Access to Success: A Guide for Employers
Navigating the Waters: A National Employment Initiative of the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres
By Susan Forster, National Project Manager, Navigating the Waters
Navigating the Waters is a national employment initiative coordinated by the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres (CAILC)* with funding provided by the Opportunities Fund, Human Resources Development Canada. Anyone with any type of disability between the ages of 16 to 64 who is unemployed is eligible for individualized support through Navigating the Waters (NTW) to reach employment and employment-related goals.
Since 1997 Navigating the Waters has supported over 3550 persons with disabilities and 1108 (31%) of these participants subsequently became employed full-time or part-time, including a small number of individuals who chose self-employment. Each year our Centres also work directly with youth with disabilities who are often looking for their first job in the labour market. NTW is delivered locally in most of CAILC’s Member Centres. For a list of locations or to contact us, see the end of this article.
A Career Development Facilitator in each Centre taking part in NTW works one-on-one with each person with a disability to meet individual needs. Some participants require pre-employment supports and could be in the process of beginning the journey toward employment. Others are looking for a volunteer placement, a work experience program, or want to upgrade their skills through taking courses (such as literacy training), completing high school, or enrolling in college or university.
However, many participants are job ready. And many of our Career Development Facilitators work directly with employers and are very willing to provide qualified candidates for job postings. In recruiting post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities, the following tips may be helpful:
Workplace accommodation is an area that many employers are not familiar with. Here are some tips:
Through Navigating the Waters and my own personal experience as a person with a disability, I have seen that once hired many people with disabilities do not receive the same opportunities for promotion as do their non-disabled colleagues. As an employer, it may be useful to view the employee with a disability as an individual first and as an employee with a disability second. Disability is one characteristic of that person. If you see the person first then you may be better able to see the potential of your new employee. These tips form the basis for developing an accessible and effective employment program.
Our successes with Navigating the Waters are varied. Here are some examples. One young participant now holds down two part-time jobs in retail. Another individual, who became disabled as an adult, re-trained to become a school bus driver. Other participants have been hired to work for the public service, started their own businesses, become Web site designers and published books. One participant become a dairy farmer, while another was appointed to the Ontario Human Rights Commission; yet another person was hired by one of our Independent Living Centres to work in its Peer Support Program.
We are very proud of the achievements of the Navigating the Waters initiative. One effective practice of NTW is that most of us who work on the program, including our Career Development Facilitators and myself as Manager, are also persons with disabilities. If you are an employer whose organization is large enough to have a Human Resource Department, consider hiring a young graduate who is a person with a disability as a Human Resources Consultant. Then you too would be putting into the workplace a person with valuable skills that come with lived experience.
If you would like more information on Navigating the Waters, here is a list of locations across Canada:
British Columbia: Duncan, Nanaimo, Richmond, Vernon, Victoria
For contact information on each location, email or call Susan Forster, National Project Manager, CAILC at firstname.lastname@example.org or (613) 563-2581 X14.
*The Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres (CAILC) is a national umbrella
organization with 24 member Independent Living Resources Centres across Canada. Centres are
run by and for persons with disabilities. We coordinate Navigating the Waters and many other
disability projects. To find out more about CAILC and the Independent Living philosophy that
underlies all that we do we welcome you to visit our website at www.cailc.ca.
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