- by Maia Idzikowski
I remember when I got my first job. I had just turned 16, and was so excited to finally be entering the workforce. I was slightly nervous, motivated to work hard, and empowered that the company had picked me over other applicants. People with intellectual disabilities feel the same way when they enter into the workforce. They are excited, a little bit nervous, and determined to work hard.
As discussed in previous segments, individuals with intellectual disabilities appreciate an employment opportunity more than anyone else. They have to overcome greater barriers to obtain a position and often develop a very deep sense of gratitude towards the employer.
When employees are grateful, excited and determined to be entering into the workforce, they will maintain a positive attitude while working. Positivity is contagious; other co-workers, managers and customers will also be affected.
The quote “positive minds lead positive lives” (anonymous), is applicable to inclusive employment. Individuals with intellectual disabilities will instill positivity into the minds of those they are working with. They will also make a massive contribution to the morale of the organization or business, creating a friendly, team-oriented, and accepting atmosphere where every employee feels like they belong.
A welcoming workplace where everyone feels safe and included will be attractive to prospective employees, while creating a supportive, cohesive workforce.
In the end, hiring an individual with an intellectual disability is going to make everyone happy. Customers will be thrilled to be served by such friendly employees, and co-workers will find the welcoming workplace to be exciting and refreshing. For all stakeholders, this is a win-win situation!For more information about inclusive employment or if you would like to schedule an appointment with Community Living Manitoba’s Labour Market Facilitator for Ready, Willing and Able,
email: Brian Rochat at email@example.com
or call at (204) 781-0582
- by Maia Idzikowski
A multitude of new apps developed by individuals with intellectual disabilities have proven to be extremely helpful for self-advocates.
Apps range from communication aids to programs that aim to develop life skills.
The LOLA (Laugh Out Loud Aid) is a “program that helps people with special needs develop daily life skills through funny reminders”. Individuals can challenge themselves through these humorous and light-hearted reminders multiple times throughout the day.
Below: LOLA App reminds a user to brush their teeth
The inspiration for this app? Seth Truman, a 13-year-old was feeling frustrated by constant reminders from adults regarding how to behave in public. Thus, in partnering with Tech Kids Unlimited, a non-profit organization specializing in education and technology, Seth developed the LOLA app.
Another helpful program, entitled the “Emergency Chat App” developed by Jeroen De Busser, allows individuals to communicate via phone during a stressful situation. Jeroen is a computer science student who has autism. He understands that during a panic attack, it is possible to go completely non-verbal due to high amounts of stress and anxiety. The Emergency Chat app is text-based, and “displays personalized instructions on how to assist or handle an individual during a meltdown or panic attack, instead of wasting precious time in trying to parse through verbal communication”.
The app saves individuals from the worry that they will not be able to communicate in the event of an emergency. Now, all they have to do is give their phone to the people trying to help, and the app will explain the situation and provide a bare-bones chat interface to communicate over.
While the app is currently being used by over 500 individuals on the Autism Spectrum, several individuals with PTSD or a tracheostomy have also customized the settings to fit their medical condition.
Click here to read more about the LOLA app.
To learn more, about the Emergency Chat app, read this article.
- by Maia Idzikowski
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a method of achieving inclusion of all students in the classroom, regardless of learning ability. It was inspired by the Universal Design movement in architecture, developed by Ronald L. Mace at North Carolina State University where "the design of products and environments [is] to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design”.
The MAUDeL (Manitoba Alliance for Universal Design for Learning) is promoting the Three Block Model to Universal Design. The Three Block Model is the educational framework required to implement UDL in the classroom.
I recently had the chance to talk with Dr. Jennifer Katz, a researcher in inclusive education at the University of Manitoba. She is also the founder of the Manitoba Alliance for Universal Design for Learning.
“Dr. Katz received her PhD in 2008 from the University of British Columbia in inclusive education. She is the author of “Teaching to Diversity: The Three Block Model of Universal Design for Learning” and "Resource Teacher: A Changing Role in the Three-Block Model of UDL". Dr. Katz has been a successful sessional lecturer, educational consultant, classroom teacher, editor, and guidance counselor. She taught in diverse classrooms from K-12 in Winnipeg and Vancouver for 16 years where she developed the Three-Block Model, including special education classrooms, inclusive classrooms, youth centres, and alternative high school programs” (MAUDeL Website).
