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Closing the employment gap by being inclusive

Local business can find the talent they need by becoming more inclusive

AbleTo campaign
AbleTo campaign

A recently launched awareness campaign called #AbleTo is encouraging local employers to tackle one of their biggest challenges — recruiting talented staff — by becoming more inclusive.

According to the Ottawa Board of Trade, 63 percent of Ottawa employers see recruitment and retention as one of the top issues facing their company.

As it turns out, business owners are able to find a solution by considering an untapped pool of qualified candidates — students and graduates with disabilities — of which there are over 10,000 in Ottawa alone.

That’s what the #AbleTo campaign is all about — closing the employment gap between students and graduates with disabilities and their non-disabled peers, helping everyone find meaningful work while strengthening local businesses.

#AbleTo comes from the David C. Onley Initiative (DCOI) for Employment and Enterprise Development, a collaboration between Algonquin College, University of Ottawa, College La Cité and led by Carleton University.

“People with disabilities bring an additional set of skills,” says Tara Connolly, DCOI’s assistant director for research and development. “People with disabilities are creative problem solvers and out-of-the-box thinkers.”

The AbleTo campaign encourages employers to consider what they are able to do to help close the employment gap, such as writing inclusive job descriptions or building accessible workplaces. The campaign also asks everyone making an effort to share their #AbleTo pledge on social media and discuss what they are able to do to close the gap.

For DCOI, one of its early efforts involved being #AbleTo help students with disabilities connect with employers through Accessible Employer Showcase events. These events feature groups of students sitting down in small groups for roundtable discussions with individual employers, avoiding the need to compete in a traditional career fair environment. At the events, companies and organizations are also encouraged to invite their existing employees with disabilities to speak about their work experience.

“That way students can easily see themselves in the environment instead of thinking, ‘What do I need to do to fit into this place?’” Connolly says.

Accessible workspaces

To learn how to make their workplaces more accessible and find untapped talent, employers are invited to register to attend Enable Ottawa 2019 on May 22, a one-day summit that will bring together organizations that are active in the development of innovative solutions to accessibility.

It will also be an opportunity for employers to share success stories of hiring people with disabilities.

“We need to make sure employers understand their own work setting,” says Connolly. “Is your workplace truly accessible?”

The business case for inclusion 


Research from the Ontario Disability Employment Network illustrates the benefits to an organization of employing individuals with disabilities:

  • Retention rates are 72 per cent higher among people who have a disability.
  • Attendance: 86 per cent of employees who have a disability have average or above-average attendance records.
  • Customer attraction: 78 per cent of Canadians are more likely to buy a product or service from a business that hires people with disabilities.