Breaking Down Job Barriers

Group urges hiring people with disabilities

Posted By MARIA CALABRESE The Nugget
PostedAugust 25, 2010

People with disabilities make up 16% of a community's population, says an organization pushing to create more job opportunities for them.

"That's a pretty significant number of people who are precluded from the workforce," said Joe Dale, executive director of the Toronto-based Ontario Disability Employment Network which tries to help find employment for those with disabilities.

The network is involved in a challenge issued by Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley called on municipalities to hire people with disabilities instead of looking to private business to follow Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities legislation.

"Their own track record for leading by example isn't that great," Dale said, calling municipalities the top employers in most communities.

That's not the case in North Bay which counts provincial and federal jobs, education and the health care industry as some of the top employers, along with transportation, manufacturing and the service industry.

The city doesn't have an affirmative action program to hire people with disabilities, preferring to employ the best person for the job, said Mayor Vic Fedeli.

Job hunters are looking for what interests them, and that might have nothing to do with municipal work, said Gisele Cousineau, chief executive of Yes! Employment Services.

Transportation is a big issue in the North compared to southern Ontario, and some clients might be limited in their choices if they can only work part-time, Cousineau said.

"That doesn't mean that they don't want to be contributing members in the community. They do want to have some work that's going to make them feel productive and allow them the chance to make their own wages," she said.

Cousineau said employers in the city are generally positive about hiring people with disabilities, and there is a Ministry of Community and Social Services online program, Don't Waste Talent, that matches these workers with jobs.

"There's always room for improvement," she said about hiring opportunities.

"People are sometimes labouring under the misconception that if they hire someone with a disability it's going to slow down their workforce, and that's not the case."

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