Jennifer explained how she formed the Alliance with the goal to bring together a group of influential people to create and propel change within Manitoba’s education system. Representing the University of Manitoba, she brought together individuals from all three provincial universities, the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, community groups, school divisions, and government representatives. Ultimately, these groups work together, with the current goal of becoming a non-profit organization.
What was Jennifer’s motivation for spearheading such a substantial and time-consuming project? She revealed that prior to the formation of the Manitoba Alliance for Universal Design for Learning, many schools would call her and ask for help regarding classroom inclusion. There was no organized plan to train teachers in UDL and review the curriculum. Consequently, schools would use limited resources to include individuals with disabilities as best they can. Jennifer, therefore, saw the need for a group to come together, and using everyone’s expertise, work within the system to create improvement and change.
The Alliance is sub-divided into committees. The Research and Development committee, for instance, is developing UDL as the methodology and framework for classroom education.
When discussing the goals of the Alliance, the long term vision is to promote and fully incorporate UDL into every classroom as a means to creating socially and academically inclusive schools. In regards to a short term goal, the board members are currently working towards becoming a non-profit organization. Other objectives include educating the public and advocating for inclusive education. It is critical to talk to parents of children with intellectual disabilities. Oftentimes, they fight UDL because they believe that their child needs an educational assistant as well as special programs. Historically, this is how education has been approached. The research, on the other hand, says otherwise. When a child spends 80% of their day with adults rather than interacting with their peers, that child will experience lower academic achievement, poor social skills, and a less successful transition to the community. In segregated classrooms, these children will not learn how to interact and live in the general population, increasing social anxiety.
A common assumption made by many educators is that children with intellectual disabilities need to learn job and life skills. While attending special programming to learn these so-called ‘crucial’ skills, the child is missing out on instruction in the classroom, thus leaving the child alienated from the rest of the class. All children will learn job and life skills through UDL as a result of the focus on social and emotional awareness and learning. Logically, a child cannot get a job if they cannot interact with co-workers and customers, and what better place is there to learn social skills than in the classroom? Parents and educators alike need to understand that global research indicates that in an inclusive classroom and with peer interaction, children with intellectual disabilities do far better not only in academics, but social and emotional awareness and life skills as well.
Another aspect of UDL that differs from the status quo is the utilization of an educational assistant (EA) in the classroom. UDL aims to minimize the time the EA spends with the disabled child at a 1:1 ratio, while using the EA to serve all members of the classroom.
Jennifer revealed that the Three Block Model will shift the balance of education in Manitoba. The Three Block Model does not introduce new content to the education system; it simply shifts the focus from rote academic performance and memorization to critical thinking, problem solving, 21st century skills and competencies, and social and emotional learning. In classrooms, students do not learn how to interpret emotions and establish morals and values. UDL and the Three Block Model pull us back into recognizing that while academic and intellectual development is important, students need to be immersed in an instructional climate where self-worth and belonging, and valuing of diverse others, for instance, are encouraged. Under the status quo, it is possible to instill these values in students in spite of systemic shortcomings. However, the Three Block Model utilizes the system to support and encourage students to learn these fundamental values.
For students who are intellectually disabled, this is a huge shift. Block 1, for instance, focuses on the goal of self-worth and belonging. If the individual is at the back of the classroom with an EA, this goal cannot be fulfilled. At best, ‘helper’ relationships can be established between the individual and his/her classmates. Classmates will never see that individual as a peer. To remedy this, the Three Block Model pays attention to how we integrate students as part of the classroom and activities. In typical classrooms, individuals with intellectual disabilities are often underestimated, and not given the opportunity to rise to meet his/her potential. When we shift towards including these individuals into the classroom in universally designed ways, they become problem-solving, critical thinkers, and play a socially valued role in the classroom. This will set them up for success and independence in further life.
UDL and the Three Block Model benefit all, and impact everyone. Through the Three Block Model’s holistic approach, students will see gains in self, concept, and engagement, in addition to academic achievement. While UDL may be more important with students with intellectual disabilities, it still serves all students. Many students that currently are successful are not engaged and do not enjoy school. UDL will engage more students, and provide them with an experience different from the one they are currently receiving. Teachers are also supported by UDL. Shockingly, 47% of teachers leave their profession before retirement age. The Three Block Model provides the teacher with the resources to accommodate and support all students, resulting in an increase in positive behavioural and learning outcomes. This will decrease the teacher’s stress levels, and provide a more rewarding work environment.
When discussing the challenges associated with incorporating UDL into classrooms using the Three Block Model, Jennifer discovered that coming from a system standpoint, we have to rethink how we teach, as well as eliminate stereotypes. It is really about shifting the values and beliefs towards inclusion, and eliminating the entrenched beliefs surrounding the limitations we believe that individuals with different learning abilities possess.
Another upside to incorporating the Three Block Model is that it does not add any additional expense to the education system. While it would cost a substantial amount to provide teachers with training, the long term benefits are substantial, even economically. A reduction in teacher leaves and illness, student behaviour and failure, and the need for segregated programs with low teacher-student ratios reduces costs. In a sense, we merely have to shift the budget around. For instance, there is a significant portion of the budget going towards bussing in special education programs, and this is something that would be eliminated should UDL be incorporated into classrooms.
I asked Jennifer, additionally, about her current projects regarding the Manitoba Alliance. Communication and advocacy are a major focus right now. The Alliance is trying to raise awareness through their blog, website, newsletter, and conferences about the Three Block Model as a method for achieving inclusion. THIS Conference (Transforming Hearts, Instruction, and Soul) is also coming up from August 24th-28th at the Caboto Centre. THIS Conference features a variety of sessions geared towards parents, educators and anyone interested in UDL and inclusive education. Deb Dykstra, a Community Living Manitoba board member, is delivering two sessions at this conference: Parent Perspectives on UDL and Including Students with Developmental Disabilities. This is an event you will definitely want to check out!
In closing, Universal Design for Learning is a celebration of diversity. The Three Block Model helps design a classroom that clearly embraces the leading notion that all students have something to offer.
- by Maia Idzikowski
Hiring inclusively has a multitude of benefits. Employers who hire individuals with intellectual disabilities report a reduced employee turnover.
This makes sense. In part 1 of this series, we established that individuals with intellectual disabilities or ASD are appreciative of employment opportunities. They are hard workers, who pay close attention to detail and are excited to be entering into the workforce. As a result, these individuals are less likely to quit their job than the ‘average’ employee.
For the employer, what this really boils down to is that hiring individuals with intellectual disabilities or ASD is good for business. These employees are among the most dependable. They are ready to make a long-term commitment to their workplace, and will strive to do the best job possible. An organization or company that can keep employees for many years is also extremely attractive to potential employees. They will see the company as fair and reliable, and will be more likely to make a long-term commitment themselves.
Ultimately, hiring individuals with intellectual disabilities or ASD reduces employee turnover, establishing the company as consistent and dependable.
Stay tuned for Part 4 of the Ready, Willing, and Able Series on Inclusive Employment.
- by Admin User
Monday's segment established that individuals with intellectual disabilities are hard-working and appreciate opportunities, resulting in consistent attendance at place of employment.
As emphasis shift toward establishing and promoting inclusive and supportive workplaces, innovative employers are understanding that individuals with intellectual disabilities are more likely to have an outgoing, positive attitude in the workplace. Why? This is simply due to their mentality of appreciation; when an employment opportunity is exciting and valuable to an individual, they will have a positive outlook on that opportunity. Moreover, workplace inclusion is essential for social inclusion. A positive attitude is contagious, and will result in a friendly, outgoing workforce, where co-workers get along and work together. An individual with an intellectual disability is more likely to collaborate and work together with their co-workers, creating an engaging work environment. Moreover, this will build a team-oriented atmosphere, and create a unified workforce. In service orientated industries positive and friendly employee attitudes can drive sales and increase profit margins.
Ready, Willing, and Able (RWA) is a national initiative working together with Community Living Manitoba to promote inclusive employment. RWA has released a list of 7 key benefits that arise out of inclusive employment.
Stay tuned for Part 3.
