Government of Ontario Recognizes Disability Employment Awareness Month

On October 4, 2016 The Honourable Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Accessibility, recognized Disability Employment Awareness Month in Ontario in her statement to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) applauds Minister MacCharles and the Government of Ontario for their commitment to inclusive employment.

From left to right: Joe Dale, Executive Director ODEN; Diana McCauley, Member of ODEN Board of Directors; The Honourable Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Accessibilty Goverment of Ontario.

From left to right: Joe Dale, Executive Director, ODEN; Diana McCauley, Secretary ODEN Board of Directors and Senior Manager, Employment Services and Knowledge Enterprise, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario; The Honourable Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Accessibility, Government of Ontario.


Mr Speaker, I’m honoured to rise in the House today to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Monsieur le Président, je suis honorée de me tenir devant l’Assemblée aujourd’hui pour célébrer le Mois national de la sensibilisation à l’emploi des personnes handicapées.

I’d also like to recognize the rich and enduring history of indigenous people in Ontario.

Toronto is a sacred gathering place for many people of Turtle Island, and I’d like to pay particular respect to the Mississaugas of the New Credit.

Today, Ontario joins governments and communities across the country to advocate for the inclusion of people of all abilities in our workforce. The fact is, increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and building accessible workplaces is a matter of fundamental importance to our society today – and our economy of tomorrow.

It will expand business.

It will grow the economy.

It will diversify workplaces.

And it will strengthen communities.

There are many compelling reasons to promote inclusive employment, Mr Speaker – 800,000 of them are undeniable.

That’s the number of Canadians with disabilities out of the workforce — talented people who are ready, willing and able to contribute to their communities and economy.

It’s a social, cultural and economic imperative for the entire country, Mr. Speaker.

And it’s one that the Government of Ontario intends to address.

Il s’agit d’un impératif social, culturel et économique pour tout le Canada.

Et c’en est un à l’égard duquel le gouvernement de l’Ontario compte bien s’engager.

It’s why, 11 years ago, members of this House came together to support the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

It’s also why, this spring, Premier Wynne appointed Ontario’s first Minister Responsible for Accessibility.

AND I am honoured to serve in this role.

We have a bold vision for the future, Mr. Speaker; one where our province is accessible to people of all abilities by 2025.

To get there we will encourage employers to hire more people with disabilities – to expand their talent pool and strengthen their workforce.

We will also continue to work with companies, communities and individuals to embed accessibility in our workplaces and neighbourhoods to make inclusion part of our lives.

With a goal to become accessible by 2025, Ontario has become a global leader.

Across the province, communities, businesses and not-for-profits are implementing important accessibility standards.

Our accessible employment standard is helping to shift the way employers approach recruitment and retention.

It includes requirements to incorporate accessibility into hiring processes, workplace information and career development.

As we move forward, we will continue to highlight how simple and beneficial accessibility can be.

Inclusion should be a standard part of doing business in Ontario, Mr. Speaker.

We want all Ontarians to embrace accessibility.

Not simply as a legal obligation but as an exciting business and community-building opportunity.

That’s why our government is developing a cross-cutting, multi-ministry employment strategy for people with disabilities.

This new strategy will not only fulfill a major budget commitment.

It will also address recommendations made by the Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities and the Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Panel.

By taking a whole-of-government approach and by listening to people with disabilities – it will help connect more people to the labour market while helping more employers to become accessible and meet their labour needs.

The idea is to offer streamlined services and in-demand training to address the requirements of job seekers and businesses.

We also understand that to achieve an accessible province by 2025, we need to change perceptions.

That’s why promoting a cultural shift is one of the three pillars in Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan.

It will help to eliminate stigma, entrench inclusive values and lift expectations.

And we’re proud to partner with forward-thinking employers and organizations that can help spread the word.

The Ontario Disability Employment Network – a provincial accessibility champion – is hosting a number of employer events this month to promote the contributions people with disabilities make to workplaces.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is also reaching out to employers, organizing discussions that highlight how inclusive employment can boost a business’s bottom line.

Then there’s Dolphin Digital Technologies, Mr. Speaker.

The award-winning Ontario IT company has hosted an employment mentoring day for people with disabilities for the last six years.

This year’s mentorship day is expanding to six communities across the province.

Dolphin knows workers of all abilities would help companies reach a diverse global market.

