Printer icon Print Page

Perry Eisenschmid

Perry Eisenschmid
Perry Eisenschmid
Former Vice-President, Marketing, Sales and IT

Perry was the Vice-President, Marketing, Sales & IT and Chief Privacy Officer at The Conference Board of Canada from 2002-2013.  He was appointed the CEO of the Canadian Pharmacists Association in June of 2013.

Google Plus  LinkedIn

Read Perry's Commentaries

Leveraging Community Partners to Connect Employers and Job Seekers

by
  • Brad Spencer
| Mar 14, 2016
Brad Spencer
Brad Spencer
Executive Director
PATH Employment Services

I’m Brad Spencer, Executive Director with PATH Employment Services, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities get jobs. I would like to tell you about how community service providers, such as PATH, can help your business hire people with disabilities. Chances are there is an organization like mine providing employment placement services for people with disabilities in your community.

Let’s assume that you’ve already come to realize what you have to gain from hiring a person with a disability. You’ve already been sold on the employee retention statistics and productivity studies. And you appreciate that people with disabilities represent 15 per cent of the population and that there is a lot of talent there. Maybe you have a person with a disability working for you and notice that your customers react positively. Demonstrating diversity in your workforce can strengthen your public profile persona, which helps to create an accessible and inclusive workplace. (“See Accessible Employment Practices.”)

But perhaps you’re wondering: How can my business bridge the gap? Like most employers, you would like to add to the diversity of your workplace, but you don’t know how to connect to job seekers with disabilities who can perform in the jobs that are available in your organization?

Fortunately, there is a network of service providers in many communities across Ontario that are dedicated to helping businesses hire people with disabilities. Many can be found through their membership with the Ontario Disability Employment Network. Many of these organizations are government funded, which means their services are available to businesses like yours free of cost.

These organizations will want to learn about your business and understand the kinds of roles you have and the characteristics of the specific job that you are looking to fill. They can work with you to break down the job by the tasks to be performed and draw out the skills and abilities required. Here is an example. PATH has worked closely with Gold Cross Home Care Inc. With an aging population and growing need for home care services, this business has been growing rapidly. It is hard work to attract and screen talent, and Gold Cross has been pleased with the enthusiasm, dedication, and positive attitude of the new recruits we have helped place—many of whom just happen to have a disability.

Hiring the wrong person can be costly. Organizations dedicated to helping people with disabilities get jobs appreciate that the performance of your employees determines the success or failure of your organization. We know our clients and will be looking to match them with you on the basis of their ability to perform the job. They can also add value by challenging you to consider a broader view of what makes a good hire. The essential skills of the job are typically where people with disabilities shine. Essential skills include interpersonal skills, communication (both oral and written), critical thinking (problem-solving), personal development (eagerness to develop and learn), and numeracy and IT skills. To learn more about employability skills, check out “Employability Skills 2000+.”

As an employer you don’t have the right to ask if a person has a disability, but you do have the right to ensure the person you hire can do the job. If workplaces have restrictions that impede mobility or other limitations, the specialists are able to assess the work environment and suggest appropriate accommodations. They can even offer advice on how to access funds to cover some of those costs. Typically, accommodations can be made with minimal cost and inconvenience.

If appropriate, a job coach can be assigned to help with initial training and orientation. Ultimately, if the individual is not well-suited to the job, the specialists can help with the transition, ensuring that your business finds an alternative candidate and the individual is provided with a more suitable opportunity. Relationships with the local business community are very important to agencies that provide placement services for people with disabilities. If you are challenged with finding great talent for your business, I encourage you to look into the resources available in your community.


The views and/or opinions expressed in this article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect The Conference Board of Canada’s position. Responsibility for content accuracy also rests with the author(s).

Obstacles Become Allies: Managing With Disability Sharpens Trouble-Shooting Traits

by
  • Anna-Karina Tabuñar
| Feb 26, 2016
Anna-Karina Tabuñar (guest author)
Journalist

On February 2, 2016, The Conference Board of Canada was pleased to host the Toronto debut of a new documentary film, Talent Untapped, by Ottawa journalist Anna-Karina Tabunar. The film explores the journey of Anna-Karina herself and several other highly talented individuals with a range of disabilities as they navigate their own personal challenges and achievements. This 34-minute film packs a great deal of information about the myths and truths surrounding employment of people with disabilities. Storytelling is a powerful way to educate an audience, and the director leverages the medium well. Following is a thoughtful and visual article from Anna-Karina that illustrates the importance of focusing on peoples’ capability.

Ruth Wright, Director, Leadership and Human Resources Research
The Conference Board of Canada


It’s the morning rush and you’re racing to work. Cars and bicycles are buzzing by. People are jostling around you.

Now add this twist: You can’t see. Everything is a big blur.

That’s how Dave Brown perceives the world. He is legally blind. Dave has 10 per cent vision due to a congenital condition called albinism. His pink skin and white hair are also the effects of albinism.

