Finding and hiring people with disabilities makes perfect business sense to me—for several reasons. The first is pretty obvious. I’m co-founder and president of BuildAble, a team who designs and builds homes, workplaces and communities that are accessible and inclusive for people of every age and ability.
Put simply, people with disabilities are our company’s customers. So we greatly benefit from employees who have a firsthand understanding of the needs of our customers. Even more, I’ve found people with disabilities are valuable contributors because their different perspectives on life and work give our company the fresh thinking we want. Their ideas and approaches are ones every kind of business should want.
The second reason is students and new graduates with disabilities are knowledgeable, skilled and underemployed. Being highly qualified yet not fully appreciated, these people make up a huge pool of talent that companies such as ours can draw on to thrive in our city’s tight labour market.
We look to hire people with disabilities who have skills related directly to our industry. Yet we also look for disabled and non-disabled graduates in nursing, occupational therapy and other professions and have them apply their specific skills, knowledge and training in what are for them non-conventional environments. This approach makes sense for us as a company built on accessibility; and I think it’s the wave of the future. Employers are going to be much less concerned about personal and professional labels, and much more attuned to the aptitudes and attitudes of prospective employees.
The third reason is demographic. About 1.5 million people in Ontario, or 13.5 percent of the population, have a disability. The percentage will grow to 40 percent by 2035. That produces an elegant symmetry for BuildAble—more customers for us to serve, and a larger pool of qualified workers to tap into to help us do the serving.
We’ve recruited students and recent graduates with disabilities in an informal manner so far. We’re now bringing some real rigour to the process by forming relationships with Ottawa’s colleges and universities, taking part in their outreach events, and using community partners such as the Employment Accessibility Resource Network(EARN) to help identify highly motivated students and job seekers with disabilities. The organizations, resources and, most of all, people are out there for businesses to rethink recruitment. Our company is willing and able to make the most of them.