In a significant move to promote workplace inclusion, British Columbia has earmarked $4 million in funding for the National Institute of Disability Management and Research (NIDMAR).
This comes as part of B.C.’s Disability Employment Month, a September initiative aimed at recognizing the crucial role people with disabilities play in the province’s workforce.
The funds will support a pilot project developed by NIDMAR to assist individuals who are either disabled or recovering from physical injuries and mental-health challenges in returning to work. The initiative aims to provide early intervention and occupational rehabilitation services, including healthcare support, ergonomic assistance, job coaching, and medical exams.
Susie Chant, Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility, underscored the initiative’s significance. “An inclusive B.C. means all British Columbians receive employment support if needed to find meaningful work,” she said. “This funding for NIDMAR supports employers in establishing and sustaining workplaces that are barrier-free, thus ensuring all British Columbians can be part of our workforce.”
The project aims to help approximately 500 people return to work over the next three years. Initial sites for the program will be launched in both urban and rural areas, including Nanaimo, Vancouver, Kelowna, and Prince George.
Wolfgang Zimmermann, executive director of NIDMAR, spoke from personal experience about the impact of such support. “After suffering a serious spinal cord injury in an industrial accident many decades ago, it was the commitment from the company and union which allowed me to return to work,” said Zimmermann. “We very much appreciate the support of the Province, enabling us to develop new and innovative approaches designed to support employers and disabled workers in maintaining/regaining the all-important employment link.”
The $4 million grant is part of the 2022-23 Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Development Agreement, under which B.C. receives over $300 million annually for employment services and supports.
Federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages, Randy Boissonnault, also voiced support for the project, stating, “Organizations like NIDMAR empower persons with disabilities to succeed through their inclusive training programs. I look forward to seeing the benefits this project will bring to people across B.C.”
Joan Phillip, MLA for Vancouver-Mountain Pleasant, and Kathy Hatchard, Occupational Therapist and Adjunct Faculty at Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences, also emphasized the timely importance of the initiative amid a nationwide labor-market shortage and the potential it holds for individualized care and recovery.
The investment in NIDMAR aligns with StrongerBC’s Future Ready plan, aimed at making education and training more accessible and helping to tackle the ongoing labor shortage in the province.
- Over 926,000 British Columbians above the age of 15 live with a disability.
- More than 80% of mental and physical impairments emerge during a person’s work life.
- Less than 1% of those who become disabled return to work if they are not back within the first year after becoming disabled.