Approximately 1 in 5 Canadians identify as having a disability, which equates to around 1 million people in British Columbia.
This demographic represents a significant pool of potential employees in B.C.’s workforce, which makes it crucial for employers to identify, remove, and prevent barriers in the workplace proactively.
The Workplace Accessibility Grant was launched in 2021 by Small Business BC and the Presidents Group, with funding from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. The grant initiative provides direct financial assistance to small business employers to establish inclusive and accessible work environments for those who identify as persons with disabilities and to create a culture of diversity and inclusion at work.
“When you prioritize accessibility in your business, you can tap into a deeper hiring pool of potential staff while also becoming a welcoming and valued community resource,” says Tom Conway, CEO of Small Business BC.
Project eligibility criteria
Workplace improvements that address obstacles presented by the physical environment, attitudes, information, and communication, practices and policies, and technologies can be considered for the grant. Some common projects and services that are deemed eligible include accessibility ramp installations, accessible washroom renovations, anti-bias training, ASL interpretation, and website accessibility audits.
“Accessibility is a broad term, and the eligibility requirements for the Workplace Accessibility Grant reflect this,” says Conway. “The vast majority of modifications or enhancements undertaken to increase accessibility within your business are eligible for consideration. If your proposed improvement contributes to making your business more accessible to those with disabilities, it will be eligible for grant funding.”
Applying for the grant program
Small businesses in B.C. with fewer than 50 employees qualify for the Workplace Accessibility Grant program. Reimbursement grants of up to $5,000 are available for eligible businesses that demonstrate how their project improves accessibility and inclusivity for persons with disabilities in the workplace.
The grant will be administered through to March 31, 2024 on a first-come first-serve basis for businesses and projects that meet the required eligibility criteria.
Eligible businesses with projects that qualify for the grant are required to submit related expenses and proof of purchase of the products and services that were used for the project, which will be reimbursed once all application details have been approved.
Advantages of workplace accessibility
In addition to creating a more inclusive working environment for employees with disabilities, embracing workplace accessibility offers many competitive advantages for small businesses.
Accessible businesses are appreciated by the public, enhancing their positive reputation and sense of social responsibility. With this competitive edge, companies can also tap into the diverse and growing market of persons with disabilities by encouraging their further inclusion and participation in their business.
“Accessibility improvements can support the needs of existing and potential staff and clients, creating a more inclusive and comfortable environment for everyone,” says Conway.
Businesses can apply for the Workplace Accessibility Grant at www.smallbusinessbc.ca/workplace-accessibility-grant. For any grant inquiries, contact Small Business BC at 604.775.552, calling toll free at 1.800.667.2272 and email email@example.com
For more resources on workplace accessibility, visit www.smallbusinessbc.ca/accessibility-business-resources and www.accessibleemployers.ca/resource