employment solutions

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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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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Question of the day: Should pay rates be based on productivity?

If we were to set the current rate for your job as the benchmark or standard and then make adjustments based purely on productivity, what would happen? Take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself; “if it were strictly based on productivity, would my rate go up or down?” Come on now, be honest! Look around at your colleagues doing similar jobs and apply the same assessment.

Agreed that it’s not a practical exercise and absolutely none of us would live with the consequences if it were to be applied to us. Why then, do we apply this logic to people who have a disability when we place them in jobs without wages or for stipends and wages below the going rate?

When I was a younger man, I worked in construction for a few summers and I remember one particular summer when I worked on a road crew. That’s a nice way of saying I spent the summer digging ditches for sewer lines. Anyway, for those who know me, I’m not a big man and in those days I had a waist line much more proportionate to my height. My crew mate – fellow ditch digger – was 6’ 4” and about 220 lbs. You youngsters will have to do the metric conversion for yourself but suffice it to say, he was a much bigger and brawnier guy that me.

So over the course of the day, it was clear this guy could move twice as much dirt as I could and logic would have it, therefore, that I should be paid half his rate as I was obviously less productive than he was. But did that question ever even enter the boss’ mind? I think not.

Did other factors come into play? Probably! I was never late or missed time; never came to work hung over; knew how to solve the occasional problem here and there and always had the guys laughing at break. The other guy – routinely late; usually missed half a day following payday; grumbled and bad-mouthed the boss all the time and had a tendency to lean on his shovel every time the boss turned his back.

I’m pretty sure that the days when everyone sat on a production line producing widgets, having to produce x amount per hour to keep their jobs, are long gone. Most employers today look at the total package of what each person contributes to the workplace. This must be the starting point when we place people who have a disability with any employer.

Your comments are welcomed.

Joe Dale

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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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Rich Donovan Speaks At Champions for Change 2010 (Rough Transcript)

To view a PDF of the transcript, click here

Notice to reader

The following is a rough draft transcript of the proceedings as indicated.  This is not a certified verbatim transcript, nor is it intended to be so. This is merely a written copy of communication access provided via captioning.  It should only be used as an unedited guide for the reader. This rough draft transcript may not be reproduced or distributed in any way, shape or form without the express written consent of Neeson & Associates Court Reporting and Captioning Inc.

Rich Donovan:

I thank you, ODEN, for hosting me today and allowing me to speak to all of you..

Today we’re going to try to talk about disability.  You walked in today thinking that disability was in the corporate environment, and I’m going to give you concrete facts and figures too because I think we will all agree that we are not quite where we want to be yet.  There’s a lot of work to do.

There’s a quote somewhere that says, well, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.  The idea of that is often true.  But if it’s broken, first you have to declare it broken, and then you have to figure out how to fix it.  I think today we will say the system is broken.  It is not working.  We are not getting the results that we want to get.  So how do we fix it?  Let’s take a look at that.

So this is what I call the magic number one slide because I am a firm believer that everyday business is derived from numbers.  So what is disability?  What are we actually looking at globally?  This is not a social issue in a boardroom.  This is a business issue. If you look at it with a social mindset, you are dead on arrival. We have to look at this in cold statistics.  So here you see the macro statistics.  How big is the population?  Globally, persons with disabilities represent 1.1 billion people, roughly the size of China.  Now, you tell me the CEO that doesn’t want to be in China, I will tell you the CEO that is going to be fired. What do we talk about when we talk about income?  We are talking about roughly 4 billion dollars.  Most of this is through transfers, money transferred to persons with disabilities.  Roughly 540 billion dollars is disposable income.  So that’s roughly the same amount that the U.S.’s population was 50 years ago.  And we all know what happened in the U.S.  In Canada we are looking at an income bracket about the size of the GTA.  Now, again, if you went to the CEO of Bell and said, ignore the GTA, he would probably look at you sideways and say, what the hell are you talking about?  So there’s a lot to tap into there, but they just don’t understand that yet.  That’s not their fault.  That’s our fault.  It’s our job to help them understand the opportunity.

Now the bottom two lines of this chart show what I call a sink hole.  So for each person with a disability, there are two or three people, family or friends, who are emotionally invested in those people.  That represents an additional 2 billion people globally or 8.1 trillion dollars, and that’s disposable income, folks.  From a marketing perspective, it doesn’t get more of a strong bond emotionally than disability.  So if you are trying to grab a mother who has a kid with CP or a mother who has a kid with ADD and you can tap into that emotion and you can tap into that, it’s the Holy Grail market.  So I don’t want to be seen as taking advantage of persons of disabilities, people say. I look at him sideways and his primary market is women.  So I say, do you find you’re taking advantage of women when you tap into their market?  He says, no.  It’s part of business.  That’s the same thing here.  It’s part of doing business.  Next slide, please.

What does this look like from an ecosystem point of view?  How do you fit together what we are looking at from a perspective of the marketplace of people with disabilities is interacting with the corporate community.  When I say corporate community it can be the mom and pop shop on Main Street.  So you can see in the VENN diagram, people with disabilities on the left and employers on the right.  How do these interact, and how as a service provider should you be looking at this?

Well, I’m betting that today you look at this as simply getting people a job.  Pretty simple, right?  That’s how we have all thought of it.  It ain’t that. The thing is you cannot get the job until you sell the idea..  The way you sell the idea to a corporation is simply one word, “revenue.”  Until they bring in revenue, they are not going to hire us.  They are just not.  We have seen globally governments trying to mandate this stuff, in Europe, in South America, and in Canada.  It doesn’t work.  It doesn’t happen that way.  If you go back to the ’60s and ’70s and the  Women’s Movement in the U.S. and Canada, jobs didn’t come until the ’80s.  You had years of circulating ideas and the marketplace and changing how the marketplace works and then 15 years later, somebody got invited and said, oh, yeah, we should hire these guys.  Yeah, let’s do that.

And all the laws that were there, they didn’t really move the needle.  What moved the needle was corporation’s self-interest, it makes these folks more powerful consumers.  And that is what will happen in disability today.  Here’s the good news.  I will take half as long as it would if we did it through employment first.  Employment first will probably take 30 years.  This will take 10 to 15.  That’s the good news.  Next slide, please.

So how do we actually do that?  I think you have all heard the market has design, the market has need.  We have all been hearing that for 10 years.  What does that mean?  What does that actually look like when you get into the boardroom?  Because if it’s not part of the corporate plan, if it doesn’t have a budget and somebody’s butt isn’t on the line for results, it’s going to go precisely nowhere.  So corporations need a plan to get this done.  And what we have done is developed a framework where companies in all kinds of different industries are actually going to do this.  I have looked at global disabilities support specifically in the areas of employment, and they are all pretty much the same.  It starts to become, okay, how much do I have to spend to get over the law to equal the fine that I have to pay? Simple math.  Every good corporation will do the same thing because they don’t have a framework to use to say, okay, how do I turn these 1 billion people, these two billion people into additional revenue?  One guy just looked at me and said, Okay.  Show me how.  And nobody knows exactly how yet.  That’s the work we have ahead. So this is the first step.

We have broken this down into 7 different areas.  On your left is the employee’s side.  On the right is the revenue side, and right smack dab in the middle is the shareholder and if it doesn’t make sense to the shareholder, it’s going nowhere.  If it is not incremental in value to the shareholder, nobody is going to do it.  The big thing on our side is this makes sense, and when I speak to groups like this, usually the question I get is, well, I don’t want to wait 5 to 10 years.  How do I do this tomorrow?  When you figure that out, let me know, because change on this scale takes time.  And the unfortunate part is we have been barking up the wrong tree for 40 years.  So we got 40 years of trying, working, doing our best and meaning very well, but not moving the needle.  In fact, I would say we are actually going backwards.  The numbers are actually getting worse.

So there’s got to be something like a framework and a way forward for us to help shareholding companies to understand the reason for doing this, and then actually go do it.  I think that’s the step that’s missing today is I think we have done a pretty good job of making the case over the last 10 years.  I think we have done a really poor job of step two.  I think we have done a really poor job of planning and landscaping.  I think we have to evolve into that.

So on the left side is the employer’s role.  There’s two roles for the employers.  One is to recruit.  How do I recruit and get these people? And secondly, more importantly, how do I keep them?  How do I move them to an organization?  How do I take the guy in the wheelchair who can’t speak, is deaf, from day one to CEO? How do I get this guy a job?  Because that’s our language today.  How do I make these people incredibly successful? Success is defined differently for different people, whether you’re CEO of Bell Canada or working in another area, success is possible for everybody.  It’s just scaled differently.

