Halifax resident KJ St. Coeur-Dowe says finding employment wasn’t easy.
“I am completely blind and have limited mobility and I have a hearing impairment,” they said.
“I had to stop university due to financial reasons so I was looking (for a job) and kept facing a brick wall — not being able to go to a location, not being able to navigate online very well.”
On Monday, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusions Carla Qualtrough was in Halifax to announce $270 million being invested into the Opportunities Fund over the next three years to support 180 projects aimed at helping people with disabilities find employment.
“We know the Opportunities Fund works,” said Qualtrough.
“The latest program evaluation in 2020 found individuals who participated in the program saw real benefits. Their earnings increased by nearly 40 per cent over five years.”
Coeur-Dowe knows first hand the importance of funding like this and is one of hundreds who has benefited from the Opportunities Fund.
Coeur-Dowe says the first step was taking a digital literacy course offered through TEAM Work Cooperative, a Nova Scotia employment centre aimed at promoting inclusive employment.
“They helped me to not only navigate online … but they also gave me the confidence to know I knew what I was doing,” said St. Coeur-Dowe.
After that, the employment centre helped St. Coeur Dowe find employment through the wage subsidy program. They’re now working as a program and fundraising assistant with the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. They say funding was a key to helping them get there.
“For us to be looked at as equals, to be seen as people of value, people with assets, it meant so much, because we’re ready to take on the world.”
Marcus Jamieson, the executive director at TEAM Work Cooperative, says the work they do simply wouldn’t be possible without federal funding.
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“If we didn’t have access to this there’d be certain individuals in the community that just wouldn’t get these opportunities,” he said.
But St. Coeur-Dowe says funding can only go so far. They say their current employer is very supportive but one of the biggest barriers for people with disabilities is finding workplaces that are inclusive.
“We have the skills, we want to work but it’s all about are employers ready for that?”
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