The theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2020 is “Not All Disabilities Are Visible.” CUPE recognizes the important message behind this theme. 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 more.

CUPE strongly supports a disability rights agenda. This commitment on the part of our union is even more urgent given the current pandemic.

COVID-19 has heightened the call for action to make Canada more inclusive, equitable and accessible. Persons with disabilities are at greater risk of contracting the virus and have a higher mortality rate than those who do not have disabilities. New safety protocols have posed additional challenges and concerns for persons with disabilities, impacting access to full participation in society. For marginalized communities that include women, Black, Indigenous, racialized and LGBTQ2+ people, these impacts are even more disproportionate.  

As union leaders, here are some ways you can take action to advance disability rights in your workplace and local:

  • Use December 3 to educate and advocate for disability justice at work, in your local and in your community.
  • Print these posters celebrating this year’s IDPWD theme and hang them in your union hall or office. Use the poster as your background for virtual meetings.
  • Download these social media images to show your support online: Facebook profile frame | Facebook post | Instagram post
  • Bargain disability rights into your collective agreement, including employment equity, duty to accommodate, short and long-term disability coverage and language on mental health, HIV/AIDS and episodic disability.
  • Carry out accessibility audits to remove barriers in your workplace and union spaces. Get your employer to make this a regular practice.
  • Ensure virtual meetings are accessible for everyone by being proactive and asking members about their needs (for example, paying attention to font sizes, providing sign language interpretation, describing images that appear on screen, reducing background noises, etc.).
  • Look out for the CLC’s upcoming disability rights toolkit.
  • Take CUPE workshops on disability issues.
  • Remove barriers and encourage members with disabilities to become involved in union leadership and activities.