Employer Resources

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.

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ODEN Recognizes Disability Employment Awareness Month

Ensuring workplaces welcome the talents of all people, including persons with disabilities, is a critical part of our efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy.

In this spirit, the Ontario Disability Employment Network will be recognizing Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM) this October to raise employer awareness of this talent pool and celebrate the many and varied contributions of persons with disabilities.

The 2016 Disability Employment Awareness Month theme is “Engage Talent!” Each week during October’s Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM), we will hear from successful employers who hire persons with disabilities as an integral element of their business strategy.

Text: October 2016 Disability Employment Awareness Month #DEAM Engage Talent! Image: Many hands in the air all giving thumbs up.

ODEN has planned a number of activities during this month to reinforce the value and talent persons with disabilities add to our workplaces. We invite you to take part in these events and will be providing our members with exclusive resources to use throughout the month of October. As well, we will be promoting our members’ DEAM related activities.

Subscribe to our mailing list and visit DEAM Resources for ways you can get involved this October!

Share #DEAM on Facebook
Spread the #DEAM message on Twitter
Visit our LinkedIn Company Page
Join our LinkedIn Group

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Announcement: Centre for Excellence in Employment Services for People with a Disability

The Ontario Disability Employment Network is thrilled to announce the creation and formal launch of the brand new Centre for Excellence in Employment Services for People with a Disability.

This initiative will bring additional resources and help us strengthen our efforts in our employer engagement initiatives and work towards building and enhancing the capacity of the service sector to better understand and fulfill the needs of the business sector when it comes to recruiting and on-boarding people who have a disability.

A brief overview can be found below and the Minister’s public launch at Vos Independent Grocers in Port Perry can be viewed by following this link. (More information also listed below)

Joe Dale, Executive Director


To ensure Ontario builds and maintains the best possible employment service delivery network. A delivery network that is responsive to the employment needs of people who have a disability and that achieves the best possible outcomes by fostering and promoting the highest standards of practice for employment service providers across the province.

The Centre for Excellence will develop a training and consulting capacity and focus its work in 4 key areas:

Training & Development

Establish on-going, low cost training across the province to upgrade skills and establish consistency across service providers and professionals in the province

Work toward providing professional certification/designation for employment service employees

Work with Colleges and Universities to include core curriculum on employment service skills for rehabilitation, counselling, DSW and related degree and diploma programs

Coordinate with MCSS Human Resource strategy to include employment specialization within the context of its ‘core competencies’ work

Marketing and Employer Engagement

Working closely with MEDEI and the Partnership Council

Build on recent employer awareness/education programs E.g. Champion’s League, Rotary at Work, etc.

Innovation & Best Practice

Innovation must be built into the system. It does not happen by accident.

Identify and study best practices and models and develop strategies to replicate these across Ontario. Many can be built into training programs and other existing structures and strategies.

Create a recognition program for superior performers

Community Networks

Coordination of community networks

Assistance to establish networks where they currently don’t exist

Information and resource transfer between networks

How will the employment service sector benefit from a Centre for Excellence?

Resources that will be provided for Employment Service Agencies

  • Training in employment services
  • Consulting assistance in areas of strategic planning, service delivery transition, action plans, etc.
  • Coordination of marketing/employer engagement initiatives
  • Problem solving and trouble-shooting
  • Transfer of information and skills, best practices, etc.
  • Continuous quality enhancement
  • A connection to the business sector

Resources that will be provided for the Business Sector

  • Education and training related to hiring people who have a disability
  • Clearing house
    • Connecting businesses to service agencies to fulfill their need for candidates and support services
    • Connecting businesses to candidates who may not be, or may not need to be connected to agencies
  • Consulting Services for larger businesses that want to create strategies or modify recruitment processes and structures to effectively engage people with a disability in their workforce.

Resources for people who have a disability

  • Information and assistance related to understanding and navigating the employment service delivery system
  • Connection to appropriate employment services in their local area
  • Connection to employment opportunities where no agency involvement is required
  • Assurance that the employment service system is of high standards and quality

Resources that can be provided for Government

  • Consultation on various Government councils, task forces and working groups, both formal and informal
  • Expertise and training for Government employees and managers
  • Assistance to modernize services and supports
  • A connection to the business sector
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(Video) The Agenda with Steve Paikin: Champions for the Disabled

(From tvo.org) “The Agenda with Steve Paikin is TVO’s flagship current affairs program offering in-depth analysis and intelligent debate on issues of concern in the rapidly changing world around us.

In one of the rare moments of perfect harmony at Queen’s Park, all three parties voted in favour of making Ontario barrier-free by 2025. However, there are concerns among some that the province isn’t on track to make that goal. David Onley, Ontario’s Lieutenant-Governor from 2007 to 2014, and David Lepofsky, Volunteer Chair of The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance join Steve Paikin to discuss what’s needed to make this goal a reality.”

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Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector – Report from the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada)

(From www.hrsdc.gc.ca) The Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities engaged private sector businesses, other organizations and individuals, online and in person, to identify best practices, successful approaches and barriers to employment from employer’s perspectives. For more information on the Panel, please:

Click here to access the PDF Document
Click here to access via website


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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: http://www.economist.com/node/21562229)

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Yes, it’s possible to save taxpayers millions while getting more people who have a disability into the workforce (Press Release)

For Immediate Release

 Yes, it’s possible to save taxpayers millions while getting more people who have a disability into the workforce

 London, Ontario

What is the greatest barrier to people who have a disability finding and retaining jobs? The ‘system’ itself, according to the Ontario Disability Employment Network.

Ontario spends $3.3 billion a year on disability income support, a figure that’s growing at a rate of 5% a year. Yet, it’s frustratingly difficult for many people who have a disability to find a meaningful place in the economy because of systemic roadblocks.

The Network recently released a report to Ontario’s Social Assistance Review Commission that includes 37 recommendations aimed at helping more people who have a disability find work, while also saving taxpayers millions.

 According to Statistics Canada, 15.9% of Canadians have a disability and a staggering 49% of adults who have a disability are not in the workforce. Helping them get jobs is good for all of us because it reduces dependency on social assistance and allows them to contribute to the tax base.

 Fixing the system – an encompassing term for the myriad of government departments and ministries that fund employment – doesn’t have to be difficult. Many of the Network’s practical recommendations identify savings, in many cases without the investment of new resources.

 Some recommendations are simple administrative changes, such as eliminating the requirement for a second eligibility approval for those who receive income support but want help finding a job.

 Some recommendations are more complex and will take longer to implement. The Network’s top 5 recommendations include:

  • Creating a single employment services framework that incorporates all ministries and departments that have responsibility for disability services
  • Moving the five existing funding pots to a single stream for all employment services and transferring responsibility for those resources to municipalities
  • Ensuring other programs that support people who have a disability do not compete with or undermine employment opportunities
  • Changing to an audit-based accountability system, similar to that used in the income tax system
  • Moving to an income reporting and adjustment system that is technology-driven and similar to an ‘equal billing’ system commonly used by utility companies.

 Don Drummond is on the right track with his recommendations to streamline administration. However, his understanding about what’s needed to accommodate people with disabilities in the workplace is somewhat naïve. Services that help people who have a disability get into the workforce have been operating in Ontario for almost 40 years. But the Province’s fragmented approach to disability funding and related policy has made the provision of employment services for this group virtually unmanageable.

 The Network supports the Drummond recommendation to transfer responsibility for employment programs to Employment Ontario given the following parameters:

  1. The need to maintain specialized services.
  2. The need to retain a separate service delivery stream for people who have a disability. This will be within the context of a ‘no wrong door’ approach, giving people who have a disability ultimate choice of service delivery agent.
  3. The disability stream will capture all eligibility status, e.g. EI, ODSP, CPPD, etc.
  4. Government should not directly deliver services and supports. Rather, its role should be to fund and manage systems and accountability.
  5. The Network rejects any notion of ‘Capacity Assessments’ that may be used to determine employability. All persons who are motivated to work must have access to the services and supports they need in order to be successful.
  6. Benefit entitlement (income support) should be managed separately from employment supports.
  7. Ontario needs a clear Employment First Policy Framework for people who have a disability.
  8. There must be a clear and transparent selection process for Transfer Payment Agencies that takes into account their area of specialty and track record of successful service delivery, not just their administrative capacity.
  9. Capacity to ensure innovation, creativity and flexibility must be built into the new system.

“Between projected labour shortages and increasing acceptance of people who have a disability in the workplace, we are optimistic for the future, provided we can get the system on track.”

 While the Network awaits further discussion with the Social Assistance Review Commission, it fears next week’s provincial budget will circumvent the Commission’s work by adopting the Drummond recommendation to transfer services to Employment Ontario.

 To read the Ontario Disability Employment Network’s full report and recommendations go to: http://www.odenetwork.com/library/submission-to-the-social-assistance-review-commission/

For more information, contact:

Joe Dale



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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

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Strategies Used by Employment Service Providers in the Job Development Process

Strategies Used by Employment Service Providers in the Job Development Process: Are they consistent with what employers want?


Dr. Luecking, President of TransCen Inc., was one of the keynote speakers at the Ontario Disability Employment Network’s Conference in Alliston this past November.  Dr. Luecking collaborated on this recently released technical report which focuses upon strategies used by job developers and how they resonate with employers.  Although this study was undertaken in the U.S,. it may contain lessons for providers of employment services here in Ontario as well.

We asked The Network’s Employer Champion Leauge member, Mark Wafer, who owns a number of Tim Horton’s stores in the Toronto area for his opinion of the study and this is what he had to say:

“This is a very well written article, in fact it mirrors very closely to what I say all the time about nurturing relationships with employers, using strategies that work for the business and following up constantly to ensure success.  Any time I speak with service providers this is the message I present.

This article would be a good handout to a lot of the service providers i have met recently who still use the same old charity approach.”

Mark Wafer


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People Who Have a Disability and the Barriers to Employment – Issues and Solutions

June, 2011

1. Employer Misconceptions and Discrimination

Employer Misconception #1: Liability & Safety

Employer Misconception #2: Increased Costs

There are a number of cost-associated fears that employers express:

  • the cost of accommodations;
  • loss of productivity due to disability;
  • lost time due to disability related illness;
  • increased WSIB (noted above) and benefits costs; and
  • increased time/cost of training and supervision.

Employer Misconception #3: Fear of the Unknown

Employer Misconception #4: Fear of Firing


Solutions to Employer Misconceptions and Work-Related Discrimination

Solution:  Accessibility for Ontarians with a Disability Act (AODA)

Solution: Dispel the myths and misconceptions – ‘stereotypes and bias’

Solution:  Needs Based Job Development Strategy

People who have a disability often require an employment agency job developer to ‘sell’ the client based on the critical needs of the employer.

The candidate and employer will need support services to assist the employer to integrate a person who has a disability into their workforce and to learn the specific skills of the job

Some employment agencies have made gains by addressing the perception of additional costs and supports through customer service programs that offer guarantees.

In addition, many organizations offer assistance to help transition an employee who is not meeting the job requirements to alternate employment.

Solution: On-the-Job Employment and Employer Supports

Working with the employer, employment staff develop a measurable plan to ensure, over time, the employee will achieve the essential skills of the job and become self sufficient in their work.  Employment staff may also assist the employer with workplace accommodations which may range from adaptive devices to successful workforce integration (co-worker relationships).  Supported Employment, this strategy provides assistance such as job coaches, job retention assistance, transportation training and/or assistance, assistive technology, specialized job training, and individually tailored supervision.

Solution:  Employer Education

Ongoing education and awareness is key to dispelling employer misconceptions.


2. The Nature of Disability

Nature of Disability Issue #1:  The Range and Scope of Disabilities

The range and scope of disabilities is vast.  Each disability presents its own challenges and barriers often requiring specific and unique accommodations and supports.  Further, each disability has a broad range of limitations, from mild to very severe, that may affect the individual’s level of independence.  Furthermore there are a large number of people who have multiple disabilities which can compound an individual’s limitations.  For the purpose of social participation and daily activity, including participation in the workforce, the severity and associated limitations of the disability defines the supports and interventions people need.

Often the disability, onto itself, poses other related barriers. For example a person who has an intellectual disability also may not be able to read or write; a person who is deaf may need a range of interpreter options (sign language, note takers, closed captioning); a person who has a physical disability may need accommodations for travel as well as physical accommodations within the workplace and a person with epilepsy may take medications which cause memory problems and need a procedures manual with personalized notes for reference. In each case, the interventions and supports required to achieve success on the job will be different.

Nature of Disability Issue #2: Individual Motivation

The life experiences of people who have a disability will have a significant impact on their vocational success.  Some individuals who have a disability have been programmed into a life of dependency and control by others. They lack self confidence, initiative and the motivation that drives independence, often relying too heavily on the support of others, even for the most basic of life’s tasks and decisions.  Many of the clients that Employment Agencies provide services for are not self directed. These individuals will not readily or independently: show up for appointments; read a job ad and forward a resume; follow verbal or written instructions that have multiple steps; understand the services and supports that are available to them; know how to exercise their rights; or, understand the demands and culture of a workplace. While some people who have a disability who are well educated and/or have a reasonable work history, may be self directed and able to access generic, mainstream supports, this is not the typical clientele that shows up at the doors of specialized Employment Agencies.  Readiness and willingness to work – motivation is one of, and arguably, the most important quality to ensure successful employment for this group.

Nature of Disability Issue #3: Limited Education and Work History

The level of education attained can be an indicator of success in the workforce.  The severity of a disability, regardless of type, can affect educational achievement.  People with severe or very severe disabilities are more likely not to have a high school diploma, and thus any higher education.  According to the 2010 Federal Disability Report 19.3% of individuals with a disability indicate that they feel their training is not adequate to become employed. Many people, especially those with a severe or very severe disability, also have limited or no work history.  Many people who have a disability were excluded from the student job market where they would learn their first lessons of responsibility and workplace culture. This is also when many people develop and formulate their career goals and expectations.  As such, they have no idea about what jobs or careers are suitable to match their skills and interests as they have limited exposure to the labour market.  Related work experience and education are the two key job match criteria for a hiring employer.

