08/28/2015 11:10 EDT | Updated 08/28/2016 01:12 EDT

Panel wants government to lead by example in hiring people with disabilities

TORONTO — An advisory panel recommends the Ontario government lead by example when it comes to hiring people with disabilities in the civil service and the broader public sector.

The Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities also wants a dedicated cabinet minister and a deputy minister responsible for a government-wide strategic plan for hiring for people with disabilities.

The council's first report also calls on government to develop strategies such as mentorship programs to help more youth with disabilities enter the labour market.

It also recommends a new marketing campaign to raise awareness of the value of hiring people with disabilities that would build on the momentum from this summer's Parapan Am Games in Toronto.

Economic Development and Employment Minister Brad Duguid says the government is committed to building an accessible province and will take steps to promote the hiring of people with disabilities.

He says the government will work with businesses of all sizes to create a culture of inclusion in workplaces.

"Businesses that hire people with disabilities can strengthen their talent base, increase their potential for innovation and enhance their ability to serve new markets," Duguid said in a release. "That's how inclusive employment can help build an innovative, next generation economy for Ontario."

In June, Duguid announced an update to the 10-year-old Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, with initiatives geared towards making businesses more accessible to both future customers and prospective employees.

It called for the government to spend $9 million over the next two years on a program dubbed Valuing Ability, which will provide job training for disabled post-secondary graduates and offer resources to businesses that want to become more accessible. There will be a loan program for companies that hire and retain staff with disabilities.

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