Ability, Aspiration and Leadership Explored in 7th Candidly Speaking Event

A capacity audience attended the seventh AIM Candidly Speaking event at the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver on October 22, 2015 to discuss how leadership is integral in the quest for inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workplace. Devirani Naidoo of Frame and Associates facilitated an interactive workshop focused on how leadership principles can be applied from both the employer and employee’s standpoints.

Are individuals with disabilities content with entry level jobs? Are employers offering enough opportunities for growth to all employees? Is it possible to see the ability in someone without being distracted by the disability? Questions such as these were discussed and ideas were formulated leading to a consensus that more can be done to promote the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the workplace.

Bijan Valeh, a Project Manager working with Spectra Energy, one of AIM’s Business Partners, told the story of how he, despite becoming blind in his youth, went on to work in high level engineering roles in both Iran and Canada. He spoke of his ambition from an early age to work in a meaningful occupation and how he was able to achieve his goals. Throughout his talk he spoke of the positive way he was welcomed by Spectra and how the organization focused only on his ability throughout the hiring process, and his career; which now spans 9 years with the energy company.

Bijan was introduced to Spectra through the Greater Vancouver Business Leadership Network, a program of the BC Centre for Ability that preceded AIM. Mark Gruenheid, Program Manager of AIM spoke of other stories of leadership from employers that demonstrate progressive hiring practices.

The session wrapped up with attendees divided into groups that generated actionable ideas that can be implemented at any workplace. The prevailing theme was one of acceptance that people with disabilities often have the same desire to achieve success in a career as anyone else, and that employers can help harness this ambition through increased understanding, communication and connection.