The Bakers Dozen

The Bakers Dozen, my 13 key expectations of a service agency recruiting people with disabilities into my business.

-Mark Wafer

As private sector companies begin to realize that there are sound economic reasons to be fully inclusive of employees with disabilities in their workplace we see an increase in demand. In Canada there are approx. 447,000 recent grads from the past five years who have a disability and have never worked. Of those, 270,000 hold a post-secondary degree or diploma.  One would assume then that with this massive supply the demand would easily be met but one would be wrong. The unemployment rate and the participation rate for people with disabilities in meaningful and competitively paid jobs remains at the same level as a decade ago and indeed two decades ago. There are numerous reasons for this such as the attitude of private sector employers towards people with disabilities, the funding formula's around disability benefits and of course the approach taken by Canada's many service agencies who's recruiter's and job developers are tasked with finding jobs for the agencies clients. I have publish many articles about the former and will continue to do so as corporations slowly wake up to the potential contributions of this vast untapped talent pool.   There is no doubt that real inclusion is a competitive advantage, those companies who get it, win, those who don't will pay dearly. For this article however I want to focus on the supply side of the equation or rather, the supply chain. We don't have a supply problem, we have a supply chain problem.

I have significant expectations of community agencies who represent candidates who have disabilities. These expectations are written into my accessibility policy and unless an agency can demonstrate their ability and effectiveness to follow these 13 expectations we simply don't do business with them. This is no different to how we would treat any other vendor.  In the past however, social service agencies have often operated to a rather low common denominator, this affects outcomes and does little in terms of representing societies more vulnerable people. The focus from agencies has been one of two approaches, altruism or compliance, both are guaranteed to lead to failure. 

Here therefore is Wafer's baker's Dozen, my expectations of a social service agency.

1) Create business champions in your community and let them do the heavy lifting for you. You may fully understand the business case yourself but when speaking with a potential employer they are perhaps suspicious of your motives, they believe you will tell them what they need to hear in order to hire your client. Business champions are easy to find, they are employers who have hired successfully from you in the past. Acknowledge them, support them and reward them. Once you have developed this relationship ask the champion to go with you to a potential employer's office and watch the two business owners speak to each other in their own language and peer to peer. This is scalable. I as a small business owner have sat across the table speaking to the CEO of an auto manufacturer, we still speak the same language, and we have the same concerns and stresses, pressures and desires only on a different scale.

2) Have increased expectations of your client. I have hired 125 people with disabilities in meaningful and competitively paid jobs over the past twenty years. As a typical employer I thought i knew the capacity and capability of each employee as they came on board. I was wrong 125 times. Recruiter's therefore must be aware that workers with disabilities are likely to outperform expectations. Don't make excuses for what they might not be able to do.

3) View the business as your most important client. The individual who you represent will be well served if you can position yourself as a problem solver for local business owners. Act as a conduit for talent, the company will appreciate and respect you and your agency.

4) Encourage families and stakeholder groups to speak with children early in life about work. Regardless of the severity of the disability. Work must be an expectation rather than a wish or "hope for". We will concern ourselves later on solutions should work not be possible but too often the subject of work begins at about 17 years of age, this is far too late and places addition pressure on an employer as they deal with a lack of soft skills normally developed by holding part time jobs, summer jobs or even volunteering in the volunteer community.

5) The approach to business must be at all times the "business case". Know your facts and use them often. I have published articles on the business case but briefly it means once a company has built some capacity they will see increased overall employee morale, decreased absenteeism, greater safety records, greater innovation, lower sick time, less supervision, greatly reduced employee turnover and more. Not only should you memorize these facts but back these up with data and numbers, this is language business owners understand.    

6) Develop relationships with business before approaching them to hire your clients. Make an appointment to meet with them, understand their needs, understand what the business does, and show them what your agency does. Visit often and engage them, take coffee and especially Timbit's.

7) Apply for jobs where jobs exist. This is an important step because agencies have a habit of creating jobs. Job creation is pointless as it serves only to increase the payroll of a company even if the employee is good at their job. Almost all people with disabilities can and should fill jobs that are advertised. The sole exception to this is those with significant intellectual disabilities who may need a created job but even then it should be carved from other employee’s responsibilities rather than a pure creation. Employers do not see value in a worker who is an extra burden on the company’s payroll.

8) Avoid wage subsidies at all costs. These are very dangerous as employees are on boarded with a time limited subsidy. The employer does not value subsidized employees nor do operations managers who see an "us" and "them".  More important though is what can happen when the subsidy runs out especially if the worker has an intellectual disability. They often are kept on without pay in job training exercises with no parameters and no end date. Good employers in serious business do not want subsidies, they want good employees and they are willing to pay fairly.

9) Never take a client on a cold call. This is uncomfortable for the employer and for the client and can show a lack of professionalism.

10) Understand the wants and wishes of your client. Don't assume everyone with an intellectual disability wants to work at Tim Hortons.  Ensure that your intake procedures cover this area. A wrong fit is a guaranteed failure and all of us want to do jobs that we enjoy.

11) It is critical that your initial approach to a business be with the companies owner or if it is a corporation, the CEO. It is perfectly acceptable to have a day to day and ongoing relationship with company managers but the tone and intent of a company is set by the CEO. He or she must be aware that new employees might have a disability and must be supportive of this otherwise failure is guaranteed. One might ask me that approaching a CEO is an impossible task but one needs only to refer to item #1, your business champion.

12) Consider yourself and your agency as a major force in town. Do not as often happens downplay your significance in the community. Agencies often place business and business owners on a pedestal making an approach to them more daunting. There is no business in town more important than your agency.

