Canadians consider themselves caring people who believe in helping others. Why, then, do Statistics Canada figures show the employment rate for Canadians with a disability is 49%, compared to 79% for the general population? In the US, a 2014 study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found that 85% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) do not have paid work.
Profiled in the Daily Beast, Best Buddies International – a US job placement firm for people with IDD – launched the “I’m In To Hire” media campaign in 2014. The goal was to convince employers that it was in their best interests to hire from this group.
The campaign made good use of Best Buddies founder Anthony Shriver’s bigwig contact Carlos Slim – the second richest man in the world. Slim was quoted in the Wall Street Journal on the challenge of changing hiring perceptions. Shriver and Slim co-wrote a Forbes editorial on the subject.
That kind of star power drew financial pledges from stars in Hollywood, but the game-changing outcomes were found in a post-I’m In To Hire i4pc study. It showed that 80% of employers reported a positive experience with their employees with IDD, and a third reported the experience exceeded their expectations.
In Canada, the big buns, err, guns come in the form of media attention paid to Tim Hortons franchise owner Mark Wafer. For more than 20 years, he has made a practice of hiring people with disabilities of all kinds and backs up the claim that they are reliable, loyal and highly productive employees.
We have a way to go before people with disabilities’ employment figures approach an acceptable level. Hiring managers in their 40s and 50s were not educated alongside peers with disabilities. Today’s children see accommodations every day in their classrooms. That kind of familiarity will speed acceptance of individuals for their unique characters and abilities. About time, too.
Got a good example of how you or your organization benefited from diversifying its workforce? Share your experience in the feedback box.
Want help getting started on your own hiring campaign? Learn more at Employment and Social Development Canada.
*A term coined by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, it means holding negative attitudes towards people with disability that are rooted in falsehoods, misperceptions and uninformed bias.