Employers invited to Disability Employment Month Breakfast

Breakfast Poster Final DraftPowell River Employers: Free Disability Employment Buffet Breakfast hosted by Career Link a WorkBC Employment Services Centre, Powell River Model Community Project and Inclusion Powell River at the Town Centre Hotel from 7:30 to 9 am on September 24 for employers to learn about the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities.

Guest speakers include Jim Agius (Agius Construction), Barbra Mohan (CDPR), Christine Hollmann (Terracentric) and Danielle Craigen (CUPE 798 President) Seating is limited so early registration is encouraged, and registration closes at 4:30pm on Friday, September 19  RSVP cpolmantuin@pracl.ca or call 604-485-4628, Ext 224.

There will be a door prize as well (1 Night stay at the Lund Hotel; a $50 gift certificate and a Half-day kayak adventure for two!

Disability Employment Month: Where are you on the ability continuum?

By Melany Hallam

Accessibility 2024Who do you think of when you think of a disabled person? It’s often people who are visibly disabled that come immediately to mind, but disabilities aren’t always so obvious.

According to the latest Canadian Survey on Disability (2012), people were said to have a disability if they “had difficulty performing daily tasks as a result of a long-term condition or health-related problem and experienced a limitation in their daily activities.” This officially includes 10 disability types: seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain, learning, developmental, mental/psychological, and memory.

At least five impairments identified in the 2012 survey are not visible at first glance, and could be applied to anyone to varying degrees. Does it not make sense, then, to view “disability” not as a distinct or separate part of our community but, rather, as just one more step on an ability continuum—of which we are all a part?

What does this mean for employers?

In 2013, only three in 10 Canadian small business owners indicated they had hired someone with a disability—essentially unchanged from 2012 (Bank of Montreal Survey, 2013). But the word is getting out. Employees who are disabled are a valuable resource for any organization and can be a boost to a business’s bottom line. Research shows that 80 per cent of consumers prefer to support businesses with diverse workforce, according to Inclusion BC. Companies with disabled employees may also attract customers with disabilities, thus increasing their business. That’s nothing to sneeze at, considering Canadian consumers with disabilities spend $25 billion a year and growing.

There are all kinds of success stories out there where people with disabilities have either made a job for themselves or have taken on work that makes a valuable contribution to their employer’s business and to the community.

Take the case of Derek Lith of Vancouver. Derek has a developmental disability but, 21 years ago, with support from a community program, he found work at MacDonald’s as a lobby person and has been with the restaurant chain ever since. As a lobby person, he cleans tables and counters, stacks trays and napkins, takes out the garbage, and re-stocks the straws, ketchup, and cups. He’s very serious about doing a good job and says that he learned most of his skills from supportive employers and co-workers and from practicing at home. He goes above and beyond to make sure that he gets to work on time—even walking for two hours to get there during a transit strike back in 2001.

A disability isn’t necessarily something that you’re born with, but can develop later in life due to injury or disease. In the case of Melanie Camille Caple, a car accident left her with a severe brain injury, affecting her ability to remember things and to understand new information. With the help of the BC Centre for Ability, a hard-won acceptance of her new limitations and a lot of self-advocacy, she now works as a health-club attendant at a major Vancouver hotel. She is also involved with the Abilities in Mind Committee, which works with employers to create more inclusive work places, and she’s planning to go back to school. Not bad for a person who wasn’t able to recognize her own family members after her 2008 accident.

Here’s another developmental disability story: Lisa Culpo of Port Moody. With the help of a local employment agency, Lisa got a job working for the City of Port Moody’s legislative services department as an office assistant. She sorts and delivers mail, shelves library books, files documents, and does other general office work. She started with the city in 1991 and was recently recognized for her years of service. Her supervisors value her contribution to office culture—she’s always cheerful, helpful, and a joy to have in the office.

Or how about the case of Emilea Hillman, a coffee-shop entrepreneur in Independence, Iowa. When Emilea was born, her parents were told that she would never walk or talk and that she should be institutionalized. But with the help of family, friends, and a government-grant program, at the age of 21 she was running her own coffee shop, greeting customers, answering the phone, supervising staff, and getting up every morning to start the coffee at 5:30 in the morning. When Emilea opened her coffee shop, it was the only one in town—an essential service for java junkies!

disabilitybcReading through the stories (and there are a lot of them, let me tell you!), the common factor seems to be that the disabled person had help when they needed it—be it from family members, friends, their communities, or government programs.

Employers often argue that the cost of accommodating a disability—whether it be a physical, mental, or developmental one—is too high to employ a disabled person. However, the BC Chamber of Commerce report Closing the Skills Gap found that the majority of workplace accommodations cost less than $500 and that the disabled employee makes the workplace better for not only other employees, but customers and clients as well.

The Employment Program of BC, delivered locally by Career Link, Powell River Model Community Project for Persons with Disabilities, Inclusion Powell River, and Community Futures Development Corporation of Powell River can help employers with needed workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities.

I’ve personally experienced the benefits of accommodating a disabled employee. In a previous job with the federal government, one of my co-workers was legally blind. With the help of computer software worth a few hundred dollars, I got to work with—and learn from—one of best writers and clearest thinkers in my professional life.

In fact, Barb was the person who first launched me into the world of self-employment, sending contract work my way when she was too busy to take it on herself. She believed in my ability to do the work and helped change the course of my life. I would love to be able to do that for another person. Wouldn’t you?

For more information:

September is Disability Employment Month


Victoria – B.C. has declared September Disability Employment Month to celebrate people with disabilities in the workforce and the employers and communities throughout the province who pave the way to support them.

Social Development and Social Innovation Minister Don McRae, along with recently appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility Linda Larson, will spend the month encouraging employers to make disability hiring a priority.

Disability Employment Month follows the recent release of Accessibility 2024, a 10-year action plan to make B.C. the most progressive place for people with disabilities in Canada by 2024.

Working with the business community, represented by the Presidents Group, and the disability community, represented by the Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility, B.C. aims to have the highest labour participation rate for people with disabilities by 2024.

As Don McRae, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation stated recently:

“One of the things we heard loud and clear during our recent disability consultation is that many people with disabilities are able to work and want to work. It is time to raise the profile of people with disabilities as employees through education and leadership using examples of success to lead the way.”

Quick Facts:

  • There are more than 546,000 people in B.C. over the age of 15, who identify as having a disability—that’s almost 15%.
  • The employment rate for people with disabilities (aged 15 to 64 years) is 18 percentage points lower than for people without disabilities.
  • On average, the total cost to accommodate an employee with a disability is under $500.
  • Consumers with disabilities in Canada spend $25 billion a year and growing.
  • Since April 2012, the Employment Program of BC and associated local WorkBC Employment Service Centres have helped nearly 8,000 people with disabilities reach their employment goals.
  • Since 2012, more than $1.34 million has been spent assessing technology needs and providing assistive technology to almost 600 job seekers with disabilities through the Employment Program of BC.

View the proclamation:

Click to view large version

Media Contact:

Joanne Whittier
Communications Manager
Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation
250 387-6490

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect

Water Cooler for Sept 2014: “Job security: Is anyone really indispensable?”

Take the September Water Cooler survey right here.

By Melany Hallam

piggyThere are two very different schools of thought on the best way to keep your job when layoffs threaten: (1) specialize and become indispensable and, (2) be good enough at a wide range of things and become indispensable. Notice that the goal in both of these theories is the same, become indispensable. I have a third option for you: (3) specialize OR become good at all kinds of tasks – it really doesn’t matter which option you choose – and learn the skills you need to find or create a job you really love.

The idea that anyone is indispensable is ridiculous. There’s always someone smarter, more experienced, more willing to work crazy hours, more educated, etc., etc. If you go the indispensable route, your life will be about work, stress, and constantly looking over your shoulder for the next threat to your position. Don’t be that person. Your family and friends will thank you for it.

My youngest brother and I are living examples of taking two different routes to the same goal: a job you love. Here’s how it played out for us:

Pete has been a math geek since we were little kids – always solving puzzles faster than anyone else, obsessed by calculating pi to the smallest decimal possible, convincing my parents to let him buy a desktop computer when he was in grade 10 (home computers were unheard of then – think about that for a moment…). He eventually graduated with a computer science degree and was recruited to work for Microsoft right out of university. He did well for many years and then took a couple of years off. Then, because of his work at Microsoft, he got headhunted by Google.

Now Pete is with a new company that creates software for other software companies. He specializes in coding for coders using computer languages that I forget the name of a second after he tells me – it’s something to do with debugging and compiling. Really, I have no clue. The point is, he’s incredibly specialized and he has his pick of jobs that interest him. These days he’s thinking that he may even go out on his own as a contractor and create a more flexible work situation for himself – he’s that good. But he didn’t specialize in order to ensure that he kept his job, he did it because specialized coding is what makes him happy. And he’ll always find work that suits him – whenever he wants it.

But my brother’s case is very rare. Most of us will never be that amazing at any one thing.

Take my situation for example – I took route number two. There’s isn’t any one thing that I’m incredibly good at. I have an ordinary artsy degree in journalism, which gave me all kinds of experience besides the obvious one (writing). This included video and sound editing (in the days of tape) and desktop publishing, not to mention soft skills such as thinking outside the box, clear communication, and working under crazy deadline situations. As a journalism student, you learn that you’re the only person you can count on, and then you just go with it.

I never did work as a reporter. A waste, you say? Not so. Many of the early jobs I had started out as entry-level office positions, but always morphed into something much more because of the skills I learned in school. As new tasks came up, I just figured out how to do them until I became the go-to person for all kinds of things, including problem-solving when new issues arose. I even discovered that I had an inexplicable knack for working with obscure databases. Who knew? All sorts of interesting things have happened to me shortly after saying the words, “How hard can it be?”

Fast forward to today, and I’ve converted this motley collection of skills and an ability to wing it into a job where I work from home. I get to do all kinds of different projects and I have a flexible work schedule that I love. It isn’t always easy, and I did spend some years in positions that weren’t right for me because of financial worries. But always, when I eventually moved on, my first thought was, “I should have done this years ago!”

Whatever path you follow, every job is an opportunity to learn. And every time you leave a position – for whatever reason – is an opportunity to use those new skills to create a job that you love.

Here is some further reading on how to handle job-security worries:

Some practical advice on what to do to reduce your stress level and keep your job in a layoff situation: http://www.sixwise.com/Newsletters/2009/April/01/Worried-About-Your-Job-Security.htm

A convincing argument for developing a wide range of work skills: http://oliveremberton.com/2013/how-to-succeed-when-you-have-no-special-skills/

The old tried-and-true specialization argument: http://www.dumblittleman.com/2013/07/worried-about-job-security-use-these.html

An opinion on job security for the 20-something crowd:


Coastal Postings August 2014

Accommodations 6
Administration/Business Support 3
Agriculture,Animals,Aquaculture 2
Construction 5
Education 6
Finance 1
Food Services 15
Forestry 3
Health Care 19
Manufacturing 6
Other Services (non-Gov’t) 6
Professional Services 1
Public Administration 8
Recreation and Sports 2
Retail Trade 32
Social Assistance 11
Transportation 1

127 Total individual jobs posted in August 2014 for Powell River

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