What sets him apart is not so much the way he looks, but the way he works.

Dave employs a valuable skill honed not from schooling or professional training, but out of daily necessity. Like anyone with a disability, Dave navigates physical barriers every single day. A dip in the sidewalk can throw him off balance. An electric car he can’t hear can be a potential hazard. Just leaving home means mitigating risks.

“I need to be acutely aware of my surroundings all the time,” he explains. “Being legally blind, I need to be comfortable in my space. It is in my best interest to be there early, to meet people, to scope the space.”

Boot leather and public transit are Dave’s main source of transportation. Sidewalks and pathways are his lifelines. If one is closed because of construction or a snow bank, he needs a backup plan.

“Transportation is a huge deal. How and when I get around are a big part of my planning. Transportation can add hours to my day,” he says.

Dave works in a highly visual business. He is a television reporter with AMI-TV, Canada’s fully accessible television network. Most journalists rely on visual cues and the nuances of body language to conduct interviews. Dave doesn’t have that luxury. Preparation is his best ally.

“Before I do interviews, I plan ahead and choose a location that is extra quiet so I can screen out noise and distractions. I don’t have the luxury of a teleprompter or cue cards. I can’t use them. I do a lot of scripting work and tonnes of memorization. I have to be extra prepared. If I’m not, my work suffers,” Dave says.

“Having a disability, people can think of a bunch of reasons to dismiss me. I make sure than my output is better than anyone else’s.”

To put him ahead of the pack, Dave makes planning, anticipating, and trouble-shooting second nature.

Kent Kirkpatrick also knows that mode. Kent is the outgoing chief administrative officer for the City of Ottawa. He too navigates barriers in his motorized wheelchair. Kent lives with advanced multiple sclerosis.

As the highest-ranking manager for the City, he juggles complex issues and files. On top of that, he manages another imperative—his fatigue and limited mobility.

“I’m more self-aware now than before I had a disability. I have to plan for everything. It’s a function that goes on in the back of my head all the time,” Kent explains.

The way he communicates with his staff and colleagues takes extra thought and preparation.

“In the past, I could command a room with my physical stature. When your physical size is muted, you rely more on the quality of your thoughts and words to command an audience.”

When you have no choice but to circumvent mountains every day, challenges at work are merely molehills. When considering a job candidate who just happens to have a disability, focus on the capability. That individual comes equipped with innate problem-solving skills and ingenuity that will bring unique value to your organization.


Anna-Karina Tabuñar directed the documentary film Talent Untapped, which explores disability in the workforce and her own personal journey with disability. She hosts the weekly current affairs program “Canada in Perspective” on AMI-TV.

The views and/or opinions expressed in this article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect The Conference Board of Canada’s position. Responsibility for content accuracy also rests with the author(s).

The Process to Develop an Individual Accommodation Plan

by
  • Laura McKeen
| Jan 20, 2016
Laura McKeen Laura McKeen
Lawyer
Cohen Highley LLP

As of January 2016, businesses and private sector organizations across Ontario with more than 50 employees are required to develop a written process for developing documented individual accommodation plans (IAPs) for employees with disabilities. This requirement is found in Section 28 of the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation (IASR) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The Conference Board of Canada’s Employers’ Toolkit: Making Ontario Workplaces Accessible to People With Disabilities is a free resource that provides practical tips and useful tools for employers when developing their policies and procedures. If you have not seen the toolkit, you can access it here.

Creating an IAP Process

While there is a requirement to create and document a process for developing IAPs, obligated organizations have some flexibility when creating accessibility policies. You can build the IAP process into your existing human resources policies and procedures, or create separate IAP policies and procedures.

When looking to formalize this process, you should make every effort to make the process work for your own industry and business. You should also remember that the AODA does not replace the Employment Standards Act, Ontario’s Human Rights Code, or any other applicable legislation.

The Process to Develop an IAP

Subsection 28(2) of the AODA requires employers to include the following eight elements into the IAP process:

  1. How the employee requesting accommodation can participate in the development of the individual accommodation plan.
  2. How the employee is assessed on an individual basis.
  3. How the employer can request an evaluation by an outside medical or other expert, at the employer’s expense, to assist in determining if the accommodation can be achieved, and if so, how it can be achieved.
  4. How the employee can request a representative from their bargaining agent (if applicable) or other representative from the workplace to participate in developing the accommodation plan.
  5. The steps taken to protect the privacy of the employee’s personal information.
  6. The frequency the IAP will be reviewed and updated, and how it will be done. (Please note the times when it is mandatory to review emergency workplace response information.)
  7. If an individual accommodation plan is denied, how the reasons for the denial will be provided to the employee.
  8. The means of providing the IAP in a format that takes into account the employee’s accessibility needs.

The IAP Itself

Once you have developed the process you will use, you will also need to think about the format of the IAP that will work best for your organization. There is no prescribed format for the IAP. You can develop one that makes sense for your business.