Nature of Disability Issue #4: Limited Capacity Due to Disability

A significant portion of working-age adults are not in the labour market at all as they do not have the capacity or ability to work due to their disabilities.  Some are significantly limited in the type of work they can do.  Others feel they cannot participate in the labour market simply because they do not have the ability to look for work.  It must be noted that individuals with a disability that are not actively looking for employment are not included in unemployment statistics but would be captured in the employment participation rate.

Nature of Disability Issue #5: Fear of Failure

Many individuals who have a disability have had limited employment experiences and many have had bad experiences or have tried jobs that failed. In addition, many people struggled to gain access to ODSP Income Supports and are hesitant to have this benefit put at risk. Irrespective of experiences, there is a very real fear of failure and the impact failure will have on their eligibility to regain ODSP Income Supports. People do not understand or, in some cases trust, the government’s rapid reinstatement policies.


Solutions to the Nature of Disability

Solution: Specialized Employment Agencies

Each intervention is unique and customized to the specific needs of the job seeker. Specialized Employment Agencies have developed expertise over the past 30 years. This has been driven by the needs of the individuals served and the lack of success provided by other models of service delivery. In the 70’s and early 80’s, everyone who wanted to work went to the Canada Manpower Centre. If you had a disability, you were referred to the sheltered workshop for a life of menial labour without pay. Since those days, much has been learned about specific strategies to assist people who have a disability to access the labour market so that they can be contributing members of society.

Solution: Facilitated Job Selection

To address the issue of limited education and work history it is important that the individual in this situation be provided with resources and support to identify realistic job goals. For these people job exploration/preparation programs are a necessity. This may include:

  • Time limited pre-employment preparation programs
  • Job trials to help assess individual’s suitability and interest in the job;
  • Unpaid work experiences to measure the individual’s skills relative to the essential skills of the job;
  • Interest testing and or formal skills testing; and
  • Labour market research to ensure the job is available in the community.

At the conclusion of this phase the individual looking for work should have a realistic job goal in-line with their skills (or potential skills) and related work and/or life experiences. The goal, if available in their community labour market, must then consider the appropriate supports needed based on the individual’s disability and be something they are motivated to pursue.  Development of a realistic job goal is critical to securing and retaining work.

Solution: Motivational Interventions

A significant yet under acknowledged component of an Employment Agency’s work is assessing and building the individual’s motivation to work.  As noted above, motivation and personal independence is a significant contributor to retaining employment.  Due to the life experience of persons with disabilities, especially those with moderate and severe disabilities, Employment Agencies spend time working with clients to help them gain awareness of their motivational level and remove the barriers related to lack of independence, self confidence and other lifestyle related issues.  While the client is working toward greater independence, Employment Agencies will provide a degree of personal assistance. This will range from reminder calls prior to appointments to accompanying people to go to appointments and interviews and even intervening during and after these appointments.  Addressing motivational issues is not a focus of employment agencies dealing with the general public but is an important component of the support to successfully place people who have a disability.

Solution: Place and Train Model

Many community Employment Agencies have moved away from the traditional vocational rehabilitation ‘train and place’ model. The reality for people with a disability, who may have limited education and work experience, is that they are uncertain what to train for. In the past many of these individuals ended up in training programs that went on for years. Very few graduated and moved on to employment. In the mid 80’s, primarily prompted by the developmental sector, agencies started moving to the ‘place and train’ model. This model, based on the premise that people learned to work best in the workplace, proved to be much more efficient and effective. Supports are provided by the Employment Agency in the workplace in coordination with the employer.  The employee’s hours and responsibilities at work increase over time as their capacity and work skills improve.  Over time, this model has been adopted by many service providers supporting people with other disabilities and, in turn, other types of employment barriers.

Solution: Client Education

Often Agency staff spends considerable time educating clients about government regulations and policies; various programs and supports available; the ODSP Income Support system and the impact on benefits as a result of working; and what rights they have to services and supports.   This type of education is often necessary to provide some assurance to clients that the risk-reward to gain employment can be balanced (see System Barrier #1).


3. System Barriers

System Barrier #1: The Income Supports System

For an individual with a disability the risk-reward equation is out of balance.  People who have a disability and are recipients of the ODSP Income Support program loose $0.50 on every dollar earned (beyond the $100 monthly work incentive). Even though the person is always better off working, there exists a perception that ‘it’s not worth it”. The financial gain from work (which is often part-time for people who are getting their first job or re-entering the workforce) does not create an incentive to follow this path.  This perception is coupled with the fear that if the job does not work out, the person will not be able to get back on the income support system or will face delays that will put their well being at risk.