So we are looking at diversity recruiting and turning it into disability recruiting.  What we tend to do in disability recruiting is trying to fit a round peg in a square hole.  Have any of you tried that?  It’s hard. From the laughs in the room, perhaps some of you have done that too.  We need to find what works for people.  From a marketing and finance ability, we need to get those folks in the door.  That’s how they did it in other markets. That’s how we have to do that today. The companies who don’t do that have a lot of trouble hiring people who are diverse. Companies who try to find this specific role often find they aren’t meeting the roles they are looking for.

Second, the process needs to be owned by the business.  You will find a lot of these programs, I call them “programs” for people with disabilities have been set out specifically for people with disabilities.  They don’t work, folks, because nobody in business is invested in them. Nobody cares. I know this guy who was coming in for the program who will hire everybody.  We will try that and see if it works.  The managers never met the guy.  They weren’t invested in the guy.  So what happens to that individual?  He is going to work.  He is going to sit off in the corner and do his job well, and then he’s going to say, Hey, they aren’t investing in me as an employee, and he’s going to walk out the door. They will ask, Why am I doing this? The guy just walked out the door of that group.  I don’t want to do this anymore.  It is not successful. So it’s key that managers own the employees, otherwise you are doomed to failure. Always recruit where there is success. Don’t go to places that you don’t usually go.  I know that sounds strange, right?  I mean, how are you going to find new people if you are going to the old places? There are people with disabilities everywhere.  You’re just not finding them. So find that right person, go back to where you had success, and keep going back to that wealth.  Don’t try to reinvent the wheel here.  You are going to waste your time, waste your resources, and everybody is going to be frustrated.

I’m going to quickly go through the next point.  We all know that what works here is talent first and disability second.  I take that to the extreme.  I ignore the disability. People with disabilities know how to deal with themselves.  They know how to figure out their environments.  Leave it up to them.  Focus on the job.  Focus on success.  Don’t even talk about disabilities. I go to probably 50 events a year including people with disabilities, and I never once talk about disability.  I always talk about being successful.  And that’s really something — for someone who has been doing it the same way for 30 years, that may be a challenge, but it works. It works every single time.  We all know the guy is disabled.  But you don’t need to talk about it. Focus on why he’s here.

The other point I would say is be honest.  This is hard.  There is no magic wand here. Companies are going to make mistakes, and that’s a good thing.  Prepare them for that.  If you think it’s going to be all wine and roses and it is not wine and roses, it’s going to be a tough sell on day two. So keep that always in your minds. So retention.  Again, this goes back to first, you always focus on productivity. Everything is about productivity.  Not being nice or doing good things, squeezing every ounce of productivity from that resource we can. They do that with every employee on the floor, why not your guy?  Why isn’t your guy treated exactly the same? Make sure he has the tools to perform. Always focus on the results.  It is not about the process.  It is not about the accommodation.  It’s not about finding budgets.  It’s about delivery. I had a professor in business school where I highly recommend you read his book.  I can’t remember the name of the book, but Google might find it or you will find it. His 200-page book came down to one word SHIP, that’s S-H-I-P, in case you are wondering. Always deliver.  No matter what you do, at the end of the day, you always have ship results.  And that applies to persons with disabilities too. This isn’t about jobs.  This is about value.  And if the results aren’t there, give more.

Career management.  I don’t know if people ever talked about career management for persons with disabilities.  We all focus on getting their butts in the seats.  What do you do once they are there and how do you develop?  How do you retain?  How do you move these folks along?  And should you do it as fast as everybody else? I call it career management on steroids. If you find a great person with a disability  and he or she is fantastic, move them quickly.  Give them more responsibilities quickly. Move them faster than you move anybody else.

Next slide, please. So now we look at the right side of our Matrix which is the customer side.  And I think this is more important than the employee side.  I think this is the most important side. When we develop this market as a viable marketplace and figure out how to speak to them not like they are tokens, but figure out what makes them tick as consumers.  Figure out what pushes their buttons.  Figure out how they evolved themselves from buying decisions to buying to consumption, then we will have a much different conversation. Today we are having a conversation about  doing what is right.  And, man, going to bed at night, that’s got to make you feel good, that you’re doing what is right. But I guarantee you there’s always those words at the back of your brain going, you know what?  Is this actually right?  Is this actually going to get me to where I want to go?  Is this actually going to unlock the potential of these individuals? I will leave that for you to decide.  I can’t answer that question for you. This is the way you do this.