And we know our economy would benefit from a larger tax base, increased innovation and competitive new sectors.

This is how inclusion can grow our economy, while strengthening our society.

Mr. Speaker, accessibility will build Ontario up.

It will help people of all abilities in their everyday life.

Monsieur le Président, l’accessibilité permettra de faire progresser l’Ontario.

Elle aidera les gens de toutes capacités au quotidien.

I invite everyone to join me in observing National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Let’s work together to break down employment barriers this month and every day of the year.

Thank You.


For more Disability Employment Awareness Month resources, visit the DEAM section of the ODEN website.

Posted on:

ODEN Excited to Announce Addition of Lisa Bondy to the Team

We are thrilled to announce Lisa Bondy has joined the Ontario Disability Employment Network and its Centre for Excellence team as our Communications Strategist. Lisa has won awards on behalf of her clients in both the nonprofit and business sectors, and she brings her in-depth knowledge and unique skill set to ODEN as a consultant for the next three months.  

Lisa looks forward to continuing and expanding her focus in the area of employment for persons with disabilities with ODEN. She has worked with the Ability First Coalition in furthering their mandate of “Business professionals motivating and supporting employers to hire and retain persons with disabilities” and continues to be involved with the StopGap Foundation, a groundbreaking national accessibility initiative.

During the past year, Lisa has also served as a member of The Conference Board of Canada’s Making Ontario’s Workplaces Accessible Advisory Committee, as well as the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association’s Accessibility Smart Business Project Advisory Committee.

In her role as Communications Strategist with ODEN, Lisa will be coordinating this October’s Disability Employment Awareness Month. If you are interested in being part of the Steering Committee or participating in local initiatives, please contact Lisa at

Lisa Bondy

Lisa Bondy, ODEN Communications Strategist

Posted on:

Mayor Bradley’s Provincial Challenge, will it be answered?

Over the past month the Toronto Star has posted a series of articles related to the subject of closing sheltered workshops for persons with a disability in Ontario. The subject has seen its share of media attention moving from newspaper articles, to social media, to the busy streets of downtown Parry Sound.

The message has been heard loud and clear, now is the time for competitive employment and no more sheltered workshops. Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) officials have made numerous statements regarding their efforts to support the closing of these sheltered workshops. Minister Helena Jaczek has gone as far to say, “I don’t ever want to see someone who has not been involved in a sheltered workshop move into one. That would not, in my view, be acceptable at all.”

So where did the conversation go from there?

To read the article in full, please click the link below.

Posted on:

Posted on:

Posted on:

Metcalfe Foundation Report: The “Welfareization” of Disability Incomes in Ontario

Metcalfe Foundation Report: The “Welfareization” of Disability Incomes in Ontario

    Click here to access the document

    A couple of excerpts from the document:

    On page 22:

    The increase of ODSP expenditures is a complex issue. Of the many intricate factors causing the spike in ODSP, I believe the most significant one is the current labour market. It has become precarious with an increase in part-time, temporary, and contract work. Fewer people in stable salary and wage jobs means that employer-triggered disability income systems have fewer wage and salaried employees to support while they tighten eligibility requirements for their services. This is especially true for workers’ compensation.

    A significant number of individuals with disabilities are discovering that they are not eligible for employer-triggered disability income programs — private insurance, workers’ compensation, CPP-D, veterans’ disability, and EI sickness. And many who are eligible for employer-triggered disability income programs exhaust their benefits. Once their savings and assets are depleted, ODSP becomes the only possible income support program.

    On page 27:

    The perception remains that if you are active in the labour market you have systems at your disposal to support you in dealing with a disability. There is also an important message here for workers who do not have disabilities — particularly contract and part-time workers. The message is that whether or not you are an active member of the work force, if you do not have payroll deductions or pay into a private disability plan, you are not protected against the hazard of future disability and you risk looking to ODSP as the only option for an ongoing stable, but low, income.

    As noted earlier, one advantage of ODSP carrying a larger load is that social assistance permits a recipient to work and receive benefits. Unlike employer- triggered programs, there is no automatic cut-off when a recipient engages in paid employment. For this critical reason alone, there is a case to be made that other disability income systems should consider aligning themselves more closely with approaches taken by social assistance. In addition, social assistance benefits are statutory, not time limited (except once the recipient reaches age 65), and often come with good ancillary benefits such as medical transportation, disability-related supplies, and dental care. It is important to note that most other disability income programs do not provide similar benefits.

Posted on:

Press Release – Dec. 4, 2013

Ontario Disability Employment Networks Launches New Website in Conjunction with Employment First Conference

December 4, 2013

Toronto, ON: The Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) hosted Employment First: Is It Right For Ontario? on December 4, 2013.

ODEN is a non-profit organization of employment service providers advocating for policy changes that increase opportunities for people who have a disability. Employment First: Is It Right For Ontario? brought together a diverse group of stakeholders in the area of employment and disability through a round-table discussion format that focuses on the Employment First framework and how it facilitates the full inclusion of people with significant disabilities in the workplace and community.

Employment First is a community-based, integrated approach to services for people who have disabilities that places employment as the first option for services for youth and adults with a disability. The Framework is sweeping through the United State with 45 states that have adopted or are in the process of adopting the policy framework.

“Employment First Policy Framework is not new to the Network. We at ODEN have been supporting this policy framework and have referenced it in discussions and position papers. Employment First strategy was included in our report to the Social Assistance Review Commission. ODEN has also had discussions with Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), Employment Ontario, Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) Developmental and Ontario Disability Support Branches and Ministry of Finance regarding Employment First Policy Framework,” says Bob Vansickle, co-chair of ODEN.

“We are pleased to be able to take this next step in providing this opportunity to learn more about Employment First Policy Framework. For many service agencies, this approach will not be foreign as they already deliver supports and services with the same or very similar values.”

In conjunction with the event, ODEN has launched a brand new accessible website to engaging their membership, share important information and events, and integrate the organization’s strong social media presence. The new website was designed and developed by SpaceRace, a Canadian boutique digital agency that serves progressive people and organizations.

“We are so pleased to work with the ODEN team on the launch of their new website,” says Aerin Guy, SpaceRace’s Director of Digital Strategy. “We really believe in the work of this organization and are excited to help them share their messages through a site that is accessible to everyone. ODEN is at the forefront of thinking on disability and employment issues and we are proud to support their work.”

To learn more about ODEN, visit:

Posted on:

Posted on:

The New Green (The Economist)

The new green

Business may find disability as important as environmentalism

IF CHIEF executives won medals, Justin King of J. Sainsbury, a British supermarket chain, would be sporting a gold in the marketing marathon for his prescient decision to concentrate sponsorship on the Paralympics rather than the glitzier Olympics. The plaudits he and other companies have received for backing what was previously seen as a sideshow could help change corporate attitudes to disability. (Click to read more:

Posted on:

Posted on:

Employment advocates receive Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals (

Joe Dale, Bob Vansickle, Cheryl Massa ‘making an important contribution to our society’
Wednesday June 20, 2012 — Natalie Hamilton

Champions of meaningful employment for people who have a disability were among the Ontario residents honoured Monday evening with Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals.

Community Living Sarnia-Lambton supervisor of community employment options Bob Vansickle and Ontario Disability Employment Network executive director Joe Dale were two to receive the recognition.

“I was thrilled to hear that Joe and Bob were being honoured with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for their work in promoting employment for people with disabilities in Ontario,” Gordon Kyle, Community Living Ontario’s director of social policy and government relations, tells Community Living Leaders.

Kyle says both men have devoted many years of their time to the issue. Dale and Vansickle understand the challenges people face related to employment and have developed clear strategies to overcome the barriers.

“Through their talent in networking, their willingness to share their vast knowledge with others, and their passion and commitment, they are making an important contribution to our society.  This recognition is well-deserved.”

The medal pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth II’s 60-year reign.

Other allies in the movement to create an inclusive workforce – Community Living London employment services supervisor Cheryl Massa, Tim Hortons franchisee Valarie Wafer and Cohen Higley LLP partner Joe Hoffer — also received medals.

“I was so humbled to receive this recognition and am honoured to be in the company of so many dedicated and deserving people,” Massa tells Community Living Leaders.

“It is my hope that this medal increases awareness amongst the community and more people with a disability are able to realize their goal of meaningful employment.”

The Diamond Jubilee Gala ceremony took place at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto and included performances by Canadian artists, Susan Aglukark, Molly Johnson, Ben Heppner and Gordon Lightfoot.

Reprinted: CLO Website

Posted on:

Posted on:

Mark Wafer Responds to “Finding jobs for disabled Canadians”

Read the article by Alison Griffiths here

Hello Alison.

I read your article this morning.  I am a Tim Hortons franchise owner and an
advocate for people with disabilities especially in the area of employment.
Your daughter’s story is one I hear all the time.

Having met Jim Flaherty a few times and discussed this issue with him I can
say without question he does get it.  He gets the problem of employment and
he gets the overall cost factor.

I am deaf.  I have about 20% hearing and have been since birth. I could not
keep a job as a young man but became a successful business owner. Since I
understand first hand the barriers people with disabilities face in order to
get work, I began hiring people with disabilities in my first Tim Hortons in
1995 and to date I have hired 82 PWD’s and currently have 33 out of a
workforce of 210 in my six locations.

Why did I do this? Simply because I saw a business benefit as time went on.
Of course it was the right thing to do but that isn’t reason enough for
business owners to hire PWD’s. My employee turnover went down, my WSIB
claims went down.

I quickly realized that employing PWD’s was good for business, low
absenteeism, higher staff morale, lower turnover (very expensive), higher
productivity and so on. Several of my employees with disabilities have been
employee of the year.

All are in meaningful positions, no charity. That means competitive salaries
as well as having to be replaced if sick. This includes every department
from managers to front line staff, production and logistics.

In 2008 I began a program through my local Rotary club along with the
programs founder Joe Dale. This is known as Rotary at Work.

Joe, who is a past director of Community Living Ontario, developed this
program that shows business owners how they will benefit from hiring PWD’s.
Joe and I travel the province speaking at Rotary clubs, chambers of
commerce, HR groups and to private business owners. This is a peer to peer
program as business owners are hearing from myself as a business owner.

The result since 2009 is huge. 137 people with a disability hired in a
meaningful position with many more at Tim Hortons stores as I was able to
leverage my position.

Now we know that this is the way forward. We cannot use the same old message
that service providers have used in the past. The unemployment rate for
people with disabilities is the same today as it was in 1970 so clearly it
isn’t working but if we can show business owners that there is a benefit to
hiring PWD’s we will see a lot more doors opened.

Here are a few more facts, studies show that employees who have a disability
work 97% safer, have attendance records 86% greater, stay on the job up to 5
times longer, increase morale to the point that non disabled staff stay
longer (huge win for me). Accommodations average $500 but in most cases its
zero and best of all productivity is 20% higher.

Why? Because the job is precious, it took a long time to get that job.

I cannot buy the loyalty my disabled staff have for my company. What
business would not want this? Education is going to be key.

Now let’s look at the financial side of this problem. The unemployment rate
for PWD’s is actually closer to 70% because so many have given up or are
considered unemployable. The unemployment rate during the great depression
was 25% and was considered a national tragedy yet society is comfortable
with a 70%rate for PWD’s.  This equates to an ODSP cost to the province of
Ontario of $3.2b. This is growing at 5% per year, totally unsustainable and
this is why the province set up the review commission on ODSP and welfare.

However, even though this number is huge it also means that the maximum
payment for an unemployed person with a disability is about $11,000
annually. Well below poverty and that’s only if they qualify for the maximum.

Taking a person off of benefits and creating a new taxpayer is a win/win.
The 137 people who got employment thru our project saved the province $1m in
this manner.

Employers don’t hire people with disabilities because they buy into a series
of myths and misperceptions. This is exactly why Quinn isn’t getting a job;
it has nothing to do with her work experience and all to do with attitude.

My best baker is deaf. Her ovens have chimes, bells and warnings. This
hasn’t prevented her from being an awesome addition to our staff. In one day
she figured out how to get around those audible warnings.

PWD’s are more innovative. Quite frankly a person in a wheelchair has to be
innovative just to get through the day, imagine how that mindset helps a pod
or team at a workplace.

Alison, we are going to fix this problem. It will take time, education is
the key. The AODA will now be focusing on employment, this in itself won’t
help as the legislation is toothless (story for another day) but it will
provide much needed awareness. Canada has a looming labour shortage with
many companies noticing this already yet still don’t hire PWD’s. There is a
huge disconnect but we will fix it.

Best of luck to Quinn. Her attitude, not an employers, will win at the end
of the day.

Mark Wafer

Posted on:

Poverty Watch Spring 2012 – via CACL

The Ontario Disability Employment Network was cited in CACL’s recent edition of Poverty Watch.  See the Network’s Top 5 recommendations made to Ontario’s Social Assistance Review Commission.

Posted on:

Canadian Vocational Project Seeks Employment Opportunities for the Disabled (

Canadian vocational project seeks employment opportunities for the disabled

Original article from:

By Ryan Hyland
Rotary International News – 11 January 2012

Several Rotary districts in Ontario, Canada, are helping to expand employment opportunities for people with physical or developmental disabilities by educating business leaders on the benefits of hiring them.

Districts 6290, 6400, 7070 and 7090 partnered with Community Living Ontario, a nonprofit association that advocates for people with disabilities, to create a vocational service project that provides resources and training for business owners interested in hiring people with disabilities.

By working with employment agencies, the project connects disabled individuals with job openings. Since its launch in 2009, the program has helped more than 130 disabled people find employment.

Project manager Joe Dale, a member of the Rotary Club of Whitby, says about 16 percent of the province’s population has some kind of mental or physical impairment; of those, 49 percent are unemployed. It’s one of the largest minorities in the country and a significant labor pool for businesses to tap into, he says.

“This project has helped a growing number of employers dispel the myths about the disabled by connecting them to [potential] employees with disabilities,” says Dale, executive director at Ontario Disability Employment Network. “We go around the province encouraging Rotarians and other businesses to hire those with disabilities and inform them of the benefits that come with it.”

Studies conducted by Community Living Ontario and surveys of employers have shown that employees who have a disability demonstrate average or above average work performance, are willing and able to work many different types of jobs, and improve staff morale.

Whitby club member Mark Wafer, who helped launch the project, says hiring people with disabilities gives him a competitive edge. An owner of six Tim Hortons, a Canadian-based coffee and baked goods chain, Wafer has employed more than 80 people with disabilities over the last 16 years for positions ranging from customer service to management.

Wafer says the benefit is “substantial.” People with disabilities tend to stay with an employer longer, he says, because it has taken them such a long time to find a job. That reduces the cost of having to interview, hire, and train replacements. “Turnover is expensive.”

Wafer says his overall turnover rate remains low because all his employees “want to be a part of something special, they feel good about the inclusive workplace. It changes the nature of the work force.”

Expanding the project

Dale hopes to see Rotary clubs and districts across Canada take part in this vocational project.

Rotarians can use their influence in the community to demonstrate leadership when it comes to hiring people who have a disability, he says. “If business owners hear that this hiring won’t be a deterrent to profitability, then that’s a strong message.”

Participating clubs can use connections in their community to conduct informational sessions for business groups, chambers of commerce, and trade and professions associations.

David Onley, Ontario’s lieutenant governor, who contracted polio as a child and remains partially paralyzed, says the project “reflects an important partnership between Community Living Ontario and Rotarians to assist Ontarians with disabilities find appropriate employment by forging relationships with businesses.”

The hiring of people with disabilities is one of the last frontiers of discrimination, says Wafer. “Rotarians, as business owners and professionals are well positioned to break down this barrier and open the doors to a more inclusive community.”

Posted on:

Ontario Disabilities Act Creates Compliance Confusion (The Globe and Mail)

Ontario disabilities act creates compliance confusion

View the original article here:

Shelley White

Special to Globe and Mail Update

Published Friday, Jan. 06, 2012

For Hans Sturzenbecher, catering to people with disabilities just makes good business sense.

His restaurant, Macy’s Diner & Delicatessen in Mississauga, Ont., has been making changes to accommodate people with disabilities for the past eight years, from creating space between tables to make room for wheelchairs and walkers to enlarging the print size on menus.

Other Ontario small and medium-sized businesses will have to start making changes of their own to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, provincial legislation to be phased in over the next 10 years that can carry fines of up to $100,000 a day for non-compliance.

As of the start of this year, all businesses in Ontario are required to comply with phase one of the AODA, known as the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service. But many small and medium-sized businesses may not be up to par.

Small businesses in the province “are just starting to really get on board” with the new customer service regulation, says Russ Gahan, vice-president of operations for People Access, a non-profit organization charged with helping the Ontario government raise awareness about the AODA.

