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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Champions for Change (Day 1 Final)

A few more pictures came my way today (thanks @judithboilard!). Here are the last of the photos from our Wednesday night networking event.

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Disability in the Workplace: Part 2 (Joe Dale)

Disability in the Workplace: Part 2 – by Joe Dale, CIM

Corporate leaders have a role to play in promoting the inclusion of people who have a disability in the workplace. Several corporately sponsored initiatives designed to educate businesses about the value of including people who have a disability have been launched in recent years.

The following is the second of a three-part series on disability in the workplace.  In Part One: The Economic Case the author reviewed the demographics of the Canadian workforce and highlighted the financial impacts of not increasing participation rates for this segment of the population and pointed out some of the benefits of including people who have a disability in the workforce.

Are Ontario Businesses Missing Out on a Valuable Labour Source?

Part Two: Employer Awareness and Acceptance on the Rise

For many years community employment agencies faced the daunting challenges of marketing their services and the people they represented to the business sector. For the most part they were ill equipped; with little marketing or sales expertise, few resources to apply to marketing programs and, for the most part, faced an uninformed and unreceptive audience. Business operators didn’t understand disability or why they should consider people who have a disability in their workplace.

Early on employment service operators learned that, given this lack of expertise and resources, the best way to reach employers was with a business to business approach. But the challenge was in finding champions – business leaders of stature and profile – who understood the issues and why people who have a disability should be included in the workforce and who were prepared to take on this cause. There were a few early champions like Gar Bauer of Loblaw Companies. Gar worked diligently to develop strategies and programs to include people who have a disability in Loblaw’s grocery stores.

In the early to mid 2000’s a new awareness seemed to come to the attention of the business sector. Corporate leaders began talking about disability and accessibility issues. Equity departments and programs now included disability along with the other major equity groups – women, visible minorities and aboriginals.

And finally, in the last few years corporate leaders began to see a role for themselves in promoting the inclusion of people who have a disability in the workplace. The following is just a brief synopsis of some employer awareness campaigns – primarily those driven by the business sector – that are in play in Ontario.

The Honourable David C. Onley, O. Ont. http://www.citizenship.gov.on.ca/english/citizenship/honours/onley.shtml was appointed as Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor in September 2007 and one can’t overlook its significance. As a person who himself lives with polio and post polio syndrome he represents both a role model and strong advocate on behalf of people who have a disability. His Honour is our most visible champion on accessibility and disability issues and routinely delivers a strong message about accessibility and the need to include people who have a disability in the workforce to business audiences, service clubs and community groups.

Partnering with the likes of BELL, IBM Canada, Tim Hortons, Oracle and a number of the big financial institutions, Toronto’s Job Opportunities Information Network has sponsored a Business Leadership Network (BLN) www.joininfo.ca/about-us. As with most BLNs in North America and the UK, Toronto’s BLN plays a leadership role in ensuring the ongoing hiring of people who have a disability and has a mandate to address education and awareness, accessibility, workplace accommodations and information about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Rotary at Work www.rotaryatwork.com is a unique partnership between Community Living Ontario and Rotary Clubs in Ontario. Through education and awareness presentations to Rotary Clubs and individual Rotarians, the needs and the benefits of including people who have a
disability in the workplace are identified. The project aims to persuade Rotarians, as community-minded business leaders, to include people who have a disability in their candidate pool when hiring and to champion this cause with their parent corporations and business colleagues.

Business Takes Action (BTA) www.businesstakesaction.ca is a Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association initiative aimed at promoting the benefits of hiring qualified people who have a disability to meet skill shortages. This program was created and is steered by the business community. Their mandate is to provide the tools and resources that employers need to remove physical and attitudinal barriers associated with recruiting, training, accommodating and hiring people who have a disability.

The Ability First Coalition www.abilityfirst.on.ca is a business-to-business partnership that aims to bring business people together to share best practices and experiences related to hiring and retaining people with disabilities. The Ability First Coalition provides resources for employers interested in making a commitment to hiring people with disabilities so that these they can find the organizations and the resources that can help them honour that commitment.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services’ Don’t Waste Talent www.ontario.ca/DontWasteTalent has two portals – one for employers looking to hire and one for people who have a disability looking for work. The Employer portal targets larger corporations and is dedicated to helping them:  understand what hiring people with disabilities can bring to their business; learn tips to make their workplace and hiring practices more inclusive; and, connect with an organization that can help them find a qualified candidates.

The Challenge
One might conclude that, between increasing awareness and growing demand, the future looks bright for people who have a disability. Unfortunately, with unemployment rates at a staggering 49% and participation rates in the Federally Regulated Private Sector at only 2.7% *, it’s easy to understand why people who have a disability might be growing impatient.

So why are participation rates virtually unchanged since 1995 and the unemployment rate more than 5 times the provincial average? One might just look to the some of the principle sponsors of these various awareness campaigns – large corporations.

In a recent survey of employment agencies only 8% of 1,400 job placements in the last 12 months were in large businesses (over 250 employees). Is it that small and medium sized businesses already know and understand the benefits of including people who have a disability in the workforce? Are they more flexible and better in tune with the communities in which they operate?

In the words of one business owner with a solid track record for hiring people who have a disability: “diversity is becoming a sexy word for human resource departments in large companies to show they are world class. Unfortunately that doesn’t help the disabled unless something is actually happening. I recently visited a Canadian company, very well regarded, with a cool diversity program that had not hired any disabled employees because they were still “looking into it” four years after inception.  However the glossy handouts were “awesome”.

* 2008 annual report of the Federal Employment Equity Act

Future Articles
Best Practices in Employment Services
Government Policy – Enabler or Added Barrier

The Author
Joe Dale has worked in the disability field for over 30 years with much of that time dedicated to
addressing issues related to disability in the workplace. Currently Joe is the Executive Director
of the Ontario Disability Employment Network and Manager of Ontario’s Rotary at Work

To provide feedback or to contact the author email jdale@rotaryatwork.com

Access PDF of  “Disability in the Workplace: Part 2” Here

Go to Part One: The Economic Case

Go to Part Three: Best Practices in Employment Services

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