There are also some very real and legitimate concerns about what happens when a person declares employment income.

  • Income fluctuations. People may, for various reasons, see great fluctuations in their employment income. At the same time people, living on the edge of poverty, tend to spend what they have. This combined with the lag in Income Support, due to reporting processes, makes for a very untenable result. People will often choose to live with less, but consistent, income in order to maintain security and stability.
  • Impact on subsidized housing. When people report their income there is the possibility that they will loose their housing subsidy. When you combine the increased rental payments with the 50 cent on the dollar equation people may, in a very real way, be in greater financial difficulty.
  • Employment Insurance. People who have a disability who have worked long enough to be EI eligible must exhaust that system of supports before returning to the ODSP system – both in terms of financial supports and employment supports. At this time the EI system does not have the capacity or ability to adequately support people who have a disability, particularly when it comes to employment supports.

All in all, people who have a disability often look at these variables and conclude that the risk of pursuing paid employment is not offset by the financial rewards.

System Barrier #2: A Patchwork of Funding

In Ontario there are 5 key government funding sources of employment programs for people who have a disability – MCSS ODSP-ES, MCSS DSA, MTCU Employment Ontario, Ministry of Health & Long Term Care and Service Canada.  Some Employment Agencies receive funding from only one government source while others access several and some access them all.  Agencies may also secure fee-for service business from private sources such as insurance companies and additional revenues from donations or foundations may also be solicited. This patchwork of funding is timely to manage, inefficient and inconsistent in its application. The reality however, is that some Agencies find this the only way to provide a ‘complete’ basket of services and supports that meet the needs of their customers – both employers and the people who have a disability they serve.

As an example imagine an Employment Agency within an organization that primarily serves a population of individuals who have an intellectual disability. To be viable and meet the needs of people requesting assistance they have secured funding from multiple sources.

  • Job exploration/preparation is paid for by Service Canada Opportunities funding.
  • Job Development and initial coaching is paid for by ODSP-ES.
  • Wage subsidies and the Resource Centre are funded by Employment Ontario
  • Once the ODSP-ES funding for job coaches runs out, on-going coaching, employer supports and trouble-shooting are covered by the agency’s Developmental Services funding as is assistance for career development and job advancement.
  • The agencies quality assurance and marketing programs were also paid for with a combination of funding from the Developmental Services budget and private donations.

Remove any one of these funding sources or dramatically change the rules and two things happen: 1. Key elements of the service are at risk as is a successful outcome; and 2. The financial viability of the entire program is at risk as, over the years, there has become an inter-relationship of funding to support the overhead costs e.g. office space, staff, training programs, etc.

Many agencies, however, do not have access to all these funding mechanisms and, therefore, are not able to provide some of the critical supports and services their clients require. This often results in poor job retention by the client.

System Barrier #3: Lack of Policy Framework

Ontario lacks an overall policy framework that focuses on employment for people who have a disability. As a result, various ministries and their branches compete with each other and/or lack clarity about their mandate and funding parameters. This leads to the patchwork of funding described above. In addition, other disability programs often compete or undermine employment programs.  Historic service delivery models such as sheltered workshops continue. These programs have limited ability to move people through the service to employment and clients stagnate.  These programs tie-up employment related funding/resources for non-employment related outcomes and entrench people who have a disability to a life of dependency on social assistance.

New service delivery models such as individualized funding – Special Services at Home, Passport, etc. – are unregulated and allow people to do almost anything they want. In many cases as a way to ‘extend’ these resources, families and independent support workers are placing people in volunteer positions in private sector, for profit businesses. This emerging trend directly competes with other people who have a disability who are seeking real, paid employment. Employers who get free labour refuse pay for labour from what they see as the same source or labour pool. Responses like: “I don’t pay for those people any more. I get them for free” is a stated roadblock. This has become a much more prevalent issue in recent years.

Solutions to System Issues

Solution:  A Policy Framework that Frames and Coordinates Employment Supports

When it comes to day options and programs, Ontario needs a Policy Framework that crosses all Provincial Ministries and Departments that fund services, supports and programs for people who have a disability – MCSS DSA, MCSS ODSP-ES, MTCU Employment Ontario, Ministry of Health, Provincial portions of Service Canada, Municipal Employment Programs and Ministry of Education. This Policy Framework should place employment as the top funding priority for daytime supports and services for people who have a disability. It also builds in coordination and collaboration among all funding jurisdictions to ensure people who have a disability can access the services and supports they need. Often referred to ‘Employment First’, this policy framework:

  • Focuses on integrated work at commensurate wages – “real work for real pay”
  • Is not a ‘work for welfare’ approach whereby participation in work is required in order to access income support or that penalizes people for non-participation.