So on the left, you see this picture and what you can’t see, is this guy is an amateur marshal arts fighter and he wears a hearing aid and it says, because life is inversely proportional to what you can hear. Because this guy was knocked out in the ring, his hearing aid is gone. That is how people with disabilities are seeing themselves.  They aren’t seeing themselves as a charity case.  They aren’t seeing themselves as this body of people with disabilities.  They are starting to be empowered. And when that happens, companies can tap into that. The thought goes from, isn’t that nice? To, wow, isn’t that cool? That’s the conversation we have to have.

In the middle you see this rather trendy lady.  And it’s very forward.  I don’t know if you can see it, but it’s very sexy.  And we all know sex sells.  I guarantee you, you did not think I would be talking about disability and sexy, did you? That’s where this is going because we know that sex sells.  We need to start incorporating that into the world disability market as well. Taboos need to go out the window.  How do you see yourself as an individual?  You’re sitting on the couch as a double amputee.  Now your brand is this woman with two wooden legs that are gorgeous.  That’s your brand today. And probably all of you have seen the brand Itel which are cool economic kitchen tools. This was created by a woman with disabilities who wanted to continue cooking.  Now Itel doesn’t market to that community.  Their main marketplace is 22 to 28.  They just think it’s cool. So that’s an example where the development needs to go.  Use disability as an inspiration and make it cool.  That’s where this is going in the next 5 to 10 years.  Some of my clients are already starting to do that. And what you’re going to see in the next 3 years is going to blow your mind and you’re going to say one day, I wonder if that was inspired by people with disabilities.  And it will be.

Next slide, please. Digital, I feel compelled to put this slide in there for digital because the reality is there is no store front anymore.  Your company is known by the worldwide web.  For one in 44 don’t use fliers anymore.  They don’t use the newspaper. They get everything online. In the older age bracket, I think the statistic was 70% baby boomers had made more online purchases in the last 35 days.  So even babyboomers are getting on board with this idea. So being digital is critical and the idea of using social network and using digital Delivery effectively for a corporation, disabilities need to be part of this. And this is where the innovation becomes really powerful because if a guy uses his hand to navigate a website, he can do it and it just became easier for everybody else. So I spend a lot of time with these techno geeks that talk about stuff and I only pretend to understand, but they now say, “How would A person with disability do it so I can incorporate that and leverage it.”

So the three questions that companies need to ask are, “Can customers access your sites and communicate with you?  Can they access your products?  Can they access your messages and play with them?” If they can do those three things, you are free to go.  And nobody can do those three things yet, but we will get there eventually. How do you do this?  How do you as a company go home today and actually start to do some of this stuff? This is the solution in the box slide. The questions are always how.  You may understand the why, but you don’t understand the how. The how not to do this is comply with the law.  That is how most companies are approaching this today.  I will comply with the law and do what the government tells me and I’m done. Yeah, well, your competition is going to kick your butt because they are looking at this as an important marketplace.

So first what you have to do is figure out where disability meets its strategic objective. The strategic objective for one company is not the same as another like TD Bank.  TD Bank is a consumer based company that has to focus on marketing strategies and customer service standards. A company like Alcan has to look at things like product innovation, how to make their processes better and their products better around this idea of accessibility integration. So for each company, it is not one size fits all. You can’t go in with one thought for everybody.  You have to focus on the strategic niche of the individual company. Build the team.  Who is going to be accountable for results?  Nobody is doing this for us today. There are some companies doing it as a platform.  They have that figured out, but there’s no accountability for this stuff, there’s no budgets or no little concrete activity going on. There are probably in North America out of 1,000 companies, 5 that do this.  5. Define your audience and gather insights.  What does this market want?  How do you make things accessible, for example, for a person who is blind?  Many people don’t know the answers because they don’t ask the question. So there needs to be a process of real rigorous strategic planning that goes into this stuff.  And it’s hard.  It takes time.  It takes money.  It takes risk.

