The Free Rein Association hopes to get employers and businesses of Hope to change their perceptions on disabilities with their new resource page for employees.
Free Rein launched a marketing campaign for their Reins of Freedom resource page for employers, on Aug. 29, to challenge pre-conceived notions about disabilities in the workplace. The goal of the campaign is to encourage employers to hire people with disabilities and to provide resources to make their workplace more inclusive.
“[We want] to raise awareness on a few issues surrounding people with disabilities, one being that they are vital members of the workforce and incredible assets to any business,” says Megan te Boekhorst, who is the program supervisor for Free Rein. “The second is to raise awareness of invisible disabilities… I think one of the biggest misconceptions employers have around hiring people with disabilities is that this person is going to have a lot of accommodation needs that are going to cost a lot of money. But that’s not the case.”
Te Boekhorst says that accommodating those with disabilities can be as simple as changing the mindset around what is expected of an employee. This includes being open to flexible schedules and providing better health benefits — both accommodations most needed to allow those with disabilities to be successful in the workplace.
“Employers ultimately need to be able to adapt and be flexible and pivot and make shifts,” says te Boekhorst. “A lot of the barriers people with disabilities find, in obtaining and maintaining employment, is that their employer is rigid and stuck in this mindset of ‘this is the way we do things for everybody.’ But that doesn’t always work for everybody. And meeting the needs of individuals is a vital way of maintaining a healthy work environment for your staff… ultimately your business is going to be stronger as a result.”
First established in 1983, Free Rein is an organization dedicated to helping the people of Hope find employment. Through their various programs and staff, they help people with their employment needs and offer employment resources, training services, and career counselling.
Their Reins of Freedom program was first developed by Free Reins leadership in May 2019 to assist those with disabilities who were experiencing barriers to employment as a result of COVID-19. In 2022, te Boekhorst became part of the development for the program and created a resource page, which launched last month, for hiring people with disabilities. It is now a permanent resource to help change misconceptions on employees with disabilities, help employers make their workplace more inclusive, as well providing help for employees with disabilities.
Te Boekhorst hopes, through Reins of Freedom, to change the way people with disabilities are viewed in the workforce and have them be seen as a strong candidates for employment.
“We have had employers flat out tell us they will not hire people with disabilities,” says te Boekhorst. “There’s no reason why that should be a thing and I bet you anything, they have hired people with disabilities, they just aren’t aware that person has a disability.
According to the government of Canada, 645,000 Canadians with disabilities are currently unemployed and available to work in an “inclusive labour market.” By improving workplace access that number can significantly improve and it would allow 550,000 Canadians with disabilities to work more.
The campaign will be be promoted until Oct. 6 but information and resources for both employers and employees will continue to remain on their site afterwards. Those interested can access it at www.freereinassociates.ca/every-disability.