Enhancing Inclusive Workplace Accommodation Processes
Coordinated by Employee Health Services (EHS), McMaster’s Workplace Accommodation Guidelines were reviewed and revamped in late spring 2020. The review committee was comprised of subject matter experts from Human Resources Services and the Equity and Inclusion Office (EIO), who were tasked with updating the Guidelines to support the McMaster community in Return to Campus planning. The Guidelines continue to explicitly provide support to managers and employees in navigating requests, considerations, and the implementation of accommodations.
Exciting additions to the 2021 version of this resource further incorporate accessibility features into the accommodation process for managers and employees alike and include new elements such as:
- Interactive, plain language diagrams illustrating the process for Navigating Workplace Accommodations for Staff/Faculty
- Sections on Workplace Flexibility and Employee Requests with illustrative examples, and
- A focus on evaluating various work environments (on-site and remote) to ensure their suitability for supporting essential job functions.
Coordinated by the EIO, EHS and AccessMac have additionally collaborated on developing a new iteration of McMaster’s Accessible Workplace Accommodation Training to be included as an initial course in McMaster’s forthcoming pilot Inclusive Excellence Leadership Program. The training will shift from a previous focus on working through the procedural elements of the workplace accommodation process to a nuanced focus on creating disability-inclusive work culture through engaging in accessible and responsive accommodation processes. This training is due to launch with the Pilot Program in early summer 2022.
Contributors: Monica Poulin (Employee Health Services Human Resources Services) and Kate Brown (AccessMac Program in the Equity and Inclusion Office)
Employee Accessibility Network (EAN)
Established in 2017, the Employee Accessibility Network (EAN) was created for employees with disabilities at the University to connect, network, and collaborate. The Network was also developed to act as one of the main consultative groups to the McMaster Accessibility Council, and the University at large, in areas of:
- Disability inclusion,
- Legislative compliance, and
- Aspirational accessibility and disability-inclusion planning for Disabled employees / employees with disabilities.
The EAN also offers a lens of lived experience to institutional work carried out that may disproportionately impact employees with disabilities in the absence of consultation.
This past year, the Network has worked together to consult and provide feedback in several areas:
- Feedback on the disproportionately negative impacts of COVID on members of the McMaster community with disabilities – particularly those who are immune-compromised and/or experience communication barriers – was shared with the Associate Vice-President, Equity and Inclusion (AVP EI), as well as Return to Campus Planning committees, during summer 2021.
- Feedback was provided on integrating critical accessibility and disability perspectives into the emerging Inclusive Excellence Guide for Researchers under the university Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Strategy.
Frequently discussed examples during this year’s meetings have included:
- Resistance to campus wellness strategies that focus on individual resilience rather than organizational change
- Campus anti-ableism advocacy, and the Network’s role in this work
- Improving peer support capacities and opportunities within Network meetings
- Hosting professional development opportunities within the group that are tailored to support Disabled employees’ experiences.
Contributors: Employee Accessibility Network (EAN), Kate Brown (Accessibility Program Manager, AccessMac Program in the Equity and Inclusion Office)
Partnerships and the Progression of Career Access Professional Services
The Student Success Centre’s Career Access Professional Services (CAPS) fostered employer partnerships to promote inclusive employment for neurodiverse students and alumni.
Some partnerships have included:
- Community Living – Ready, Willing and Able (RWA), a national employment program for persons with an intellectual disability or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Specialisterne Canada, a socially innovative company where most employees have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum
- Auticon Canada Ltd., an IT organization that exclusively employs autistic adults as IT consultants
- Distinctability, an organization that helps employers and service providers to modernize and implement inclusive, accessible employment and skills development, and
- Calm Spectrum Consulting, an organization that coaches and supports individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Additionally, the Student Success Centre provided sponsorship to McMaster’s Autism Assistance Program’s talk on Navigating Self-Advocacy (November 2020).
The SSC’s student-facing workshops included:
- Inclusive Employment Supports for Students with Intellectual Disabilities or Who Identify as Autistic (Workshop: January 2021)
- Connect to Careers: Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace (March 2021)
Contributors: Katherine Hesson-Bolton (Diversity Employment Coordinator, Student Success Centre)
Disability and Work in Canada Conference 2020
Tanya Kett, Student Success Centre and Career Access Professional Services (CAPS) career counsellor, presented at the Disability and Work in Canada Conference on the topic “Career Access Professional Services: Empowering Students to Thrive in the Workplace” under the theme “progress in the workplace.” More than 100 attendees from across Canada attended the session. Additionally, CAPS provided tickets for alumni to attend the full conference, and receive a one-on-one appointment with a career counsellor to prepare for networking at the event. After attending, each participant submitted a short reflection on what they found most valuable or useful about their experience.
Contributors: Tanya Kett (Career Counsellor, Student Success Centre)
Hiring People with Disabilities: Higher Net Value
In their open-access paper Building the “Business Case” for Hiring People with Disabilities: A Financial Cost-Benefit Analysis Methodology and Example, Drs. Sandra Fisher and Catherine Connelly explore one of the major barriers to employment for many people with disabilities: employers’ perceptions that the costs associated with accommodations for employees with disabilities are prohibitive. The authors demonstrate how to empirically estimate the financial implications of hiring employees with disabilities. In their study, employees with disabilities provided higher net value to the organization than employees with no disability(ies). Their method provides a tool for organizations hesitant to hire workers with disabilities, and the example shows that this hiring can be financially beneficial.
- Infographic – Building the “Business Case” for Hiring People with Disabilities
- Infographie – Les arguments en faveur de l’embauche d’employés en situation de handicap (French version)
- Why it makes good business sense to hire people with disabilities
- Fact sheet – Building the “Business Case” for Hiring People with Disabilities
Contributors: Catherine E. Connelly (McMaster DeGroote School of Business) and Sandra L. Fisher (Münster University of Applied Sciences)
Industrial Training Program: Bridging the Skills Gap
Historically, manufacturing was associated with strenuous physical activity. Recently, due to high levels of process integration and automation, manual effort has been replaced with process development, coordination, and planning activity. Advanced manufacturing knowledge is still required to fill these roles, but now people with a wider range of physical abilities can contribute – and industry needs them.
The challenge here is that the manufacturing industry still requires relevant skills from any/all potential employees. From our experience, many people enjoy making crafts and have hobbies that involve making things. They are also passionate about helping people with innovative products and services. To help bridge this skills gap, the McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) developed an Industrial Training Program which is designed to reach a wide range of people, and to show them how their interests and experiences can contribute to the manufacturing industry. This training aims to connect participants to the necessary skills needed to open the door to rewarding careers that can support themselves and their families.
Contributors: Dr. Maryam Aramesh (McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute)