CTV manager says focus on abilities ‘is the right thing to do’

As the daughter of a hardworking, self-employed businessman with multiple sclerosis, Melissa Lebo says it has been somewhat of a personal crusade to have others “not judge a book by looking at its cover.” As human resources (HR) manager of CTV British Columbia, a founding partner with the Abilities In Mind (AIM) initiative, Lebo looks for the same goal.

“It’s pretty simple, I think. It’s to open employers’ minds,” she says, describing the best possible outcome for AIM.

“It’s to help employers overcome their fears about hiring people that happen to have a disability (and) to open their minds to this untapped source of skilled people.”

AIM is a developing program at the BC Centre for Ability (BCCFA) funded by the national Opportunities Fund, to reframe disability in the workplace and focus on the abilities of all. A sustainable learning and development framework is being created so employers build organizational readiness and capacity to hire, retain and promote people who have a disability.

At CTV B.C., Lebo says individuals who have a disability are valuable members of the team. She says a receptionist was promoted to a managerial position, and there is a traffic co-ordinator on staff as well as a receptionist who is “amazing.”

“We’ve proven it through experience that people who have a disability are often some of our very best employees,” Lebo says, citing work ethic and dedication as strengths they bring to the workplace.

She notes that employees have expressed pride in working at a place where there is inclusivity.

Becoming one of five founding business partners with AIM builds on CTV British Columbia’s partnership with the BCCFA’s Greater Vancouver Business Leadership Network to enhance employment opportunities for people with varying abilities.

Lebo says AIM is a natural fit for CTV B.C., which is a federally-regulated entity that reports on its diversity practices under the Employment Equity Act. Beyond this requirement, CTV B.C. has strived to build an inclusive workplace because “it’s the right thing to do,” Lebo says. There’s also a business case to be made for diversity.

“As a local news organization, we need to reflect our community and our community is (comprised of) all kinds of people. We can’t just speak to one segment,” Lebo says, noting the news department has a “Working for You” focus, which means all potential viewers.

“And so, we want to do things that are relevant to our viewers,” she says.

Given AIM’s potential benefits, Lebo could see the program rolling out to the network of CTV stations and HR managers across Canada. “I think the company as a whole would be very open to it,” she says.

As a founding partner in AIM that is in the media industry, Lebo sees potential to expand the reach of awareness and understanding of inclusiveness.

“It’s a subtle thing but if our workforce understands the whole concept of hiring people with disabilities, it is in some ways going to be reflected in how they tell a story,” she says, such as in the nuances of the language used.

“If you talked about a person with abilities, if you use that phrase in a story involving someone with a disability, that’s pretty big because you’re speaking to hundreds of thousands of people at a time,” Lebo says.

“Not that we are advocacy journalism per se but I do think there’s a subtle public awareness that we can either decrease or increase.”CTV manager says focus on abilities ‘is the right thing to do’