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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Joe Dale Presents To The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development

The following was presented to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development on Thursday March 7, 2013 by the Executive Director of the Ontario Disability Employment Network, Joe Dale.

(Click here to download a PDF version)

Good morning.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Standing Committee today. My name is Joe Dale. I have worked in the disability field for over 35 years, spending much of that time working in, training and consulting on issues related to employment opportunities for people who have a disability. Currently, I am the Executive Director of the Ontario Disability Employment Network, a professional network of employment service agencies from across Ontario, and I am the founder of the Rotary at Work initiative in Ontario which has been a catalyst for a number of employer engagement initiatives and strategies.

I have three key issues I’d like to speak to this morning. They are: ensuring effective services and supports for people who have a disability; employer engagement and support; and, youth employment for kids with disabilities.

Providing Effective Services and Supports

People who have a disability can work and have the capacity to make a significant contribution to the workforce. This is a fundamental fact that we must understand and accept. Another fact is that we, in the non-disabled community – in both government and in the disability profession – have only just begun to scratch the surface in our understanding of how to recognize this capacity and how best to exploit it.

There is no tool or instrument, that we have today that can effectively measure or assess capacity or help us determine the ‘employability’ of people who have a disability. Whenever we set out to measure employability or capacity to work, we invariably set the bar too high and discriminate against those who we deem to be too severely disabled to work.

This was made imminently clear to me recently when I was fortunate enough to travel to Connecticut and visit a Walgreens Distribution Centre where 47% of the employees have a disability. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Walgreens story.

What was of particular interest to me was a statement made by Executive Vice President, Randy Lewis. Mr. Lewis recounted their early hires when they embarked on this journey of hiring people with disabilities. He talked about a young man with severe autism and significant behavioral problems who was to be their first hire. Mr. Lewis was asked the question: “Mr. Lewis, it seems that you deliberately started out by hiring someone with very significant challenges. Was that intentional?” Mr. Lewis responded: “Yes, we did, because we thought if we could get that first, difficult one right, the rest would be easy. What we learned though, is that we didn’t go low enough because the capacity of people was far greater than anything we had ever imagined.” A very profound statement!

Indeed, perhaps the most effective measure of employability is more properly gauged by each individual’s motivation to work.

Having said that, it is important that the services and supports each person needs is available and available in a way that makes sense.

We need to consider ease of access to employment services and supports. That it makes sense to the individual job seeker and that when they show up at the door looking for help, they can get that help as soon as possible and in a seamless way. Nothing takes the motivation out of someone faster than being bounced around from service to service, process to process, assessment to assessment and so on.

If the job seeker comes looking for help and they are sent to one door for an assessment or an eligibility determination, a different door to get an employment plan, another to get the case manager they didn’t even know they needed and so forth, not only have we lengthened the process out and made it extremely costly to deliver, but that person is at very high risk of losing their initial motivation and much less likely to follow through to the end goal of getting a job. Even those who endure it all, often end up back at the original door they first went to with the agency that offers the employment support services of job preparation and job development.

Services should be available using a wrap-around process. There is little, if any value in having silos of service with multiple agencies each providing a different part of the service. Employment agencies should be entrusted with providing as much of the supports as are needed to assist people to meet their career and job goals. If through the career exploration process, it is determined that a competency-based assessment or specialized training is required, the employment agency should broker or case manage these services on behalf of the job seeker to ensure continuity.

Job seekers with disabilities need access to the full spectrum of services and supports – pre and post-employment.

Those with limited education, training and work experience often need pre-employment supports. This includes employment-related life-skills, an understanding of workplace culture and responsibilities, resume preparation and interview skills training and so on. This should be based on time-limited, curriculum-based programs or training modules. These programs also serve to help the employment agency assess motivation; help determine the skills, abilities and aspirations of the job seeker; and, give a solid understanding of the supports needed to ensure a successful job match.

Supports don’t stop at the point of job placement. Employers also need support and it is the post-placement support that has the greatest impact on job retention and career growth. Employers need to see the employment agency as a specialist or  as a disability consultant. As one employer once told me; “I’m an expert at making coffee, not at understanding disability”. Workplaces evolve and jobs change. Often retraining and even revisiting and revising accommodations are necessary.

Preventative maintenance, in the form of customer service with the business owner or manager can often prevent terminations, nipping problems in the bud before they become too much for the business to contend with.

The Ontario Disability Employment Network recommends that the HRSDC Opportunities Fund ensures that the full range of employment supports be available to people who have a disability, including both pre and post-placement services. Secondly, we recommend that services not be carved off into silos with different services provided by different agencies, particularly case management and assessment.

