The electricity sector employs over 100,000 people but like other industrial sectors, we face an imminent departure of many skilled workers from retirement and this will create severe labour market challenges. However, this scenario presents an exceptional opportunity to diversify the workforce. For people with disabilities seeking employment and long-term careers, there are opportunities in a wide array of occupations, even in careers not usually associated with the electricity sector.
Disability to Inclusion Project Resource Kit
The EHRC Resource Kit for Hiring and Retaining People with Disabilities in the Electricity Sector is an online resource developed as a result of EHRC’s Disability to Inclusion project (under the EnAbling Change Program) in partnership with the Government of Ontario. The kit provides employers with a variety of accessibility tools and resources to help them improve access and supports for people with disabilities who work or wish to work in the Canadian electricity industry—while addressing all three of the 2016/2017 EnAbling Change Program priorities.
The Resource Kit is designed to help organizations chart their own path to employer-driven initiatives of inclusion and accessibility (whatever the scope or resources may be). The kit provides employers with a wealth of practical information and common-sense solutions to ensure that people with disabilities can obtain and succeed in rewarding careers within the industry. It is by no means comprehensive—it is meant to provide answers to key questions in an easy-to-use format, with a supporting compendium of links to additional resources in a downloadable format that can provide further information.
The Resource Kit is intended to be a living resource which will be continuously updated as new materials are developed or discovered. At the bottom of each page you can find a link where you may connect with us to suggest additional resources.
The resource kit includes nine key sections, each one covering an important aspect of achieving an accessible work environment that includes people with disabilities.
The content of this Toolkit is provided for information purposes only; EHRC does not endorse or recommend any particular content.
Resource Kit Content
1. Leading the Way with an Inclusive Culture
With an aging workforce, impending mass retirements, and an increased desire by utilities to be socially inclusive in their hiring, employers need to be aware of the potential that people with disabilities bring to the workplace. Beyond the argument that “it is the right thing to do“, it makes good business sense. Benefits to the employer include access to an untapped labour pool who have skills, education, training, experience and want to work. Like other candidates, they are qualified to fill a variety of posts ranging from entry level to executive positions.
As a result, employers and the HR professionals and managers in the sector require knowledge, skills, strategies and tools to successfully manage current and future new demands of accommodation and disability issues. Creating workplace environments that support and encourage people with disabilities is critical and we need to create a better dialogue with employers to increase awareness of the opportunities for inclusion, and also address the negative stereotyping and discrimination that still exists in today’s workplaces and indeed society.
Most employers within the electricity sector agree there is greater awareness of people with disabilities in in the workforce, and greater acceptance of hiring people with disabilities. Embracing the business case for accessibility is a win-win proposition for organizations of all sizes and for people with disabilities. For people with disabilities, it means being able to actively participate in communities, workforce and economy. For electricity industry employers, it means tapping into an underused talent pool to address labour market challenges while at the same time having a positive impact on employee morale, productivity, innovation, profitability and the ability to accommodate and retain talent. Canada’s electricity sector is well positioned to achieve meaningful progress in the goal of engaging more people with disabilities in the industry.
There are three key elements to ensure initiatives are both successful and sustainable:
- Understand and believe in the value of an inclusive workplace
- Active support from Senior Management
- Removal of barriers
- Develop an action plan, monitor and review
- Identify priorities
- Embedding health and wellbeing in the organisation
- Ensuring a healthy and safe workplace environment
- Employees feel valued and included
- Supporting staff with disability
- Promoting work/life balance
- Effective communication
- All staff feel included and involved
- Means of communication meets the needs of the workforce
Establishing an inclusive business culture begins with leadership at the highest levels, including top executives, their leadership teams, and boards of directors. Mid-level managers and supervisors, and particularly human resources staff and other personnel involved in hiring decisions, must also understand the role they play in facilitating an inclusive environment.
Finally, communicating the company’s goal of an inclusive and diverse workplace to employees at all levels of the organization and indicating what they can do to help are also extremely important. One action company leaders can take is to adopt formal expressions of commitment and intent related to the recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of qualified individuals with disabilities.
