The Case for Inclusion

In 2016, I participated in an article for Ready, Willing & Able (a national partnership of the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA) and their member organizations) regarding inclusive hiring through Inclusion Alberta – link below. 

A recent announcement from the provincial government regarding a full review of the persons with developmental disabilities (PDD) program has reignited the discussion about funding and inclusion and how employers can foster an inclusive workplace where differences are recognized, respected, valued and encouraged. 

Fostering Inclusion

I am, by no means, an expert in creating an inclusive workplace. In fact, I feel like I am only beginning to comprehend the true meaning of inclusion, access and diversity but I’m working towards a greater understanding and you can as well. Here are some considerations for you to get started. It is easier than you might think.

It’s the Law 

No brainer here folks, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, national/ethnic origin, colour or physical or mental disability (to name a few). Every individual in Canada is considered to be equal. Further, specific legislation within provinces may set out minimum standards for accessible service (with Ontario leading the way). As an employer, ensure that you are meeting the requirements of the law but why not consider additional ways that you can foster inclusion and be a leader!

Learn all about it

There is no time like the present to expand your thinking and get educated about challenges facing people with disabilities (and others but my focus here is regarding disabilities). I will list a number of great social agencies below that offer education on, and assistance for, an inclusive workplace. The road to inclusion can begin with awareness and the rest will follow. Awakening your mind to the challenges faced by people with disabilities really is the first step to inclusion.

Mean it

Many organizations have created policy to ensure that they are promoting a diverse workplace. For obvious reasons, promoting a diverse workplace is good business. I will speak to the business case below but if you think about it, the best results come from a diverse team of people all sharing their inputs and making contributions. In addition to being incredibly dull if we were all the same, those varied insights and experiences mean a dynamic approach to business. Policy is a great way to start so that all employees understand the corporate commitment to diversity. Saying it is a start but living it is the key. Walk that talk!

Good Business

Again, as I mentioned above, a diverse and inclusive culture is good for everyone. When we looked at the opportunity to employ someone with Inclusion Alberta’s assistance, we knew that it must make business sense to the organization. The intent was to provide meaningful work. They didn’t want us to create a make-work job just to be inclusive but to build a role that would allow someone to make a meaningful contribution to our company. When we examined the office maintenance work that we were outsourcing to the landlord and the expense associated with that, we knew that we could make a business case for the role coming in-house. By combining those services into one role, we made the case. For us, it was critical to get support and buy-in at our most senior level to ensure success. We also worked directly with the team to collaborate on the role description, onboarding and on-going oversight to support the new team member.

Looking for more business reasons to make a case for inclusion? A Deloitte white paper from 2010 “The road to inclusion: Integrating people with disabilities into the workplace” shows that

Need even another reason to make the business case? Labour demands in the future are going to require employers to think outside of the box for workers and this is a sizeable portion of the population. “In the past year, the Canadian economy created 422,000 jobs, an increase of 2.3 per cent. That’s the strongest percentage gain in 14 years, according to BMO. .. The gains were strong enough to send the unemployment rate down to 5.7 per cent, the lowest level since 1974.” 

Help yourself, help others!

Prior to connecting with Inclusion Alberta, I am not certain I would have even known how to resource a candidate or how to effectively integrate them into our workforce and leverage this untapped workforce resource. When you are hiring, you want the best person for the job and that pool of candidates should include all eligible workers. Are your hiring practices inclusive? Are you even reaching everyone who might be a candidate? If you are interested in growing your inclusive workplace, there are many great organizations that are available to assist (this list is not all inclusive – please let me know if there are other great organizations I can add):

Inclusion Alberta and the Rotary Employment Partnership:


Prospect offers a variety of programs and services for job seekers and employers. All our programs are developed through consultation with the people they will serve. All are designed to connect skilled people with employers who will work with them to succeed.

Calgary Alternative Employment Services:

CAES assists job-seekers to overcome barriers, understand workplace culture and fill the personnel needs of inclusive employers in Calgary.

CAES works with each client to identify their ideal work setting and employment support needs. Job interviews and employment placement are facilitated in accordance with the client’s goals. They then provide ongoing follow-up support to both the client and the employer in order to strengthen their skills and working relationship as well as ensure job satisfaction and retention.

Rick Hansen Foundation

Today, there are more than 3.8 million Canadians with some form of a disability, and the numbers are growing. In Canada, and all around the world, people with disabilities face social, attitudinal, and physical barriers.

Since 1988, the Rick Hansen Foundation team has been actively improving the lives of people with disabilities by creating awareness, changing attitudes, and breaking down barriers. Our goal is to create an inclusive world where people with disabilities can reach their full potential.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (history disagrees on the quote source so I will not cite). If you are not sure where to start, contact any of these organizations I’ve listed to get help. Inclusion just makes dollars and sense!