Surprising and delighting people at work isn’t easy to do — especially when they’re used to encountering barriers.
But the Canadian Mint’s director of talent, Angela Vanikiotis, knows how. Back in 2015 when she was working at The Senate, Kelly Mertl introduced her to Linda Simpson at Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care (PPRC), an organization that helps connect people with disabilities to the right employer.
Lately, Vanikiotis has been consulting with Joël Dazé, who is PPRC’s bilingual team lead for the employer liaison team as well as PPRC’s adaptive technology specialist, to future proof her human resources strategy.
The Mint wants to create a working environment that goes beyond compliance. It’s why their DEI ALL IN action plan launched in 2021 includes an accessibility action plan focusing on allyship, building partnerships and learning & development, to name a few.
In the spirit of “Nothing about us without us,” they were sure to consult people with disabilities to help design their action plan. They found it at PPRC, where 72 per cent of the team identifies as living with a disability.
“We’re thinking about it as all-inclusive, universal and barrier free every step of the way,” said Vanikiotis.
Dazé says the Mint is future-proofing its operations by enabling a steady flow of talent with lived experience who can one day enter leadership positions.
Start with a strong foundation
The work wouldn’t be possible without the relationship Dazé and Vanikiotis have built.
“Angela and I are just two people coming together with a curious mindset and positive ideas,” said Dazé, who said finding common ground is the first step in building those relationships.
It’s why the Disability Awareness and Accessibility advocates from PPRC — like Dazé — make a point of acknowledging where employers are coming from if they have objections or reservations.
Once the connection is made, they lay out the facts and evidence.
“We can’t pretend to know or predict what people with disabilities may need,” said Vanikiotis. “It’s why we need Joël and the PPRC professional community.”
Vanikiotis says Dazé’s approach makes it easy for her to feel comfortable reaching out when she has a question or needs a reminder.
“We want to be mindful of peoples’ needs while remembering that it’s okay to need practice sometimes,” said Vanikiotis. “Joël does a great job of explaining things the average person doesn’t think about in day-to-day interactions.”
It’s time for delight
After a strong foundation is built, the real fun can begin.
“Accessibility is about making people feel welcome by creating an environment they can navigate with a sense of comfort,” said Dazé. “It’s making sure people know, ‘We gotcha,’.”
The Mint is poised to create that environment by going beyond what the Accessible Canada Act requires them to do.
The goal is to anticipate their future employees’ needs. “We want to delight people rather than checking off boxes,” said Vanikiotis.
The result will give applicants and employees with disabilities a pleasant surprise, similar to what Dazé felt 20 years ago the first time a server handed him a braille menu in a restaurant unprompted.
One of the biggest drivers at the Mint to go beyond compliance is knowing that many applicants are reluctant to disclose their disability in the first place. Vanikiotis wants people to know it’s safe to do so.
As Dazé continues his work with the Mint, PPRC continues to reach more employers.
“Our job is to reach everyone, including those employers who are on the fence or had bad experiences because they were well intentioned, but didn’t have a plan or the resources,” he said. “We have to keep talking to them and finding those points of connection.”
Dazé added that his faith in the Mint’s commitment to eliminating barriers for people with disabilities at work comes from their attitude.
“It’s intended and it’s deliberate, and that’s what really inspires action,” he said.
To learn more contact Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care.
October is National Disability Awareness Month (NDEAM) and the theme for 2023 is “Making the Disability Inclusion Connection”.
ODEN’s Light it Up! For NDEAM takes place on October 19 to raise awareness and ignite conversations about businesses that need to make all the connections to disability inclusion.