Let's Talk About: Employment

Introduction and Overview

Welcome to NSDRC’s Employment Blog!

Group of co-worker chatting in the lunch room

Everyone wants a chance to live a meaningful and productive life and have a place in their community. For most of us, a job or a career builds personal and professional confidence, a connection to our community and with our peers. Through employment we often gain a sense of personal and professional value as contributing members of society.

With this in mind The NSDRC is pleased to be launching a new blog called Let’s Talk about: Inclusive Employment. The intention is to create a space for discussion and engagement where perspectives, ideas, questions and concerns about inclusive employment can be shared. We invite you to contribute to this discussion as a job seeker/self-advocate with a disability, employer/business person, and parent or community member.

Check out our Upcoming Blogs:

• Workplace Accommodations: Getting the best from your employees
• First Jobs: what was your experience?

The NSDRC provides employment assistance to youth and adults who have a visible or invisible disability and who may be looking for their first job, wanting to return to work, or taking an initial step toward their employment goals. We offer assistance to employers who want to hire and need more information.
What we offer:

For Job Seekers:

We use a self-directed approach offering you supports as needed to gain or strengthen your job search skills. We help you to define your employment themes and aide you to map out a plan of action.
• Skills and interests surveys/assessments
• Job search assistance
• Help with online applications
• Resume/profile
• Interview practice
• Employer matching when available
• Referrals to community resources
• Job Coaching when available or will refer you to a resource

For Employers:

We survey employers and the worksite in order to make a sound match between the business needs and the job seekers skills and talents. We go the extra mile by providing resources as available for the employer; such as resources to provide workplace adaptions and modifications.
• Matching job seeker to business needs
• Help to determine adaptations
• Resources for adaptations/wage subsidies as available
• Supplemental on the job training
• Go- to resource person
• One day mentoring opportunities
• Referrals


Latest Post

How Volunteering Helped Me Build a Network

Do you remember who helped you to get you your first job? For most people it is a family member or a friend who told them about a job opening and encouraged them to apply.

When you have a disability whether it is visible or invisible your opportunities to network and find employment might be influenced by whether you can leave your home, have internet and phone access or access to transportation. One way to build your network is to consider volunteering your time in the community.

Gillian Burns working at her desk

Blog by Gillian Burns

Throughout my high school years I was a volunteer in my high school’s ESL program, and I had one fantastic summer volunteering at Camp Squamish as a Leader in Training. While I was finishing my Bachelor’s degree I spent one month volunteering my time to teach English as a second language in a community program at the University of Saskatchewan to help build my work experience in preparation for living and teaching English in Japan. All these experiences taught me that I liked helping people and that I wasn’t afraid to try new things.

Volunteering was especially important to help me build my professional network as I had work references from Japan and United Kingdom but no work history in Vancouver. I was lucky to find a volunteer position with the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities who were very appreciative of the time I donated to help them source silent auction items for their Easter Seals Regatta.

I met many interesting people during my year volunteering for the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities both on staff and also other volunteers who were trying to make a difference in the community. Volunteering also gave me my first Canadian reference when I was out looking for my work in Vancouver. Volunteering gave me so many positive experiences that I encourage anyone I meet to try volunteering if they are struggling to meet people or are trying to decide if they are ready to go back to work.

There are many ways to find volunteer opportunities – through your local newspaper, community resource program and through word of mouth. There are so many programs that need people to help that they are always appreciative of any time you can spare.


Volunteer Resources:

North Shore Community Resources: http://www.nscr.bc.ca/volunteer/jobs.html

Go Volunteer: https://www.govolunteer.ca/

North Shore Recreation & Culture: https://www.nvrc.ca/volunteer

Heart & Stroke Foundation: http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-involved/volunteer

Volunteer BC: https://volunteerbc.bc.ca/volunteercentres/


Introduction to Accommodations

There is more than one way to do the job: Workplace Accommodations

Worker at her computer

If we take a close look at our workplaces most of us would discover that very few employees and coworkers fulfill their responsibilities and complete their tasks in exactly the same way. However, in most cases the outcomes are similar and largely completed to the satisfaction of the employer.

What are “workplace accommodations?”
“To accommodate someone means to remove the barriers which prevent people from gaining access to jobs, housing, and the use of goods, services and facilities (e.g. public transit or schools)”.

An employee may work on a report tucked away in her office where it is quiet with potentially few interruptions. Conversely her co-worker finds her focus by working in the company of others where the energy level stimulates her thought processes. Each employee is productive and completes the report.
In order to work to the best of our abilities sometimes it is necessary to make adjustments in our environment, to the tools or equipment we use or to our work schedules. It is more common than we realize.
When accommodations are made available to remove barriers for employees who live with a visible or non-visible disability, the results show that not only do they work to the best of their abilities; those accommodations often benefit other employees and can create an environment that encourages productivity for all.

More information and resources for removing barriers:
Job Carving:
Ergonomics Resources:
Assistive Equipment Resources:
Health and Safety Resource:
Flexible Work Schedule

View previous Employment Blog posts here(Link will open in a new tab)


Which of these employees will need a workplace accommodation?

group of young-men and women studying

Photo credit:
Designed by Freepik

Many of us will need a workplace accommodation to some degree at some point in our working lives. It may be due to a number of factors: physical disability, intellectual disability, a change in health, family responsibilities, an injury or a mental health issue amongst other reasons.

Job seekers who live with a disability whom I have met with are often hesitant to ask for workplace accommodations. Why? It means becoming vulnerable to the perceptions of others, it means disclosing what might be an invisible disability to their employer, and they often feel isolated when it comes to approaching their employer. The good news is that each employee also comes with their unique strengths and abilities.

Here are some suggested strategies that have proven to be useful when approaching an employer:

– Meet with your employer as soon as it is evident to you that you need an accommodation that will allow you to do your work.

– Be prepared. Explain why you need the accommodation, preferably in writing. Provide information that will help your employer understand the need.

– Do your research and provide some possible solutions and resources, perhaps solutions that have been successful for you in the past; a flexible schedule, assistive technology, modified tools, a physical modification of your workspace, ergonomics, training, coaching, job restructuring or a reassignment of tasks.

– Emphasize that you have the skills and strengths to do your job with the accommodation.

– Try to stay positive and confident-it conveys to the employer that you believe in yourself.

– If you are in a union, the union will likely help you and your employer with the procedures.

– If you need help to prepare your request and offer solutions, speak to your union rep, Human Resources, non-profit agencies that offer employment services or other professionals that have the experience, knowledge and resources to assist you and your employer.

– Workplace accommodations are unique to each individual. Each employee will have different needs. Even though they may have a similar disability they will also have different abilities and strengths. “There is no set formula for accommodation. Each person’s needs are unique and must be considered afresh when an accommodation request is made. A solution may meet one person’s requirements but not another’s, although many accommodations will benefit many other people with similar needs.

Some Resources:

NSDRC: www.nsdrc.org
Disability Alliance: http://disabilityalliancebc.org/
Job Accommodation Network: https://askjan.org/
Neil Squire Society: http://www.neilsquire.ca/
Work BC: https://www.workbc.ca/Resources-for/People-with-Disabilities.aspx
BC Human Rights Clinic: http://www.bchrc.net/duty_to_accommodate


Accommodation Stories

First Job after University

image of Gillian Burns, today's blogger
I’m Gillian Burns and this is my story of my first job after University

I was in my final year of my Bachelor Degree at the University of Victoria in 2001 when I had the opportunity to interview for my first job as an English as Second Language teacher in Tokyo, Japan. I was looking forward to learning how to speak Japanese, eat lots of sushi and learn how to live like a local.

Japan has a lot of positives if you have a (physical) disability – they have an excellent public transportation system of trains, subways and buses that run like clockwork. Most train stations and subway stations have accessible entrees and elevators/escalators. The subway maps are in both English and Japanese especially in Tokyo so it is easy for non-Japanese speakers to find their way. Japanese people are very friendly and if you need help they will do their best to assist you even if it means using charades to communicate.

