October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in Canada. As the name suggests, NDEAM focuses on the need for more employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Sixteen percent of the Canadian potential work force lives with a disability. Like NDEAM in America, the NDEAM Canada was created to share information and thus build public awareness. Canada presently lags behind its American neighbour in employment opportunities for those with disabilities.

NDEAM Canada, according to Bob Santos founder of Link Up Employment Services for Persons with Disabilities, and NDEAM Canada initiator, will provide information about social services suppliers, like LinkUp. Employee success stories will be shared in hopes of showing employers the benefits for individuals, businesses, the local community, and society when the abilities—not the disabilities—of this segment of potential hires are highlighted. The month’s NDEAM activities will both celebrate the work that has already been done to hire employees with disabilities and focus on the need for increased employment opportunities.

In order to increase awareness of the need for employment opportunities, LizMars Productions has created “A Hire Awareness”. The goal of this film is to inspire employers to hire persons with disabilities. The film showcases business that are working toward this goal. “A Hire Awareness” will be used during October to build awareness and fundraise for NDEAM Canada’s initiative. Private sector employers will be invited to a film screening and encouraged to get involved in whatever ways they can.

According to the Conference Board of Canada there will be a demand for employees that will exceed the available workforce starting in 2014—assuming that the current employment trends remain stable. The province of Ontario could have a need for 190,000 workers by 2020. Extrapolating this could rise to 364,000 by 2025 and 564,000 by 2030. Ontario presently has 70% unemployment of persons with disabilities. There is potential here to put these people to work. This is a largely untapped labor pool. Employers need to be made aware of this.

Another thing employers need to be aware of is that—while these people may have a disability—they are fully able employees. 90% of workers with disabilities perform average or better than their non-disabled colleagues. Almost 90% of disabled workers also have better attendance, and 98% have better job safety records than their fully able co-workers.

By hiring employees with disabilities, businesses benefit in several ways:

  • They will have eager, committed employees who will give them 100% effort
  • Workplace diversity and inclusiveness boosts employee morale
  • A sense of pride in their workplace and employers is instilled in the work force
  • Customers will choose services and goods from companies that strive for inclusivity
  • The Canadian persons with disabilities sector is a $25 billion spending group. If your business or organization supports them, they will strive to support and promote spending by others at those businesses

It is a win-win initiative.

There are many ways you can support National Disability Employment Awareness not just during October, but throughout the year. Whenever you are hiring for short-term or on a longer term basis, make it a priority to consider hiring persons with disabilities.

Do your part in social media, wherever you shop, in your conversations, committee work, volunteering…wherever you come into contact with others to help build an awareness of the needs and potential business benefits of hiring persons with disabilities.

Help celebrate the success stories of persons with disabilities and the businesses that have hired them. In spite of the fact that there is a long way to go, those unsung heroes who have found gainful employment and the businesses that have hired them deserve recognition. They serve as the best proof to other businesses that hiring persons with disabilities is good for business. Here are just a few success stories:

Tim Hick had been a Purolator courier for nine years when he suffered a spinal cord injury at twenty-nine. He is now employed as a Purolator sales representative. Human Resources at Purolator was very open to this job transition where Tim can work effectively seven or eight hours each day.

Mark Wafer and his wife own seven Tim Horton franchises. Fifteen years ago they hired Clint Sparling an employee with an intellectual disability. Clint, who continues to work for them, has proven to be such an inspiration and success story than the Wafers have hired over fifty people with disabilities.

Margarita Gorbounova is as translator with Courts Translation Government Services Canada. She has a vision challenge that has existed from birth. She is legally blind, with only ten percent of her normal vision. Her disability has only made her more determined to work and play harder than those with normal vision. In addition to translating legal documents from French to English, mostly court and some administrative documents for Justice Canada, she is a para Olympian skier. Margarita uses software on her computer that enlarges the text, so she can do her job efficiently.

Stories like these are up-lifting. Yet, to date, there aren’t enough of them! Whether a disability is physical or intellectual, people with disabilities have much to contribute to the work force and to their communities.

Another thrust of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is focused on persons with disabilities themselves. Luck favours the prepared mind. In order to prove they can do the job, people with disabilities need to become more proactive and visible. They can do this by—as Tim Hicks did—meeting with business owners and human resources departments and negotiating. They also need to show the world they have initiative, which may be done by volunteering at food banks, hospitals and other community organizations, so the public sees their abilities not their disability.

For more information on how you can get involved in National Disability Employment Awareness Month, visit http://www.ndeam.ca/ndeam_canada.shtml