What does accessibility mean to us?

June 1, 2022

What does accessibility mean to us?
At the forefront of this week’s National AccessAbility celebration is the stride toward a barrier free society where ALL Canadians are included. Included in their ability to work, to be integrated into society and to have equal opportunities. Led by this year’s theme, #inclusivefromthestart, the week’s highlights echo NorQuest’s motto, We Are Who We Include, loud and clear. Our campus educates students from every corner of the world and all walks of life, strengthening their abilities. It is a perfect example of our diverse melting pot.
As a leader in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, we believe that everyone belongs at NorQuest. Whether student or staff member, the charge led by our leadership team strategically considers integrating policies and programs that enable us to not just accommodate those with disabilities, but to be inclusive from the start. But what exactly does accessibility mean?
The 2017 Canadian Survey on disability revealed that more than 6 million Canadians aged 15 and over identified as having a disability. However only 59% of those with disabilities aged 25 to 64 were employed as compared to 80% of the population without disabilities. They also earned significantly less and were more likely to live in poverty. Accessibility encompasses breaking down these barriers to create equity across the board so disabled Canadians can thrive.
In 2021, NorQuest introduced Autism CanTech! (ACT!), a workforce ready, tech program geared to stimulating sustainable, long term employment for the underrepresented Autistic youth population in Alberta. To date, the program has grown nationwide and has made job opportunities accessible by partnering with inclusive organizations such as ATB Financial and Auticon.
Previously, NorQuest created a post-secondary Transitions to Employment program designed to provide employment preparation training for adults with mild developmental disabilities. Similar to ACT!, this program combines classroom training with workplace experience to build confidence, technical and financial literacy skills.
Additionally, NorQuest offers the Disabilities Studies program to equip individuals with the training required to support those with disabilities in early intervention, community settings, schools, recreation and employment. This two-year diploma allows skilled workers to enter into careers within the community disability sector, supporting disabled community members to live with dignity and necessary care.
But these are not the only avenues of inclusion and accessibility NorQuest can attest to! Within the college, we are imbued with active and thought-provoking practices of EDI. Annually, each NorQuest employee mindfully undergoes training that revisits what it means to be inclusive and is gently guided by one of the foundational principles of EDI, the Platinum Rule: Treat others as they would like to be treated. Throughout this week we celebrate the milestones and activities that promote accessibility and inclusion within our college and show our gratitude to organizations who seek to remove these disability barriers for a more inclusive Canada. A Canada that doesn’t just accommodate disability, but one that is disability #InclusiveFromTheStart.