I have a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy called Central Core Disease which I have had since birth and affects my ability to walk long distances, climb up and down stairs and lift and carry heavy objects. During my academic career I was able to adapt to my particular physical challenges and knew how to navigate the education system to get what I required. However, upon entering the work world I didn’t have as much knowledge about what I needed in the workplace and I didn’t know what to ask for in terms of accommodations.

I felt at the time when I went for my job interview that my physical disability wouldn’t be a big barrier for me to be a good English as a Second language teacher. As a result I didn’t disclose about my physical challenges as I felt I could perform all my job duties without special adaptions. Once I was on the job I realized that I should have disclosed regarding my disability as it may have made it easier to negotiate with my employer about my work hours as I needed an additional short break in my work day as I was teaching back to back lessons. It also would have been helpful for the company to be aware of my disability when they were helping me to find housing as I didn’t realize how challenging it would be to adapt to a long commute back and forth to work.

I learned many things about myself while living in Japan mainly about how to navigate options for my work/life balance. I also learnt that living too far away from my workplace and doing a long commute has a negative impact on me so since then I have always tried to live close to my work place. Keeping in touch with family and friends was a great support and helped me to better adjust to life in a new country. Overall my experience of working in Japan was positive and it taught me a lot about what I needed to know to find better accommodated career options later on.


Finding Employment

Non-Conventional Approaches to Finding Employment

photo of the blog author, Lauren Stinson
I have cerebral palsy and I am proud to be part of the cerebral palsy community and the disabled community at large. Yes, that is right I am proud of my disability. My name is Lauren Stinson, I grew up in a nuclear family of a mom, a dad and 2.5 children, my sister, brother and me the crippled .5. I grew up in Burnaby BC and graduated from Simon Fraser University in 2015. Getting out of university I took a non-conventional approach to employment.

Disability has always been a part of my reality, a part of my norm. Cerebral palsy is a disability I was born with and therefore, is the only body I have ever known. To me having cerebral palsy or CP for short is normal for me, I am used to my body and how it functions. I do not view my disability as abnormal or negative. It is just a small part of what makes me, me.

That does not mean I can’t get jealous, or angry at the privilege that the able-bodied community has. My lack of privilege with disability does bring me down some times, yet that does not mean I wish to be able-bodied. Much like other minority groups in the world, who want to be treated with the same respect and courtesy as the majority are still able to take pride in their minority identities without allowing their minority identities to be erased. It is not my disability I have issue with, it is the stigma and barriers placed on the disabled community that brings me down and frustrates me.

I knew as a young adult graduating university, that entering the workforce would be difficult. I knew that I would be faced with judgment and stigma in regards to my disability during the hiring process; since, the general expectations of productivity are often not associated with disability. The idea that the general population would not see me as a valuable employee terrified me. Therefore, I took a non-traditional route to employment.

Another friend of mine named Stacey from the cerebral palsy community and I decided to create our own jobs. We wanted to create a network run for the disabled community by the disabled community. Since, we saw a need for the disabled community to take more control of their own narratives and expressions within the non-profit sector and in society at large. As a minority group the disabled community will not be able to change societal preconceptions about disability without first gaining control over their own stories and projections of self-identity. We created a proposal and brought it to the attention of different associations.

I was hired through this process. The group has gone through different forms and non-profit associations. Yet I am still working with the core ideas we brought forth from our original proposal. Today, both Stacey and I run the group at the North Shore Disability Resource Centre called the Disabled Community Connection Network. The main focus of the group is to give disabled speakers from various disabled communities a platform to share their knowledge and lived experiences with other disabled people. This creates a network and a deeper understanding of all disabilities, bringing different disabled communities together through shared experiences.

I have learned that I did not need to take the traditional route to employment and that my disability can be seen as a positive that brings legitimacy to my work as a whole. Many organizations have disability quotas and are looking for disabled workers to create a diverse workforce. You might need to swallow your pride when applying for a quota position, yet remember, that the disabled quota can help get your foot in the door and leap over many of the barriers put in place for disabled employment.

