Talking about disabilities; employers are asking…

Diversity & Inclusion specifically in the area of working with persons with disabilities can be an uncomfortable discussion to have. In our experience, most people don’t want to ask too many questions as they don’t want to appear insensitive, unknowledgeable, or unsupportive. As a result, it often is the unasked questions that can be even more important than the questions presented. In having a Diversity & Inclusion discussion, we recommend raising answers to concerns before they’re even expressed helping to build a safe space where any question can be asked, and an effective dialogue can be achieved.


Where can I access support?

At Champions Career Centre, our Employment & Inclusion team is here to help you. They welcome questions like the ones below and any others you may have. Please give us a call (403.265.5374) and ask to speak with a member of our Employment & Inclusion team.

I hired somebody with a disability once and it didn’t work out. Why would I try it again?

We’re sure you’ve hired somebody with brown hair that didn’t work out. Does that mean you shouldn’t hire anybody else with brown hair? Everybody is different and has different skills and abilities whether they have a disability or not. The key is finding the right person for the right job and focusing on their skills and how they can contribute to the success of your team.
People with disabilities are all unique just like everyone else and should not be reflective of all people with disabilities.

How do you talk to somebody about their disability? I know there are questions we cannot ask employees or potential candidates.

  • Focus on the specific duties of the job and if they require any specific accommodations
  • Ask about accommodations they use at home, or have used in past employment positions
  • If an employee shares their specific disability, ask them for suggestions on where you could learn more general information about their disability to better understand and support them

My team would never agree to working with persons with disabilities.

  • Chances are they are already working with persons with disabilities
  • Often their concerns are based on the fear of the unknown
  • We recommend education and awareness sessions to help address the fear, have open discussions to raise the concerns, and help employers work to improve communication about working with persons with disabilities and the supports available

We are a small team and cannot afford to have people only do a partial job.

  • While job carving is needed for some individuals, most people are able to do the full job – maybe just with some minor accommodations
  • Champions understands the importance of hiring the right person for the job, this also applies to employees with disabilities
  • Bottom line, its normal to have questions and concerns about creating a diverse and inclusive workforce. As an employer, you want to ensure you are doing whats best for your employees, following all employment laws, and positively impacting your bottom line.

Why should we explore the targeted hiring of persons with disabilities?

  • Workforce shortages mean more and more organizations are having to explore alternative options
  • Persons with disabilities are an underutilized and often overlooked pool of talent with the skills and abilities to do the job
  • Evidence shows that a diverse workforce makes a positive impact to your bottom line. Through the development of new hiring conversations, you increase the retention of people already on your team who have a disability but may have not felt comfortable disclosing
  • Being reflective of your client/customer base people are attracted to companies and are more likely to spend their consumer dollars if they see themselves reflected in the workforce

What’s the value of Diversity & Inclusion to our bottom line?

  • Increase competitive advantage
  • More diverse perspectives
  • Enhanced public image
  • More inclusive (and accepting) organizational culture
  • Retain your key talent and your knowledge capital
  • Diverse and Inclusive workplaces enhances and taps the potential of everyone leading to more committed employees
  • The commitment to hiring persons with disabilities identifies your organization as a corporate leader in the workplace and as a leader in our community
  • Demonstrating social awareness within hiring practices also creates a positive image for your company as a progressive employer
  • As organizational culture reflects the values of a company, many are moving towards a more inclusive culture that promotes greater teamwork and employee involvement. Demonstrating more creativity and innovation, improved communications, better work/life balance, respect for employee interests and needs, on-going learning and continuous improvement and diversity strengthen your workplace. An inclusive work culture improves the morale of all employees, which in turn improves quality, productivity and service

My cousin has Down Syndrome, and based on the challenges he has I’m not sure he could do the job were looking to fill.

