Most of us know TD Place as Ottawa’s downtown destination for live sports and concerts. But for many who struggle with disabilities, it’s a facility that provides a connection to the community and a better life.
One such person is Francis Ménard. He’s been working as a ticket-taker at TD Place since it opened in 2014 and, to the thousands of guests he’s served at the facility, Ménard is an ambassador for inclusivity.
Ménard uses a wheelchair to maneuver city sidewalks and buildings, which means accessibility is a critical issue for him. It means he is either welcome or blocked from participating in the day-to-day activities of life in our city.
In 2014, as Ménard was passing by TD Place, he noticed it was an accessible facility and thought it might be a good place to work. At the time, with the Redblacks football team preparing to kick off its inaugural CFL season, hundreds of part-time jobs needed to be filled and Ménard submitted his application.
TD Place is managed by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) and staff combed through thousands of resumes and conducted hundreds of interviews to identify candidates that could serve guests and make them feel welcome. Anne-Marie Villeneuve, OSEG’s vice-president of guest experience and operations, conducted two interviews with Ménard and determined he was a good fit.
Villeneuve then enlisted Ménard’s disability support service provider, Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care (PPRC), to help with his onboarding.
Joël Daze from PPRC worked with Villeneuve and Ménard to identify and overcome issues that could inhibit his on-the-job performance. Through that process, OSEG placed Ménard in an area where he could easily maneuver his wheelchair to direct fans to their seats after scanning their tickets.
“We want good people on our staff, people who reflect our values and our commitment to customer service,” said Villeneuve. “Francis is a great fit. We get the benefit of his life experience as a person with a disability and it makes us all a better team.”
The relationship between employee and employer has been extremely successful. His co-workers describe him as fun, full of energy, very reliable and bilingual – a key requirement for the service industry in Canada’s capital city.
“He is a reliable worker and a great ambassador for TD Place,” said Melanie Silver, OSEG’s staffing coordinator. “Francis was one of our first hires and he’s been terrific.”
Even though he uses a wheelchair, Ménard comes to work through rain, snow, sleet or sun.
“I remember at the Trevor Noah concert last January, the snow was particularly heavy and scores of staff were calling to say they couldn’t make it in,” says Silver. “Not Francis. He was able to navigate through the snow in his wheelchair and make it to work on time with a smile on his face.”
Ménard recalls, “it felt like I was doing a mogul run on a ski hill.”
His co-workers say they have learned a lot about accommodation from Ménard. He’s identified which doors require the automatic function and which washrooms are less accessible for those who require assistance.
“I see how little things can make a big difference,” said Bianca Molnar, OSEG’s assistant manager of event services. “Francis has been a great help in making all of us more aware of the challenges faced by so many and how easy it is for us to help overcome them.”