Employer Engagement

Through the Rotary at Work initiative we have learned two very important lessons:

First, that we must make a solid business case for hiring people who have a disability. We can no longer soft sell on the basis that ‘It’s the right thing to do’ or by appealing to charitable and feel good notions.

And secondly, that the peer-to-peer method of delivering the message works best. People respect and listen to their peers. In the broadest sense, this is evident when we use the business-to-business approach. Business operators speaking to other business operators, in the same language and understanding each other’s motivation of profitability gets traction.

On another level, however, the peer-to-peer method can be used within employment sectors as evidenced by the Mayor’s Challenge, where we have the Mayor of Sarnia challenging his colleagues and peers in other municipalities to hire people with disabilities within the municipal workforce; or the Police Chief’s Challenge, where London’s police chief, Brad Duncan has put out the challenge to other police chiefs across the province. These challenges are followed up with in-person contact and support from the Champion.

This peer-to-peer approach is also transferable on a more micro level. Using the peer-to-peer approach, we are now working with some major Canadian Corporations to develop strategies within their own ranks. Deliberate strategies that have department managers talking to their counterparts and peers in other divisions, departments and branches not only about why they should include people who have disabilities in their divisions, but also about how to successfully on-board new hires.

There is still a lot of work to be done to engage employers in many segments of business and industry but we are now seeing the tide turning on this issue. For many businesses, the question is changing from why hire to how do I hire.

In this regard we would recommend establishing a business-driven association of experienced employers, along the lines of the UK Forum on Abilities. Such an entity could carry on the important educational work that has begun while adding to its capacity, peer support, advice and consultation services to assist those who are having difficulty with implementing pro-active recruitment strategies and on-boarding new employees from the disability sector.

Wage subsidies, as a strategy to gain employment opportunities for people with disabilities is hotly contested across the country. The Ontario Disability Employment Network, and its members, does not support wage subsidies as an employment strategy. We have seen far too many abuses, where there was no intention to retain an employee beyond the term of the subsidy. Wage subsidies also undermine the ‘value proposition’ of hiring from the disability sector and set people up to be seen and often treated differently from their co-workers.

Employers, who understand the value that people with disabilities bring to the workplace, rarely, if ever, access wage subsidies. Smart employers tell us that, when they pay wages, they are, in fact, investing in that employee and through this investment, are more vested in achieving a successful outcome. When it’s free or subsidized the relationship is not the same.

If we are doing a good job at making the business case for hiring people who have a disability, wage subsidies should not be required. We believe these precious resources could be better utilized in other areas with greater impact.

Rather than wage subsidies, consideration should be given to accommodate businesses for any ‘real’ out of pocket costs that may be incurred by hiring someone with a disability. Consider financial support for accommodations, whether they be physical accommodations, technical accommodations, personal supports and job coaches, skills training and so on.

Perhaps consideration can be given to provide a subsidy where an individual, due to their disability, may take longer to learn the job than would be expected. But, a blanket approach where employers are paid to hire people who have a disability, without any long-term commitment is bound to end up with abuses and less than desirable outcomes.

Student Employment

Much greater emphasis and resources must be invested in kids who have disabilities. Students with disabilities are also shut out of the labour market. They graduate from high school, colleges and universities without any work experience on their resume. We must get kids engaged, at 15 and 16 years of age, in summer jobs and part-time after school jobs so they can gain the experience they need to learn workplace culture and life skills, and to establish career goals and paths.

A 2012 US study found that the number one indicator of successful labour market attachment for people with severe disabilities, upon graduation from school was having had a paid job while in school.*1 Through the Rotary at Work initiative, we have experienced this first hand. In 2010 we were approached by a young man,

Adam, seeking help to find a job. Adam had been called to the Ontario Bar in 2004 but due to his disability, had never worked. Not just in his chosen profession, never worked in any job and he was willing to do anything including serving coffee if that’s what it took. We were fortunate in connecting Adam with Deloitte, where he was eventually hired to work in one of their legal departments. Adam’s manager, however, clearly stated that they went out on a limb for Adam. That he was sorely lacking in the ‘soft’ skills and had a poor understanding of workplace culture. Fortunately Adam was a quick study and has maintained his position with Deloitte.

We have seen this example over and over again – accountants, computer programmers and many other qualified professionals as well as those simply looking for entry-level positions. In the HRSDC report, Rethinking Disability in the Private Sector, there is a notation about the significant increases in the proportion of adults with disabilities that have post-secondary degrees. If we can’t do better than a 51% labour market attachment for these individuals once they graduate, we have wasted, and are continuing to waste a lot of resources and talent.

We must engage kids with disabilities in the labour market, just as we do with kids who are not disabled.

We have an excellent example of where this is being done. Community Living Sarnia Lambton has operated a summer employment program for people who have a disability for over 15 years and it has been growing exponentially in recent years. In the summer of 2011 they found paid summer jobs for 82 kids with disabilities. All types and degrees of disability, students from high school, colleges and universities, and all types of jobs – 95 jobs in total as some kids had more than one job.

There are many benefits and layers to the successes of this program. The agency accesses multiple funding opportunities through the provincial government and federal Opportunities Fund, along with corporate sponsorship and agency fund-raised dollars. In this way, public funding is leveraged to maximum benefit.

Another element is that the ‘job coaches’ are themselves University and college students, without disabilities, and hired through federal and provincial summer jobs programs. These future business leaders also learn about the benefits of including people who have a disability in the workplace.

The most telling aspect of the program, however, is the change in dynamics within the families of those with disabilities and educators. The agency notes that the greatest change is in families who suddenly gain a sense of hope and expectation as they realize their kids can work and will have a place in society. This change in expectation that work is the next logical step after school is significant. Young people with disabilities in Sarnia are now graduating from school and approaching the agency immediately for assistance to find work. No longer is social assistance the first step. For many, it has become the fallback, as it rightfully should.

At the end of the summer the students created a video to celebrate their success. It can be accessed at:

While Community Living Sarnia’s summer employment program supports people with all types of disabilities, the agency was asked by Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services to track the movement of those in the program who had an intellectual disability. Those results are in the table below:

In summary, I would like to say that we need to invest in youth with disabilities; we must engage the private sector in a different way and ensure that we can support them to be successful; and, that we need to ensure efficient and seamless access to the services and supports people who have a disability need in order to be successful contributors to the Canadian economy.

For more information, contact:

Joe Dale, Executive Director

Ontario Disability Employment Network



*1 Carter, E.W., Austin, D. & Trainor, A. (2012). Predictors of Post school Employment Outcomes for Young Adults With Severe Disabilities. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 23(1), 55-63.


(Click here to download the .PDF version of this document)

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Invitation to Participate in Consultations for People with Disabilities in Ontario via Cathexis Consulting

Want to share your thoughts and ideas about your quality of life of people with disabilities in Ontario?
 There are two ways you can share your experiences: an online survey or joining an in-person meeting in Toronto (June 8th, 2012), Ottawa (June 14th, 2012), London (June 13th, 2012), Thunder Bay (June 11th, 2012), or Huntsville (June 6th, 2012).
Cathexis Consulting  are also hosting in-person sessions for family and caregivers of people with disabilities to share their ideas.
The purpose of the project is to find out from people with disabilities in Ontario what is important to them about their quality of life. What makes your day easier and better? Is it important to have:

  • Good public transportation?
  • Readable web pages?
  • Friendly and respectful customer service?
  • Stable jobs?
  • Accessible parks?

The project – conducted by Cathexis Consulting – will use your input to find the best way for determining the impact of Ontario’s accessibility standards in the future.
Cathexis Consulting  would like to hear about what is most important to you and what makes your life better. Your participation will ensure that the Ontario Government knows what is most meaningful to people with disabilities when they review the standards in the years to come.
For more information, or to participate, please contact Mathew Gagné at or by phone at 1-877-469-9954 ext. 231. For those requiring TTY, dial 711 or #711 from a mobile phone.
Find us on Facebook by searching: Public Discussion on Quality of Life for People with Disabilities
There are many ways to participate:
¦                 A face-to-face consultation: please visit to RSVP
¦                 On-line survey: go to
¦                 Blog: go to our Facebook page at
¦                 Email questionnaire: contact Mathew at to request one.
¦                 Mail-in questionnaire: contact Mathew at to request one.
The Dates for the In-Person Meetings are as follows.
Toronto: June 8th, 2012 at the Delta Chelsea Hotel
¦                 9:00 – 11:00 Older adults with disabilities (age 60 and up)
¦                 1:00 – 3:00    Adults with disabilities (age 18-59)
¦                 4:00 – 6:00    Caregivers/family of people with disabilities
Ottawa: June 14th, 2012 at the Travelodge Hotel Ottawa and Conference Centre
¦                 9:00 – 11:00    Francophone consultation with adults with disabilities
¦                 1:00 – 3:00      English consultation with adults with disabilities
¦                 4:00 – 6:00      Caregivers/families people with disabilities (English)
London: June 13th, 2012 at the London Convention Centre
¦                 9:00 – 11:00     Older adults with disabilities (age 60 and up)
¦                 1:00 – 3:00       Adults with disabilities (age 18-59)
¦                 4:00 – 6:00       Caregivers/families of people with disabilities
Thunder Bay: June 11th, 2012 at the Valhalla Inn
¦                 10:00 –  12:00   Adults with disabilities
¦                 2:00 – 4:00       Caregivers/families of people with disabilities
Huntsville: June 6th, 2012, at the Deerhurst Inn
¦                 10:00 –  12:00   Adults with disabilities
¦                 2:00 – 4:00       Caregivers/families of people with disabilities 


