What ‘real inclusion’ looks like in Ottawa workplaces

Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care Inc. celebrates 25 years of connecting employers with people with disabilities

Where do you find top talent? One of the common misconceptions for employers is that bringing in a person with a disability can be difficult and costly. Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care (PPRC), a Canadian company focused on placing people with different abilities in the workplace, is hoping to change that. PPRC works with employers to identify their hiring needs, matches the candidate with the employer and assists with the onboarding process. Liam Maguire’s, the Ottawa pub, reached out to PPRC when they needed to find a new employee.

“One of our new employees had difficulty learning different tasks at the same time,” says Jamie Faulkner, head chef at Liam Maguire’s. “PRRC told us that the employee needed to learn one task at a time and helped us with strategies. So instead of learning many things at once, he learned one task at a time so he could be comfortable with the work. It was a different approach for us and it worked.”

PPRC founder Linda Simpson has a passion for inclusion in the workplace. Her work with people with disabilities began in sheltered workshops whereby she was responsible to help move participants into community jobs. While working for a U.S. rehabilitation company, which gave her additional training in disability management, she moved to Ottawa to open their new office. In 1994, she decided to start her own business delivering the first mobile functional abilities assessment to corporations and governments in Canada.

“Everyone in our community has a right to a full life, including the right to work,” says Simpson. “PPRC has a highly skilled team of consultants with lived disability experiences who work with employers and job seekers. They can help employers overcome their fears of what to do when recruiting a person with a different ability and ensure that they have the supports. When we have everyone working together to create opportunities and share capacities we are fully participating in our communities, that’s real inclusion.”

Simpson’s initial service model, in 1994, was providing functional assessments. PPRC utilized a mobile assessment tool, the first of its kind in Canada, to determine a person’s abilities against job demands. This assessment was used to help employees who were injured make a safe return to work. PPRC has evolved since 1994 and has incorporated the use of the Employment Readiness Scale to evaluate candidates’ employability skills and readiness for employment.

“Increasing employability and a successful job placement is PPRC’s goal,” says Simpson. “We look at whether the person has a job goal, the capacity to look for a job and keep the job. We’re working with the person’s potential.”

PPRC began as a small privately-owned Canadian business offering bilingual vocational rehabilitation services and in 25 years has grown increasing their capacity to successfully match employers with job candidates who have different abilities.

Integrating new hires

Receiving disability awareness is one of the most impactful things an employer can do to promote inclusion in the workplace. Last year, PPRC launched its new education on Disability Awareness and Etiquette aimed at making employers and their staff more comfortable with interacting with people with disabilities, both at work and in the wider community.

“Inclusion is not just a disability issue,” says Simpson. “As businesses and employers try to increase their capacity, they’re facing a labour shortage. They need to find new talent pools.”

Employers like Liam Maguire’s can use PPRC for staffing and job coaching. When PPRC placed a person with a learning disability in the restaurant, they also helped Liam Maguire’s with the employee training by providing job coaching. In only two years, their new hire went from dishwasher to one of the cooks on the main line.

“Working with PPRC has helped us find hard-working, loyal employees,” Faulkner says. “The trainers from PPRC came to work with the employee one-on-one until he was ready to work on his own. That extra help meant we didn’t have to pull people away from their day-to-day operations.”

For more information on hiring people with disabilities, visit http://www.pprc.ca.