- by Brian Rochat
Ready, Willing, and Able is designed to build on and increase employer capacity and demand to hire people with developmental disabilities, link employers with employment agencies and supports, work in partnerships with schools, post-secondary institutions and the business community, and assist in the development of education and public awareness tools and efforts that promote the increased employment of people with developmental disabilities. RWA has identified the following six building blocks as best practices and essential requirements to increased labour market participation of people with intellectual disabilities and ASD:
- Employer capacity and confident to hire: Engaging and supporting employers to promote understanding and awareness of the value of hiring people with developmental disabilities and providing them with the needed supports to do so;
- Community-based delivery of employment support and labour market bridging: Transforming the community employment supports delivery system to be the effective bridge-builders employers need;
- Planning for transitions from school to employment and careers: Working with employers and the school system to ensure supports are in place to assist students to plan and pursue effective transitions to employment and careers;
- Inclusive post-secondary education: Expanding on current models that put supports in place at the colleges and universities that enable students with developmental disabilities to pursue post-secondary education;
- Employer-to-employer networks: Engagement and support of employer-to-employer networks such as Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, Manitoba Association of Human Resources Professionals and others to champion hiring of people with developmental disabilities;
- Entrepreneurship and small business development: Enabling entrepreneurship as an option for people with developmental disabilities by providing expertise, knowledge, resources and support to community agencies to assist people in business ventures.
Supported employment outcomes are dependent on business leaders understanding the value of hiring people with intellectual disabilities and the application of applying that value to their business. The long-term success of RWA requires ongoing communication and relationship development with employers. If you are or know an employer who may be interested in learning more about Ready, Willing and Able, please contact the Manitoba Labour Market Facilitator, Brian Rochat.
You can support Community Living Manitoba’s goal of inclusive employment by making a donation today. Click here to see the available options and other ways you can support us.
For more information about inclusive employment or if you would like to schedule an appointment with Community Living Manitoba’s Labour Market Facilitator for Ready, Willing and Able,
email: Brian Rochat at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call at (204) 781-0582
- by Maia Idzikowski
Nike, one of the leading brands in athletic wear, has expanded their product line to include people with disabilities. The new LeBron Soldier 8 FLYEASE shoes have people with disabilities in mind. The shoes are described as an “easy-entry footwear system”, and “rather than rely on laces, the new approach uses a wrap-around zipper system to secure the shoe. What’s more, a larger opening at the back makes it easier to slide the foot in and out”.
Nike began designing the shoes after they received a letter written by Matthew Walzer, a 16 year old with Cerebral Palsy. Matthew’s dream is to go to college, and not have to worry about tying his shoes, something that many people with disabilities struggle with every day. Now he gets his wish!
Tobie Hatfield, the designer of LeBron Soldier 8 FLYEASE stated:
“While varying levels of mobility make it difficult to provide a universal solution, we feel this is a significant development for anyone who has ever struggled with independently securing their foot within Nike shoes.”
These shoes are also just the beginning! Nike is working to develop more shoes in the FLYEASE line.
While on the topic of shopping, Shop and Share is an online shopping platform where a portion of every purchase is donated to a non-profit of your choice. While Nike is not a participating retailer, you can make a purchase from stores such as The Bay, Sears, Gap, iTunes, and Groupon. Shop and Share is an excellent way to lend Community Living Manitoba a helping hand, at no extra cost to you! The website is Canadian- based and really simple to use. All you have to do is set-up an account, and make your purchases through the Shop and Share site. Click here to check it out!
Click here to check out Disability Scoop’s article featuring the new LeBron Soldier 8 FLYEASE
- by Maia Idzikowski
Ready, Willing, and Able (RWA), is a national initiative partnered with Community Living Manitoba to promote inclusive employment. RWA has released a list of 7 key benefits that arise out of hiring an individual with an intellectual disability.
Every day this week, one of these benefits will be highlighted on the Community Living Manitoba blog and Facebook page.
To begin, when many people think about inclusive employment, there is a common misconception that people with intellectual disabilities cannot produce the same quality of work as the rest of the population. This belief is false. In fact, individuals with disabilities such as Asperger’s or Autism have an exceptional memory, and enjoy tasks that require precision, repetition, and attention to detail. They also have the ability to ‘think outside the box’, which allows them to solve problems creatively.