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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:

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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Sarnia Pushes for Faster Accessibility (Sarnia Observer)

May 10, 2011

The begining portion of this article discusses Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley’s support for accessibility issues.

By CATHY DOBSON, The Observer

The sooner, the better.

Sarnia council wants the quick removal of barriers that create additional challenges for the disabled in Ontario.

The city’s politicians went on record Monday opposing efforts by the Association of Municipalities and the Ontario Public Transit Association to delay the province’s Integrated Accessibility Regulation (IAR).

At Mayor Mike Bradley’s urging, council voted to support the IAR and asked Lambton County council to do the same.

Council also endorsed a request from Coun. Bev MacDougall to ask the provincial government to commit dollars to assist municipalities meet the new standards.

“As an aging community, there’s going to be greater need for our buildings to comply and the costs will be significant,” MacDougall said.

Coun. Jon McEachran said he’s heard local business owners say they are concerned about the cost.

“When push comes to shove, it could cause some small businesses to go out of business,” McEachran said.

“I’m all for the legislation, especially for new construction, but I’m leery of voting for something if it is retroactive.”

City staff said they believe the legislation relates to new construction only.

“The key is that this is a good business opportunity to expand customer base,” said Bradley, who has aggressively taken up the cause of access issues.

It’s also a matter of respect, he added.

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Disability Community Involvement Through eSSENTIAL Accessibility

As part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that people using assistive technology can access the many aspects of, we are excited to announce that we have partnered with eSSENTIAL Accessibility.

This icon certifies that our website features eSSENTIAL Accessibility:

This Web Accessibility icon serves as a link to download eSSENTIAL Accessibility assistive technology software for individuals with physical disabilities. It is being featured as part of a Disability Community Involvement initiative that reflects our commitment to Diversity, Inclusion,Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility.

It is the foundation of a Disability Community Involvement initiative launched in association with leading
advocacy groups for the disabled.

Click on this icon to visit where assistive technology is available free of

eSSENTIAL Accessibility features an array of keyboard and mouse replacement solutions to enhance user
experience and to help make the web accessible to all. These “alternative input methods” include a
webcam-based hands-free movement tracking system that allows users to overcome any physical limitation.
It also includes a web page reader.

eSSENTIAL Accessibility can be used on a standard PC by anyone with dexterity limitations that arise
from a variety of conditions including:

• Stroke/paralysis
• Arthritis
• Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
• Parkinson’s disease
• Cerebral Palsy (CP)
• Age-related factors

Moreover, it also helps those who have difficulty reading because of:

• Literacy deficiencies
• Limited English proficiency
• Dyslexia or similar learning issues
• Mild visual impairment

The Ontario Disability Employment Network is proud to be a founding member of this Disability Community Involvement initiative to create shared value.

Found an accessibility issue on Let us know by clicking here.

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AODA Report

View the entire report here.

TO: Mayor Bradley and Members of Sarnia City Council

FROM: Lloyd Fennell, City Manager

DATE: April 20th, 2011

SUBJECT: AODA Integrated Standards

The Sarnia Accessibility Advisory Committee requests that Sarnia City Council pass the
following resolutions:
1. That the draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation and its vision of an Accessible Ontario
by 2025 be supported; and
2. That a copy of this report and resolution be forwarded to Lambton County Council and
the Lambton County Accessibility Advisory Committee for their consideration and

The AODA Alliance has been asking municipal accessibility advisory committees to distance
themselves from AMO’s submission on the Integrated Accessibility Standard to the province on
behalf of municipal governments.
A copy of the AODA Alliance Communication as well as the AMO submission of March 16,
2011, and the AMO News Release of April 14, 2011 have been attached for Council’s

