Prepare Your Workspace for Employees with Disabilities

  • May 26, 2017

    Prepare Your Workspace for Employees with Disabilities

    Before the person you’ve hired shows up for the first day of work, prepare your staff. Explain the individual’s circumstances and why he or she was hired. Be positive about the new employee and what he or she can do. But address staff’s questions or concerns frankly. If your staff still feel uncomfortable about how to communicate or work with the individual, arrange training for them.

    In the interview, you will have talked about the candidate’s need for accommodations. However, sometimes it’s only after the new employee gets on the worksite and begins to learn the job that he or she gains a full understanding of what accommodations will be needed.

    What are accommodations?

    Many workers need an accommodation- an adjustment to a policy, procedure or work environment that allows them to get and do the job. People with disabilities are no exception. Most accommodations require little or no cost.

    Examples of accommodations:

    • Advertising job vacancies in alternative formats, in addition to print, or providing ads to organizations serving people with disabilities
    • Adjust work schedules to give a person with mental illness time off for therapy appointments
    • Providing a sign language interpreter for an employee with a hearing disability to facilitate that person’s participation in important meetings
    • Raising a desk to accommodate a wheelchair
    • Providing disability training to staff prior to hiring

    With advances in assistive technology, people with disabilities can now work in many jobs. Software such as JAWS Screen Reading or devices such as large monitors and single hand keyboards have made most desk work possible. Sometimes people with disabilities bring their assistive technology to the job.

    Often the biggest barriers people with disabilities have to overcome is negative stereotypes.

    Sound Reasons for Introducing Accommodations:

    • To expand the labour pool by including all potential candidates when seeking the best person for the job
    • To increase the participation of people with disabilities throughout the organization
    • To reintegrate a staff member returning to work following an accident or an illness
    • To provide an accessible, safe and healthy work environment for everyone

    Requirements change. Like any other worker, a person with a disability may need new accommodations as he or she ages or as the disability enters a different phase. A simple job change can also create new requirements. In an environment where people can speak freely, employees will feel comfortable talking about their changing needs. Encourage the employee with the disability to be open and frank about what he or she can do. Then take steps accordingly.

    Mostly, accommodations turn out to be a combination of flexibility about hours, location and technology.

    If you need more information or help in hiring people with disabilities please contact us at (780) 423-4106.

  • May 16, 2017

    Dispelling Myths About Hiring People with Disabilities

    Article by Statistics Canada

    Balancing workplace accommodations with health and safety standards emerged as another perceived barrier. It was generally thought preferable for companies to provide accommodations in administrative and customer service positions than in physically demanding jobs. Also mentioned was the belief that hiring people with disabilities could bring with it legal obligations related to human rights, performance monitoring and discipline. These perceptions are among most common myths about people with disabilities:

    Myth: Workers with disabilities should be placed in roles where safety is less of an issue because they are more likely to have accidents.

    Reality: Walgreens has two distribution centers with large disability workforces (+40 percent of employees) in Connecticut and South Carolina. In comparison to all other distribution centres in the company, these two had a 40 percent lower safety incident rate, 67 percent lower medical treatment costs, 63 percent lower employee time away from work due to accidents and 78 percent 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 85 people with disabilities in 18 years.

    Myth: Workers with disabilities do not perform well and require extra supervision.

    Reality: A DuPont study showed that 90 percent of people with disabilities rated average or better on job performance. More recently, another study compared workers with and without disabilities in the hospitality, health care and retail sectors, and found that job performance and supervision were similar for both groups.

    Myth: The cost of accommodating a person with disabilities is prohibitive.

    Reality: In a widely accepted study conducted by the U.S. Job Accommodation Network (JAN), workplace accommodations are shown to be low cost, with 57 percent of participants spending nothing at all. Of those accommodations that did have a cost, the typical one-time expenditure by employers was $500.

    Myth: Most people with disabilities use wheelchairs.

