Disability, talent, and the workplace: Celebrate NDEAM 2021 in Huntsville

A man in a red golf shirt and black face mask stands on an outdoor patio. There is a golf course behind him. He wears a name tag and holds a bottle of window cleaner. Text reads: Jeff. Deehurst Muskoka.

Jeff, who works as a house cleaner at Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, says he likes the income, purpose, and social connection that comes with employment. Photo by Community Living Huntsville.

It’s time to engage talent in the disability inclusion evolution, North Muskoka.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is an annual campaign led by the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) each October to promote disability inclusion in employment. The 2021 campaign theme is Engaging Talent in the Disability Inclusion Evolution which references the evolution of the modern workplace.

“Disability often gets left out of the business conversation about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. That is changing,” states the network. “Organizations that understand the power of investing in the talent of skilled people who have a disability invest in success.”

Community Living Huntsville is a passionate advocate for inclusive hiring. The not-for-profit organization has provided Supported Employment services for adults with developmental disabilities in the Huntsville area since 1990 and has inclusive employment relationships with more than 125 local businesses and organizations.

The organization believes skilled, talented people who have a disability should have the same employment opportunities as other jobseekers and that people who have a disability are a talent pool that must be accessed for businesses to remain successful in the future.

“Work helps me keep busy,” says Jeff, who works as a house cleaner at Deerhurst Resort. “And I feel like I’m part of something.”

He also notes he likes gainful employment and meeting new people at work, both of which are facilitated by an inclusive employer and the Community Living Huntsville Supported Employment team.

Jeff says the Community Living Huntsville team helped him apply for his job, supported him with workplace orientation, and helped him feel more comfortable on the job. His success is also due to his interest, skills, and attitude.

“My favorite part of the job is driving in the golf cart,” he quipped.

Ginger Barkey, chief administrative officer for MBRP, said the high-performance exhaust systems manufacturer has long partnered with Community Living Huntsville and a relationship with the Supported Employment team has offered the company an opportunity to build a successful employment relationship that helps meet its staffing needs.

“With our engagement with Community Living Huntsville’s Supported Employment program, we have been able to come alongside the worker with little to no experience in a manufacturing environment, and mentor and coach him to be a part of a productive team,” says Ginger. “The worker has been trained to support the night shift team, and can be relied upon to show up for work, and balance out the packaging team. This has reduced turnover for our team and therefore allowed further enhancement to our team building.”

A man in a red shirt and black face masks wipes clean a bathroom mirror using a white cloth.

Jeff at work at Deerhurst Resort. Photo by Community Living Huntsville.

Disability-inclusive hiring, according to ODEN, changes employees’ lives, enables businesses to fill roles, allows businesses to increase productivity, employee engagement and profitability, drives cultural change within a business, and often strengthens brand reputation.

Plus, according to a 2018 Accenture study, businesses that practise inclusive hiring of people who have a disability experience 72 per cent more productivity, a 45 per cent increase in workplace safety, 30 per cent higher profit margins, and two-times the net income of other businesses in the study.

The goal is to get to a place where hiring qualified people who have a disability is “business as usual.” NDEAM presents an opportunity to put inclusive hiring in the spotlight.

And Community Living Huntsville will literally put it in the spotlight with Light It Up! for NDEAM, a one-night-only, co-ordinated lighting event happening across Canada on Thursday, October 21.

“Access to employment is still a barrier for people with disabilities, including people in the Huntsville area,” says Diane Lupton, Manager, Community Supports, Community Living Huntsville. “Light It Up! for NDEAM helps keep the conversation about disability and employment, and the benefits of inclusive hiring, at the forefront with local businesses and community members.”

Community Living Huntsville will light up its office, 99 West Road, Huntsville, with purple and blue on October 21 in honour of NDEAM. Others are encouraged to do the same.

Learn more about NDEAM at Ontario Disability Employment Network’s website and visit clhuntsville.ca to learn more about Community Living Huntsville’s Supported Employment services.

Community Living Huntsville is a not-for-profit, registered charity that supports and advocates alongside people with developmental disabilities to live, work, and play in unique and purposeful ways in North Muskoka. Find more at clhuntsville.ca or follow @clhuntsville on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Light It Up! For NDEAM is a trademark of the Ontario Disability Employment Network. Used with permission.