Technology Sectors

From the emerging economic analyses, one notes that the employments of future are primarily in sectors of high technologies, biomedical and computer sciences. in these analyses, I have yet to find any mention of women and men with disabilities, nor in which sectors women and men with disabilities could find work in the next millennium, nor how the market can adapt itself to integrate them.

These sectors are the most difficult to access for women and men with disabilities primarily because very few of us have been encouraged to enrol in them. The educational institutions perception of which group of people is appropriate for society's labour market may be the rationale for encouraging them into specific fields,7 but institutions also, in this way, screen out from these fields individuals deemed unwanted by the labour market. As a result, sensitization of people in power in these areas is minimal.

There needs to be a major shift in thinking about who can enter fields of high technologies and sciences, and administrators and policy makers in these fields should adapt their attitudes. in other words, there needs to be a shift from the current paradigm in which women and men with disabilities are seen solely as subjects to whom these sectors can Tender services, to a more egalitarian attitude that is respectable and acceptable of women and men with disabilities as equal partners and competent colleagues.

Women and men with disabilities also need to adopt a different perspective about fields of study. The vast majority of people with disabilities have lived with social barriers and injustices. Consequently, a large number of them orient their studies to fields of social justice. But social change can no longer be the sole focus; there is a need to be where the economic power lies. To arrive there, women and men with disabilities need the educational tools that will make them competitive and competent individuals, and we all need to be active in the ongoing analyses of the educational and employment needs for the next millennium. This will ensure that women and men with disabilities are not relegated to segregated areas in the labor market of the next millennium.

L'économie sociale
This is not to say, that as a group, people with disabilities should not be involved in l'economie sociale (community economy). L 'economie sociale includes community work, servicing, ethics-sectors that have primarily relied on government subsidies and that provide low paying or volunteer services. These are areas that are familiar with the wealth of knowledge and experience that women and men with disabilities can bring and they are sensitive to the need for adaptation. Those individuals who choose to work in these fields may find it easier. But given that such job opportunities are usually poor paying and not often available, if government and businesses were to give the community sector the economic value it deserves it would be a viable option for many more.

What is crucial however is ending the politic of restrictions in areas of education that has contributed to the segregation of women and men with disabilities into work ghettos. The system must provide the younger generation of people with disabilities a wider range of options, allowing the majority of people with disabilities to enrol and succeed in all academic levels and in the vast majority of fields. This is particularly important women with disabilities who are still at the bottom of the strata.

Maria Barile holds an M.S. W. from McGill University. She is a past Vice-Chair of DAWN Canada and is currently Co-Chair of Action des femmes handicapée de Montréal.

  1. Fichten, Catherine S. Education: Breaking Down the Invisible Barriers (Challenges for the 21st Century) Keynote address at the annual convention of the National Educational Association of Disabled Students, November 1994.
  2. Association des adults handicapés de la Maurice, Project : La femme handicapée et la société, Rapport d'enquête, 1993.
  3. Statistics Canada, Women in Canada 1995, Catalogue 89,503E (obtained through internet), and Statistics Canada, Adults with Disabilities: employment and education. Catalogue 82-554, pp.80 & 224, 1991
  4. Statistics Canada, Women in Canada 1995.
  5. Human Resources Development Canada, Annual Report: Employment Equity 1994. Public Inquiries Centre, Hull Quebec, 1994.
  6. Lonsdale, Susan. Women and Disability: The Experience of Physical Disability Among Women, London: MacMillan, 1990; Morris, Jenny. Pride Against Prejudice: Transforming Attitudes to Disability, Gabriola Island: New Society Publisher,1991.
  7. Oakley, Anne. Subject: Woman, New York: Pantheon Books, 1981.

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