Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Mayor's Challenge

In 2010, Mayor Mike Bradley of Sarnia, Ontario issued a challenge to all Ontario mayors to "Do the Right Thing" and hire people with disabilities. Sarnia has a long history of providing diverse employment opportunities and creating an inclusive workforce, and Mayor Bradley has been a phenomenal advocate in that area. Sarnia’s vision is to tap into the full potential of the hiring marketplace by including people who have a disability.

Bradly says, “Both the city and the employees win from this. You're giving people a chance to fulfill their potential, and it's a great benefit to the workforce."

Currently, people who have a disability make up 16% of the Canadian population, making them one of Canada’s largest “minority” groups with nearly 5.3 million people - that's equivalent to the combined populations of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan!

Mayor Bradley is now following up his “Do the Right Thing” challenge to hire people with a disability, with a “Do the Smart Thing” initiative. Bradley says that there are many well researched studies indicating that individuals who have a disability are hardworking, dedicated employees who are more loyal to the job, have reduced absenteeism rates, better safety records, and better productivity than those on the job who don’t identify as having a disability.

At the Inclusive Communities Summit here in St. John's last week, Mayor Bradley issued the challenge to Mayor Dennis O'Keefe of St. John's, Mayor Randy Simms of Mount Pearl, and Mayor Karen Oldford of Labrador City, and they eagerly accepted.

Honourable Sherry Gambin-Walsh is the minister of Child, Youth and Family Services, minister of Seniors Wellness and Social Development, minister responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, and minister responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities. Minister Gambin-Walsh gave the provincial address and closing remarks at the Summit:

"Inclusion is a necessity if we are to have a strong and dynamic province. I am confident that municipalities will respond with enthusiasm to the Inclusion Challenge issued by Mike Bradley, the Mayor of Sarnia, Ontario. The relationship between municipalities and the community of persons with disabilities has been steadily growing, and I look forward to a stronger relationship with our cities and towns as we move forward. This Summit has provided much food for thought, and no doubt, initiated new ideas. I firmly believe that full inclusion is possible. I believe that together persons with disabilities will achieve full and equal access to opportunities. We want a society where everyone has an opportunity for a good quality of life as active, healthy and successful citizens. We continue to work with public and private industry employers to encourage them to hire persons with disabilities."

We need our cities to ensure that all positions are open and accessible to every person who applies. It is important that the municipal sector demonstrates inclusive hiring practices and leads the way so other employers in the community are inspired. Municipalities are community leaders. Hiring people with disabilities and pointing to success stories encourages others to do the same. Cities will benefit from improving the lives of people with disabilities, building a stronger community, and healthy workplaces. By changing hiring practices to accommodate all applicants, cities will not only create opportunities for people with disabilities, but will also create the opportunity for employers to hire the right person for the job. 

The Mayor's Challenge - Hire a Person with Disabilities - A Toolkit for the Municipal Sector is available online HERE.

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