Disability Dialogue

April 5, 2010 
Disability Dialogue: An Employer's Forum 

The 6th BLN Breakfast Series Event was hosted at the TD Tower 54th floor

With over 80 attendees from different sectors and industries, this event provided an opportunity to discuss best practices and lessons learned regarding employment of persons with disabilities. Tim Hockey, President and CEO of TD Canada Trust welcomed all to the 6th Business Leadership Network Breakfast, one in a series sponsored by the Job Opportunity Information Network (JOIN).

Some of the valuable lessons shared that morning are:

Accommodations:

  • Start with a well defined Accommodation Policy that sets the proper framework.
  • Create a buzz around accommodation! New employees may not read all their Orientation Kit. The message needs to be communicated at every point throughout their careers, by using emails and surveys throughout the year.
  • Encourage early disclosure and accommodation requests, as that will minimize the time it takes to provide reasonable accommodation to all employees.
  • Usage of external service providers to provide expertise is very helpful.
  • Examples of hard accommodations: Equipment, accessible buildings, Zoom Text, JAWS, Video remote interpreting
  • Examples of soft accommodations: Working from home, flexible hours, extra time and coaching to learn. Encourage self-evaluation of employee's ergonomic situation.

Assistive Technology:

  • Video Remote Interpretation using Microsoft's Office Communicator and Live Meeting video technology make ASL interpretation more accessible and reduces travel time and expenses.
  • A major challenge is that specifications for assistive technologies are often not known until the hire has occurred. One way to overcome this challenge is to preselect and certify the most common assistive technologies used by various disability segments.
  • Introducing a set of accessibility guidelines and standards for developers so that moving forward accessibility is incorporated in the development process.

Career Advancement:

  • It is usually employee driven and initiated. Some key success factors: Full support from managers, networking and mentorship programs.
  • Businesses really need to take more risks at times and allow people to make mistakes when giving them an opportunity to advance.
  • Advancement for persons with disabilities can be harder and slower for many reasons. Disclosure and accommodation are crucial for advancing career opportunities.

Customer Service Standards:

  • It is important to understand what the Act means and see how it can be disseminated and implemented in the workplace.
  • Mount Sinai has developed a complete checklist of the Act as well as policies, training modules, booklets to distribute to all employees as well as to customers.

Recruitment:

  • People should be given accommodation through every part of the recruitment process.
  • Since many persons with disabilities will have a gap in their resume, it is important to ensure that recruitment policies do not discard candidates on this ground alone, although identifying what the gaps are is still important.
  • Make sure questions regarding accommodation needs are not done mechanically but that there is a real attitude of support on the part of the recruiter.
  • There may be a generational gap where the sensitivity of more established recruiters differs significantly from upcoming recruiters. If there is, it should be addressed.
  • HR Departments usually understand the need for inclusion and the challenge is to filter it down through the organization.

Retention:

  • Making sure every new hire has a coach or mentor system, and that it is a two-way street, where the mentor also reaches out to the mentee.
  • Early disclosure is important to guarantee proper accommodation.
  • Building an internal network for people with disabilities using social networking software.
  • Ensuring that new hires have a clear understanding of what they are signing up for.
  • Good retention strategies should include a positive on-boarding experience, with mentors and skills development coaches.

 

Memorable Quotes of the Day

"We hope this event will encourage employers to develop a lasting relationship with JOIN and with somebody with a disability in their workplace"
- Ron Janes, Chair of JOIN's Board of Directors

"We want to ensure that each customer, whether they have a disability or not, has a great experience at TD Bank and we want to ensure that each employee at TD works in an environment where they have the opportunity to achieve their career goals based on their ability"
- Tim Hockey, President and CEO of TD Canada Trust

"As a customer-driven organization, our employee base reflects the diversity of our customer base and that results in stronger customer relationships every day and into the future. That is why employing people with disabilities makes great business sense"
- Tim Hockey, President and CEO of TD Canada Trust

"The greatest benefit of working with JOIN is the ability to tap into a single point of access for TD's recruitment needs" - Dauna Jones-Simmonds, TD Canada Trust