Don’t be afraid to create your own work and express your own ideas. Ask for payment, your experience as a disabled person and worker brings value and worth to a workplace. We live in a society where disability is seen as a negative. Yet diversity in the workforce is a positive, and benefits to the workforce. Don’t be afraid to try different avenues towards employment that go against the traditional methods. The traditional methods to employment weren’t created with the disabled community in mind. Be proud of yourself as a disabled person. Be open about your access needs and what you need to thrive in a workplace. Don’t be ashamed to ask for what you need to succeed. Help shift the disabled narrative by creating a more accessible workforce.


Customized Employment

What if there was an alternative employment model that emphasized the strengths of the employee and the needs of your business? Customized employment may be an unfamiliar term to you as an employer or as a job seeker, however this employment model has proven to be effective for both job seekers and employers.
Nick stands proudly
Nick’s Story

Nick is a young man who enjoys working in a people orientated environment. He is friendly, polite, reliable and has had years of experience in the café industry, participating in a social enterprise called the Thumbs Up Café. When it was time for Nick to expand his employment opportunities he was referred to the Work BC Customized Employment service where he teamed up with a job coach. Nick’s job coach observed his work at the Thumbs Up Café, how he interacted during his sports practice, consulted with his parent and had many discussions with Nick about his motivators and goals.

Within six weeks she and Nick developed his employment profile which led her to approach a manager at the Lonsdale Starbucks on Nick’s behalf. The manager agreed that Nick was a match for their store and Nick was hired. Nick’s job coach was present on the job to train and support him and to answer the employers’ questions. Currently she checks in occasionally and provides troubleshooting and training when necessary. For example Nick is working to increase his work pace using strategies his coach suggested. When I asked him what he likes most about working at Starbucks he says it’s the team and the customers, who in turn enjoy his presence at Starbucks. He also says the job makes him feel like a true adult.

Typical hiring practices are geared for the non-disabled population. Though unintentional, barriers are inherent in these practices for applicants who live with a mental illness, physical, neurological or cognitive disabilities and sensory challenges.

What does it mean for an applicant if they use a mobility device and the building has stairs to at the entrances? What if applicants are much better at demonstrating their strengths and skills rather than verbally articulating them? What if an applicant is proficient at certain tasks valuable to an employer but cannot describe them to an interviewer? Unfortunately for many it means that they will not be hired or even get through an interview.

What happens when you work with a job coach/employment specialist?
Before the employer meets the job seeker, a background investigation is completed with the job seeker to determine a possible fit between the employer’s needs and the job seekers strengths and contributions.

The job seeker typically works with an employment specialist to identify their unique strengths, talents, and additional training needs
Together they identify places that people work that match the job seekers ideal conditions. The employment specialist assists the job seeker to make connections to companies through informational interviews and perform research to determine suitability. The employment specialist meets with the business owner/manager and tours the business to identify tasks that the employer needs done but may not get completed by busy staff

A work trial or working interview is arranged with the employer to determine fit
The employment specialist and employer negotiate a position that fits for the company and the job seeker. The employment specialist monitors the progress and consistently checks in with the employer-provides troubleshooting, training & support.

Are there benefits to this employment model?
-A worker can be dedicated to tasks that normally fall behind, pile up or to tasks that involve a particular skillset.
-Extra support for the worker and employer at no cost to the employer to on-board the worker and provide troubleshooting
-Workplaces increase diversity and accessibility for all employees and customers
-Accessible environment, service, labelling,
-Access to an alternative pool of workers
-Access to an employment specialist at no cost who can assist with task modifications, accommodations and resources.
-Customers often choose these businesses

What are the benefits for the job seeker?
-Strengths and talents are utilized, recognized and developed
-Often a first entry, first opportunity to enter the workforce
-Opportunity to learn additional skills
-Earn a place in community
-On the job support

Curious? Here are resources and people who can help get you started or answer your questions:
-North Shore Disability Resource Centre: g.kopperson@nsdrc.org
-Work BC/ Customized Employment contractor: https://www.jobswest.ca/
-NS Connexions: http://nsconnexions.org/our-programs/employment-programs/


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