Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (March 2010)
By: Jason Contant
About one-third of executives responding to a recent poll say they are discouraged from hiring individuals with disabilities amid concerns over managing potential underperformance issues.
The survey of 110 human resource senior executives from a cross-section of Ontario-based businesses was released in November.
Thirty-six per cent of respondents noted that discouragement, in part, flowed from it being “harder to dismiss an under-performing person with a disability than one without a disability.” Responses were collected from public, private, not-for-profit and for-profit organizations.
Conducted by COMPAS Inc. for the Toronto branch of the Job Opportunity Information Network (JOIN), responses also revealed the following: 24 per cent of executives reported concerns over the potential for higher absentee rates; 21 per cent cited a perceived expense related to hiring an employee with a disability; and 16 per cent pointed to increased effort to train employees.
It was not all negative, however. When presented with positive reasons for hiring a person with a disability, the following emerged as the most likely to motivate hiring:
• 53 per cent reported they thought said individuals would bring “fresh perspectives” to the job;
• 53 per cent said they believed employees with disabilities would “try harder”;
• 46 per cent noted they felt disabled employees are “much more loyal”; and,
• 41 per cent agreed with the idea that those living with disabilities are “more reliable on the job.”
Susan Howatt, chairperson of the Board of Governors for JOIN Toronto, says that while many employers recognize the value that people with disabilities can provide in a workplace, “outdated stigmas are still the number one barrier.”
The survey found that only 22 per cent of business executives reported being aware of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act, which covers such issues as accessible employment practices, policies and training.
Oftentimes, employers who want to move forward with accommodating workers with disabilities do not consider that disabilities are not solely physical, says Sharon Myatt, an employer development consultant with JOIN Toronto. “Over 50 per cent of disabilities are hidden and episodic,” Myatt points out.
Establishing a work environment where all employees can achieve their potential is important, suggests Sylvia Chrominska, group head of global human resources and communications for Scotiabank in Toronto. When it comes to accommodation, Chrominska says Scotiabank uses a variety of tools, including a centralized fund that supports job applicants and employees with disabilities to ensure they have tools (such as assistive technologies, interpreters and other services) necessary to do their work tasks; flexible work hours and arrangements to accommodate all employees; and adaptive tools built into technology applications and websites to ensure these are accessible to workers with disabilities.
The world is changing and with all the changes in the technology sector we find that even people like Stephen Hawkings can be heard. Efforts are being made to deal with any and all issues concerning the disabled and the workplace is no exception.
If your company has not hired a disabled person, perhaps because of personal bias, then you must re-think your position and deal with each case separately, just like you would for an enabled person.
Look beyond the disability and look for the ability!
Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer