Driving the future of work with disability inclusion in Huntsville: NDEAM 2022

A man in a black chef jacket and face shield stacks clean plates in a restaurant kitchen.

Christopher Pierce, who works at Boston Pizza in Huntsville, says he feels supported, welcome, and comfortable at work, where he is considered a valued team member. The business has been an inclusive employment partner with Community Living Huntsville since it opened. Photo by Community Living Huntsville.

The conversation around disability inclusion in employment has started to shift.

“Recently, we have noticed that more people with disabilities are being considered for positions for which they were previously overlooked,” says Diane Lupton, Manager, Community Supports, for Community Living Huntsville. “Employers are also expanding their approach and looking for creative ways to fulfil their hiring needs.”

A lot has happened in recent years to prompt employers to create and grow inclusive workplaces that welcome jobseekers and employees who have disabilities. For one, businesses are starting to understand that workplace diversity includes disability. For another, staffing shortages are forcing businesses to consider a talent pool of jobseekers previously overlooked and underemployed.

“Employers are also experiencing staffing shortages and are willing to give people opportunities they may not have had in the past,” says Diane.

She notes it is essential for employers to create and grow inclusive workplaces, if they want to be successful now and into the future.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2022

It is a shift across Ontario that is reflected in the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October 2022: Driving the Future of Work with Disability Inclusion.

“The number of Canadians who have a disability is increasing … so in the years ahead, there are going to be more employees — and more jobseekers — in the disability talent pool,” says ODEN. “Organizations that understand the power of investing in the talent of skilled people who have a disability now invest in future success. They’re driving the future of work with disability inclusion.”

Roughly one in five Canadians has a disability, and that is expected to rise to one in four Canadians within the next two decades, according to Statistics Canada. So, ODEN says businesses need to have hiring strategies and workplace environments that sincerely welcome workers with disabilities, if they want to fill labour needs, stay successful and competitive, demonstrate their commitment to inclusion, and create a culture that reflects and meets the needs of all their employees and the communities they serve.

People with disabilities can do the job.

Empowered employees and inclusive workplaces

Blake Hayden, who is supported by Community Living Huntsville’s Supported Employment team, works as a room attendant at Holiday Inn Express and Suites Huntsville. He says he likes his job and the work environment. “The people are nice to me, and I can work independently,” he says. He also enjoys his workday routine.

“And getting a paycheque,” he says.

Blake says the Community Living Huntsville team has supported him in his employment by helping him access transportation to work and create a strategy to complete his work task list, as examples.

He also has an employer with an inclusive mindset.

Marisa Kapourelakos, General Manager for Holiday Inn Express and Suites Huntsville, says, as part of its search for housekeeping and breakfast staff, the business looked into the Ready, Willing and Able initiative. The national initiative is designed to increase labour force participation of people with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder. “We wanted to give opportunities to those who are able to perform tasks in the workplace,” says Marisa.

Marisa notes the partnership with Community Living Huntsville’s Supported Employment team has supported a positive work environment. Moreover, she notes Blake has shown he is able to do the work.

An untapped talent resource

According to Community Living Ontario, more employers will need to follow suit.

“Despite the considerable efforts that have been made to diversify the Canadian labour force, Statistics Canada reports that, in 2017, 3.7 million working-age Canadians identified as having a disability and only three in five (59 per cent) were employed,” states Community Living Ontario. “The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially intensified the situation. Currently, approximately 1 million Canadian jobseekers experiencing disability are unemployed or underemployed. Given current workforce shortages, Canadian employers coast to coast need the skills, education, and experience of this untapped talent resource.”

Community Living Huntsville has provided Supported Employment services for adults with developmental disabilities and employers in the Huntsville area since 1990. It has inclusive employment relationships with more than 125 local businesses and organizations.

Services for jobseekers and employees include job exploration, skill development, job application and retention, and ongoing job coaching, as needed, while services for employers include job matching, job development, onboarding support, and disability awareness training. The goal is to create a win-win situation for both the employee and the employer. Learn more about becoming an inclusive employer.

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

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