An ‘Employment First’ policy framework has been adopted in many US jurisdictions. For example, Employment First Policy was adopted in Washington State where it was reported in 2008 that 87% of people with intellectual disabilities receiving employment and day supports participated in integrated employment. [1] In Washington State this is primarily a policy framework for people who have an intellectual disability, however, we believe it would have similar impact across all disability types.


4. Employment Agencies

Employment Agencies for people who have a disability, although they exist to assist people to secure employment, may unintentionally contribute to the employment gap between people who have a disability and those without.

Employment Agency Issue #1: Limiting Service Offering

In today’s reality, Employment Agencies are often required to limit their service offering due to funding levels and contractual targets that are negotiated with the funder. The consequences of this are three-fold:

  1. Customer service for the employer is limited. Agencies cannot afford to provide on-going coaching, trouble shooting, or implement employer satisfaction programs. This ‘place and run’ scenario has a negative impact on job retention.
  2. Intentionally or not, people who have a disability are routinely screened ‘out’ of employment services if their disability and subsequent level of support is considered too costly. Even for those who are supported to find jobs, job quality and support for career advancement is not available. Employment preparation programs that assess a candidate’s skills and abilities to ensure a good fit and a better chance for job retention are less and less available.
  3. Employment Agencies are weakened by failing infrastructure and lack the resources to invest in things such as marketing initiatives, staff training, planning, innovation, service quality and evaluation.

Employment Agency Issue #2: Lack of Effective Marketing Resources

Employment Agencies need marketing materials and strategies that specifically target the employer audience. This means allocating both financial and staff resources, on an on-going basis, to successfully educate business and gain their support for the hiring of people who have a disability.  Very few agencies have the resources or budget to develop marketing materials and programs.  Staff who work in the employment field are not necessarily skilled at developing sophisticated marketing campaigns or strategies.

Employment Agency Issue #3:  Lack of Focus on Employers

Businesses need assistance in various areas: creating organizational policies, procedures and planning related to hiring and accommodating workers with disabilities; orientation and training for employees, supervisors and managers; on-going trouble shooting when problems occur and, outplacement when needed. Without effective customer service and proper supports for the business, employee problems are often overlooked and not addressed until they have reached a crisis level and employment is terminated as a result. On-going communication and follow up with the employer will enhance job retention.  Employment Agencies need to respond to the needs of business as well as the needs of their clientele.  As such businesses must also be regarding as a client.

Employment Agency Issue #4: Lack of Infrastructure

Some Employment Agencies suffer the consequences of a lack of investment in their organization. The impact of the lack of investment compromises business practices that are essential to a vital and quality operation. While it would be untrue to say that all agencies suffer in all these areas, there are significant shortcomings in many agencies across the province. When revenue and thus investment is lagging the following business practices may be impacted:

  • Lack of business or strategic planning;
  • Minimal resources for staff training and skill development (beyond that which is legislated);
  • Limited or poor quality assurance programs;
  • Little focus on business innovation;
  • Weak or non-existent service evaluation strategies; and
  • Limited ability to explore diversification of business opportunities or revenue sources.

It is difficult to assess, with any certainty, agencies that provide quality services and achieve exceptional outcomes without examining how the system continues to undermine itself and its operating entities.

Employment Agency Issue #5: Lack of Standards and Credentials

Most Employment Agencies are staffed with well-qualified, trained employees who have specialized in social work and/or in providing personal supports. Social Services diplomas and degrees and Developmental Service Worker programs from a community college are generalist programs and provide very little training in employment services and no training in marketing or business.  As such, Agency employees must receive this training on the job.

Vocational Rehabilitation Canada (VRA) and the College of Vocational Rehabilitation Ontario are striving to develop professional designations and standards of practice and conduct within this sector.  Unfortunately, at this time, these organizations cater largely to those working within the sector that have university degrees or a ‘Masters’ designation.  In many Employment Agencies a college diploma is the standard for employees therefore, they cannot fully take advantage of this professional association.  Thus the services for people who have a disability are largely un-regulated.

Solutions to Issues Concerning Employment Agencies

Solution: Collaboration – Providing Enhanced Assistance to Business

Employment Agencies need to understand and respond to the needs of businesses as well as the needs of their clientele. There are examples of experiences and practices that demonstrate that superior results can be achieved when services and supports are provided in a collaborative fashion by Employment Agencies.  This includes marketing campaigns and education directed to the employer.   Further allocation or re-allocation of resources will be required to develop and sustain collaborative models.  Collaborative models should be expanded across the province in close cooperation with all funding bodies.

