Getting people with disabilities into the workforce encouraged at luncheon

By Ron Giofu

 

Finding employment for those with disabilities can be difficult, so a luncheon to help the process was organized featuring political and civic leaders from around the area.

The Windsor-Essex Employment Group hosted a “Community Connections Luncheon” last Tuesday afternoon at Mackenzie Hall in Windsor with approximately 85 people in attendance including a number of council members and civic leaders from Amherstburg.   The luncheon was designed as an event that would provide a forum for political figures in the region to speak with their colleagues regarding the importance of developing best practices and standards when including persons with disabilities in the workforce.

Organizers also sought to present information that would dispel the myths that have created employment barriers for persons with disabilities.

Terry Cloutier, manager of employment services with Community Living Windsor, said the goal of the event was to invite municipal leaders and have them look at policies and procedures that would enable them to hire someone with a disability.

While some employers have taken the opportunity to hire someone with a disability, Cloutier said many others have fears and the message is that people with disabilities can be treated like other employees.

“There are a lot of barriers,” she said. “It’s a slow moving process.”

Cloutier added they are trying to “change the culture” of hiring practices and encouraged municipal leaders to “set the example for all other employers in the area.”

The number of people in attendance was a plus, she noted.

“We’re really excited we had such a great turnout,” said Cloutier.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley was scheduled to deliver the keynote address but he missed the luncheon due to illness. Amherstburg Mayor Wayne Hurst substituted and read remarks from Bradley’s speech, including portions in which he noted has hired 11 students with disabilities since 2008 with many departments wanting those workers to return the following year. While there is work to do, Bradley’s speech encouraged municipal

Mayor Wayne Hurst delivers remarks at the Community Connections Luncheon last Tuesday afternoon at Mackenzie Hall in Windsor. Hurst substituted for Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who didn't make the trip due to illness. The luncheon was geared towards encouraging municipalities and businesses to hire people with disabilities.

Mayor Wayne Hurst delivers remarks at the Community Connections Luncheon last Tuesday afternoon at Mackenzie Hall in Windsor. Hurst substituted for Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who didn’t make the trip due to illness. The luncheon was geared towards encouraging municipalities and businesses to hire people with disabilities.

colleagues to put forth the effort.

“Do it because it’s the right thing to do,” added Hurst.

Michelle Jones-Rousseau, employment support worker for Amherstburg, Harrow and LaSalle, was happy with the turnout and support shown for the luncheon.

“I think it went really well,” she said. “There was great representation from Amherstburg and LaSalle.”

Jones-Rousseau gave thanks to Hurst for pinch-hitting for Bradley.

“Because he’s had the education over the past few years, he’s been a great supporter. He knows how important it is to our community and for other municipalities to be involved,” said Jones-Rousseau.

Jones-Rousseau said the fact many people in the region are competing for jobs makes it difficult to find spots for people with disabilities. She believed it “makes good business sense to hire someone with a disability” but felt there were other barriers as well.

“It’s a constant struggle to get the message out and educate people,” said Jones-Rousseau.

Should any business in this area of Essex County wish to hire someone with a disability, Jones-Rousseau invites them to call her at Community Living Essex County (Channel) at 519-736-5077.

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