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How EARN is supporting an inclusive economic recovery in East Ontario

Participation in the labour market is an important part of life for anyone who wishes to achieve independence and financial security. But this can be especially difficult for people with disabilities, who face many barriers to employment.

People with disabilities who do find employment often come up against further barriers within the workplace. Organizations might have limited knowledge of accessibility best practices and resources. There may be a lack of effective workplace accommodations or adjustments. Or, there might be a workplace culture that does not appear to value the talents of people with disabilities.

For more than 10 years, EARN (the Employment Accessibility Resource Network) has brought together employers, service providers, post-secondary institutions, and many other stakeholders to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities. These ongoing partnerships have driven systemic change in workplaces across the region and connected hundreds of employers to an untapped pool of talent.

As we look to an economic recovery from the COVID19 pandemic, EARN wants to share new resources that can help support an equitable economic recovery, including people with disabilities. 

In addition to the continued work of targeted recruitment activities to help employers meet top talent, best practice sharing in the community, and the coordination of resources, EARN has worked with its partners to develop a workshop series titled Shaping Accessible Employment Practices.  

This Employment Ontario project is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.  

About Shaping Accessible Employment Practices 

This four-part learning series enhances skills and builds confidence in shaping accessible recruitment and job retention practices. Given that people with disabilities are disproportionately underrepresented in the labour market, these workshops will help employers understand the key elements to accessing this untapped talent pool.  

Participants will also understand how to develop long-term strategies towards increasing participation of people with disabilities in the workplace. This four-part learning series can be taken as individual workshops.  

Learning Objectives:  

  • Increase employer knowledge and comfort level in recruiting and retaining people with disabilities in the workplace.  
  • Bring awareness of the diverse types of disabilities and solutions that can help remove barriers to employment experienced by people with disabilities.  
  • Explore the benefits of building and maintaining a mentally healthy workplace.  
  • Learn how to successfully support individuals throughout each stage of the employee life cycle, from recruitment to retirement.  

Creating a workshop series to help employers be more inclusive and accessible in their recruitment and workplace practices has been a goal of EARN for many years. This led to the development of the Shaping Accessible Employment Practices workshop series.  

We recently discussed the workshops with Kelly Mertl, Senior Director of Community Initiatives at United Way East Ontario. Kelly has been involved with EARN first as an employer member, and has provided leadership to the initiative since joining the United Way 2013.  

What motivated the development of the workshop series?  

Employers leverage EARN for resources and education that they can bring to their workplaces to support accessibility and inclusion. Working with our network partners, we elevate the expertise in the community and create connections to help meet these needs. We discovered that there is a great amount of knowledge but also an opportunity to develop a foundational workshop series that could help employers set the stage for accessible employment practices— from recruitment to retirement.  

Who is the target audience of these workshops?

The Shaping Accessible Employment Practices workshop series is built for anyone in the workplace. Whether you are a leader responsible for developing and implementing workplace practices, a hiring manager, or a colleague, we each have a part to play in the day-to-day work environment. The workshops will bring awareness of the diverse types of disabilities and solutions that can help remove barriers to employment experienced by people with disabilities.  

Do I need to attend all four sessions?  

The series was developed to cover foundational material based on frequently asked questions that we get from employers. Although the order was designed with intention, we understand that attendees may want to choose a single topic or take them in a different sequence, due to interest in a specific subject matter or scheduling limitations. So, attendees will have the flexibility to pick the sessions that interest them most and or take them in the order that meets their needs.  

Why should employers commit to these sessions?  

Since its inception more than 10 years ago, EARN has worked to increase employment outcomes for people with disabilities. We’ve seen a lot of success in our community with over 5,500 people with disabilities finding employment through the efforts of the network. With the current labour market shortage and the disruptions caused by COVID-19, employers have an opportunity to build back better as it relates to accessibility and inclusion. This will help ensure that they are attracting and retaining the best talent from our community, including people with disabilities.   

The Shaping Accessible Employment Workshop Series can be used to integrate accessibility and inclusion into workplace policies and practices. 

In 2020, EARN released a summary report titled Improving Employment Outcomes for Post-Secondary Graduates with Disabilities, where we looked at why many people with disabilities find it difficult to enter the workforce after graduation. Often, these graduates also struggle to secure jobs that match their skills. Access to a workshop series was a key opportunity identified for employers to improve their ability to harness the emerging talent represented in the report.  

We are also working to better understand the current employment gap for all people with disabilities in our region. The findings will be released in the fall of 2021, but we already understand that the workshop series and other resources for employer education will be important tools as we move forward.  

Learn more about the full workshop offering and to register for upcoming sessions 



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The partnership between LiveWorkPlay and United Way, through the Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN), demonstrates the positive change that can be achieved when organizations join forces to promote inclusivity.

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