    Reality: According to 2010 U.S. census information, the wheelchair usage rate among people with disabilities is actually 6 percent-that’s about 1 percent of the general population. It is a strong indicator of the power of public communication that the wheelchair icon used on signage has prompted a general belief that most people with disabilities use wheelchairs.

    If you need more information or help in hiring people with disabilities please contact us at (780) 423-4106.


  • Customized Employment Success Snapshot – Alex

    Alex struggled to find a fit within a traditional employment scenario due to his autism and mental health barriers. Alex needed a workplace that was both structured and supportive. With help from the Customized Employment project in North Central Alberta, Alex has found work as a swim instructor and is paving the way to becoming a full time lifeguard. Read more …

    alex snapshot

  • May 09, 2017

    Study: Persons with Disabilities and Employment

    Article from: Statistics Canada

    The employment rate of Canadians aged 25 to 64 with disabilities was 49% in 2011, compared with 79% for Canadians without a disability. Among those with a ‘very severe’ disability, the employment rate was 26%.

    Canadians with disabilities include those with a physical or mental disability related to seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain, learning, development, psychological/mental disorders or memory.

    More than two million Canadians aged 25 to 64, or 11% of the population in this age group, reported being limited in their activities because of at least one of these conditions. Of this group, approximately one million were employed in 2011.

    To account for the fact that some disabilities can be more limiting than others, each person with disabilities was assigned a ‘severity score’ based on the number of disability types, the intensity of difficulties and the frequency of activity limitations. Using this score, persons with disabilities were classified across four categories of severity: ‘mild,’ ‘moderate,’ ‘severe’ and ‘very severe.’

    Among those who had a mild disability, the employment rate was 68%, compared with 54% of those who had a moderate disability. The rate drops to 42% for persons who had a severe disability and 26% among those who had a very severe disability.

    University graduates with a mild or moderate disability have employment rates similar to their counterparts without a disability

    The difference in age-adjusted employment rates between persons with disabilities and those without a disability was lower among university graduates.

    University graduates with a mild or moderate disability had employment rates that did not significantly differ from those of their counterparts without a disability. The employment rates for the three groups, the mild or moderately disabled, as well as the non-disabled, ranged from 77% to 83%.

    The employment rate of university graduates with a severe or very severe disability was lower at 59%.

    However, a lower level of educational attainment may represent one employment barrier among those with disabilities, particularly among those who had a severe disability.

    In 2011, the age-adjusted employment rate of individuals who had less than a high school education and had a severe or very severe disability was 20%, compared with an employment rate of 65% among those who did not have a disability.

    Both severity of condition and level of education were important determining factors of employment among Canadians with disabilities, along with the type of condition (that is, mental or psychological versus physical).

    Perceptions of discrimination higher among young individuals with disabilities

    The survey also asked persons with disabilities whether they had perceived employment discrimination in the five previous years.

    Among Canadians with disabilities who were employed at some point in the five previous years, 12% reported having been refused a job as a result of their condition.

    Perceptions of discrimination, however, were higher among younger disabled individuals, especially if they had a severe or very severe disability and were without a job at the time of data collection.

    Among individuals aged 25 to 34, 33% of those with a severe or very severe disability said that they had been refused a job in the past five years because of their condition.

    Among men aged 25 to 34 with a severe or very severe disability who were without a job, 62% reported they had been refused a job because of their condition.

    Employed persons with disabilities more concentrated in personal services and sales occupations

    In part because persons with disabilities are less likely to be university-educated, they were more likely to be employed in specific occupations, such as personal service and customer information service occupations, or sales occupations.

    For instance, employed men with a severe or very severe disability were at least twice more likely than their counterparts without a disability to be in personal service and customer information service occupations.

    University graduates with or without a disability were more alike in their employment profile. About 18% of those with a mild or moderate disability and 9% of those with a severe or very severe disability had a university degree, compared with 27% among those without a disability.