Prior to and throughout this project, key employers have demonstrated their commitment to building an inclusive and supportive workplace for people with disabilities either entering or already employed within the sector. Some employers have already taken strides to improve workplace accessibility and recruit people with disabilities – providing leadership and promising practices in their sector while others are looking to get started and wondering how.
What counts most is the commitment to achieving an inclusive workplace and willingness to take action and the electricity sector is off to a good start. Commitment at all levels of an organization is critical to creating and maintaining a truly diverse and inclusive work environment.
In fact, EHRC research findings show a high level of senior management commitment and accountability, followed by practices which attempt to accommodate and enhance work spaces and environments. Many organizations have also made genuine efforts to ensure their corporate vision, goals and objectives reflect principles of inclusion.
2. Accessibility & Disability-Related Terms
How is a disability defined? People with disabilities are often thought of as those in wheelchairs and with visible physical disabilities. Disabilities can also be non-visible. A wide range of disabilities includes vision, deafness or being hard of hearing, intellectual or developmental, learning, and mental health.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) uses the same definition of “disability” as the Ontario Human Rights Code, which includes both visible and non-visible disabilities.
The following provides some common terms and their definitions:
Accessibility: Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people who experience disabilities. Ontario has laws to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, including the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Accessible: In the case of a facility, readily usable by a individuals with different disabilities; in the case of a program or activity, presented or provided in such a way that a particular individual can participate, with or without auxiliary aid(s); in the case of electronic resources, accessible with or without assistive computer technology.
Access barriers: Any obstruction that prevents people with disabilities from using standard facilities, equipment and resources.
Accessible web design: Creating web pages according to universal design principles to eliminate or reduce barriers, including those that affect people with disabilities.
Accommodation: An adjustment to make a program, facility, or resource accessible to a person with a disability.
In employment, accommodation means to eliminate non-essential job requirements and to adapt or adjust essential job requirements or conditions, in order to enable a person to carry out the essential duties of an activity or job. An employer must, for example, make the workplace physically accessible or otherwise enable its employees to perform the essential job duties, unless such accommodation would cause undue hardship.
or an employee who is blind, accommodation could mean providing a voice synthesizer on a computer; for other protected groups it could mean altering a dress code or changing shift work to accommodate employees’ individual religious practices.
Adaptive technology: Hardware or software products that provide access to a computer that is otherwise inaccessible to an individual with a disability. This term is often used interchangeably with assistive devices and assistive technology.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA): The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) seeks to ensure that all Ontarians have fair and equitable access to programs and services and to improve opportunities for persons with disabilities. The Act address barriers in Customer Service; Information and Communication; Employment; Transportation; the Design of Public Spaces
Age-related Disabilities/Impairments: The aging process is characterized by the acquisition of progressive multiple minor impairments predominately related to sight, hearing, dexterity, mobility and cognition. In combination, these can lead to high levels of disability and dependency.
Alternate Formats: Formats useable by people with disabilities. These may include, but are not limited to, Braille, ASCII text, large print and recorded audio.
Alternate Methods: Different means of providing information, including product documentation, to people with disabilities. Alternate methods may include, but are not limited to, voice, fax, relay service, TTY, Internet posting, captioning, text-to-speech synthesis, and audio description.
ALT attribute: HTML code that works in combination with graphical tags to provide alternative text for graphical elements.
Alternative keyboard: A keyboard that is different from a standard computer keyboard in its size or layout of keys.
Assistive Devices: Tools that enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential job functions, e.g. telephone headsets, adapted computer keyboards, enhanced computer monitors.
Assistive Technology: Any item, piece of equipment, or system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is commonly used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Includes items such as communication devices, adapted appliance for accessible living, environmental control devices, modified housing, adapted computers, and specialized software. This term is often used interchangeably with adaptive technology and assistive devices.
Barrier: A barrier is a circumstance or obstacle that keeps people apart. For people with disabilities, barriers can take many forms including attitudinal, communication, physical, policy, programmatic, social, and transportation.
Disability: A disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. The AODA uses the same definition of disability as the Ontario Human Rights Code.
IASR: The AODA has five Standards which are included in the Integrated Accessibility Standards (IASR). These include the Customer Service Standard; Employment Standard; Information and Communication Standard; Design of Public Spaces Standard; the Transportation Standard; as well as some general requirements.
Standard: The Act operates by bringing accessibility standards into regulation. Accessibility standards are laws that individuals, government, businesses, nonprofits, and public sector organizations must follow in order to become more accessible. The accessibility standards contain timelines for the implementation of required measures and help organizations identify, remove, and prevent barriers in order to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.
3. Legislation, Accessibility Standards & Reporting
Employers need to keep pace with important legislation that affects the way they do business. Ontario is the first province and one of the first jurisdictions in the world to enact specific legislation establishing a goal and time-frame for accessibility. It is also the first jurisdiction to legislate accessibility reporting and to establish standards so people with disabilities can participate more actively in their communities and everyday life.
What is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?
Enacted in June of 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was set to establish a process for developing and enforcing accessibility standards to ensure that people of all abilities have the opportunity to participate fully in everyday life, with a goal of making Ontario more accessible by 2025.
Beginning in 2017, Ontario businesses and non-profits with 1 employee or more must comply with the AODA. Additionally, employers with 20 or more employees must file an accessibility compliance report with the Government of Ontario.
What are the accessibility standards that are in place?
Accessibility standards are laws that government, businesses, non-profits and public sector organizations must follow to become more accessible. The Ontario Government has identified five areas of daily life and has established accessibility standards to help organizations identify and remove barriers within them. Click on each area below to learn more:
- Employment Standard*
- Customer Service Standard
- Information and Communications Standard
- Design of Public Spaces Standard
- Transportation Standard
*The focus of EHRC’s Disability to Inclusion project and of this toolkit is on the Employment Standard. Further information and resources on creating accessible workplaces and policy can be found below.
Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) Guidelines
AODA standards are part of the IASR which includes, in addition to requirements specific to each standard, the following general requirements:
- provide training to staff and volunteers
- develop an accessibility policy
- create a multi-year accessibility plan and update it every five years
- consider accessibility in procurement and when designing or purchasing self-service kiosks
The guidelines for the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation will be undergoing a review. The standards you need to follow and reporting deadlines you need to meet still apply.
How do I Complete my Accessibility Compliance Report?
Step-by-step guidance on completing an accessibility compliance report for your business, not-for-profit or public-sector organization.
4. Accessible Recruiting
The adoption of effective outreach and recruitment strategies is essential to ensuring that your workforce includes qualified individuals with disabilities. To effectively build a pipeline of qualified applicants with disabilities, employers will need to engage in a variety of recruitment practices.
To maximize a company’s ability to attract qualified individuals with disabilities, it is important to communicate its commitment to employing individuals with disabilities and an inclusive and diverse work environment.
It is important for businesses to review policies and processes, qualification standards, and job descriptions (including the essential functions of each position) to determine whether they facilitate or impede the hiring and advancement of qualified persons with disabilities. What are some best practices employers can implement to provide equal access to employment opportunities for applicants with disabilities?
4.4 Reducing Bias in the Selection Process
Unconscious bias is an innate human characteristic; even the most open-minded and well-meaning individuals unwittingly allow unconscious feelings to guide their decision-making. In other words, the most sincere corporate commitment to inclusion and diversity may be derailed by biases that employers and hiring managers don’t even realize they have.
5. Retention & Promotion
Many existing employee programs, such as orientation and onboarding programs, career development programs, and mentoring programs, can be tweaked to increase retention rates of employees with disabilities.
Typical onboarding programs acclimate new employees to the workplace culture and educate them on relevant policies and procedures. An onboarding program tailored for new employees with disabilities would have the same objective, but it would include disability-specific information such as reasonable accommodation procedures and would make use of orientation materials in accessible formats.
The long-term benefits of effective onboarding programs include improved employee retention rates and increased productivity.
Career development programs such as conferences, training, and rotational assignments are proven employee retention strategies. HR should ensure that all online professional development classes and materials and workplace events are fully accessible in accordance with the AODA’s Accessibility Standards in particular the Information and Communications Standard , as well as reserve a portion of employee training funds to provide disability-related accommodations for training opportunities. Further resources on this topic can be found under in Section 3. The Legislation, Accessibility Standards & Reporting of this toolkit under “Useful Resources – Other Resources relevant to Accessibility Standards”.
Workplace mentoring programs and employee resource groups are additional tools employers can use to help increase recruitment and retention, improve organizational culture, and provide guidance to employees and managers about disability issues. Employees may be more likely to open up and achieve their full potential if there was a dedicated member of staff or group that they could talk to with shared experiences to help them navigate.
What is the Value of Mentorship?
Feedback from industry stakeholders has emphasized the significant role that mentors and sponsors can play in the successful attraction and retention of workers from underrepresented groups to the sector. This type of support is particularly key when those with disabilities speak to the many challenges they face in gaining and retaining employment. All too often, concerns about being open about disability generate fear and/or hinder many talented people from pursuing opportunities to display their skills and achieve their full potential.
Furthermore, those who have acquired a disability during employment (be that visible or invisible, permanent or temporary) may also face challenges, real or perceived, as they adapt to a changing set of circumstances. This could include having to transition to a new type of role, or having to deal with the perception that they are unable to ever be “as good as they were” perhaps due to an illness or reduced quality of health.
Individuals with disabilities continue to face attitudinal barriers in employment. The mentoring process can help break down some of these barriers by encouraging individuals with disabilities to be open about their experience and take a more active role in pursuing and planning their careers while obtaining practical skills, knowledge and support. Individuals planning or advancing their careers receive information, encouragement and advice from their mentors, who are experienced in the career field of the mentee. Mentors get a first-hand look at the mentee’s abilities while serving as trusted counselors. Mentorship can also help individuals already in the workforce navigate career transitions or accommodations after or during disability, as well as, provide peer support for everyday day challenges.
For employers, mentoring programs provide access to new talent and an often-underutilized workforce. Being more inclusive of talent from under-represented and minority groups is an investment in the future workforce and mentoring employees with disabilities builds human capital. Mentoring is an eye-opening experience for employers – in many cases misunderstandings exist amongst employers unsure how to address a person’s disability. Once the employer starts working with a person with a disability, he or she begins to see the person’s capabilities rather than the disability.
Mentoring (people with disabilities) sends a message to our other employees that the company really does care about people. Other employees in the workplace also benefit from the positive dynamic and attitude changes in corporate culture created by all individuals involved in the mentoring process.
At present some ‘mentoring’ initiatives exist within some utilities nationally but these tend to be informal, unmeasured and isolated and targeted more broadly to the workforce and not specifically to people with disabilities. Those mentorship programs that do exist are geared toward high potential employees (as part of a dedicated skills development programs), or in some cases women.
What is the Value of Establishing an Employee Resource Group?
During our research on the Enable Change project we have come across one example of a very innovative and exciting employee resource program. The Accessibility, Inclusivity and Disability (AID) Network at Hydro One is an informal peer support and advocacy group for employees in the workplace with a range of disabilities in a range of jobs who come together regularly to share knowledge, experience, and connections with anyone who wants to join. Together they work towards shared learning and understanding and help each other through some of the challenges they may be experiencing in the workplace as a result of their disability whether acquired prior to or on the job. The network also serves as a forum for organizational change and management guidance in ensuring appropriate accessibility accommodations and practices are implemented e.g. accessibility considerations in organizing and planning special events.
6. Disability Management & Accommodation
Employees that have disabilities need to be accommodated in the workplace, both as an enlightened management strategy and due to legislated requirements in most jurisdictions. The good news is that most accommodations cost less than $500 and many employees bring their accommodations with them.
Statistics prove that people with disabilities are excellent employees, taking off less sick time and demonstrating greater loyalty. Even co-workers report greater engagement scores when the workplace culture is one of inclusion, diversity, and accessibility. This is due in part to the large number of existing employees with invisible, undisclosed disabilities that feel more secure and welcome in a workplace that embraces accessibility.
With forecasted workforce challenges in the electricity sector, now is the time to attract the best and the brightest including people with disabilities, a greatly underused resource of skills and knowledge already living right here in Canada.
Some individuals with disabilities may need “reasonable accommodations” in order to perform the essential functions of a job. It is important for employers to consider the procedures and administrative mechanisms they use to ensure effective and efficient implementation of accommodations.
Examples of successful strategies and practices relating to reasonable accommodations include the following:
- Developing, implementing, and communicating the written procedures for processing requests for reasonable accommodations.
- Establishing an administrative mechanism for minimizing the cost of an accommodation being assigned to a line manager’s budget.
- Establishing an administrative mechanism or centralized source of expertise (appointing a specific individual and/or establishing an office) for assessing, evaluating, and providing reasonable accommodations (including assistive technology) to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the reasonable accommodation process.
- Providing training for executives, managers, and line staff about new strategies and devices, such as telework and assistive technologies.
- Ensuring that both managers and employees are aware that they may contact someone to receive confidential and free advice and technical assistance on workplace accommodations.
- Creating an online system for tracking accommodations in order to document their successful use.
- Allowing line managers to authorize reasonable accommodations, with team review of denials and a requirement that all denials be signed by upper level management.
- Assigning a full-time director of disability services or workplace supports to coordinate accommodations strategies.
Below are just a few examples of accommodations that can be made to facilities and equipment. This is not an exhaustive list – if you have questions about ensuring accessible workspaces, we encourage you to seek expert advice (see “Selected resources” for more information). Please also see see the Disability to Inclusion project video to learn more about Hydro One’s accommodation and return to work processes for employees with disabilities including advances in technology employed.
Accessible equipment and workspaces
- Provide accessible communication devices such as hands-free telephones or voice-to-text/text-to-voice translation
- Provide document holders to make typing easier
- Provide accessibility software such as screen readers or large print
- Install carpets or non-slip strips to promote ease of movement
- Adjust the height of shared items such as photocopiers, printers and fax machines to promote ease of access and reach
Accessibility of common spaces
- Widen hallways and entrances to workspaces and common areas
- Install access ramps and automatic door openers
- Ensure that washroom facilities are accessible
- Provide designated accessible parking spaces
- Install air filters to restrict or limit respiratory or skin irritants
- Consider low-glare light, natural light and stronger light for visual disabilities Meetings/interviews/presentations
- Ensure presentation material is accessible
- Provide sign language interpreters/captioners as needed
- Change the venue if necessary to promote ease of access Emergency equipment and procedures
- Install a visual signal to complement the auditory alarm
- Ensure workplace emergency procedures are developed to ensure the safety of all staff, including people with disabilities
7. Leading & Promising Practices
Encouraging Opportunities through Diversity Planning at Hydro Ottawa Holding Inc.
Hydro Ottawa owns and operates two subsidiary companies, Hydro Ottawa Limited and Energy Ottawa Inc. Hydro Ottawa Limited is the 3rd largest municipally-owned electrical utility in Ontario, serving more than 324,000 customers in the City of Ottawa and the Village of Casselman. Energy Ottawa Inc., the largest municipally-owned producer of green power in Ontario, generates renewable energy and provides commercial energy-management services. Our core businesses are electricity distribution, renewable energy generation, and energy conservation and management services. We are a recognized leader for our environmental sustainability, strategically-aligned community investments, innovation in customer communication, and employment experience.
Hydro Ottawa’s vision is to be a leading partner in a smart energy future. Our mission is to create long-term value for our shareholder, benefitting our customers and the communities we serve. With that mission in mind, Hydro Ottawa’s 2016-2020 Strategic Direction sets out a balanced program for strong performance in our existing operations, coupled with sustainable and profitable business growth. Our strategy is customer-centric, financially responsible, and responds to a strategic environment that will further strengthen our commitment to enhancing customer value while growing our business at the same time.
Name of Program, Policy or Initiative: Persons with Disabilities Initiatives
At Hydro Ottawa, we understand that in order for our organization to recruit and retain a diverse workforce we have to think strategically about our business needs, and most importantly, involve our employees in the process. This led to the development of our first ever Diversity Plan, as part of our Talent Management Strategy, which was created to align with Hydro Ottawa’s 2012-2016 Strategic Direction.
The objectives of the Diversity Plan are centred around attracting, retaining, and engaging employees while supporting the company’s focus on customer value, organizational effectiveness, and corporate citizenship. The Diversity Plan focuses on a wide range of diversity groups: Women, Members of Visible Minorities, Persons with Disabilities, Youth, LGBT, and New Canadians, with First Nations being added in 2015.
Our Diversity Plan, developed by a working group of employees, has two main elements – foundational initiatives intended to foster overall inclusion, and specific initiatives targeted towards our identified diversity groups.
Our foundational initiatives foster an underlying culture of inclusion practices in our environment and address leadership alignment, communication, employee involvement and training – all of which are essential for success. For example, a variety of training initiatives are provided to existing employees and those joining our organization, to further share and explore organizational culture and values that promote a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Guided by our Diversity Council, we have already launched many targeted initiatives, with plans to continue implementing more over the course of 2016. Hydro Ottawa’s Diversity Council, co-sponsored by two executives and comprised of volunteer employees from across the organization, is an advisory body on all things diversity. The Council advises on how we can continue to drive progress on diversity and inclusion at Hydro Ottawa, engage our employees in diversity initiatives and monitor performance in the implementation of our Diversity Plan.
Action: The targeted initiatives related to persons with disabilities completed to date include:
- Launching a cross functional Accessibility Committee with an executive sponsor which will continue to take us beyond compliance.
- Active member of Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN), a community initiative, led by United Way Ottawa, that brings together employers and service providers with the goal of increasing meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Ottawa and the National Capital Region. We have participated on the speaking panel at events and at career fairs, and been mentors at interview preparation workshops.
- Successfully recruiting candidates directly from EARN careers fairs.
- Educated people leaders on mental health, to help understand prevalence, impact, and approaches to use.
- Annual participation in Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) “Mental Health Week.” In 2016 we posted daily information articles that promoted positive mental health. We also invited employees to “get loud for mental health” on Thursday, May 5th by wearing green and submitting photos of themselves and their teams participating in this initiative. Employees working in the field who were not able to wear green for safety reasons were able to show their support by taking a photo with Mental Health Decals on their vehicles.
- Top priority of our President and CEO which means that he has been and continues to be visible, supportive and involved with diversity matters. The same support is provided by our Board of Directors who receive regular updates on our progress.
- Champions at all levels (employee, management, and executive levels) and within different divisions and work centres.
- Involving employees in the creation of the Diversity Plan and the initiatives – as they are defined and as they are rolled out.
- Getting involved in the community (including EARN).
- Understanding that mindsets need to change as well as behaviours.
During the initial development and launch of our 2014-2016 Diversity Plan, there was some resistance from employees. Generally speaking, resistance was due to lack of knowledge and education, misunderstandings of what diversity is and trepidation about what it meant. For example, employees were concerned about whether or not there were quotas and what the purpose or intent was behind the launch of a diversity plan. The consultative process to involve employees, taking an incremental approach with our initiatives, and the importance of educating and communicating with employees became very apparent as key to ensuring success.
Throughout our 2014-2016 Diversity Plan, our focus was on communicating and educating and through our diversity council and sub-groups, finding champions to create a broad base of support. Asa result, we are now well positioned to continue to implement the initiatives outlined in our original Plan and provide leadership in the development and implementation of our 2017-2020 Diversity Plan which is currently underway. It is important however that our champions continue to find the right balance between their diversity work and their ongoing duties.
We are committed to creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace for persons with disabilities and our 2017-2020 Diversity and Inclusion Plan is currently under development to ensure this journey continues. The focus of the Accessibility Committee is now on continuing to move our organization from a culture of compliance to one of inclusion and to that end, on detailing specific initiatives for the 2017-2020 period.
What is the key recommendation you would make to any organization who seriously wants to invest in this area?
- Understand that the majority of workplace accommodations cost less than $500.
- Know that it is as much about attitude and culture as it is about architecture.
- Start slow, involve and engage employees – educate, educate, educate.
- Solicit senior level support and “grass roots” support simultaneously.
During our research on the Enable Change project we have come across one example of a very innovative and exciting program that, while not officially a ‘mentoring program’ exhibits all the positive traits of one. The Accessibility, Inclusivity and Disability (AID) Network at Hydro One is an informal peer support and advocacy group for employees in the workplace with a range of disabilities in a range of jobs who come together regularly to share knowledge, experience, and connections with anyone who wants to join. Together they work towards shared learning and understanding and help each other through some of the challenges they may be experiencing in the workplace as a result of their disability whether acquired prior to or on the job. The network also serves as a forum for organizational change and management guidance in ensuring appropriate accessibility accommodations and practices are implemented e.g. accessibility considerations in organizing and planning special events.
Manitoba Hydro participates in a transitional employment program called Project Search to provide work placements for high school students with intellectual disabilities in their final year of school — the program is offered in partnership with a non-profit organization, SCE Lifeworks
For over a decade, Manitoba Hydro has managed an Acquired Brain Injury Program to help persons who have sustained severe brain injury reintegrate into the workforce — the program partners with support agencies such as the Manitoba Brain Injury Association and features customized vocational assessment, training and job coaching.
SaskPower maintains a diversity department that is responsible for developing programs and initiatives to improve workplace diversity and inclusion as well as a joint diversity committee, comprised of representatives from unionized and management employee groups — the committee also consults with five employee affinity groups, which are responsible for implementing initiatives related to their respective focus. SaskPower’s Network for Employees with Disabilities recently helped review the organization’s recruitment process for inclusion and help remove potential barriers to access.
Enbridge manages the “Oasis Coordinator Project”, which employs adults with developmental disabilities to maintain kitchen space in the company’s office towers. In addition, Enbridge is engaged in diversity community partnerships such as the National Education Association for Students with Disabilities (employment workshop for students).
- StreamAble is a site devoted to raising awareness about Ontario’s Accessible Employment Standard, promoting accessibility in the workplace, and showcasing sectors that have made big strides in creating accessible workplaces.
- Canada’s Best Diversity Employers (2016)
- Best Diversity Program – 2016 National HR Awards
- Creating an Effective Workplace Disability Management Program
- 6 strategies you need to make your disability management program a success.
- Best practice in employing disabled people
8. Accountability & Continuous Improvement
While the adoption of written policies, practices, and procedures is necessary to enhance employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities, the ultimate objective is ensuring their implementation. Best business practices include putting systems in place to ensure accountability and continuous improvement relating to training; establishing accountability measures; establishing accountability and continuous improvement mechanisms; and designating responsible individuals.
Often times, “people don’t know what they don’t know.” It is critical that companies extend professional development opportunities to employees in all offices, divisions, and departments. Specific examples of strategies and practices regarding training that have proven successful include:
- Providing training on disability-related issues to all personnel, particularly those involved in the recruitment, hiring, promotion, and retention processes (e.g., understanding legal requirements, disability etiquette and disability awareness, retention and return-to-work strategies, overcoming stereotypes and other attitudinal barriers, reasonable accommodation procedures, and targeted hiring programs).
- Incorporating training on disability-related issues as a regular and ongoing component of the company’s diversity initiatives.
Establishing Accountability Measures
It has been stated that “what gets measured gets done.” Specific strategies and practices that your company can use to measure its progress toward creating an inclusive workplace include establishing annual quantitative goals, objectives, and benchmarks related to the following:
- Outreach to and recruitment (including referrals) of people with disabilities
- Hiring, retention, and advancement of people with disabilities; and
- Sponsored educational, training, recreational, and social activities that are inclusive of and/or focused on disability issues.
