother, work recognized her skills and abilities, gave her structure and continuity in her life and provided her with a sense of belonging. Not only that, it allowed her to fulfill her passion for helping others while supporting herself and her children.
As WorkSafeNB’s acting chairperson and as an executive director with Ability New Brunswick, an organization that works with individuals with mobility disabilities, this year’s Disability Awareness Week theme, Equal opportunity for all, really resonates with me. New Brunswick has the second highest rate of disability in Canada at 16.4%. Those with disabilities are an untapped labour source with significantly lower employment rates than the provincial average.
I am proud to be part of organizations that take time to recognize Disability Awareness Week, reflect on our achievements and acknowledge where we still need to make change. One of WorkSafeNB’s key focuses is helping injured workers get the care, support and services they need to safely return to work. WorkSafeNB knows we must foster strong partnerships and communication with workers, employers and medical professionals. Helping workers access the care and rehabilitation they need while providing employers with access to effective education, training and tools on job modifications and accommodations is a priority for WorkSafeNB as we strive to make the system sustainable.
Disability Awareness Week aims to raise public awareness of existing roadblocks that prevent New Brunswickers with disabilities from full and equal participation in all aspects of our communities. From May 27 to June 2, 2018 I encourage you to take time to reflect on what we can do to break down these barriers, and how we can make return-to-work a cornerstone of New Brunswick’s workplace culture.
Acting Chairperson, WorkSafeNB