    In particular, university graduates with disabilities were just as likely as those without a disability to be employed in occupations typically requiring a university degree (or professional occupations).

    Among university graduates with disabilities, 49% of men and 54% of women were employed in professional occupations. These percentages were the same among university graduates without a disability.

    However, university graduates with disabilities were less likely to work in management occupations. This was especially the case among men, since 12% of those with disabilities held a management occupation (compared with 20% among those without a disability).

    As well, male university graduates with disabilities earned less than their non-disabled counterparts. Among men working on a full-year full-time basis, the average employment income was $69,200, compared with $92,700 among their non-disabled counterparts.

    Among women working full-year full time who had a university degree, employment income averaged $64,500 among those with disabilities, compared with $68,000 among those without a disability.

    If you need more information or help in hiring people with disabilities please contact us at (780) 423-4106.

  • May 03, 2017

    Rethinking Disability Employment in the Private Sector

    Article by: Statistics Canada

    The challenge

    We all have abilities, but some are more apparent than others.

    From what we have seen in companies that hire people with disabilities—and from our own experiences as friends or family members of someone with a disability—we know that they can contribute greatly to business and to society. Yet despite an aging population and a looming labour skills shortage, this significant talent pool is being overlooked.

    The evidence gathered from our consultations with Canadian private sector companies and existing research has convinced us that there is a business case for employing people with disabilities. This is good news for employers seeking talent, and for the approximately 795, 000 working-aged Canadians who are not working but whose disability does not prevent them from doing so. Almost half (340,000) of these people have post-secondary education. We must find ways to engage with and employ these individuals so we can benefit from their education and skills.

    By connecting directly with employers, our panel set out to discover what can be done about the unemployment and under-employment of qualified people with disabilities in Canada. We explored the barriers—some physical and many attitudinal—but chose to focus on the positive. Our goal is to shine the light on best practices and successes among Canadian employers who have welcomed people with disabilities into their ranks. Their examples can help us learn and do better.

    Read on, and you’ll hear about the real-life experiences of employers and their employees. You’ll be impressed with the ingenuity of their solutions, and learn how businesses are measuring the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

    This report is a work of collaboration. We thank the many organizations and individuals who met with us and provided their valuable insights. Working together, we will find better ways to access the skills of Canadians with disabilities, and benefit from their contributions to a stronger economy.

    We would also like to congratulate the Government of Canada for taking the initiative to establish this panel, and to thank the members of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the Department of Finance Canada who supported us so well throughout. We were honoured to serve the public and work closely with those who do so day in and out.

    Our hope is that through our efforts, employers will understand that an inclusive environment and diverse teams are better for business.

    If you need more information or help in hiring people with disabilities please contact us at (780) 423-4106.


  • May 02, 2017

    Customized Employment: Success Snap Shot – Melissa

    “Follow your dreams” is the advice Melissa would give to others interested in starting their own business. It was a dream come true when Melissa opened Miss Honey Bees. Traditional employment searching had been a challenge for Melissa. Unable to find a position that fit her interests and abilities, and repeatedly being turned down from employers, was very discouraging. Through the support of Customized Employment and family, Melissa now works for herself and spends her days growing her business.

    melissa snap shot

  • Customized Employment: Success Snapshot – Christian

    Christian’s Story

    Christian had the drive to succeed when he opened his chauffeur business DASH. Through the Customized Employment program in North Central Alberta, Christian was able to develop a business plan, gather equipment and secure a strong base of customers. Christian has now been in business for over a year and continues to provide a valuable service to his clients and community.

    Christian Snap Shot


  • April 29, 2017

    Autism as a Competitive Advantage in IT

     Hiring people with disabilities has many advantages. Read this article about how a company in the United States hires people with Autism to gain a competitive advantage in the IT industry.

