Nine Vanderhoof employers are highlighted for offering paid opportunities to community members with disabilities.
On Sept. 28, close to 60 prospective and current employers and employees gathered at Vanderhoof’s WorkBC office to learn about and discuss opportunities for adults with disabilities.
Companies who are recognized as an inclusive employer at the event are: Wallace Studios, Tim Hortons, A&W, Vanderhoof and Districts Co-op, Westline Ford, J & S Restaurant, Carrier Sekani Family Services, Nechako Waste Reduction Initiative, and the District of Vanderhoof.
Wallace Studios didn’t have a job opening when Larissa Cormier first approached the company, said Lori Wallace.
“But she came with her resume, and was interested in the industry,” she said.
Although Cormier has difficulty standing all day or lifting things due to worsening arthritis, she now works part-time in customer service and administrative work for the studio.
“The environment for being in a photo studio,” Cormier said. “Something I’ve always been interested in.”
Featuring speakers from local inclusive employment facilitators, this year’s event also enjoyed a larger turnout than last year, when 15 participants attended, said Aash Talwar of Progressive Employment Services.
“This year we focused on employers, so more awareness of hiring people with disabilities can be created and they can be part of it,” he said. “We want to make sure we pass the message to all individual companies.
“I personally believe everyone has the right to employment, whether they have disabilities or not.”
Ken Rhindress of Kopar Administration in Prince George kicked off the lunchtime event’s speech series, introducing language that aims to de-stigmatize people with disabilities and programs that connect employment to all who self-identity with disabilities of any kind, including depression, he said.
“The word ‘dis’ is not good in high school or now; it’s people with diverse abilities,” Rhindress said. “Self-identified disabilities are those that affect daily activity, anything across the spectrum.
“According to a 2013 Statistics Canada survey, 13.8 million Canadians — or one in seven — would self-identify with disabilities.”
Gordon Ross from Ready Willing & Able, a national initiative to employ jobseekers that have intellectual disabilities but can meet minimal work requirements with support, spoke about the benefits of inclusive hiring.
“Issues of retention are far lower due to loyalty, stability, and dependability,” Ross said, through a Skype conference call. “It’s about understanding the capacity of an inclusive workforce, involving individuals who can work to the needs and aim of the employer.”
Garry Angus, Community Futures’ coordinator for self-employment, regaled the story of Robert, a brewery owner in Terrace that started his business after a work injury derailed his career as a logging truck driver.
“[Community Futures’ entrepreneurship with disability program] is here for you to test an idea,” Angus said. “It’s not for everyone but you need to be determined.”
Local service groups Progressive Employment Services and Nechako Valley Community Services Society, represented by Michelle Smith and Tara Beal respectively, presented their services in working with employers to customize job opportunities, which can be supported through subsidies or accompanying staff.
For Wanda Summers, who used to work at a local grocery store but is now struggling with medical difficulties, it’s an opportunity to look for less exerting opportunities.
“It’s not fair for the store, not fair for the customers,” Summers said, looking for income to supplement her husband’s full disability allowance and support their 12-year-old grandson. “But if my body won’t allow me to go back to work and the bills keep coming in, how can I pay them?”