Solution: Reward Positive Outcomes

While specialized services may need to be paid on a fee-for-service basis, government should find a way to reward positive outcomes – jobs. This should also include ways to recognize higher quality jobs – those with greater hours worked, better wages, benefits and working conditions as well as greater support needs for those with more significant disabilities. If organizations had a base budget to cover off essential infrastructure requirements and augmented this with financial incentives based on performance, we would likely see better outcomes in Ontario.

Solution: Profession Standards for College Graduates

Working with VRA and/or the College, Employment Agencies should adopt standards of operation, quality assurance measures and ethics and thereby provide sound training and credentials for employment service professionals who do not have a university degree but are currently working within the sector.

Solution: Invest in Employment Services

Dependency on Social Assistance and Income Support is rising at dramatic, if not out of control, proportions. Last year taxpayers spent over $3.3 billion on ODSP Income Supports. Yet, in spite of the recognition that helping people get into the workforce is key to managing this expenditure, the ODSP Employment Support budget for the same period was $55 million with only about $35 million of that going to direct employment supports for people who have a disability.

If government truly wants to see greater gains in employment for people who have a disability, they must take a hard look at the investments that are required.


In Summary

Through the exploration of employers, the nature of disability, income and employment support systems and employment agencies, this document has reviewed many of the issues which impact the disparity in the rate of gainful employment between people who have a disability and those without a disability.  Solutions, from the perspective of the agencies that currently serve people who have a disability have been developed to facilitate resolution to these long term and often chronic issues.

We hope that these insights provide information and an enhanced perspective regarding people who have a disability and their specific and sometimes unique employment support needs.  We also anticipate that Employment Ontario will consider this information as it relates to integration of people who have a disability into their future service delivery strategies.

Appendix A               The Path to Employment

Pre-employment Preparation

Assessment, Resume development, Interview skills, Employment Life skills, Training

Job Development

Finding the job, Employer engagement, self directed vs. assisted

Job Retention

Career Development

Job Coaching, Trouble shooting, Employer assistance

Quality Assurance

Employer satisfaction

Candidate satisfaction

Evaluation & Improvement Strategies

Appendix B                Success Stories/best practice

[1] Achieving social and economic inclusion: from segregation to ‘employment first’ CACL June, 2011.

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Canadian Vocational Project Seeks Employment Opportunities for the Disabled (Rotary.org)

Canadian vocational project seeks employment opportunities for the disabled

Original article from:  http://www.rotary.org/en/MediaAndNews/News/Pages/120112_news_rotarywork.aspx/

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.”

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

Ontario disabilities act creates compliance confusion

View the original article here:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-marketing/customer-service/ontario-disabilities-act-creates-compliance-confusion/article2292901/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=Hom

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.”

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ODEN Representatives Attend Throne Speech at Queen’s Park

Mayor Mike Bradley, ODEN Employer Champion and originator of the "Mayor's Challenge to Hire Persons' with a Disability" just prior to the Speech from the Throne

Mayor Mike Bradley, Employer Champion, and Cheryl Massa, ODEN Board Member

Cheryl Massa, ODEN Board Member, with The Hon. Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care for Ontario on the floor of the Legislature

Bob Vansickle, ODEN Board Member, seated on the floor of the Legislature waiting for the Speech from the Throne to begin




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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.

url:  http://www.londoncommunitynews.com/2011/11/winks-eatery-owner-recognized-as-champion-for-change/

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Equal Opportunity in the Workplace (National Post)

Equal opportunity in the workplace

National Post · Oct. 6, 2011

Mark Wafer, who owns six Tim Hortons stores in the greater Toronto area, believes legislation to make workplaces accessible to people with disabilities is necessary, because in many cases companies simply wouldn’t invest the money and effort without it.

“But there’s a far better reason for making your business accessible to people with disabilities, both as customers and employees,” he says. “It just makes really good business sense.”

Over the past 16 years, Mr. Wafer has hired more than 70 people with disabilities, and he has no doubt that it has given him a competitive advantage.

“I’ve hired people with disabilities for jobs ranging from customer service all the way up to management. They’re in meaningful positions. That means they get equal pay. There are no subsidies from the government,” Mr. Wafer says.

“What happens over a period of time is you start to notice that people with disabilities tend to stay with you for much longer, because it’s taken them so long to get the job in the first place. That’s a tangible benefit, because turnover is expensive. The other upside is because you’ve created an inclusive workforce the other employees want to stay, too. They want to be part of something special.”

As a result, while the typical turnover rate for Tim Hortons stores in southern Ontario is between 70% and 80%, at Mr. Wafer’s stores, it is 35%.