When given the opportunity for ‘real work for real pay’, people with disabilities are driven to work hard, and will therefore be committed to consistently attend their place of employment. Seldom will they call in sick or arrive late for work. When employers compare the general workforce to someone with an intellectual disability or on the Autism Spectrum, they generally report less absenteeism, and punctual attendance amongst employees with an intellectual disability and/or ASD. Simply put, employees with an intellectual disability are less likely to miss a shift, call in sick or quit their job leaving the business understaffed to perform and serve customers.
Out of all adults with intellectual disabilities living in Canada today, 500,000 or roughly 75% are unemployed (statistics from CACL’s RWA Initiative). In the world of work, these individuals overcome greater barriers than the general workforce. Individuals with intellectual disabilities, as a result, appreciate opportunities, and have a drive to prove themselves in the workplace.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
Our family is watching with interest as the important wage enhancement discussion continues within government, various agencies and others who work and are involved in this sector. As a family who embraces the value base that our grown son is a competent adult, living an incredible and fulfilled life; we are aware of the importance of those staff who are involved in providing services to him.
These staff are the individuals who walk beside him daily, supporting him; be it in his home, places of employment, where he volunteers or during recreational activities. They are vital supports in his life and we recognize and appreciate their competence and caring.
Often as parents we have struggled to fully let go and allow him to be all that he can be; to struggle and fail; to learn and experience; to grow in his own personal gifts, talents and abilities. To watch him now participate fully and share in the richness of a healthy and diverse community is truly amazing.
Our son’s competent and dedicated direct support staff allow us to pull back as parents and feel confident that he will be safe with his medical, nutritional and personal care needs addressed. We know that his employment, volunteer experiences and recreational activities are supported positively and have witnessed him gaining skills, growing in self-confidence and forging new friendships.
As experienced, when trained staff leave our son’s life, our concern grows! We recognize that these competent individuals are not paid a wage that truly reflects their value. We also know that often what we compensate staff reflects the value that society assesses to those being served. Our son deserves to have these quality individuals in his life and it is truly upsetting that they simply cannot afford to stay.
As with any sector, maintaining a dedicated, trained, and stable staff base is desirable. The benefits are many; especially for individuals such as our son who would then actually know who the next person walking in his door would be. This inspires confidence in us as parents and helps ensure consistency and a positive, functioning team.
We, along with other families, are following this issue as it unfolds. While we are encouraged by movement in this area, our struggles over the years to gain adequate supports for our son have made us cautious. The Wage Enhancement Fund as it is presented is far from comprehensive and doesn’t recognize the importance of day/independent living staff or the vital role that respite staff play in families‘ lives.
We are also unsure and concerned by the use of the word “fund” and the previously stated amount of allocated dollars. Does this imply a limited amount of money, and if so, how will the increases be sustained over time? How will this then impact our family member’s quality of supports in the not too distant future?
Staffing quality, consistency and sustainability are all important and key concerns that we need to ensure the Government understands are important to our grown sons and daughters, and to ourselves as parents.
Arlene and Joe Bodnar
- by Admin User
Employment First is the Focus
By: Brian Rochat
Brian Rochat is the Manitoba Labour Market Facilitator for the national Ready, Willing and Able Initiative. A Human Resources Professional drawing from experience in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, Brian has dedicated his career to diversity and inclusion.
Brian was born in Swaziland and spent his formative years between Canada and South Africa. Early exposure to institutionalized segregation and barriers under Apartheid provided Brian with an interest in diversity, inclusion, employment equity, mediation and conflict resolution.
Brian holds a B.A. from the University of Manitoba and certification in Human Resources Management obtained from Red River College. He brings extensive professional experience through former roles as the Manitoba Program Manager for the Canadian Centre for Diversity, consultant to Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Canadian Centre for Refugee Employment, and Red Threads of Peace.
He has provided diversity and inclusion consulting services to business, communities, government and non-government agencies throughout Canada. With Ready, Willing, and Able Brian is focused on building employer demand to hire people with intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), by exploring employer labour needs and educating employers about the value of hiring people with intellectual disabilities by addressing the business case.
Through his efforts and engagement, Ready, Willing and Able will serve as a conduit for businesses to access, hire, and leverage the unique skills of the demographic served by Community Living Manitoba.