He says there’s been some confusion about what the customer service standard is all about. “It’s not about putting in ramps and automatic doors; that’s the first thing people think. They think mobility when they think of disabilities, and what you need to do to accommodate them physically.

“What this is about is attitude change, empowering your employees to be confident when providing customer service to people with disabilities.”

If you’re an Ontario small business, what does that mean in practical terms? The customer service regulation has two major components.

First, all companies must create “an accessible customer service plan” that outlines how their business will provide service to people with disabilities. This includes identifying potential barriers and figuring out new ways of dealing with them.

“The example I like to give is, let’s say you have a store that has a no-refunds policy and you have change rooms that are not accessible,” says John Milloy, Ontario Minister of Community and Social Services. “Yes, it would be wonderful if someone could invest to make the change rooms accessible, but that may not be practical. What they might do is change their policy and say that if you’re in a wheelchair or can’t access those change rooms, you will be allowed to return those clothes.”

Another example, Mr. Gahan says, would be how to deal with customers with hearing loss. “They may be better off not having to negotiate their terms in a noisy office where they can’t hear what you’re saying.

“You start to think of these things, instead of just being oblivious to them.”

The second component of the regulation requires employers to train their staff to provide accessible customer service. Training topics must include how to communicate with people with different types of disabilities and how to interact with people who use assistive devices or service animals.

In addition, employers with 20 or more staff members must keep a copy of their accessible customer service plan and file reports with the ministry, indicating how and when their employees have been trained. They have until the end of 2012 to do so.

There are many businesses to go: According to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, 17 large and small Ontario businesses have filed reports since Jan. 1. Penalties for refusing to comply with the legislation can be serious – organizations can be fined up to $100,000 a day, or individuals can be fined up to $50,000 a day.

Mr. Milloy says that although the regulations are primarily about encouraging and educating the business community, the ministry will follow up with businesses that do not file their reports.

“We’re obviously going to reach out to those that have not filed to urge them to take the steps necessary, and we’re going to obviously be in touch with the disability community as people bring concerns to our attention,” he says. “We do ultimately have fines in place and that’s the last resort.”

To help businesses create their accessible customer service plan and train their staff without spending a lot of money, the ministry offers several free toolkits, including a 78-page employer handbook and a 51-page training resource. There are further resources available. Mr. Gahan says People Access offers both free and paid tools for small businesses.

“The paid one includes e-learning. If you have 20 employees and you don’t want to figure out how to put together a training program for them, for $149 you can have all the templates, tools, window stickers and 19 e-learning seats.”

With e-learning, staff can log in and go through a 25-minute course, reading and answering questions. They can then print a certificate and show their employer they’ve been through the training.

Another option is to hire a consultant to come in and teach a course in-house. “A physical workshop is the best,” says Suzanne Share, CEO of Access Consulting Services in Toronto. “It can be very difficult to change attitudes. I give people a good idea what it’s like to have dyslexia, to have arthritis, to have temporary disabilities or long-term disabilities.”

Once Ontario businesses have met the requirements of the customer service regulation, there will be more to come. The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation will be next – wider-ranging legislation requiring that transportation, employment and all forms of communication be accessible to people with disabilities.

According to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, these standards will be phased in over time between 2011 and 2025, to “give organizations the time they need to build accessibility into their regular business processes.”

Mr. Milloy says employers should look at the AODA regulations as not only important for people with disabilities, but good for business too, particularly in a province where close to two million citizens are identified as having a disability. “I think the message really needs to be that there is an enlightened self-interest there, because people are making decisions. Where do we go for lunch? Well, here’s a place that’s adapting to have a customer service standard that’s very welcoming.

“If I have a business, I want to be able to reach out to them and make them comfortable, because, at the end of the day, it’s going to mean more dollars in my bottom line.”

It’s a message that has long resonated with Mr. Sturzenbecher. “The majority of my clients are seniors. When we started up, we had lots of space and good daylight, and we realized there’s a niche market in our area, and it’s growing constantly.”

He decided to lose a few tables so customers would have extra space to get through with walkers or wheelchairs. When he saw his customers getting out magnifying glasses to read the menu, he tripled the print size. He also offers his menu online in a format that allows visually impaired customers to access it with a screen reader.

Customers with guide dogs get a bowl of water for their canine companions. As well, his staff is well-trained in assisting the patrons with disabilities that frequent Macy’s on a regular basis.

“The truth is, if you cater to them and they know you cater to them, they become loyal customers.”

Posted on:

Winks Eatery owner recognized as champion for change (London Community News)

Monday, November, 07, 2011 – 6:06:45 AM

Winks Eatery owner and Community Living London board of directors member, Dennis Winkler, was awarded the Second Annual Champions League Award last week at the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) Champions for Change – Leadership in Workforce Development Conference in Alliston, Ont.

The Champions League Award recognizes employer champions who have made outstanding progress in the movement of hiring people who have a disability, promoting this movement and making a commitment to continue it in the future.

“Community Living London is thrilled that Dennis’ commitment to employing people with a disability has been formally recognized,” said Michelle Palmer, executive director Community Living London, in a news release. “Dennis’ commitment dates back to his days owning local Burger King Franchises and continues today with his hiring practices at Winks Eatery.”

David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and special guest speaker at the conference, presented the award. Onley’s own experiences with polio and post-polio syndrome, his successful career as a broadcaster, and his appointment as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, made him a very inspiring role model.


Posted on:

Achieving social and economic inclusion: from segregation to ’employment first’ (

Law Reform and Public Policy Series

– June 10, 2011

Over 50 years ago parents started meeting in communities across Canada to share their concerns that their sons and daughters with intellectual disabilities were not being given the opportunities to fulfill their potential; that they had no valued place in society. Denied access to public education that their own tax dollars were helping to fund parents began demanding a different future, began making a claim on governments and society for what we now call full citizenship and inclusion.

These courageous parents faced closed doors and incredulity at every turn. So they took matters into their own hands, and in the name of a more promising future for their children, they began their own schools. As children grew into young adults, and workplaces and the labour market remained similarly closed to the possibilities, parents formed local associations and created activity centres and sheltered workshops. Their adult children had somewhere to go during the day, the chance to learn some life and social skills they had been unable to develop because of exclusion in their early years, and the chance for some respite for their parents. Through the 1950s and 1060s our associations for community living built an impressive infrastructure of special education, sheltered workshops and activity centres, and residential care arrangements, inspired by a vision that people with intellectual disabilities were as deserving of support and a chance in life as anyone else.

By the 1970s, there were some voices among families and leaders of our movement which began to challenge whether this was enough. Was our sole purpose to build this kind of service capacity, on the assumption that since so many doors were closed – and people didn’t seem to belong in regular education, or works places, or with access to regular housing markets – all that people with intellectual disabilities deserved were special, separate services? As a human rights discourse began to grow, these assumptions were questioned. Over the last thirty years, we have worked to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities take their rightful place in society, alongside their brothers and sisters, classmates, peers, co-workers, and other citizens. Our vision of belonging, inclusion, dignity and equal respect has most recently been expressed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by Canada in 2010, and which recognizes in Article 27 “the right of persons with disabilities to work, on an equal basis with others; this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.”

Our challenge now is that our vision outstrips the service capacity we have built. It’s time to catch up with ourselves. The Canadian Association for Community Living undertook this study to look at how we might chart a path from the infrastructure we have collectively built for sheltered workshops and activity centres, to supporting people to access the labour market and fully inclusive workplaces like other Canadians, within the context of what we have termed an ‘employment first’ policy framework. Some visionary local associations and leaders are showing the way forward. We have immense know- how in local associations across the country. Our mission must now be to turn this knowledge and infrastructure we have built in the direction of securing social and economic inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.

We hope this study and its recommendations for the federal and provincial/territorial governments to take leadership for an ‘employment first’ policy and program approach for labour market inclusion of youth and adults with intellectual disabilities gets traction. We look forward to working with all our partners in supporting and resourcing the necessary local leadership and capacity to make it a reality.
Michael Bach Executive Vice-President Canadian Association for Community Living

Click here to view original

Posted on:

Posted on:

Posted on:

Posted on:

Posted on:

Posted on:

Change Begins with Leadership (Belleville Intelligencer)

From the Belleville Intelligencer on Jan. 25, 2011 – An article about Joe Dale and Mark Wafer’s efforts through the ‘Rotary at Work’ initiative to educate other Rotarians  about the benefits of hiring a job seeker who has a disability.

Posted on:

Posted on: