Getting Started

Why should I hire people with disabilities?
Not only should you hire people with disabilities, you should be marketing to them as well. Hiring people with disabilities isn’t about “doing the right thing.”  It’s about “doing the right thing for business.”  There are real, proven advantages to employing people with disabilities. Your business can benefit by:

  • Increasing the size of its skilled labour pool
  • Reducing costs associated with turnover, training, and safety
  • Improving the engagement of all your employees
  • Harnessing the value of innovative processes and new perspectives
  • Attracting an underserved consumer market worth $55 billion in Canada

What are the benefits of hiring someone with a disability?

There are many benefits to hiring someone with a disability. This is sometimes referred to as the “Business Case” for hiring someone with a disability. People with disabilities bring unique perspectives to the workplace. Diverse teams have been shown to be more productive.

Studies show that people with disabilities work as productively and as safely as people without disabilities. Employees with disabilities tend to stay on the job longer, lowering recruitment costs.

I want to lead the change! How can I create a business case for our executive team to support a targeted recruitment campaign for people with disabilities?

The best place to start is with the facts. There are a number of reports out there and the numbers speak for themselves. Focus any ‘pitch’ to executives on the assets and advantages that come from recruiting from this community.

Here is a helpful resource from the Government of Canada to get you started:

Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/disability/consultations/rethinking-disabilities.html

How do I tap into these candidates?

There are a number of ways to access highly qualified candidates with disabilities. Websites like this one can connect you to that talent through the Magnet system. In addition, there are a number of agencies and programs who can connect you to candidates ready to take the next step.

Some organizations include:

Epilepsy Toronto http://epilepsytoronto.org

Canadian National Institute for the Blind http://www.cnib.ca/en/Pages/default.aspx

Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work http://www.ccrw.org

Spinal Cord Injury Ontario http://www.sciontario.org

REENA http://www.reena.org

Untapped Potential http://untappedpotential.ca

What questions are appropriate to ask during the interview, relating to disabilities?

While you cannot legally ask a candidate to disclose their disability in any way, it is important to foster an inclusive recruitment process right from the interview invitation. Asking the candidate if they will need any supports or accommodations to participate in the interview will facilitate an open discussion and make the candidate more comfortable to inform you in detail about the types of supports they may need both throughout the recruitment process and on the job.

Here are some tips to help you communicate more effectively with all candidates:

  • Reinforce your company’s value for diversity at all stages of recruitment. For example: “Our organization values the diversity of all our employees. Is there any stage of the recruitment process that you will need supports or accommodations for?” 
  • Note that the candidate might not immediately request any supports. Allow a window of time for the candidate to think about the types of accommodations they need and get back to you. This is especially helpful for individuals who may have difficulty with memory or social anxiety.

During a job interview, can I ask about a specific disability or about a task that requires certain abilities that the candidate might not be able to do?

Most employers advertise job postings that include a description of the primary job functions. These should be tasks that are necessary to do the job. Be specific, so that you ensure all candidates have the qualifications you are seeking. For instance “lifting 22 kg boxes throughout an eight-hour shift”. Just like any candidate, a person with a disability applying for the job must be able to do the primary job functions.

You do not have the right to ask someone if they have a disability, or what their disability is. You can ask them if they require an accommodation.

You can ask a job candidate how they might approach the primary job functions. You could ask “this job requires you to lift multiple boxes 22 kg boxes throughout the day. Are you able to complete this task?”

Don’t make assumptions about what people are able to do, or not do. You can also ask a candidate how they might approach a task. Perhaps you are interviewing someone who appears to have limited dexterity and the job requires typing speed in order to complete the daily workload. You might ask “this job requires that you type approximately 120 wpm. How would you deal with this workload?”.  They might be able to use a product such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, a speech recognition software to do the requisite keyboarding.

What supports should we put in place to effectively orientate new employees with disabilities into our work environment?

As a starting point, always ask employees what they need. Be sure to be flexible and open to a wide range of needs and involve all employees in thinking through accessibility needs within the organization. Team building activities and thinking creatively about orientation is a great place to start.

Once hired, do we need special policies for people with disabilities?

You do not need any special policies to include people with disabilities, but it is always good practice to have equity and diversity policies outlined as part of Human Resources. These can include accommodation policies or an ongoing accessibility plan. Remember, though, that these are for all employees, not just those from diverse backgrounds.

As an employer, how do I know if I am required to make an accommodation?

You are required to provide reasonable accommodations that allow a person with a disability an equal chance to apply for a job, do a job or have equal access to the workplace. This could cover a lot of ground. Examples of reasonable accommodations might be:

  • A change to a work schedule
  • Providing a handsfree telephone headset or another type of assistive device or technology
  • Providing an ergonomic chair
  • Additional breaks or a leave of absence
  • Making changes to how, or when, a job task is completed
  • Moving or reconfiguring office space (e.g., a desk to a sunnier location, or closer to the washroom)
  • Allowing a person to work from home one day a week
  • Providing an accessible parking spot
  • Providing materials in large print or Braille (this is called an alternative format)

What are some of the most common barriers to employment for people with disabilities within Ontario?

People with disabilities face significant discrimination in the labour market. Their greatest barriers to employment are the myths and misconceptions many employers continue to believe.

Conscious and unconscious bias exists at every step of the recruitment process. People with disabilities are well aware of the discriminatory practices of employers, and will frequently choose not to disclose their disability until/unless absolutely necessary. People with disabilities are often reluctant to apply for jobs unless they know that the employer actively welcomes their applications.

People with disabilities face other types of barriers in seeking employment:

  • Job websites may not be accessible to people with certain types of disabilities.
    Find out more about on how to make your website accessible to everyone: https://www.ontario.ca/page/how-make-websites-accessible 
  • Candidate selection software may automatically screen them out. While almost half of all people with disabilities looking for work have post-secondary education, their resumes may lack part-time or summer employment experience. According to the Ontario government, youth with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed in comparison to their peers. This may be in part due to the social and physical barriers they face in their communities, ranging from inadequate accessibility to buildings and transit systems, to false perceptions employers may hold about their ability to perform well in a job.

How can I make sure I am complying with government legislation

In 2005, Ontario enacted legislation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) establishing mandatory accessibility standards that identify, remove, and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. Other provinces are following suit. Manitoba and Nova Scotia have or are in the process of developing legislation to improve accessibility for people with disabilities (Accessibility for Manitobans Act,  Nova Scotia: Accessibility Legislation, 2016), and British Columbia and Saskatchewan have established action plans (Accessibility 2024, BCSaskatchewan Disability Strategy).

Myths & Misconceptions

By far, the biggest barrier to people with disabilities obtaining employment are attitudes, beliefs, and misconceptions of employers.

Only a few people with disabilities are in the labour market, so it’s not an issue for our company.

People with disabilities in Canada represent a large untapped labour pool. There are 443,900 people with disabilities ready and able to work but who are unable to find employment, and almost half of them have a post-secondary education. If you are not accessing this talent pool, your competition is!

Hiring people with disabilities will increase safety incidents and cause my insurance premiums to increase.

Employees with disabilities have a 40% lower safety incident rate and 78% lower overall costs associated with accidents. Tim Hortons franchisee Megleen Inc. has never made an insurance claim for a work-related injury to an employee with a disability despite employing almost 100 people with disabilities over 19 years. Safety insurance premiums are based on your safety record and the type and size of your business.

Employees with disabilities have higher turnover and absenteeism rates.

Studies show that people with disabilities have lower absenteeism and stay with employers longer than their non-disabled counterparts.

People with disabilities have poorer job performance and require additional support

90% of people with disabilities rated average or better on job performance - a good indicator of their independence in the workplace.

People with disabilities are brave, courageous and inspirational.

Adjusting to a disability requires adapting to a lifestyle, not bravery and courage.

People with disabilities deserve our pity and charity.

Having a disability does not reflect employability.

Most people with disabilities use wheelchairs.

While the wheelchair icon has prompted this belief, they are only used by 6% of people with disabilities - that’s about 1% of the general population.

I cannot discipline or fire an employee with a disability.

Employees with disabilities should be hired based on their ability to do the job. There are no special processes or procedures for disciplining or firing employees with disabilities who are not meeting performance expectations. Firing someone with a disability is no different than firing any other employee who is not performing their job as required.

I would like to hire people with disabilities but we are a small business with limited budget. Isn’t it expensive to accommodate people with disabilities?

According to the 2016 Partnership Council Report on Employment and Disability, the average cost of accommodating people with disabilities is just $500. 60% of employers spend nothing at all.

Won’t having people with disabilities on the team lower the productivity of the whole team?

90% of people with disabilities rated average or better on job performance - a good indicator of their independence in the workplace.

Will our business have to continue to make a financial investment to retain people with disabilities over the longer term?

Studies show that people with disabilities have lower absenteeism and stay with employers longer than their non-disabled counterparts. The potential costs of accommodation are significantly outweighed by the savings incurred by long-term employees.

I’m concerned that our customer base may react negatively when interacting with employees with disabilities

Studies show that the majority of Canadian consumers are more likely to engage with a business if they are seen to hire people with disabilities. 55% of Ontarians have a family member with a disability, so positive perceptions are more common.