The following is a brief summary of the AODA Alliance concerns regarding AMO’s position:
• AMO is asking to delay timelines for Integrated Accessibility Regulations (IAR);
• AMO is asking for the legislation to be delayed until reviewed by an independent
regulatory impact assessment to do a cost benefits analysis, however most provisions of
the IAR are already obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code and are not new;
• AMO already participated and provided input into the standards committees;
• Human Rights Commission, AODA Alliance, many disability groups and AAC’s feel
IAR is already not strong enough and too slow;
• The AODA Alliance is concerned that AMO is using public funds to fight for delays in
advancing accessibility, and;
• Without the above resolution, there may be a perception that AMO is representing all
municipalities when working to slow this legislation.
Unlike the position of AMO, as set out in their March 16th submission, the Sarnia Accessibility
Advisory Committee supports the disability communities in their concern that the provincial
government should move forward with timelines as in the draft legislation. The Committee
further agrees with the disability communities that many of the provisions of the draft Integrated
Legislation are already obligations under existing human rights legislation and should not be
further delayed past the timelines already put forward in the draft legislation.

This report is being brought forward at the request of the Sarnia Accessibility Advisory
Committee after consultation with the AODA Alliance.

There are no financial consequences for the preparation of this report.

View the entire report here.

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Ontario Disability Employment Network: 2010 – The Year in Review


2010 has been an exciting year for the Ontario Disability Employment Network and as we look back and take stock of our efforts, we are pleased with our accomplishments and the strides the Network has made in such a short time since its launch in 2009. We hope you are also pleased with the efforts of your Network and satisfied that your membership dues represent good value.

The following few pages represent the highlights of our activities over the past year. Considering this has all been accomplished due to the volunteer efforts of our Board, a one-day per week Executive Director and the help of our members, we hope you will agree the list is substantial.

On that note we would like to say thank you to all our sponsors and patrons who have made this possible.  To date the Network’s revenue sources have come from membership dues, revenue from events and training sessions and a few generous organizations that have made both financial and in-kind contributions to help sustain the Network and its work.

We want to ensure we remain responsive to those issues that matter most to you as you face the daily challenges of finding and maintaining jobs for people who have a disability and we encourage you to provide feedback to the Network at every opportunity. It is with your direction, support and encouragement that the Network will continue to be successful.

Joe Dale
Executive Director

Debbi Soucie

Bob Vansickle

Government Relations

Key to ensuring our member organizations are able to deliver quality employment services in a sustainable manner is that we continue our work with government. Over the past year the Network has met and corresponded with ODSP-ES, the MCSS Modernization Unit, Employment Ontario and Service Canada.

In the 4th quarter of the year the Board established a formal Government Relations Committee with a Board chair along with 2 task forces to address issues related to the key funding programs ODSP and Employment Ontario.


  • Meetings with Norm Helfand and Marian Shull regarding transition of ESS positions to generic Case Workers, redefining competitive employment, ODSP payments to agencies, retention payments and baseline model, and volunteering in the private sector

MCSS Modernization Initiative

  • Meeting and correspondence with Peggy Black of the Modernization Unit with respect to the roll out of the modernization initiative, regulatory requirements related to the administration of ODSP funded services and training for Case Workers.

MTCU/Employment Ontario

  • Employment Ontario Task Force putting together a provincial coalition to develop strategies to ensure that specialized services are available for people who have a disability in the new EO model.
  • Created a model for Employment Ontario that shows how specialized services can be maintained while achieving Employment Ontario’s primary goals
  • Several meetings and correspondence with MTCU staff including ADM Laurie LeBlanc

Service Canada

  • Initial meetings with Davin Kamino of Service Canada were held in December 2010 to discuss the Opportunities Fund, Case Management and Assessment services.

Provincial Ministry of Finance

  • The Network has requested standing on the panel for the pre-budget consultations to be held this March.  No response at the time of this report.

Employer Engagement and Marketing Initiatives

Engaging employers who are willing to help us achieve our goals is vital to improving the participation rates of people who have a disability in the workforce. The Ontario Disability Employment Network has made several advancements in this area.

Mayor’s Challenge

  • Thanks in large part to Sarnia Mayor, Mike Bradley, employment service providers have come to realize that their municipal governments are large, prospective employers and should be challenged to set an example by ‘Doing the Right Thing’ and including disability in their diversity hiring processes.
  • Organizations across the province have been systematically approaching their mayors seeking the same kind of leadership.
  • The Network, together with Mayor Bradley has provided support and council to both organizations and local mayors about how to put this in action.
  • A Mayor’s Challenge toolkit has been developed and is available on-line for Network members.
  • Currently 10 Mayors and their municipalities have come on board with a commitment to hire people who have a disability in their municipal workforce as a direct result of the Mayor’s Challenge.

