Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM)
This October, Ometz along with hundreds of organizations across North America will be celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM). During this time, employers are encouraged to think about how they can make their business practices more inclusive and accessible for people with all abilities. We met with Supported Employment Specialist, Melanie Lallouz to learn more about how Ometz is helping to raise awareness.
Q: Could you give us a brief picture of an Ometz client in Supported Employment Services?
A: Our clientele is comprised of differently abled individuals, specifically, we work with people living with non-visible disabilities such as mental health diagnoses, Autism Spectrum Disorder, intellectual and learning disabilities. Our clients vary in age from 16 to 65 years old and are seeking employment in various fields of work from warehouse work, to bookkeeping, to software engineers. Some of our clients are seasoned workers looking to re-enter the workforce and some are new to the job market seeking their first paid opportunity.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to mark Disability Employment Awareness Month?
A: Our biggest challenge is breaking down stigma that our clients have to live with. They can be successful contributing members of society and are often held back by misinformation so I am very happy to have an extra opportunity to spread knowledge about the benefits of inclusive hiring practices. Employers also need to know about the resources that are available to them, such as Ometz’s Supported Employment Services. We offer employers the support they need to successfully integrate our clients into their workforce in order to maintain long-term employment. We don’t need employers to be experts on diversity (and inclusion), we are the experts.
Q: As Quebecers, how much do you think our society is aware of the issue of disability employment?
A: We, as a society, lack a lot of basic information regarding inclusive hiring which is what makes DEAM so important. Most employers are not intentionally discriminating, they simply lack knowledge about this talent pool that is underutilized or are skeptical about including differently abled individuals for fear of the unknown, for example: how it may affect their current work culture, safety concerns, etc. Being inclusive only has positive impacts on our workforce. Our clients are individuals with divergent thinking who can solve problems before they appear because they have been solving problems their whole lives, problems we have never had to contemplate.
Q: How have employers responded?
A: Once a conversation starts, employers are very willing to consider implementing new hiring practices. After explaining all the benefits of a diversified workforce and the support that is offered through Ometz’ Supported Employment Services it takes the fear out of stepping into unchartered territory. We have recently forged a new relationship with Geordie Theatre and they are so excited about our services that they asked us to speak at a recent P.A.C.T. (Professional Association of Canadian Theatres) meeting in order to share the information on inclusive hiring practices with the other Montreal English-language theatre companies. This is an amazing example of how DEAM works and how knowledge breaks down barriers.
1 Cummings Square
5151 Côte Ste-Catherine Road
Montreal, Quebec H3W 1M6