Max Brault of BDO Canada, Mahadeo Sukhai of CNIB, Alfred Spencer are interviewed by Beth Robertson of the Conference Board of Canada about Life After Covid-19 for persons with disabilities on Accessibility TV

Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2

Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2

We resume the conversation of Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2 with James MacKenzie speaking….Since you brought up an interesting thing there, this ability to work the way we’re working right now at this moment having a conversation, I don’t know the capabilities of the people. I’m talking to them, I’m seeing their faces and I’m hearing their voice and what they have to say, and that’s what I’m focusing on.  I’ve had, meetings with people that we’ve never met, and then we have a personal conversation. They realize that I’m six foot seven and I’m, you know, at the far end of the bell curve hitting my head on doorways all the time, and they never would have figured that out.

It’s kind of the point. I think of all this. Is that the content of what you’re saying should matter? My only concern I would have in general with the statistics approach is, the impatience that the populace may have in having results is thwarted by the amount of effort that will take to find those very people and ask those very questions and actually put the right kind of effort into building the kinds of policies that will have a longer lasting impact. If you want something quick. You get it quick but you want good, faster, cheap. I don’t know if it’s a caution, but I want people to think about this.

Max asked for ways for input, but what’s happening right now is that governments are being very reactive they’re being other not being knee jerky. They’re using some basis. But I think where we have to go is, we have to slow at some point. We have to slow that process down. And we have to ask, who did you ask? Where did you get the answer from who was included for you to be this reactionary? Because I think right now, we’re on a slippery slope of things are getting decided ery quickly by very few people. And you know, we hear government talk about transparency and accountability. I think what we have to do is we have to hold them to task and say So where is your transparency? Where is your accountability and who was included in the discussion for what? For what it’s worth, that’s how I feel about if we can come up.

If government can compel government business to submit a plan for social distancing, they can also submit a plan for making their businesses more accessible and more inclusive.

What Does a Barrier Free Canada Mean?
What Does a Barrier Free Canada Mean?

ODSP Benefits for Disabled in Ontario

We continue the conversation with Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2…Next question on this one comes from Susan Forster. The Stat that 50% of ODSP recipients have postsecondary is not surprising, but interesting. There’s so much potential being lost and ask Alf, in particular to comment. But I think everyone can, actually, as we were talking about, it’s James what you were speaking about in terms of how people make judgments on individuals and what kind of biases are being invested and those in those biases, how do we get, how do we remedy this, this issue of people not even being considered?

I’ll address the bias question to start off with. But I would love Alfred to dig into that as well. I faced a big challenge of my career because most of my career has been start-ups in the technology sector. And the technology sector has typically been one dominated by men. And frankly it annoyed me. It annoyed me because I came from an atypical household. I came from a household where my mother, but my parents separated when I was young. My mother was one of the few women in Algonquin Colleges computer science program from when I was a young age.

So, I grew up seeing, like, no issue with a woman being the lead technical person in a household, as well as the lead figure in the household. This wasn’t an issue for me at all.

Accessibility & Inclusion for PWD’s

We continue the conversation with Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2…As I got on further in my career, that behavior you could almost look is being modeled, went into my hunting for teams and looking to build out teams. And finding different ways of sourcing employees that I could continue to have the same kind of diversity that I thought should be there again, with the focus not being that if everybody is the same, you’re going to have the same kind of opinion, same kind of solution from everyone, and therefore a worst customer service experience. A worse product in the end.

I had to get creative knowing that there was this bias of, of employees. Maybe gender biased. One day, frankly, I just started looking at it in a completely different way. I looked for people who are members of MENSA, and then look to see which of those had technical skill sets. And all of a sudden, a completely different pool of candidates was opened up to you that I wouldn’t have initially considered looking through in that same way. And all of a sudden, I found, well, I have some with technical ability. They’re really, really smart or they’re very good communicators. So why would I not bring this candidate in?

It is, I think, a challenge that when you’re starting, especially in start-up mode, you have to put a conscious effort into modeling how things should be done, so that as future leaders within that organization continue to grow the organization around you, they’re basing the model on how they will grow on what they have already seen as well. Obviously not every household had a chance to go through what I went through where a female leads it very technically skilled and modeled kind of behavior that I knew I would have no issue having a man or a woman do the job because women could kick technical butt just as much just men could.