Fourth, craft the strategy.  Well, obviously, people who don’t do step three probably don’t do step 4, right.  They might tell you they are.  They might tell you they have a disability strategy, but they probably sat in a room with 12 To 15 people who have a disability who know nothing about business.  That’s a strategy for failure. Just because they have a disability doesn’t make them smart enough to figure this stuff out. So you need to get your best people in the room as you would with any other marketplace to come up with this strategy.  That has not happened to compare yet.

And fifth, develop and test a hypothesis.  Some of this is going on.  Pepsi Co. did a commercial for Super Bowl a couple years ago. They had a hypothesis.  They said let’s throw in this ad and see if it works.  They spent $15,000 to develop the ad, and $3 million for the ad space, and they generated the biggest buzz of any Super Bowl commercial they have ever done, and they are still getting buzz out of it for a $15,000 initial investment. So they did it with Jim Mac (ph.) and he’s the one who threw all those free throws and was a YouTube sensation.  They get $3.5 million YouTube hits which is the largest YouTube campaign ever.  Why?  Because thousands of kids with autism all clambered to this site wanting to see what was going on. And guess what?  They aren’t drinking Coke anymore. So it was a valuable business decision to do that.  All they did was refocus the aim of the marketplace and understand that this stuff has impact.  That’s a big jump from number 1 to number 5.  And what you will find is the really good companies, the guys who take the risk, they will start at number 5 and work their way backwards.  That’s hard, though. The better way to do it is start at number 1 and work your way through.

Next slide, please. So finally, and I’m happy to announce this is the first time that these numbers are being seen anywhere in Canada or the U.S. for that matter so you’re getting a sneak peek at this stuff. How do you measure shareholder investment?  How do you measure what this means to a company’s bottom line?  Because at the end of the day, as I said before, that’s all that matters. All of this other stuff we talked about, it’s all noise.  It’s all a consultant standing up here making a good story, but if it doesn’t make money, it doesn’t matter.

So let’s see what happens when the companies who do disability well but have not gone through the entire S&P/TSX composite in Canada. Every company needs to be tested.  That’s difficult because you’re testing them all on the same criteria. In Canada, about 16% of firms show any kind of business related mention of disability. Of these 237 firms, 7.2% have meaningful external representation of interest in the disability space.  And when I say representation, I don’t mean charities or thing like that.  I mean hard core business opportunities. In the States, there are 500 companies that show representation of disability and of those 500, 5.2% of companies do anything meaningful around disabilities, things like marketing campaigns, diversity outreach in a meaningful way. And it’s nice that you hire everybody, but do you actually hire everybody? That’s what we have to talk about. So when you take those companies and you analyse their stock prices over the last 5 and 3 and 1 year and what do you get?

Next slide, please. You get improved performance,

that’s what you get.  So over the last 5 years in Canada, you get a performance of 600 to 400 bases points for companies that do disability well. In the U.S., that range is between 900 and 200 base points for companies who do disability well. The economic rationale is simple.  If you do disability well, you will likely have a better customer responsiveness process than your competition. If you are in tune with what’s going on in the marketplace, you probably opened new markets.  You are probably going to have a process that is better than your competition. And oh, by the way, in the next 15 years, watch those numbers go up because all of these customers are going to flock to the leaders. This has just started to become part of our mainstream conversation. We all have been talking about this for years because we are in the industry.  But when this tips, this will be on CNN, this will be on CTV and on BBC.  This will be part of our mainstream culture and these numbers will get even bigger. The companies who are doing this well are in danger because they have done well.

But if we talk about this in terms of a hockey game, we are in the 7th minute of the first period. We are just beginning.  We are probably just scratching the surface of what can be done. The good news for this room is the opportunity is there.  The upside is there.  I know I sound like a downer, a down person when I talk about service providers, but you guys have very big opportunities ahead of you. Because the penetration is so low today, if you feel like companies are going to get on this band wagon which I assume they are going to, you are going to be the experts. You have to figure out how to translate that expertise into value for your client.  And if you think your clients are people with disabilities, come talk to me. I would like to convince you otherwise, because your clients are not the employers.  Your clients are the people they are going to hire. Because I have never met a man or women able to sell a glass of water in a reservoir.  But take that glass of water to a desert, the price is going to go way up.

