The month of October is known as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). NDEAM celebrates the contributions made by workers with disabilities and brings awareness to the importance and benefits of promoting employment inclusion for people with disabilities. In the spirit of this important month, we hosted a roundtable with several employers and employees with lived experiences of disabilities in the workplace.
Ontario disabilities is an area that our government has done much work in. Our government has raised the ODSP earned income threshold by 400% – which will keep more money in the pockets of the recipients who are able to work. Prior to this increase, ODSP recipients who were working could only make a maximum of $200 a month before it would affect their ODSP payments. Now, ODSP recipients who are working can make $1,000 before their ODSP payments are affected.
Our government has also been working hard to improve the lives on Ontarians by establishing standards for accessibility. Through the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA), standards have been created for the design of public spaces, customer service, information and communications, transportation, and employment in order to make the workplace more accessible for those living with disabilities. From recruitment to career development, these standards break down barriers so that people living with disabilities can apply for jobs and participate fully in our economy.
Another enhancement that our government has introduced is in the area of transitional health benefits. Recipients who leave ODSP for employment can continue to receive coverage for prescription drugs, dental and vision care and repairs for mobility devices unless or until the employer provides coverage that is comparable to the benefits available under ODSP. Through transitional health benefits, ODSP recipients will always have benefits available to them, even if they go back to work. If the benefits that they are receiving at work are not greater or equal to the ODSP benefits, they will still have access to their ODSP benefits.
In Ontario, there are some great programs that provide extensive support to assist people with disabilities to attain employment. MyJobMatch is a service created for employers, job seekers with a disability, and employment support professionals to come together to track, match, and secure meaningful job opportunities. MyJobMatch is a new way to consider the employment journey for people with a disability. It is a supported process that captures a job seekers skills and career desires to create profiles that best represent them. At the same time, MyJobMatch supports employers, by clearly outlining their recruitment needs and providing access to a dedicated marketplace. Currently, this program is being rolled out in the community living in the Toronto jurisdiction.
Locally, Job Zone d’emploi in Cornwall, does an excellent job in providing services and accommodations for clients with disabilities in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry with “The Supported Employment Program”. Clients are provided with long term support through workshops and job coaching designed to prepare individuals to gain meaningful employment. Job Zone d’emploi provides specialized support which helps clients prepare for employment in the pre-employment phase with assistance with resumes, job searches, career assessments and interview skills development to help equip clients to attain employment.
I am a proud graduate from St. Lawrence College Cornwall with a Human Resource diploma and a local business owner, and I have always been passionate about equal opportunity, supporting and recruiting individuals within the ODSP programs.
I was delighted to be part of the roundtable discussion with employers and organizations who notably support and employ individuals with disabilities. Employees were also present to share their personal experiences and challenges to gaining meaningful employment. It is important to engage and dialogue with some of the partners like McDonald’s, Sobeys, TD Bank, Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN), Bob Rumball Centre of Excellence for the Deaf, Community Living Ontario, Community Living Toronto, Restaurants Canada and Rockwool. These employers and organizations are to be commended for their efforts in supporting and maintaining inclusive and accessible workplace environments for those individuals living with disabilities.