October is National Disability Employment Awareness month, so it is fitting that the third annual Inclusive Employer Excellence Awards will honour employers who make it a part of their business plan to hire people living with diverse abilities this month. The event, which takes place on October 30th, is presented by Archway Community Services and Communitas Supportive Care Society. Invited guests will have the opportunity to hear first-hand testimonials from employers who hire inclusively and employees whose lives have been impacted by the opportunity to have meaningful work.

The keynote address will be shared by two inclusive employers. Craig Richmond is the President and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority, a world-leader in inclusive hiring. Richmond says that the stigma around people living with disabilities may be one of the last conscious biases that employers have.

“When a young person comes through the door and has an obvious disability, you initially say ‘this is going to be hard.’ I’m here to say it is not,” he says. “Your company will be better for inclusive hiring.”

Lisa Beecroft is the owner of Gabi and Jules, Handmade Pies, a bakery in Port Moody that hires people of all abilities. The bakery is named after her daughters, the eldest of which lives with autism. Many of the individuals they hire also live with autism, which is viewed as an asset.

“Not only do they have value, they bring unique value to the team,” Beecroft says. “As a small business owner, you know how hard it is to find quality, engaged, loyal staff… we’re incredibly lucky, we have some amazing staff who work for us.”

Misconceptions about inclusive hiring abound, including the myth that people with diverse abilities have a higher absenteeism rate or that it is too expensive to accommodate them. In fact, hiring inclusively makes good business sense. Statistics prove that it costs no more to hire inclusively and 86% of employees with disabilities have average or above average attendance records.

Heather O’Brien, Archway’s manager of Community Living, says that inclusive employers should be recognized for their efforts because of the huge impact they make on people with diverse abilities.

“The benefits for the job seeker extend beyond receiving a regular pay cheque,” she says. “Having meaningful work promotes feelings of acceptance, knowing that he or she is a valued employee contributing to their community.”

Matt Dirks, program director with Communitas, points out that inclusive employment is not about charity but about matching a potential employee with the job that matches their skill-set.

“It is about positioning people for success by offering them meaningful positions in the labour market, based on their level of ability,” he says. “In this way inclusive hiring is actively combating stereotypes, stigmas, and assumptions that have become embedded in our conceptions about who is able to work.”

Along with the keynote address and testimonials, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun will be in attendance and will make one of several presentations. Entertainment will be provided by Stand Up for Mental Health.

The 3rd annual Inclusive Employer Excellence Awards take place at an invitation-only breakfast on Wednesday, October 30th at Abbotsford Legacy Sports Centre.

Business owners who are interested in attending the event or who would like to learn more about inclusive hiring, can call 778 245 2518 or 778 908 2069 or email IEEA.Abbotsford@gmail.com.