New DRPI Project: Multi-Sector Employment Strategy for Women and Men with Disabilities

A new DRPI project will focus on increasing the productivity of women and men with disabilities and encouraging employers to make workplaces more accessible.

From left, York’s Vice-President Research & Innovation Robert Haché, MP Lois Brown, Professor Marcia Rioux, Professor Don Dippo and Professor Wenona Giles
Official ceremony with CIDA representatives, York University representatives and Marcia Rioux from DRPI.

The project has strong support from grassroots organizations in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. The new CIDA-funded project will target three sectors in these countries – the food processing industry, the hospitality industry, and entrepreneurship and self-employment − because these are sectors that proportionally employ a more significant number of persons with disabilities.

By focusing on employment of persons with disabilities, this project will help to achieve some of the goals of the UN’s 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by more than 100 countries including Canada, which calls on countries to prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in job-related matters, promote self-employment, employ persons with disabilities in the public sector, and promote their employment in the private sector.

The following speech was given by Marcia Rioux on February 6th to announce the project as a part of the Special Announcement by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) the York University Vice-President of Research and Innovation to mark International Development Week:

I want to start with a few facts that place this CIDA-funded project in context.


  1. 80% of persons with disabilities are unemployed. (International Labour Organization and World Health Organization).
  2. 80% of people with disabilities live in developing economies in which there is a viscous cycle of low education and poverty (World Health Organization, Milenium Development Goals).

The landmark United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into effect in 2006 and was ratified by Canada in 2010.  It recognized the extreme discrimination towards persons with disabilities worldwide.  This project, to be carried out with our partners in India, Bangladesh and Nepal will be an important contribution towards the goals of that UN Convention.

This project uses direct action by addressing poverty through economic integration. Through gender-sensitive labour market inclusion strategies, it will increase the economic well being of persons with disabilities in three sectors: food processing; hospitality and entrepreneurship.
Getting people jobs is not a one-way street.

  • It requires that employers clearly recognize the discrimination that they have built into the workplaces;
  • It requires governments to recognize the lost economic opportunity that they have designed into their economic policies and
  • It requires persons with disabilities be given opportunities to work within mainstream employment.
  • It requires a hard look at the gap between government promises in laws, policies and programs and the reality of life in communities.

This CIDA funded project enables a group of Canadian scholars and students, mainly from the Critical Disability Studies M.A. and PhD, at York University, to work with people with disabilities to find real jobs.  It is an opportunity to address the perceptions of governments, of employers, of international business, and of the public that people with disabilities cannot be contributing members of society.  Its intent is to do some myth busting and in the process to provide real opportunities to increase employment and decrease the discrimination and poverty faced by persons with disabilities.

We appreciate the CIDA support for this work which compliments our on-going 10 year project that is engaged in carrying out disability rights monitoring and identifying the differences between what’s on paper and what’s in action. Thank you.

Since 2001, York University has hosted a project, Disability Rights Promotion, whose goal is to monitor the rights of persons with disabilities, to identify the gap between government promises of law, policy and programs and what is happening in communities around the world for persons with disabilities. It identifies the differences between rights on paper and rights in action.

Read the official York University press release here.

video featuring DRPI Co-Director Marcia Rioux describes the project in more detail.