human resources

Government of Ontario Recognizes Disability Employment Awareness Month

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

It will expand business.

It will grow the economy.

It will diversify workplaces.

And it will strengthen communities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND I am honoured to serve in this role.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We want all Ontarians to embrace accessibility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Speaker, accessibility will build Ontario up.

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

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

Elle aidera les gens de toutes capacités au quotidien.

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

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

Thank You.


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

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ODEN Recognizes Disability Employment Awareness Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The New Green (The Economist)

The new green

Business may find disability as important as environmentalism

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

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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

ODEN Network Logo

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

June, 2011

1. Employer Misconceptions and Discrimination

Employer Misconception #1: Liability & Safety

Employer Misconception #2: Increased Costs

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

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

Employer Misconception #3: Fear of the Unknown

Employer Misconception #4: Fear of Firing


Solutions to Employer Misconceptions and Work-Related Discrimination

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

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

Solution:  Needs Based Job Development Strategy

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

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

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

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

Solution: On-the-Job Employment and Employer Supports

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

Solution:  Employer Education

Ongoing education and awareness is key to dispelling employer misconceptions.


2. The Nature of Disability

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

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

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

Nature of Disability Issue #2: Individual Motivation

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

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

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

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

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

Nature of Disability Issue #5: Fear of Failure

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


Solutions to the Nature of Disability

Solution: Specialized Employment Agencies

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

Solution: Facilitated Job Selection

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

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

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

Solution: Motivational Interventions

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

Solution: Place and Train Model

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

Solution: Client Education

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


3. System Barriers

System Barrier #1: The Income Supports System

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

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

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

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

System Barrier #2: A Patchwork of Funding

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

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

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

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

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

System Barrier #3: Lack of Policy Framework

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

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

Solutions to System Issues

Solution:  A Policy Framework that Frames and Coordinates Employment Supports

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

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

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


4. Employment Agencies

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

Employment Agency Issue #1: Limiting Service Offering

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

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

Employment Agency Issue #2: Lack of Effective Marketing Resources

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

Employment Agency Issue #3:  Lack of Focus on Employers

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

Employment Agency Issue #4: Lack of Infrastructure

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

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

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

Employment Agency Issue #5: Lack of Standards and Credentials

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

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

Solutions to Issues Concerning Employment Agencies

Solution: Collaboration – Providing Enhanced Assistance to Business

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

Solution: Reward Positive Outcomes

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

Solution: Profession Standards for College Graduates

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

Solution: Invest in Employment Services

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

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


In Summary

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

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

Appendix A               The Path to Employment

Pre-employment Preparation

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

Job Development

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

Job Retention

Career Development

Job Coaching, Trouble shooting, Employer assistance

Quality Assurance

Employer satisfaction

Candidate satisfaction

Evaluation & Improvement Strategies

Appendix B                Success Stories/best practice

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

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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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Disability in the Workplace: Part 3 (Joe Dale)

Disability in the Workplace: Part 3 – by Joe Dale, CIM

Businesses often say they don’t understand the employment system for people who have a disability or how to make decisions about which agency to work with. This article give some insights to what employers should look for when choosing the right agency to meet the support needs of their employees who have a disability.

Are Ontario Businesses Missing Out on a Valuable Labour Source?

Part Three: Best Practices in Employment Services

Throughout my years of promoting disability in the workplace I have often heard employers complain: “I don’t understand the services for people with disabilities and how they work” or make statements like: “why can’t there just be one service where I can find all the candidates who have a disability and all the services I need”.  Personally, I‟m not a proponent of this “one-stop shopping” concept.  I think this would quickly lead to mediocrity. People don’t make similar statements about the myriad of car manufacturers, models, number of dealers, etc. or the number of stationary and computer suppliers.  Businesses tend to make their purchase decisions based on an assessment of value – price, quality, reliability, customer service and so on.

Perhaps the real question is; “how do I make this kind of value assessment of an employment agency representing people who have a disability” given there are some unique qualities to these services.  Hopefully this article will help take some of the mystery out of this question.

What To Look For
In many respects employment agencies representing people who have a disability should be viewed like any other placement agency (with a specialty niche). Employers need to do their homework, shop around, check references, etc. There are, however, some indicators to watch for.

The agency representative or job developer should do some research before they make their first call. Do they know something about your business, your operations and the type of workforce you need? In the first few meetings do they dig for information about your labour needs – skill shortages, high turnover, problem areas, etc?  Ultimately they should be striving to achieve a winwin relationship where you get the employees and supports you need and their clientele get good jobs. And, if they follow this up with quality customer service they establish a relationship with the prospect of repeat business. If it’s only about their needs or the needs of their clientele, you can rightfully be wary.

Supported Employment
Many employment agencies follow the supported employment model. This is a model where the agency provides supports to both the employer and the person who has a disability. Agencies may provide many, and sometimes all, of the services below.

Supports for employers include: pre-screening candidates to ensure a good match for the job; initial on-the-job training and orientation for the new employee, supervisors and co-workers; information about workplace modifications if needed; re-training when job changes occur; trouble shooting and on-going support as needed; and, information about government programs and wage subsidies.  And, while employment agencies generally don’t use the term outplacement, many will assist their clientele find a new job if things don’t work out.

Supports for people who have a disability include:  pre-employment preparation such as career exploration, understanding workplace responsibilities, punctuality, etiquette, etc; resume writing; job search assistance; and, personal assistance with things like finances, transit, family support and so on. While some of these services are not strictly work-related they often affect the person‟s success on the job. Over the years I’ve had employers ask if similar services could be made available to their non-disabled workers as well.

When an employment agency comes calling, ask them to review their services with you to ensure you know what type of support is available for you and your new employee.

Employers Beware
Not all employment agencies are equal and there are some poor practices as well – practices I refer to as “desperate measures”.

Voluntarism: Some types of unpaid work are okay: volunteering in traditional places – food banks, Scouts and Guides, hospital auxiliaries, etc; and, short-term work experiences like school co-ops. Short-term, time limited placements that are closely supervised by the agency to assess skills and interests are valuable and appropriate.

What’s not appropriate is when people who have a disability work in long term positions in the private sector without a wage or for wages that are less than that established by law. Employers, that permit this, risk costly law suits and back wages should the individual in question get tired of working for nothing and lodges a complaint with the Ministry of Labour.

The Charity Case: It’s easy to see how people just want to “do the right thing” but the right thing has to be right for everyone. The employee who has a disability must be contributing to your business objectives through their performance and the other assets they bring to the job – greater dependability, enhanced staff morale, positive customer relations, corporate PR, etc.   Hiring strictly as an act of charity rarely works out longer term. Co-workers become resentful that they are being paid at a similar rate to someone who doesn’t contribute as much; supervisors and managers get frustrated by having an employee on their team that isn’t fully contributing; and, ultimately, when business takes a downturn these employees are the first to be let go.

Job Coach Dependency:  Job coaches can be a terrific asset when integrating a new employee into your workplace. They can orient supervisors and co-workers to understand the disability and help develop strategies to get the most from that employee. However, there are job coaches who feel they are the “only” one who can adequately train and support the employee with a disability and these coaches tend to overstay their welcome. A good job coach will always have an exit strategy. They should not create a dependency on themselves. This coach can become a barrier between you and the employee thereby limiting the more natural interactions between you and the benefits you will derive from those interactions.  After the job coach is no longer on site they should be available on an on-call basis if needed.

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

Access PDF of “Disability in the Workplace Part 3” Here

Go to Part One:  The Economic Case

Go to Part Two: Employer Awareness and Acceptance on the Rise

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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. 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) 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 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) 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 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 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

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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Disability in the Workplace: Part 1 (Joe Dale)

Disability in the Workplace: Part 1 – by Joe Dale, CIM

At almost 16% of the population, people who have a disability represent the largest minority in Canada yet face a 49% unemployment rate. Increasing workforce participation rates for this segment of the population can positively impact your bottom line and help address Canada’s projected labour shortage.

