The United Nations’ theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2021 is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world”. CUPE recognizes the important message behind this theme to promote inclusion, equality and accessibility for the disability community.   

As workers and activists, we need to understand that not all disabilities are immediately noticeable – from mental illness to learning differences, diabetes, chronic pain, cognitive dysfunction and much moreCUPE strongly supports the agenda of the disability rights movement. This commitment on the part of our union is heightened given the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on some of our most vulnerable citizens.   

Persons with disabilities are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and have a higher mortality rate than the rest of the population. New safety protocols have posed additional challenges and concerns for persons with disabilities, undermining their access to full participation in society. For persons with disabilities who have intersecting identities, such as women, Black, Indigenous, racialized and LGBTQ2+ people, the impacts are even worse. We encourage all union leaders to take action to advance disability rights in our workplaces. 

What can you do? 

  • Use December 3rd to educate and advocate for disability justice at work, in your local and in your community. 

  • Bargain for measures that support disability rights in your collective agreement, including employment equity, duty to accommodate, short and long-term disability coverage and language on mental health, HIV/AIDS and episodic disabilities.