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Building disability confidence

Ensuring an inclusive workplace at Memorial University

Campus and Community

By Melissa Watton

While many people may know what disability confidence is, there are still many who wonder what these words mean.

Building disability confidence involves ensuring you are supportive towards individuals with disabilities and that you recognize the need to remove obstacles and develop systems and supports.

Kathy Hawkins, manager, InclusionNL presents Sheri Boone, MyHR shared services consultant, with certificate for completing Building Disability Confidence training.
From left, Kathy Hawkins presents Sheri Boone with a certificate for completing the Building Disability Confidence training.
Photo: Mike Ritter

It also means connecting with people with disabilities and sharing and promoting the work that you are doing so they know that your workplace is accessible and they are comfortable applying for your organization’s available positions.

According to Kathy Hawkins, manager, employer support services, InclusionNL, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding disability confidence.

“People often feel like they are disability confident and that their workplace is accessible because it has infrastructure such as wheelchair ramps or wide walkways, but they don’t think about their use of technology or their organization’s policies, processes or procedures,” she said.

“For a workplace to be disability confident, it means ensuring that people with disabilities have the same access to programs and positions as an individual without a disability.”

Building disability confidence sessions

In early 2017 representatives of Memorial’s Department of Human Resources and InclusionNL met to discuss ways the department could increase accessibility and inclusion.

This included a review of application processes and building disability confidence training sessions in which 25 Human Resources employees, mostly MyHR and advisory services staff, participated.

“We all have something valuable to contribute.” — Sheri Boone

These sessions, led by Ms. Hawkins, provided opportunities for employees to increase their disability confidence and discuss strategies to increase inclusion and accessibility within their daily practices.

Sheri Boone, MyHR shared services consultant, attended one of the sessions.

“As a parent of a child with a disability, this subject is close to my own heart and as a human resources professional, I understand that organizations can experience challenges in recruiting and creating an inclusive workplace for people with disabilities,” she said.

“I personally found this session was quite helpful and informative. The overall message from the session was quite clear, always treat everyone with the same respect and dignity by making the workplace a welcoming and accessible place for people at all levels of ability because we all have something valuable to contribute.”

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

“In collaboration with InclusionNL, Human Resources is pleased to offer a building disability confidence training session during October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month,” said Tina Hickey, Memorial’s employment equity officer.

“This free session will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 25, and is open to members of the university community. Anyone interested in registering should email or telephone me at 864-2548.”

InclusionNL provides support to businesses and employers. It is a program of Empower: The Disability Resource Centre, a community organization committed to providing supports, resources and opportunities that enable persons with disabilities to make informed choices about their lives.

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