    Article from Information Week

    Autism as a Competitive Advantage

    At quality assurance company, ULTRA Testing, 75% of the employees have autism spectrum disorder. The company’s co-founder says that gives the business a competitive advantage, and has helped them produce better results than IT heavyweights like IBM.

    ULTRA Testing is a technology startup that provides quality assurance services. Its headquarters is in New York, but most of the staff signs in from remote offices. That’s because UTLRA recruits employees with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from all over the US. The company’s co-founder, Rajesh Anandan, believes that employing software testers with ASD gives ULTRA a competitive advantage.

    The quality assurance company is competing with IT heavyweights like IBM. “We won a project away from an IBM team doing a specialized type of testing. We did the exact same thing and extended the bug detection rate by 56%,” says Anandan. He adds that the bugs found were not random, and that 90% were a priority-fix for the client. “We have displaced IBM as accessibility testing vendor for this client and continue to work with that client,” he says

    People with ASD are often characterized by their challenges, such as poor social and communication skills and sensitivity to light and sound, but at ULTRA Testing, they focus on their strengths such as pattern recognition, logical reasoning, and attention to detail.

    Anandan says these abilities make people with ASD excellent software testers, and that’s what gives their company its leg up in the quality assurance market. “We believe we’re the best in the world,” says Anandan, “And we believe we’re that way because we’re a well-run company, but also because of this incredible talent pool that we’ve been able to attract into our industry.”


  • April 25, 2017

    Career and Employment Services Throughout Alberta

    Are you a person with disabilities wanting to explore your employment options? Looking to enhance your career but don’t know where to start? EmployAbilities offers FREE Career and Employment Services to the communities of Cold Lake, Bonnyville, St. Paul, Lac La Biche, Athabasca and Vegreville.

    Employment services are provided to individuals with a disclosed or long term disability that requires supports to overcome barriers they may have in obtaining and maintaining employment. They also offer services to employers who are interested in hiring people with disabilities. Here is a summary of the services you will find:

    Client Support & Services:

    – Pre-Employment Assessment
    – Skill Analysis, Career/Industry Exploration and Work Options
    – On the Job Employment Training
    – On the Job Support

    Employer Support Services:

    – On the Job Support
    – Job Analysis and Job Carving
    – Job Coaching
    – Support with Job Enhancement

    For more information, including contact information for each specific community, visit our North Central East Career and Employment Services webpage. 



  • April 19, 2017

    Learning About Disability Related Employment Supports

    Offered by the Alberta Government, Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES) helps Albertans with disabilities take employment training and find rewarding jobs and careers.

    DRES funding is available to pay for supports that help Albertans overcome barriers to education or employment caused by a disability.

    To be eligible for DRES supports and/or services an individual must:

    • have a diagnosed and documented permanent or chronic disability that creates a barrier to education, training and/or employment
    • be an Alberta resident
    • be a Canadian Citizen, permanent resident, or refugee under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Actbe legally entitled to work and/or train in Canada
    • be employment destined
    • be determined eligible for DRES through an Employability Assessment and have a Service Plan

    What Does DRES Offer?

    DRES is offered in three categories:

    Job Search Supports

    Job search supports assist Albertans with disabilities aged 16 and older seek employment. The supports may include a sign language interpreter so that an individual with a hearing impairment can attend a job interview.

    Workplace Supports

    Workplace supports assist Albertans with disabilities aged 16 and older make a successful transition into the workplace, maintain employment, and enable their full participation in the workforce. The supports may include a job coach, worksite modification or assistive technology.

    Educational Supports

    Education supports assist learners with disabilities who are out of the kindergarten to grade 12 school system, prepare for employment through post-secondary education, basic skill training, academic upgrading or labour market programs. The supports may include sign language interpreters, tutors, note takers, and assistive technology such as software programs specific to the disability.

    For more information on DRES:

    • Call the toll-free Career Information Hotline at 1‑800‑661‑3753 (780‑422‑4266 in Edmonton)
    • Contact your nearest Alberta Works Centre