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Ottawa takes aim at putting more disabled to work

The federal government is putting together a task force to figure out how to get more people with disabilities employed in meaningful work.

The federal government is putting together a task force to figure out how to get more people with disabilities employed in meaningful work.

The task force will include executives from companies such as Loblaws and Tim Hortons, and will be led by Kenneth Fredeen of Deloitte and Touche.

The group will be looking at companies that already have good records in hiring people with disabilities in the hopes of putting together a tool kit for other companies, and figuring out barriers to employment.

Their report should be ready by the end of the year - fairly quickly by government standards.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced the panel on Monday in Ottawa.

According to 2006 data, about 14.3 per cent of Canada's population, or 4.4 million people, reported having a disability of some kind.

Among the working age population, 8.0 per cent of those aged 25 to 44 had a disability, while 18.3 per cent of those in the 45-to-64 bracket reported being disabled.

Workers with disabilities are dramatically under-represented in private-sector companies governed by the Employment Equity Act, the most recent annual government report on disability issues shows.

However, they are overrepresented in the public service.

Labour force participation among people with disabilities is low, with 59.6 per cent active in the workforce. That's much lower than among people without disabilities, where 80.2 per cent of working age adults are participating in the workforce.

The employment rate among workers with disabilities is also much lower than among people without disabilities. Just slightly more than half of workers with disabilities have jobs, compared to 75.1 per cent among workers without disabilities, according to the 2010 annual report.

The report says about one million people with disabilities are not in the workforce at all. About 65 per cent of those are completely prevented from working by their disabilities.