The Hub November 2016 - Page 11

It goes beyond the big box stores not hiring . More than 70 per cent of small businesses have never hired an individual with a disability . But a local organization has set out to change this .
The WE Are ABLE project , in partnership with the Ontario Trillium Foundation , and in association with Assisted Living Southwestern Ontario , seeks to educate potential employers about the benefits and hidden positives of hiring people with disabilities . Kevin McShan , WE Are ABLE presenter and St . Clair College journalism graduate , assists in project coordination .
“ Half a dozen people have been hired because of our presentations ,” says McShan . “ Different organizations and companies have come to us and said they are in the process of changing their hiring processes to be more inclusive .”
In the 15-20 presentations the project has put on , the biggest response has been that employers just do not know what is available to them .
“ There are services available to employers to make hiring individuals with disabilities easier for them ,” says McShan . “ Many employers also think accommodating different disabilities can be costly , and are not sure where to start .”
“ I feel like a lot of employers try to avoid the topic altogether ,” says Kaitlyn Dwyer , a regular respite service provider , and graduate of the disability studies program at the University of Windsor .
“ Almost every organization that I know of considers themselves to be an equal opportunity employer , yet very rarely do I see people with disabilities working within those organizations .”
Dwyer began volunteering with people with disabilities in grade school , and has seen the struggles people with disabilities go through in trying to find employment .
“ The biggest thing is a limitation of jobs being offered to them ,” says Dwyer . “ Many people with disabilities have job coaches or support workers search for jobs for them , which really limits the type of opportunities they have .” Job coaches or support workers are often successful in finding employment for their clients with disabilities , but the work is not often what that person would actually like to be doing .
“ Most often people with disabilities are placed somewhere that has a need for them , rather than somewhere they would truly like to work and develop skills ,” says Dwyer . “ Often jobs with minimal hours , low pay and very basic tasks are the only jobs that are offered to people with disabilities .”
Missing out on the process of applying and interviewing for jobs is not the only problem facing individuals with disabilities .
“ Even when given the opportunity to work within larger corporations , people with disabilities are often given " behind the scenes " jobs such as working in the mail room , sweeping , shredding paper or packaging items ,” says Dwyer .
I read an article recently , written by Mark Wafer , a Tim Hortons owner who ’ s been making headlines for several years because of his commitment to hiring employees with disabilities . In

“ Most often people with disabilities are placed somewhere that has a need for them , rather than somewhere they would truly like to work and develop skills .”