I want to work myself out of my job. I’m manager of business development at the Employment Accessibility Resource Network. Known as EARN, our organization is led by United Way Ottawa. Manager of business development is my official title. But what I really do is serve as an ally to employers and people with disabilities, working with them and on their behalf to eliminate the barriers that prevent these people from finding meaningful work and enjoying fulfilling careers. Nothing would please me more than to have these obstacles torn down and thrown on the rubbish heap forever.
Some barriers are physical, such as employers with job openings not being able to connect with job-seeking people with disabilities. Others are intangible, such as the myths and misconceptions that cloud the truth about people with disabilities. Whatever the barrier to employment, the trick is to remove it as early as possible. When we end them for students with disabilities, we have the chance to create a powerful ripple effect—more secure young adults, better workplaces and stronger communities.
My colleagues and l have identified the physical barriers that prevent many students and new graduates with disabilities from entering the job market successfully: employers aren’t receiving a critical mass of applications from students with disabilities; employers aren’t granting nearly enough interviews to the students and new graduates who do apply; and employers at local career fairs aren’t always expressing their clear desire and inclination to recruit, hire and retain students with disabilities.
At EARN, we work everyday to remove these physical obstacles by organizing events that actually put in the same room job-seekers with disabilities and employers that expressly want to hire them. We’re also dispelling myths and misconceptions by sharing knowledge that’s based on research. Even more, we work directly and closely with employers to go from hiring students with disabilities to making their workplaces more accessible for everyone.
Through these and other efforts, we’ve been able to increase awareness, activity and results. More employers and students are attending our events designed for jobseekers with disabilities. More of these jobseekers are being hired. And more businesses and organizations are partnering with us to cultivate diverse and inclusive workplaces. We’ll keep connecting employers with talent until the day comes when I work myself out of my job.