People with disabilities an ‘untapped market’ for employers

The Ontario government is looking to find work for the thousands of people with disabilities in this province who are without a job.

The push is to get businesses with more than 20 people to hire at least one person with a disability. It’s one part of the province’s strategy to try and lower the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario, which is double the national average.

Rob Demeglio is the executive director of Independent Living Sudbury Manitoulin, a not-for-profit group that offers resources for the people living with disabilities in the community.

Demeglio is also blind, and says he’s proof that people with disabilities can be important members of an organization if they’re given a chance.

“I’ve seen two sides of the coin here. When I hit 24, I lost the majority of my vision,” he says.

Independent Living Sudbury Manitoulin Executive Director Rob Demeglio, says employers who hire people with disabilities are taking advantage of an ‘untapped market.’ (Jason Turnbull/CBC)

“I’ve been to many interviews on the other side of the table, and maybe an employer is hesitant in hiring me because they think ‘he’s blind, how is he going to do the job?’”

Employees have already proven skills

Now, as someone who helps and hires people with disabilities, Demeglio believes they’re an “untapped market.”

“These people came through universities and colleges, or have had personal experiences,” says Demeglio.

“They’ve proven their skills to accredited [organizations]. Give them an opportunity.”

If you’re the person looking for work, Demeglio suggests finding ways to showcase your skills.

“Maybe it’s packing a laptop in a backpack and pulling it out to show accessibility, show the employer how you’re going to use that computer,” he says.

“I use a screen reader, braille, large print, a guide dog, a cane — I had to become a pro at my disability.”

Demeglio says any employers with questions can call him for help or suggestions. He says hiring someone with a disability isn’t only profitable, but the right thing to do.

“Employers need to educate themselves and contact organizations that can answer questions,” he says.

“Especially if you don’t want to ask the person on the other side of the desk personal questions.”

Three government ministries are involved in the strategy, which will also aim to create opportunities for disabled youth to get work experience, and roll out support for businesses.

Originally published at www.cbc.ca on June 9, 2017.