“You’re here because you believe in inclusive employment,” said Julie Unger, executive director for Chilliwack Society for Community Living (CSCL) and a member of the Rotary Club of Chilliwack.
She was addressing the large crowd of local Rotarians, employers, and their great employees, who had gathered at the Best Western on Oct. 29 for the Rotary at Work B.C. celebration event.
They gathered to address the employment rate for Canadians aged 25 to 64 who have disabilities, which is just 49 per cent.
That statistic is one that every person in the room was motivated to change.
Assistant governor of the Rotary Club of Chilliwack Brad Whittaker stressed that everyone in our community should be able to find enjoyment in work and to reap the rewards of hard work, regardless of their abilities.
And for employers, there is incredible value in hiring individuals with disabilities.
Those messages are the essence of the Rotary at Work initiative, which has quickly spread from one district in Ontario in 2008 to now hundreds of clubs and thousands of rotarians. District 5050 was actually the first district outside of Ontario to embrace the program.
“The program is moving forward at a wonderful pace,” said Dave Stark, Rotary at Work B.C. project coordinator.
Ron Laser, rotarian and owner of Decades Coffee Club, proudly spoke of his employee Justin and the great impact that he has on the business. Not only is Justin a dependable and dedicated employee, the fellow staff and the customers love the joy, diversity and the new perspective that he brings to the work environment.
Laser shared the comment that Michelle Pronk posted on Decades’ Facebook page: “What is a disability, really? When the individual hired does the job well and with a smile for the customer, that is not a disability. That is an asset.”
And the event attendees couldn’t agree more.
Teri Voss, district HR manager at Home Depot Canada shared some data to gain the confidence of those who may be reluctant to hire persons with disabilities.
She pointed out that ninety per cent of employees with a disability rated average or better on job performance than their non-disabled coworkers. Furthermore, she shared statistics demonstrating that persons with disabilities rate high on attendance, employee retention, and safety at work.
Voss has witnessed this first-hand. The employees she’s worked with at Home Depot who have disabilities consistently deliver on results and have a positive mindset that is contagious throughout the workforce.
That positivity was immediately evident in the smiling employees who took the stage.
Andrea Wetteland has been employed with A&W in Abbotsford since July, and she’s having an “awesome” time working there. “No matter what challenges I have, they’re always willing to be there for support.”
Eddy Solla was hired as a greeter at Home Depot in Chilliwack in March. He’s since been training in many departments, he’s learned 80 per cent of the product inventory, and he’s also developed great social relationships with his coworkers.
Inclusive employers from Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Hope were recognized, including those who have recently hired an individual with a disability and those who have reached a milestone of inclusive hiring practices.
To name a few, Decades Coffee Club, Denbow, and the Chilliwack RCMP were celebrated for over five years of inclusive employment, Safeway Abbotsford for over ten years, and Abbotsford Community Services and the City of Chilliwack were commended for over 15 years.
The benefits of employment for persons with disabilities are the same as they are for everyone else.
“Gainful employment is a needed component of living a fulfilled life. It’s a means to independence. It has a positive impact on our identity. It gives us social support. It gives us purpose,” Voss remarked.
The Rotary at Work B.C. initiative, conducted in partnership between rotary clubs, Community Living B.C., Inclusion B.C. and their generous sponsors, seeks to connect more hard-working, qualified individuals with fulfilling work.
Visit rotaryatworkbc.com to learn more about this program.