You have to get ready for that.  You have to change your business to be ready for those changes. That’s my message for you.  Take what you know today, what you think you know about the next 5 to 10 years.  Things have changed a lot in the last 2 years.  What about the next 5 to 10? That’s your job today as ODEN is to figure out how to position yourself for that change because I tell you, there are companies out there today, and they are the best companies out there today in disability who are avoiding service providers because they are not getting what they want. That’s a tough question to hear in this room.  How are you going to evolve your product to deliver for your customer?  And, again, your customer is not people with disabilities.  That’s your product.  Your customers are the people who are going to hire those people.  That’s the bottom line. So I will leave you with that statement.  I would be happy to take questions now or after.  It’s going to be challenging, but it’s an exciting challenge and it’s going to be a great 10 years.  Good luck.  Thank you.  (applause)

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Change Begins with Leadership (Belleville Intelligencer)

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

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A Brief History of Employment Services in Ontario for People Who Have a Disability: The Pendulum Swings (By Joe Dale)

A Brief History of Employment Services in Ontario for People Who Have a

Disability: The Pendulum Swings

My personal experiences go back to the mid 70’s which just happens to be close to the advent of sheltered workshops and community employment services for people who have a disability in Ontario so let’s start there – in the beginning, so to speak.

The 70’s: Proliferation of the Sheltered Workshop System

 In the 70’s we had Federally-funded and operated Canada Manpower Centres and Provincially funded Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) and Developmental Services (DS), both under the umbrella of the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS).

At the time the Canada Manpower Centre was where most people went when they were looking for work. I remember standing in front of the job posting boards where employers placed their job ads, jotting down referral numbers and lining up to see a counsellor hoping he or she would give me the details of the jobs I had selected and not screen me out because my credentials didn’t quite meet the employer’s requirements. Although I personally never had the opportunity I understand you could also be referred to training programs. And, of course the other big service at the Canada Manpower Centre was the administration of Employment Insurance (EI) claims.

While anyone could utilize the services of the Canada Manpower Centre the focus was clearly on the traditional ‘unemployed’ which quickly came to mean those in receipt of EI – ‘on the dole’ as the expression goes.

The VRS Act funded two primary services – Employment Counselling for people who struggled with the mainstream Canada Manpower process and Sheltered Workshops. VRS Employment Counselling was operated directly by the Provincial Government and available to people with employment barriers including sole-support mothers, people in trouble with the law, high school dropouts, welfare recipients and people who had a disability. At the time, Ontario was not the multi-cultural place it is today and didn’t see a need for the array of immigrant services we currently have.

Although I didn’t realize it back in the day, the target audience of VRS Employment Counselling was clearly those in receipt of welfare.

The VRS Act also funded sheltered workshops. This was done through provincial transfer payments to non-profit and charitable organizations like the March of Dimes, Goodwill Industries, Associations for Community Living and others. Sheltered Workshops were segregated centres where people who had a disability performed work contracts that the agencies arranged with private businesses. This was usually done under the auspices of ‘training’, although people rarely graduated and typically received weekly stipends ranging from $5 to $40.

The Ontario government passed the DS Act in 1974 and, over time, many vocational services for people who had an intellectual disability – sheltered workshops and later, supported employment programs – transferred to, or were established under, that act. This was also done through transfer payments to charitable organizations, primarily Community Living Associations, who ran these sheltered workshops under the ARC Industries banner. This is where I first cut my teeth in the disability field in 1976.

Throughout the 70’s sheltered workshops grew and flourished under these two funding streams. At the time, it was not understood that people who had a disability were capable of holding regular paid jobs and most of those who went to the Canada Manpower Centres or VRS Employment Counsellors were typically referred to a sheltered workshop.

The 80’s: A Time of Reckoning

 By the early 80’s government was concerned about the lack of productivity, poor revenues and lack of flow through as people seemed to go to these workshops and never leave. Costs were escalating and anticipated revenues were not realized. There was also a growing awareness that other models of non-segregated options were emerging in many communities and critics began to publicly refer to these workshops as sweat shops.

At the same time ‘employees’ of sheltered workshops went to the courts accusing their operators of unfair labour practices. Although the judgments did not support the position that the disabled workers should be treated as ‘employees’ for the purposes of competitive remuneration, they advised that sheltered workplaces should provide ‘trainees’ measurable training programs if they were to avoid future litigation. This potential liability provided further incentive for the provincial government to look to reform the existing sheltered workshop system.

In 1982 an MCSS task force launched the critical “Review of the Sheltered Workshop System in Ontario”. Based on the results of this study, business advisory agencies were set up around the province to help sheltered workshops improve their business practices and earn more revenue. Agencies like IBMS (Industrial Business and Management Services) later to become CMCS (Central Marketing Consulting Services and eventually Centre for Management of Community Services) were established in 1984. But they were barely out of the gate when the supported employment model hit the scene.

A strategy, promoted primarily by advocates of people who had an intellectual disability, the supported employment model challenged the thinking of the day. This model asserted that, with the right supports, people who had a disability could, in fact, hold down paying jobs. It also challenged the notion that people had to engage in never-ending training and prove their capability before being given the chance to work. Rather, it put forth the ‘place and train’ model based on the belief that: ‘most people learn to work on the job’.

Toward the end of the 80’s government, still concerned about the vast number of people who were occupied in sheltered workshops and potential liability, launched the ‘minimum wage project’. This trial, which was piloted in a few regions of the Province, looked at the combined income of workshop earnings and disability benefits, and topped this up to ensure the combined income was equal to minimum wage. While it is uncertain as to whether or not this would have avoided future lawsuits, it proved to be very expensive and sheltered workshops struggled to make significant financial improvements that could contribute to these costs.

 The 90’s: Age of Enlightenment

 By the late 80’s and early 90’s government, seeing the success of supported employment and realizing that sheltered workshops would never achieve the goal of self sufficiency and fair remuneration for their participants got on board. The ‘Alternatives to Sheltered Workshops’ task force was launched and policies were developed to encourage and support this model. A former Director of Policy for MCSS was even so bold as to say: “There will be no more sheltered workshops in Ontario”.

The success of the supported employment model was evident and it continued to grow throughout the 90’s and into the 2000’s. In a 2003 study that followed 2,500 people who had a disability that engaged employment agencies for assistance to get a job, people who had an intellectual disability were the most successful of all disability groups at both finding and retaining their jobs, due in large part to the supported employment model. Based on its success this model was quickly adopted by many organizations that supported other types of disabilities. While the specific strategies and interventions varied – expertise and supports for someone with a spinal cord injury are vastly different from those for someone who has an intellectual disability or a hearing impairment, etc. – the model was seen to be flexible and adaptable.

One by one, sheltered workshops closed and the few remaining diminished over time as most were in phase out mode, closing their doors to new admissions. Resources were diverted to supported employment programs and life skills and community activity programs for those who did not want to work.

But for some people who have a disability, finding a job is difficult and financing the necessary supports and accommodations expensive. And for many – people who have a disability, parents and staff of service agencies – change is difficult. Sheltered workshops were, for the most part, safe and stable. The debate as to whether to abandon the sheltered workshop system altogether and reinvest those resources in non-sheltered alternatives such as Supported Employment or to retain the system in its existing or modified form continues to rage on, both amongst service providers and within MCSS, to this day.

The 2000’s: Time to Shake Things Up a Bit!

 1999 brought with it an entirely new construct for employment services and the not-for-profit agencies that provided them. The VRS act was repealed and replaced by the Ontario Disability Supports Program (ODSP) act. And by 2001 the ODSP Employment Supports (ODSP-ES) program was launched. Agencies were faced with a fee-for-service business model and the private sector was invited to compete in what had previously been sacra sancta for not-for-profit organizations. Three short years later the ODSP-ES program was refined and a new ‘pay for jobs’ system was established. Under this model employment agencies were only paid once an individual was successfully placed in a paid job.

One can’t argue with the fact that this forced agencies to be more accountable to achieve an employment outcome for those they serve – no job, no funding. On the flip side, however, are the pitfalls that unfortunately fall on the shoulders of the job seeker who has a disability.

Three problems face people who have a disability:

* The first assessment an agency is forced to make is: “Will it cost me more to find this person a job, and support them to retain it, than the government will pay me? In fact, who’s going to pay me for the time it will take me to reasonably assess and answer this question?”

Clearly this scenario leaves people who have more significant disabilities, where it may require more time and more support to find and retain a job, at a disadvantage. The resulting creaming effect defines job seekers as either ‘profitable’ or ‘money losers’ for employment agencies. Those who are not ‘profitable’ often face agencies that declare they are unable to provide the needed assistance and therefore continue to be excluded from the workforce.

* The second pitfall in the pay for jobs model is that any job is good enough for an agency to be paid. Much less attention is given to job quality and consumer satisfaction in this model – the quicker the placement, the greater the profit – resulting in a plethora of part-time, entry level jobs.

* A third issue is that agencies can no longer afford to provide the level of on-going support that some individuals need, often affecting their ability to retain their job or create a meaningful career path.

And to all this, add a poor economy to exacerbate the challenges.

While the Canadian Human Rights code and, soon to be, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act guarantees in law, the right to equal and fair access to employment opportunities there is no such right, or entitlement, to the necessary services and supports that many people who have a disability and/or employers need to ensure a successful job outcome.

Is there a solution to these challenges? Some of the more creative and often most successful operators have pieced together a complete employment service package by attracting funding from several of these government sources. Financing pre-employment preparation and training with funding from Employment Ontario and/or Service Canada’s Opportunities fund; job placement with funding from ODSP-ES; and, long term supports with funding from DS may not be an ideal way to operate, but if your primary concern is for the quality of service your clientele receives and good outcomes, you do what you need to do. Unfortunately agencies that currently receive funding from multiple government sources may soon be at risk.

2010 and Beyond: Age of Confusion

 In 2008, the Canada-Ontario Labour Market Agreement was enacted, resulting in the transfer of responsibility and funding from the Feds to the Province. As described on the EO web site: “services under both Canada-Ontario labour market agreements will help Ontarians receive the skills training and supports they need to succeed in the workplace, including unemployed individuals (whether or not they are eligible for EI), newcomers into the job market, internationally-trained individuals working in low-skill jobs, and persons with disabilities.”

Since 2008, Employment Ontario has been developing a strategic plan to deliver these services. In January 2010 its service strategy for job seekers other than those who have a disability were announced and the disability strategy is anticipated to be announced later this year. However, a few key themes are clear:

* The government wants to streamline what appears to be a confusing delivery system and, in so doing, reduce the number of service contracts held with employment agencies.

* The government also wants to move to a generic ‘one-stop shop’ for the delivery of employment services – one door that all people who want to get a job, regardless of their barriers or challenges, will go through.

In theory, the one-stop shop may make sense but at least three questions remain outstanding: Will the expertise that has been developed over the last 25years by specialized disability agencies be lost? How much better will these Employment Ontario agencies be at servicing people who have a disability than its predecessor – Canada Manpower Centres? And ultimately, what will this mean to job seekers who have a disability?

On yet another front MCSS just released a new program for people who have an intellectual disability – Person-Directed Planning. The service objectives of this program are designed to:

* Increase the ability of adults with a developmental disability to direct the planning of their daily living to meet their own life vision and goals.

* Develop a person-directed plan that focuses on their participation in the community, including training and education, skills acquisition and the ability to obtain paid work or work experience/activities (e.g., volunteer work or sheltered workshops).

Without belabouring the point suffice it to say that, in this writer’s experience, ‘volunteer work’ adds to the barriers facing job seekers who have a disability and is fraught with perils. Equally surprising for most of us in the disability field, is that it’s been a long time since we’ve heard or seen sheltered workshops promoted as an acceptable option for people who have a disability.

The Pendulum Swings

What goes around comes around. We started with a one-stop shopping model with the Canada Manpower Centres. We built what appears to be a confusing and complex system of disability specific Employment Agencies with multiple funding models. And in 2010 we’re back to a one-stop shopping model administered by Employment Ontario. Let’s just hope that in the name of efficiency, streamlining and cost savings, we don’t miss the point about whose lives are at stake.

I’d like to think that we’ve learned a few things in the last 40 years – about the capacity of people who have a disability and the benefits of inclusion.

As for the move from the segregated sheltered workshops of the 70’s to more dignified, less costly, paid employment in the private sector and back to sheltered workshops in 2010… Do I need say more?

Joe Dale

May, 2010

About the Author

Joe Dale has worked in the area of disability and employment for over 30 years. Currently Joe is the President of Vision Consulting, Executive Director of the Ontario Disability Employment Network and Manager of Ontario’s Rotary at Work initiative.

Provide feedback or comments to jdale@rotaryatwork.com.

Download/View the PDF File Here

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