“Embracing Ability: Redefining a Diverse Workforce”

March 12 & 13th, 2013
Empire Landmark Hotel

Please click on the below video for highlights from the 2013 Conference, Embracing Ability: Redefining a Diverse Workforce:

On March 12 & 13th, 2013, enriching discussions took place between businesses, service providers, and individuals with disabilities at the 1st Annual Conference, “Embracing Ability: Redefining a Diverse Workforce”, hosted by Abilities in Mind (AIM). 137 attendees participated in the sharing of new knowledge and best practices of the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workforce.

We were pleased to welcome four dynamic keynote speakers. Nadine Vogel, Founder and President of Springboard Consulting talked about building initiatives to successfully mainstream disability in the global workforce, workplace, and marketplace. Alfred Spencer discussed the implications of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and how it has helped increase employment of people with disabilities. On the second day, we opened it up from a global perspective from Shakila Maharaj, who presented the view of South Africa in respect of this topic. We ended the conference with a very practical example of “just do it” attitude from Mark Wafer, owner of six Tim Horton’s franchises who has employed many individuals with disabilities with great success.

The conference also featured 15 amazing workshops that demonstrated innovative and successful practices in building an inclusive, sustainable workforce of people with disabilities. Our goal to host a variety of workshops touching on areas of interest for all participants was met. Some examples of the workshops that were offered were: “Is Legislation needed to Improve the Employability of People with Disabilities?”; “WARM: Vancity’s Workplace Accessibility and Review Mapping Project”; “Inclusion through Collaboration: A Viable Approach”; or “Building Inclusive Work Environments in Non-Typical Ways”.

Throughout the two days, energetic discussions ensued and new contacts were made. This quotation from an attendee accurately summed it up, “I am going home with an oversized toolkit that was filled with very important action items that came from every session I attended. The goals I set for conference I feel superseded me expectations”.

As a complement to the conference, there were nine exhibitors displaying their services, products, and best practices in employment and individuals with disabilities. The exhibitors included Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, Vancity Credit Union, Provincial Networking Group Inc., Don’t Sweat It Services, Canadialog, Open Door Group, Family Support Institute, Developmental Disabilities Association and Avia Employment Services.

Shangri-La Hotel hosted a lovely networking reception on the first night of the conference to give space to mix and mingle with colleagues and meet new people. Through the night, we were entertained by “The Simoleons”, a band in association with the Vancouver Adapted Music Society (VAMS), an organization supporting musical talents from individuals with disabilities. It was a wonderful evening to unwind, enjoy each other’s company, win a door prize, or share new knowledge with others.

The goal of this conference was achieved through the diversity of individuals talking about the issue of the inclusion of people with disabilities within the workforce. There is no exact science or a recipe book on how to hire an individual with a disability. The process of discussing this issue is a key factor to develop human resource practices and departmental strategies. Many people left with a sense of enthusiasm and passion as to how they would bring new ideas to the table in their respective workplaces.

In particular, we would like to thank TD, the Platinum sponsor for the conference, along with all our other generous sponsors: Spectra Energy, Canada Safeway, BIV Media Group, Ecovideo, CTV Bellmedia, Shangri-La Hotels, Worksafe BC, London Drugs, Mosaic BC, Rhino Print Solutions, and Emphasize Design.

Plans are already in the works for the 2014 Conference to make it bigger and better. All of the feedback and recommendations we have received will guide us toward making next year’s conference even more valuable.