It’s time to dispel some of the myths that hold back employers from hiring people with disabilities, says Joe Dale, project manager at Rotary at Work and executive director at Ontario Disability Employment.

“There are all sorts of myths: that it’s going to cost them more, that productivity is not going to be as good and employees with disabilities are going to miss a lot more work. While there isn’t enough of a strong research base that dispels those myths, we do have lots of anecdotal information that does,” he says.

“What’s more, I think people are pretty resilient, but particularly so people with disabilities who have found ways to get around their disabilities and can be more creative than others. They develop great problem-solving skills. I am not sure most employers necessarily understand that yet, or what a valuable labour source that people with disabilities can be.”

Rotary at Work has helped a growing number of employers dispel the myths by connecting them to employees with disabilities.

“Rotary at Work reflects an important partnership between Community Living Ontario and Ontario Rotary Clubs to assist Ontarians with disabilities to find appropriate employment by forging relationships with businesses,” says David Onley, Ontario’s Lieutenant-Governor.

Mr. Onley is a shining example: Afflicted by polio at a young age, he suffered partial paralysis. After extensive physical therapy, however, Mr. Onley regained the use of his hands and arms and partial use of his legs. He is able to walk with leg braces and canes or crutches, but he generally prefers to get around using his electric scooter. He is able to drive a car using hand controls for acceleration and braking.

Another issue many companies don’t understand – much to their detriment – is the fact that when they make their business accessible to employees with disabilities, they’re also making them accessible to customers with disabilities.

“If you use the same business model when looking at creating accessible retail space, the cost/benefit ratio also favours a return on your investment,” Mr. Wafer says.

In fact, Statistics Canada pegs the number of people with disabilities at around 16.5% of the population. “If you think about it in other terms, that’s the combined population of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” Mr. Dale says. “It’s the largest minority in the country. It’s a significant niche for businesses to tap into.”

And that’s what Mr. Wafer has found to be the case. At one of his stores, he worked with Excellence Canada to ensure the building met Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) standards. Included in the upgrades was a simple system in the drive-through for people with any communication disabilities.

“It’s just a sign with a bell that says if you are deaf or have other communication barriers, please press the button for better customer service and drive to the window,” Mr. Wafer says. “When they come to the window, if they can’t tell us what they want we have an order-assist pad they can use to order.”

Today, his Tim Hortons drive-through attracts customers who would never have previously have used a drivethrough.

The opportunities for businesses that understand the advantages of hiring disabled people as well as developing goods and services for them exist in every industry. One industry where there is enormous potential, however, is technology, which, through a combination of legislation and efforts by organizations such as the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC), has seen progress in developing technology and applications that are accessible to people with disabilities – although there is still a long way to go.

The IDRC is a research and development centre at OCAD University that works with an international community of open source developers, designers, researchers, advocates and volunteers to ensure that emerging information technology and practices are designed inclusively.

“We really need legislation for cultural change,” says Jutta Treviranus, professor and director, Inclusive Design Research Centre and Inclusive Design Institute at OCAD University.

“Even if people don’t follow the letter of the law, it increases awareness. It’s a necessary way for organizations to realize that yes, this is a right people have and we do need to attend to it. But the practicality needs to be supported by other things, the tools and necessary resources.

“There’s also an amazing opportunity here. The market size of individuals with disabilities around the world is approaching the market size of China, so if there’s an organization that takes this on and begins to support that market, the growth opportunity is huge.”

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Achieving Social and Economic Inclusion, from segregation to ‘employment first’ (CACL)

Links to the study entitled "Achieving social and economic inclusion"CACL has  completed a research study on employment supports for people with intellectual disabilities. The study looks at effective policies and practices for transitioning from sheltered and enclave based employment services for people with intellectual disabilities to supports that enable inclusion in the labour market. The research study follows on a renewed international interest in what have been dubbed “employment first” or “employment focused” approaches marking the first major Canadian contribution to this dialogue.

Click here to view the study

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Achieving social and economic inclusion: from segregation to ’employment first’ (www.cacl.ca)

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

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Mayor Bradley recognized as ‘catalyst’ by Community Living Ontario

June 14, 2011 — JD Booth

Community Living Ontario recognized Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley as a “community catalyst” in an awards ceremony at its 58th annual conference last week.

Conference Committee chair Doug Cooper, who made the presentation, called Bradley a “staunch supporter” of the community living movement.

“He believes in people’s capacity to be productive, contributing citizens and knows first-hand the value of people who have a disability and what they bring to the workplace,” said Cooper.
– See more at: http://www.lambtonshield.com/mayor-bradley-recognized-as-catalyst-by-community-living-ontario/

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