13) Dress for success. Too often I am approached by a recruiter in the service sector who may be the 8th or 9th vendor to meet with me that day. All other suppliers who met with me wore business attire but when the recruiter arrives it’s often jeans, flip flops and a Grateful dead T shirt. To be taken seriously, dress seriously.

As demand increases let's ensure the supply is ready. Following these 13 steps will provide the outcomes we need and expect. 

The Business Case

The Business Case

Hiring a qualified person with a disability brings greater benefits beyond just filling an open job. There’s a solid business case, too. Here are just a few of the benefits of hiring people with disabilities:

Return on Investment
Businesses that employ people with disabilities turn social issues into business opportunities. These opportunities translate into lower costs, higher revenues and increased profits. Capitalize on the ROI of employing people with disabilities:


Access new markets

Improve productivity through innovative and effective ways of doing business


Reduce hiring and training costs

Increase retention

Reduce costs associated with conflict and litigation


Capitalize on opportunities to meet business goals

Customers with disabilities and their families, friends and associates represent a trillion dollar market segment. They, like other market segments, purchase products and services from companies that best meet their needs. A large number of Americans also say they prefer to patronize businesses that hire people with disabilities. Another of the benefits of employing people with disabilities is increasing your opportunity to gain a lasting customer base


Mirror the market to attract a wider customer base

Increase your market share


Respond to marketplace needs

Lead your market

Increase profitability

Innovation is key to your business’ success. Employees with disabilities bring unique experiences and understanding that transform a workplace and enhance products and services. As part of your team, employees with disabilities help build your business and can lead your company into the future


Create more efficient and effective business processes

Develop and implement management strategies to attract and retain qualified talent

Use technology in new ways to increase productivity


Stimulate new product and service development through disability-inclusive diverse teams

Customize products and services to increase profitability


Foster the development of next-generation products and services

(Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy)

Mertl: Here are 10 reasons to hire workers with disabilities

In Ottawa, people who live with disabilities are often underemployed and only 43 per cent participate in the labour market, compared to 70 per cent of the general population.

With an aging workforce and shortage of young skilled workers, employees with disabilities offer a large untapped talent pool for employers.

So in 2010, United Way Ottawa brought local employers, service providers, and job seekers together to create the Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN). The network has one key goal: help people with disabilities find meaningful employment.

After 1,300 job matches, we’ve learned 10 important lessons about why hiring a person with a disability is both good for business and the community.


It’s not about charity. Studies show that employees with disabilities are often more productive, dependable and loyal. Staff retention is also 72 per cent higher than co-workers without disabilities.

Your business will benefit. Employers who hire people with disabilities report a stronger connection to the community and often an increase in new business.

Your team will like it. One study found that 70 per cent of those aged 18 to 26 say a company’s commitment to the community, including the hiring of a diverse workforce, has an influence on their decision to work there.

The cost is minimal. In a study of almost 2,000 employers, 57 per cent said the accommodations needed by employees with disabilities cost absolutely nothing, while 37 per cent reported a one-time cost.

Many employees with disabilities are highly skilled. More than 50 per cent of individuals with disabilities have high school diplomas and more than one-third have completed post-secondary education. In fact, individuals with disabilities are two-thirds as likely to have a post-secondary diploma than adults in Canada without a disability.

Performance is the same or better. Employees with disabilities who receive the necessary training should not require any more help than their non-disabled counterparts. For the most part, individuals with disabilities have adapted to the challenges that their disability might bring to their lives and are able to complete their work without any assistance.

There are different types of accommodation. Only six per cent of people with disabilities use a wheelchair. While it is important to be accessible to the community, if your organization isn’t quite there yet, there are still many people with disabilities that could easily join your team.

Employees with disabilities are productive. Research shows no job performance difference between employees with disabilities and their non-disabled colleagues. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, employees with disabilities fall under the same rules as employees without disabilities when it comes to lawful termination, which means they are no more difficult to dismiss than any other employee group.

Your insurance rates won’t increase. An employer’s insurance rates are based on the risks associated with the organization’s accident history, not whether some of their staff members have a disability.

Attendance is better. Studies show that employees with disabilities do not miss work more than their colleagues. Instead, they tend to have better attendance than their non-disabled co-workers.

By providing employment opportunities to people with disabilities, not only are we giving them a pathway out of poverty, we are helping employers access a virtually untapped talent pool to increase their likelihood of getting the right person for the job.

If you want to learn more please contact us 2507879262 ex 234

Published on: April 24, 2016 | Last Updated: April 24, 2016 6:00 AM EDT

Original article in Ottawa Citizen.


Professionals working in the field of Supported Employment/Employment Inclusion recognize that employment service outcomes for people with disabilities require the engagement and participation of employers. We also recognize that although the foundation of our work is to assist people with disabilities to identify, pursue, acquire and maintain employment – employers must be equally served through this work and through our service commitment to them. Read more....

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My name is Alicia Calder and I work at The Real Canadian Wholesale Store as a greeter and customer service person. My responsibilities are to greet customers, give them change for the grocery carts, watch for theft, monitor the donation box for children’s charities and give treats to children. The staff members in the picture are part of my support network. They welcome me every day, help me get my donation box and return it to the cash office upstairs. They answer any questions I have. The donation box which I am responsible for has been an important part of my role and I have been recognized for raising the most amount of money per 1,000 customers.  I appreciate the job as it gives me an opportunity to have employment which makes me feel valued, as well as I have formed relationships and friendships with my co-workers which I cherish.  


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