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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Employment advocates receive Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals (communitylivingontario.ca)

Joe Dale, Bob Vansickle, Cheryl Massa ‘making an important contribution to our society’
Wednesday June 20, 2012 — Natalie Hamilton

Champions of meaningful employment for people who have a disability were among the Ontario residents honoured Monday evening with Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals.

Community Living Sarnia-Lambton supervisor of community employment options Bob Vansickle and Ontario Disability Employment Network executive director Joe Dale were two to receive the recognition.

“I was thrilled to hear that Joe and Bob were being honoured with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for their work in promoting employment for people with disabilities in Ontario,” Gordon Kyle, Community Living Ontario’s director of social policy and government relations, tells Community Living Leaders.

Kyle says both men have devoted many years of their time to the issue. Dale and Vansickle understand the challenges people face related to employment and have developed clear strategies to overcome the barriers.

“Through their talent in networking, their willingness to share their vast knowledge with others, and their passion and commitment, they are making an important contribution to our society.  This recognition is well-deserved.”

The medal pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth II’s 60-year reign.

Other allies in the movement to create an inclusive workforce – Community Living London employment services supervisor Cheryl Massa, Tim Hortons franchisee Valarie Wafer and Cohen Higley LLP partner Joe Hoffer — also received medals.

“I was so humbled to receive this recognition and am honoured to be in the company of so many dedicated and deserving people,” Massa tells Community Living Leaders.

“It is my hope that this medal increases awareness amongst the community and more people with a disability are able to realize their goal of meaningful employment.”

The Diamond Jubilee Gala ceremony took place at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto and included performances by Canadian artists, Susan Aglukark, Molly Johnson, Ben Heppner and Gordon Lightfoot.

Reprinted: CLO Website

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Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal Recipients

It is our absolute pleasure to announce that Joe Dale, Executive Director, Ontario Disability Employment Network and Bob Vansickle, Supervisor, Community Employment Options, Community Living Sarnia-Lambton and co-chair of the Ontario Disability Employment Network will be recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, for significant achievements and remarkable service. On June 18th, Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable David C. Onley will be joined by the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, several former vice-regal representatives, and other notable Canadians, in presenting the medals. The ceremony will take place at Roy Thomson Hall and the evening will include performances by renowned Canadian artists, Susan Aglukark, Molly Johnson, Ben Heppner and Gordon Lightfoot, followed by a sampling of Ontario fare.

The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, was created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada. The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is a tangible way for Canada to honour Her Majesty for her service to this country. At the same time, it serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.

This is a huge honour and a privilege to receive such an award from Her Majesty in the Diamond Jubilee year. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Please join us in congratulating Joe and Bob!

Congratulations Joe and Bob!

We would also like to congratulate Valarie Wafer, as she will be a medal recipient on June 18th. As many of you know, Valarie is the wife of Mark Wafer. The Wafer’s have been amazing advocates for people with a disability and it is great to see Valarie recognized for her absolutely outstanding achievements!

Congratulations to all on your well deserved recognition!

Also Related:

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medals Awarded by on February 7, 2013 (BlackburnNews.com)

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Ontario Disability Employment Network: 2010 – The Year in Review


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

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

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

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

Joe Dale
Executive Director

Debbi Soucie

Bob Vansickle

Government Relations

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

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


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

MCSS Modernization Initiative

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

MTCU/Employment Ontario

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

Service Canada

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

Provincial Ministry of Finance

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

Employer Engagement and Marketing Initiatives

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

Mayor’s Challenge

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

Champion’s League

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

The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

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


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

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

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


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


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

Training Events and Resources

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

New Members

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

Looking Ahead

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

In Closing

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

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

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

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

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

Disability: The Pendulum Swings

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

The 70’s: Proliferation of the Sheltered Workshop System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 80’s: A Time of Reckoning

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

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

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

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

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

 The 90’s: Age of Enlightenment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three problems face people who have a disability:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2010 and Beyond: Age of Confusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pendulum Swings

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

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

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

Joe Dale

May, 2010

About the Author

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

Provide feedback or comments to jdale@rotaryatwork.com.

Download/View the PDF File Here

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