An Interview with Brian
By: Maia Idzikowski
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Brian Rochat about his involvement with Ready, Willing and Able (RWA).
Brian has been very busy working with employers and businesses to promote inclusive employment. In terms of most current projects, Brian has been working closely with Bison Transportation, City of Winnipeg, Costco, Geller’s Year Round Property Service, Government of Manitoba, and Safeway Manitoba, among others.
Most recently, the City of Winnipeg has hired inclusively. This outcome stems from an RWA organized workshop the City delivered in early in April to highlight employment opportunities and remain committed to hiring more people with disabilities. As a result, the City is creating a more inclusive and equitable workforce.
Geller’s Year Round Property Services has also hired through the Ready, Willing and Able initiative and continues to work with Brian to develop further employment opportunities. Geller’s offers property services such as landscaping in the summer and snow removal in winter. The owner, Matt Bell, is committed to continue inclusive hiring and has been collaborating with RWA.
Costco is rolling out their commitment to inclusive employment by collaborating with RWA to hire inclusively. Specifically, the McGillivray and Regent locations have made the commitment and are in the process of receiving Ready, Willing and Able candidates.
Canada Safeway remains a primary employer for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Safeway is committed to inclusion and diversity within the workforce, and continues to create meaningful opportunities for people on the autism spectrum. On behalf of Community Living Manitoba, RWA is pleased to work with Canada Safeway.
RWA continues to work with Bison Transportation in developing employment opportunities that fit with their inclusive culture and dedication to diversity. They are currently working towards finding their next great employee through RWA.
More specifically, Brian works with employment agencies and businesses to connect individuals with intellectual disabilities to potential employers.
RWA is pleased to recognize Seven Oaks School Division and Superintendent Brian O’Leary. Seven Oaks recognizes that their commitment to inclusive education needs to broaden to inclusive employment. They are currently working with RWA in developing a job outcome for someone with an intellectual disability to start at the beginning of the school year. As an employer of a large workforce, Seven Oaks recognizes that inclusive employment makes practical, business sense and models their values and commitment to diversity and inclusion.
When asked about his most rewarding project, Brian says that in terms of inclusive employment, any outcome is rewarding because hiring an individual with an intellectual disability has the potential to change that individual’s life. With that being said, Brian also mentioned that he is extremely pleased with Costco’s national commitment to diversity through working with RWA.
In addition to talking about the successes of RWA’s partnerships, I asked Brian about the challenges that occur while working with employers. Brian indicated that challenges arise in regards to employer engagement. The employers that are currently working with RWA are more committed to diversity than many employers are. The challenge is identifying employers through engagement and outreach. There are many employers dedicated to inclusion; it’s just difficult to find them. The biggest challenge is that many people, not just employers, carry bias and misconceptions towards the varying abilities and strengths of people with autism and other intellectual disabilities.
In terms of schools and post-secondary education, from a policy perspective, the focus is not on employment. In Brian’s opinion, employment should be the first priority. The approach should be that employment is the first objective.
Brian and I also talked about the steps businesses can take to be more inclusive. As a start, employers can think about the different jobs/positions within their organization. They also have to understand that job seekers with disabilities or on the autism spectrum come with different strengths and skills just like any other job seeker. People with an intellectual disability can not only fill a position, but can also excel in it. The position can be anything from cleaning to data entry and advanced accounting, and inclusive employment can provide a sensible labour force solution to the employer.
Finally, I asked Brian to share the one thing that everyone needs to know about inclusive employment. Brian elaborated that, in the end, it boils down to the fact that inclusive employment is good for business. Employers often think of inclusive employment as something that will cost them money. But the reality is that hiring inclusively is proven to reduce turnover and lead to consistent attendance. When inclusive employment galvanizes positivity within the workplace, then employees take pride in the job. In turn, this increases organizational loyalty. In a team orientated environment, it can lead to greater co-worker partnerships. Also, it enhances the employer’s public image, and the presentation of a diverse workforce to consumers and public often leads to greater consumer loyalty and profits.
In closing, inclusive employment is the next step in ensuring an inclusive community. If you would like to get in contact with Brian Rochat,
Call: (204) 781-0582