  • The most important thing to keep in mind is that each person has different skills, abilities and barriers regardless of their disability. At Champions, we take a person centred approach focusing on making a match between an employers needs and a persons skills and abilities. Not every person is a fit for every job. By understanding the key elements of any position, you are able to look at the skills, experience and ability and make a hiring decision based on fit
  • Its also important to understand that the word disability can generate different images or memories for people. The fact is there are a number of different types of disabilities. Understanding that disability is a very broad scope can help people understand who this employment group may include and that many of us fall into this group
  • There are different categories of disability types, and an almost infinite number of specific diagnoses within each type
  • Physical disability: Multiple Sclerosis, arthritis, paralysis, chronic back issues, diabetes, head injury, heart disease, etc.
  • Mental Health disabilities: Anxiety, depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), schizophrenia, etc.
  • Learning/Cognitive Disabilities: Learning disability, ADHD, autism, etc.
  • Vision Impairments: macular degeneration, detached retina, complete vision loss, etc.
  • Hearing Impairments: tinnitus, required use of a hearing aid, deaf, etc.o Addictions substance abuse, gambling, alcohol, etc.


This organization wouldn’t be a good fit for persons with disabilities.

  • Given 1 in 8 Albertans have a disability, chances are you are already working with persons with disabilities
  • The value in having the conversation and policies in place is that it will help retain your knowledge capital. So if one of your top performers is hesitant to reach out for supports, they may be less likely to move on to a new job and more willing to have the conversation

If we hire somebody with a disability, what if they cannot do the job? We wont be able to fire them if they aren’t the right fit.

  • Regular performance process & guidelines apply to all employees whether they have a disability or not
  • Having disclosure and accommodation processes and guidelines can help all members of your team with the performance discussions and what to do when/if an employee discloses
  • If after you have taken all reasonable measures to support an individual in being successful in their position they still aren’t able to do the job, you can take the measures needed to terminate their employment

We cannot make any accommodations (i.e. adjustments to the job or office)

  • You’re already making accommodations for your team letting people leave for personal appointments, taking lunch at different times, working from home, flex time, letting people have their morning coffee before talking to them, etc. We do this often and frequently without even thinking of it
  • Many employees may do their jobs differently than others based on their experiences and working with their disability in the workplace and do not require any further accommodation from their employer. You are likely unaware of these self-accommodations as they often don’t impact anybody on the team
  • If a more formal accommodation is required, many accommodations dont involve any costs from the employer, just minor tweaks can make a big difference
  • Sometimes, changes made to accommodate one employee’s needs can benefit others through a new process, etc.
  • Champions can help employers work through the accommodation process to understand best practices, what qualifies as an accommodation, and case studies outlining what has worked for other employers.

What is the extent of Duty to Accommodate?(From the Alberta Human Rights Commission)

  • The duty to accommodate in employment refers to an employer’s obligation to take appropriate steps to eliminate discrimination against employees and potential employees
  • Discrimination may result from a rule, practice or barrier that has a negative effect on a person with a need for accommodation based on the protected grounds. An employer’s duty to accommodate is far reaching
  • It can begin when a job is first advertised and finish when the employee requiring accommodation leaves the job. Accommodation in employment most often involves the protected grounds of physical or mental disability, religious beliefs, gender (including pregnancy), family status and marital status
  • Some things to consider when accommodating employees include:

– purchasing or modifying tools, equipment or aids, as necessary
– altering the premises to make them accessible
– altering aspects of the job, such as job duties
– offering flexible work schedules
– offering rehabilitation programs
– allowing time off for recuperation
– transferring employees to different jobs
– using temporary employees
– adjusting policies (for example, relaxing the requirement to wear a uniform).

We have a Union with a Collective Agreement, so Duty to Accommodate doesnt apply to our group.

  • Even with a Collective Agreement, Unions must abide by the Duty to Accommodate
  • Groups such as Champions can help with the discussions and process being a neutral third party to help facilitate discussions with all parties involved

What if we dont have a budget to provide accommodations?

  • Most people with disabilities dont require any accommodations from their employer
  • Those that may require accommodations, many don’t involve any costs
  • For accommodations that may have a cost involved, most are under $500
  • There is a Provincial Program (Disability Related Employment Supports – DRES) that may be able to help fund part of the accommodation if there are costs involved
  • Once again, many employees utilize self accommodations and may do their jobs differently than others – based on their experiences and working with their disability in the workplace and do not require any further accommodation from their employer

At Champions Career Centre, we believe that having a plan to hire and retain employees who have a disability and utilizing Champions supports will help you reach these goals!

Redefining Ability in the Workplace