Champion’s League

  • The first annual Champion’s League awards were launched at the Network’s first annual conference and AGM in October.
  • Three prominent Champions were recognized with awards – Mike Bradley, Mayor of Sarnia; Joe Hoffer, Cohen Highley LLP; and, Mark Wafer, Megleen Inc. aka Tim Hortons
  • While recognition is important the real story here is in the formation of the Champion’s League itself. The awards recognize employers who: ‘lead by example’ as demonstrated through their hiring practices; have through their career and business relationships promoted the hiring of people who have a disability to others; and, (most importantly) have made a commitment to continue to help us promote the hiring of people who have a disability in the years to come.

The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

  • These employer engagement strategies have not gone unnoticed and Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor has become an advocate, supporter and promoter of both the Mayor’s Challenge and the Champion’s League.
  • Several meetings have taken place with the Lieutenant Governor to look at how we can strategically utilize these employer engagement initiatives to advance our employment agenda and continue to build the League.


Some of the Network’s success can be measured by the media that is attracted to the issues and perspectives of the Network and its members. While the Network has not had a specific media strategy, there has been significant media response to our efforts and initiatives.

  • Response to the London Free press article re comment made by advice columnist that was also posted in the Toronto and Winnipeg Sun and
  • A series of articles were written by the Executive Director and published. This series, Disability in the workplace has been picked up and published in a variety of Newsletters and web sites around the province
  • Radio Interview with a local Windsor radio station about the Network
  • Article in The Intelligencer
  • Article in Northumberland News
  • Articles regarding the Mayor’s Challenge in the North Bay Nugget and many other community newspapers

The Network also established a Communications Committee this past year. While much of the committee’s initial efforts has been directed at creating our web site, this committee will also tackle the broader communications issues in the future.


While we believe all of the work presented thus far benefits our members, there have been some additional initiatives that are directed specifically at members.

  • Built and launched a brand new, interactive web site choc full of information, resources and a way to connect with your colleagues. If you haven’t visited the website recently we encourage you to do so.
  • Special thanks to the volunteer contributions of Aerin and Jimmy Guy of Space Race who have made this possible.

Training Events and Resources

  • Over the past year we have had two key training events – Networking in the North and our first annual conference, Champions for Change.
  • Evaluations for both events were very positive and the message is we need to do more training and to locate events in various parts of the province.
  • At the time of writing, the Network is working on a grant proposal to develop some new marketing materials that will be available to members in the new-year.

New Members

  • The Ontario Disability Employment Network is a member-driven organization. It is grass routs and built on the strengths of its members. We can’t do any of this without you.
  • This year the Network has grown to 64 paid members.
  • Be sure to share this information with your colleagues and encourage others to join Ontario’s only Provincial Network that works on behalf of employment service providers with the goal of eliminating barriers to employment faced by people who have a disability.

Looking Ahead

  • Employment networking day – How do we create a provincial voice to effect change?
  • Ensuring growth and sustainability for the network through foundations and other private funding sources that share the objectives and goals of the Network
  • Continue with our Government Relations work
  • Building on our employer engagement strategies including the Champion’s League and Mayor’s Challenge
  • Provide training and networking opportunities for the sector
  • Continue to build our on-line community and networking opportunities
  • Continue to build our membership base
  • Ensure we remain responsive to the needs of the members. Let us know what we can do for you!

In Closing

These are challenging and exciting times for employment service providers. It has been a long time since we have had a consolidated and effective Provincial Network that deals specifically with the issues related to employment for people who have a disability.

The landscape of government policy and funding is changing rapidly and while we need to be prepared for these changes and ensure we are able to respond to them, we can’t lose sight of our primary objective. That is to find meaningful and sustainable employment for those we serve.

From the Board of Directors of the Ontario Disability Employment Network we wish you every success in the coming year.

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Assessment of Debt Load and Financial Barriers Affecting Students with Disabilities in Canadian Postsecondary Education – Ontario Report for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

Assessment of Debt Load and Financial Barriers Affecting Students with Disabilities in Canadian Postsecondary Education – Ontario Report

Prepared by Tony Chambers, Mahadeo Sukhai and Melissa Bolton for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (Read Study Here)
 Click here to access original source.

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