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The untapped power of hiring people with disabilities

Published on

Troy Shantz

More Sarnia businesses are showing there’s room for any worker who wants to be part of the team.

Sean Smiley, who has a learning disability, has become an important part of operations at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Sarnia.

The 32-year-old was hired last year through a Community Living program called Job Path, which connects area employers with workers with disabilities for six-week placements.

Those placements sometimes turn into permanent jobs.

“There are businesses out there that might say they can’t support it,” said Lowes manager Ben Van Every.

“The reality is, if a business like ours can it’s clear that anybody could. We just need to find that position,” he said.

“And every business has that right spot.”

Workers with disabilities are an “untapped talent pool,” said Ingrid Muschta, a diversity and inclusion specialist with Ontario Disability Employment Network.

Studies have shown they increase business profitability and productivity, and have better employee retention and engagement.

Smiley spends about eight hours a week rounding up carts at the Sarnia store. He said the job is easy and lets him work with his hands.

“It sounds like a menial job, but it’s really not,” said Van Every. “At the end of the day, Sean’s job is very important to this. It’s not a huge investment and it’s helping us in a large way.”

A Statistics Canada survey found a 59% employment rate among adults with disabilities in 2017, a steady improvement from 48% in 2012, but still short of the 80% employment rate for adults without disabilities.

Van Every said Job Path placements also show the store’s 133 employees that workers with disabilities can do the job.

“Maybe there’s a percentage that didn’t understand this could actually happen,” he said.

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