Are Ontario Businesses Missing Out on a Valuable Labour Source?

Part One: The Economic Case

Demographic Overview
Statistics Canada pegs people who have a disability at 15.9% of the Canadian population. That’s Canada’s largest minority at almost 5.3 million people – equal to the combined populations of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Furthermore, disability is a factor of aging and 43% of seniors have disabilities growing to 56% for 75 year olds. Statistics Canada has projected that by 2021 Canadians over the age of 65 will grow from the 2006 level of 13.7% to between 20 and 24% of the population.

Currently there are almost 1.8 million working age people who have a disability in Ontario alone. According to Statistics Canada this group faces an unemployment rate of 49% although we know that if people who have never been able to access the labour market were included this figure would be considerably higher.

Besides a 2001 Royal Bank study that showed Canadians who have a disability control over $25 billion in disposable income we must surely be concerned that as many people who have a disability as possible contribute to the workforce and the tax base. The alternative, that these people live on social assistance payments, is untenable.

Labour Shortage and Decline in GDP
The Conference Board of Canada predicts a labour shortage of nearly one million workers in Canada by 2020 and economic think tank Global Insight forecasts this acute labour shortage will cause a decline in Canada’s GDP from the current 3.2% to 2%. Canada is second of all industrialized nations in the severity of this problem, surpassed only by Mexico.

This decline in GDP will adversely affect the standard of living for all Canadians. Yet it seems that governments and corporations look primarily to immigration and expensive foreign worker programs as a solution to this problem. Clearly, consideration as to how we can increase participation rates of people who have a disability in the workforce must be part of the solution to what Prime Minister Steven Harper calls Canada’s number one economic problem.

High Cost of Employee Turnover
San Francisco based Taleo – Workforce Management Solutions estimates the cost of employee turnover ranges from 30% to as much as 150% of the annual salary of each position that turns over. Even a conservative estimate that the average turnover cost is equal to a worker’s annual salary has a huge financial impact on a business. Taleo gives this example: “for a company with 100,000 employees at an average salary of $40,000 and a turnover rate of ten percent, the cost of that turnover equals $400 million. A reduction in turnover of one-half percent would result in savings of $2 million dollars”.

According to a Pizza Hut Corporation study, workers who have a disability are five times more likely to stay on the job than workers without disabilities. Toronto-based Tim Hortons franchise owner, Mark Wafer cites the average tenure of his employees who have a disability as just over 6 years on the job compared to an average of just under one year for his non-disabled employees.

The Innovation Factor
In business, innovation can be defined as the successful exploitation of new ideas. And where better to look for innovation than the human capital within a diverse workforce. There are endless examples of innovation resulting from disability and disability-based research. In his latest novel Design Meets Disability, Graham Pullin cites Apple’s new i-Phone Shuffle based on voiceover interface research for people with visual disabilities and British fashion designer Paul Smith’s work on re-designing hearing aids as fashion accessories. But innovation as a response to meeting the needs of people who have a disability is not new. One only has to look at Thomas Edison who invented the gramophone to record books for his mother who couldn’t read to know that there are great innovations and profits to be made in meeting the needs of this market segment.

The Competitive Advantage
All of these items roll up to giving businesses with pro-active hiring practices a significant advantage over the competition. Developing the expertise of this important market segment is key to future success. Ensuring managers and employees have an understanding of their product and service needs and a comfort level in dealing with people who have a disability as customers will add to the bottom line. At the same time, accessing a largely untapped labour pool with a reputation for superior employer loyalty and lower turnover rates will cut costs.

Future Articles
Employer Awareness and Acceptance on the Rise
Best Practices in Employment Services
Government Policy – Enabler or Added Barrier

To provide feedback or to contact the author email

Access PDF of “Disability and Employment: Part 1” Here
Go to Part Two: Employer Awareness and Acceptance on the Rise
Go to Part Three: Best Practices in Employment Services

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