If required, the IAP must include:

  • any information about accessible formats and communications supports provided, as described in Section 26 of the IASR;
  • individualized information on the workplace’s emergency response procedures, as described in Section 27 of the IASR.

The IAP shall also identify any other accommodation that is to be provided.

The Business Case for an Inclusive and Collaborative IAP Process

There are many articles and studies outlining the business case for accessible employment practices. One of those documents is the Conference Board of Canada’s Business Benefits of Accessible Workplaces.

You may be required to develop an IAP process, but this could also be an opportunity to review your accommodation process and determine if you truly have an inclusive and collaborative accommodation process.

Taking the time to develop an inclusive, collaborative, and effective IAP process—one that makes sense for your organization—can position your organization to improve your bottom line. Accessible and inclusive employment practices have been found to achieve better job retention, higher attendance, lower turnover, enhanced job performance and work quality, better safety records, and a more innovative workforce.

Laura McKeen is a partner with Cohen Highley LLP in London.

Click here to learn more about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.


The views and/or opinions expressed in this article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect The Conference Board of Canada’s position. Responsibility for content accuracy also rests with the author(s).

Welcoming People With Disabilities Into Our Corporate Communities Is a Win-Win

by
  • Ruth Wright
| Dec 21, 2015
Photo of Ruth Wright
Director
Leadership and Human Resources Research

Ontario’s new standard requiring large private sector employers to make their workplaces and employment processes more accessible for people with disabilities will come into effect on January 1, 2016.

Ontario has set a laudable goal of making the province fully accessible for people with disabilities by the year 2025. Employment is a key component of this comprehensive strategy, and it is foundational to individuals’ ability to fully participate in society. It affords economic stability and security for people with disabilities, who are too often shut out of our workplaces. Employment is also essential to our identity and sense of well-being. And, given the size of the population, it injects financial and other stimuli into our communities. Accessible employment practices are truly a win-win.

Unfortunately, arcane recruitment and selection practices too frequently have the unintended effect of screening out capable individuals. Pervasive stigma means that existing employees cope in silence when minor accommodations could break down barriers that prevent them from optimizing their potential. Ineffective disability management practices cost millions, while progressive workplace practices could help reintegrate employees who have acquired a disability. Don’t forget that disability is exponentially associated with age. Attention to ergonomics and other small accommodations can help our mature corporate citizens who love their work extend their careers by years.

To underscore the magnitude of this issue, it is important to understand that people with disabilities compose over 10 per cent of our working-age population. Roughly two-thirds of disabilities are mild to moderate. Given the incredible advances in accessible technologies and other basic supports that are available—even to people with severe disabilities—a majority of our citizens with disabilities are able and willing to work, notwithstanding some structural issues associated with our disability benefits system. Our public schools and post-secondary institutions have stepped up to provide significant support systems and accommodations for students, resulting in people with disabilities attaining higher levels of education over recent decades; graduation rates from post-secondary institutions are approaching those of the general population.

Yet employment rates of people with disabilities have remained stubbornly low. This population is two to three times more likely to be unemployed, depending on the data you use and how it is cut. Simply put, the gap in employment levels between people with disabilities and people without hasn’t changed in decades.

It’s time for employers to examine the unintended consequences of employment systems that shut skilled and capable domestic talent out of our work places. That’s the spirit of the regulation. What the new employment standard asks, at its core, is for businesses to be proactive by simply letting prospective recruits and existing employees know that it is okay to ask for accommodations. That may be as simple as letting potential applicants know that they can bypass an inaccessible online application form, adapt the format of a pre-employment test, or be provided with a basic piece of equipment—on request. Provide opportunities for people to ask for a needed accommodation and make the process comfortable. The new standard also requires that new hires and existing employees with disabilities have an accommodation plan—a live document that contemplates career development and advancement and is updated as roles and work locations change.

Employers already have a duty to accommodate people with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Employment Standards Act requires that employees be made aware that accommodations are available on request—and not just at the hiring stage. The spirit of the regulation speaks to something more. It’s about letting people with disabilities know that it is okay to ask for support, that they don’t need to cover up an issue or struggle through tasks in silence. It’s about battling pervasive stigma, however it manifests. It’s about the many signals organizations give off that tell people with disabilities that they are welcome members of our corporate communities. We need their skills, their unique competencies, and their lived experience that will help us think outside of the box and innovate. To those people, we say: “You have much to contribute. Just tell us what kind of support you need to enable you to flourish.”

Ontario has taken an innovative approach to addressing persistent underemployment of people with disabilities. It focuses on employment practices rather than quotas. An axiom of change management is that if you focus on the right behaviours, attitudinal change will follow. The new standard is an innovative way of articulating those right behaviours.

For a practical guide to implementing employment practices required under the new standard and other resources, see www.conferenceboard.ca/accessibility/default.aspx. We are pleased to announce that our Employer Tool Kit is now available in French as well as English. Why not join our LinkedIn group for ongoing news, information, and perspective?