Establishing Accountability and Continuous Improvement Mechanisms
Accountability and continuous improvement mechanisms are necessary to ascertain whether current policies, practices, and procedures are effective and whether the company is making progress in improving employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Examples of strategies and practices regarding accountability and continuous improvement mechanisms that have proven successful include the following:
1. Reviewing annually all employment-related activities, including:
- Job posting, recruitment, advertising, and job application procedures, including testing;
- Hiring, promotion, upgrading, and layoffs;
- Rates of pay and any other forms of compensation, including fringe benefits;
- Job assignments, job classifications, job descriptions, and seniority lists;
- Sick leave, leaves of absence, and other leave;
- Training, apprenticeships, attendance at professional meetings and conferences; and
- Any other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.
2. Conducting annual self-assessments, including identifying trends and/or issues needing more attention such as:
- Tracking information related to the provision of reasonable accommodations that could be used to assess the effectiveness of accommodations and the process;
- Tracking data relating to the representation of individuals with disabilities in the workforce to ascertain trends, including the efficacy of recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion initiatives; and
- Establishing a complaint tracking and monitoring system to identify areas needing systemic improvements.
3. Seeking input from employees with disabilities regarding implementation of policies and strategic plans using employee surveys, focus groups, and discussions with employee resource and advisory groups.
4. Based on these reviews and assessments, developing strategic plans that include proactive steps and the implementation of specific actions necessary to address any noted deficiencies.
5. Providing regularly scheduled reports to company leaders and/or other high-ranking managers regarding implementation of the company’s strategic plans, including completion dates and managers who are accountable and responsible for various action items.
Designating Responsible Individuals
Designation of authority and responsibility is of central importance to enhancing and securing implementation of disability employment policies and practices. Specific examples of strategies and practices that have proven successful include:
- Assigning and defining the scope of responsibility for implementation to specific individuals.
- Identifying the responsible individual(s) in internal and external communications.
- Providing top management support (including budgets) and, if appropriate, staff to manage implementation.
- Explaining to managers and supervisors how performance elements included in their performance plans related to the recruitment, hiring, advancement, and retention of persons with disabilities will be assessed.
National Institute of Disability Management and Research (NIDMAR)
An organization committed to education, research, policy development and implementation resources to promote workplace-based disability management programs for ill, injured or disabled workers. Services include an audit program to help employers evaluate, monitor and improve their disability management strategies.
One of the key factors to a successful hiring strategy for people with disabilities is finding the right community partner(s) and providers. Across Canada, there are many organizations focused on employment for people with disabilities. Many are private social enterprises or non-profits; there are also numerous programs and agencies operated by governments at all levels.
A growing number of employers have established initiatives to increase the participation of employees with disabilities within their companies as a component of their workforce planning and diversity strategies. This section provides a glossary of available resources and service providers to help employers access underutilized segments of the labour market, including people with disabilities.
“Although we have had disability/diversity policies in place for some years, this tool will help ensure that resources and new approaches to the recruitment and retention of individuals with visible or invisible disabilities are easily accessible and designed specifically with our sector in mind.”
EHRC brought together an Advisory Committee of industry partners who share their expertise, guidance with project activities (to ensure consistency with industry needs), and assistance with stakeholder engagement and communications. Industry partners on this initiative include: Horizon Utilities, Powerstream, Ontario Power Generation, New Brunswick Community College, Burlington Hydro; Newfoundland Power; the Society of Energy Professionals, LiveWorkPlay, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
The material captured in this portal is drawn from EHRC research and adapted in-part from research done by other organizations, who have developed valuable accessibility resources within their respective sectors, such as: Conference Board of Canada, LinkUP Employment Services for Persons with Disabilities, AccessForward, HR Council, and others.
We are grateful to the numerous organizations on our Project Advisory Committee who provided guidance and generously shared their resources for our use.