That brings me to the same kind of point as Max, I happen to know for over 20 years, who was kicked my butt at pool many times. It is just one of those things that I think experience drives that, and so you have to make a conscious effort. If people are aware that they have the biases, I think that’s half the battle. We continue the conversation with Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2…

Mahadeo Sukhai on the CNIB Surveys

We continue the conversation with Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2…You know, it’s Mahadeo, the one group that actually has the least biases, this is actually a very interesting thing, so we’ve run for the past couple of years of Public Attitudes Index survey with Ipsos Reid. And the interesting thing is, is that there’s all sorts of people who don’t have very good perspectives around societal participation of Canadians with sight loss. The people who actually have the best perspective are the colleagues, the co-workers right? Followed by the families, but the families and close friends, or sometimes a little bit embittered because of people’s struggles and experiences, so their scores are a little bit lower. But the ones who don’t actually see the struggle, the one who see the ones who see the competency, actually perversely have the best attitudes. What that says long term about how to improve the employment of people with disabilities and workforce, to Alfred’s point and Max’s  point about attitude, that that’s a different conversation in a different debate. But it’s important to know just to reflect on James’s point a little bit, that when you’re in a competency based environment, then the likelihood of your colleagues’ sort of not paying attention to the diversity is actually increased.

See, I went on mute and then didn’t change. It happens to everybody. Now Alf, Susan was actually asking you that question. Do you have any thoughts in terms of in terms of the potential that’s being lost, especially in comparison to ability and in education?

Jobs for People with Disabilites

We continue the conversation with Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2…Well first of all Susan, it’s good that you’re on the line and, oh, Susan, so it’s good that you’re there, but I think that, you know, I sort of want to reflect back on sort of years of experience. The people with disabilities not getting jobs is not is not new. It’s historic, it’s it goes back to the Bob Rae days when I would, you know, when we ran a program that was specific for people with disabilities and the numbers were abysmal. And there’s all kinds of myths and there’s all kinds of fear by people of, you know, hiring people with disabilities. And I think that and it’s going to sound very sloganistic, but I think where we have to go and the stories have to go, and I really believe strongly in the power of stories, we got to get ourselves to where the discussion is not be about the disability.

The discussion has to be about the ability. And like what I bring to the workplace, not what I don’t bring. I don’t bring, sight, but I bring a hell of a lot more and I think that’s got to be where we’ve got to go. But we’ve certainly got to, I think we have to…back to this national strategy of hiring 5000 people, we have to show the diversity of those jobs. The federal government needs to show the diversity of those jobs. They need to show the successes and they need, I like the part about family and co-workers, they can’t just…Oh, you know, I feel great because I have a job. They have to have everybody talk about benefits. I really believe that’s part of the strategy.

Max Brault of BDO Canada, Mahadeo Sukhai of CNIB, Alfred Spencer are interviewed by Beth Robertson of the Conference Board of Canada about Life After Covid-19 for persons with disabilities on Accessibility TV

Yeah, Dean Askin has asked: Has this changed work forever? Or do you think that some employers, at least, will try to go back to that out dated 1950’s employment model? And if they do, what do you think will happen to them and do all their potential employees they are not going to get? And there has been, I know, in my atmosphere of diversity, inclusion there’s been some conversation of, well now that everyone is an emergency mode, Are these gains going to be lost? And how do we prevent that from happening?

Shopify Working Remotely

We continue the conversation with Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2…So, one of the biggest employers in Ottawa right now, is Shopify. They have said that they are not going back to the way things were going to be, that they’re going to allow the people who choose to work from home to be able to work from home. I think it may have been some of that that fear of change and that uncertainty, whether or not they will get the kind of productivity out of those employees that they would expect to get happy working out of the office. And I expect that they’ve gone through that. They’ve seen the light, so to speak, in that the geographical centralized office where all employees must go to, is now in their background. I’ve heard the same thing out of the public service, although public service will probably not move very quickly on it. But I had heard that they were looking to target something that 40% of their employees working remotely. Now that’s just two employees. And while the public services, one of the biggest employers in Canada. Shopify in Ottawa, is one of the leading technology Startup darlings, you know, on the stock market, so I expect that a lot of people will be looking very closely. And a lot of companies will say simply because Shopify did it this way, we’re willing to keep doing it. We continue the conversation with Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2…

I think it will go back. I think that one of the things to watch for in the very near future is union negotiations. I think that’s where you’re going to start to see it, because it’s pretty simple in anybody’s mind that where there’s going to be a shortage of money. So, people are going to look for other levels of benefits. And I think people are going to start asking for various varying work, various ways to work and various ways to learn. Because one of the things we haven’t talked about today is it’s not just about going to the job, I think we’re on a path of how are we going to continue to develop in the job if we’re not all in the same room where that’s how we were taught to learn?

I mean one of the things that’s absolutely been fascinating in Ontario, two months ago, there were debates between the government and teachers about having two courses online for students. And there was outrage. And now you have every kid in Ontario online learning. And you have universities, even as early as May, saying that, you know, McMaster yesterday announced all courses online for September 1st. So, we’re going to learn. Not only are we going to work in a different way, we’re going to learn in a different way.

Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2 Continued…

But to add to Alfred’s decree, we do have some other factors to consider. You know, we and I go back to my good friend James here, who is correct. He has a 1,000,000 Children in this house. You know how our family is going to be able to, you know, function within a specific time frame and working and having Children. So, I think, you know, the situation is not as clear as we hoped. And you know how our Children would it be learning at the same time? Are they going to still stay in the same household where we’re working or over going to go back to the way it used to be? Especially the young ones go back to a particular school. So, you know that will free up some of the decisions. How are the kids going to be handled?

But I have a fear. And my fear is that as a society, be Canadian or North American or European, we like the past. And so, we’re going to be always striving to go back to the way it was before Covid-19. And so, as a community, we got to keep on making sure that they are reminded day in, day out about Look at the huge advances we made. And like James was saying, you know, I’ve heard the same thing that 40% of the federal public workforce will be working in an office environment, while the rest of 60% will be working from home. And that’s great.

That means that the Federal Public Service could be spread across the whole country and doesn’t need to be located in several pockets. But remember, there are a few other things that we need to work out. And right now, I’m looking at this particular section and I can’t see anybody. I can only see myself so technology still have some ways to get catching up so we could do these things at home as well. We continue the conversation with Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2…

Remote Working Labour Force

There definitely needs to be even get more employment, sports to adapt to this reality. Not just asking employers our employees to adapt. Absolutely, and in that respect as their last question from Linda Staples; Now employers, they have a different perspective on accommodation, especially now that is not just, you know, do or do they want to, its they had to, and do you think this will impact hiring practices for people with disabilities? You just might open up some opportunities or closing doors.

I’m going to go first if I can. I think the answer is both yes and no. Um and the reason that I’m being that vague about it is I think it comes back to something that I said earlier and James and Max and offered have echoed as well in some of their comments. It takes intention. If we don’t do this consciously, it’s not going to happen. And you know, Max said that we like the past, and there’s a lot of people who are talking about well, when things in gigantic air quotes here, go back to normal right, you can’t go back. This pandemic can’t be unwritten from history. It has existed. It will exist in the history books going forward. We have to live with it, and we have to deal with that, right? But that’s part of the stage of grief that that I was talking about with respects to adjustments to, this long term functional disability that we all suddenly have. So, I think the answer is going to be, employers are only going to consciously have that different perspective on accommodation, hiring If, if there’s a whole country of chief accessibility officers and directors of HR and people in culture or what have you, who effectively, I’m basically giving myself work here, who effectively hold their feet to the fire.

I’ll end with a question with Dean, asking that maybe we can tackle again in some other webinar in the future. So often Disability is left out of the workplace. Diversity, inclusion, conversation which focuses mostly on gender and ethnic diversity. How do we change that? How do we make inclusion truly inclusive to encompass all of the experiences?

Maybe that’s something that to going to think about further. And hopefully this is this conversation will begin that that longer conversation that we need to have as a society as government, as employers, as business people, people who were interested in creating a more inclusive approach to industry.

And with that, thank you to everyone who has come and um attended the speakers will be moving to the floor for personal conversations. You’ll notice that on the screen there is a, um to the four corners of the different tables. There is a table for the conference with Canada. There’s a table for BDO Canada. There is a table for CNIB. And there is a table for PureColo. Please feel free to join and the speakers will meet you there. Thanks so much again. Have a wonderful day. Stay safe. We continue the conversation with Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2…

Life After Covid-19 Speaker Bios

We continue the conversation with Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2…Max Brault is a person with a disability with almost 20 years of experience focused on employment equity and the advancement of workplace accessibility. Unafraid to challenge convention to make positive change for the disability community, Max is currently the vice president of BDO Consulting (Strategy & Operations). His aim is to identify accessibility issues for corporations, governments, and non-governmental agencies, and to provide strategic solutions to address them. Before his work with BDO, Brault was a policy leader with the federal government who played a key role in the development of the Accessible Canada Act.

Alfred Spencer is the former Director of the Public Education and Outreach Branch at the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility.  Now retired, he has been involved in the delivery and design of numerous programs to assist marginal groups to find employment. Alf spear-headed the implementation of over 100 community projects related to creating awareness of accessibility issues, including programs for early childhood educators, elementary school teachers, and post-secondary students and professionals. Most recently, he has been named to the Canadian Paralympic Inclusion Committee and is also an advisor/panelist to the newly announced Canadian Universities Association Leed Competition – a national competition dedicated to the development of tools and resources to improve accessibility across Canada.

James Mackenzie is a serial entrepreneur.  Among his work projects, he serves as Chief Operating Officer of PureColo, Ottawa’s largest independent data center.  He has been a recipient of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Top 40 Under Forty award, has founded or co-founded six multi-million dollar companies over the last decade, and two of the companies he co-founded have been awarded Best of Ottawa Business awards.

Mahadeo Sukhai is currently the Head of Research and Chief Accessibility Officer of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). As the world’s first congenitally blind geneticist, Mahadeo maintains a strong interest and experience in the graduate and post-doctoral trainee environment, science education, science outreach, and research into the quality of and access to higher education by students with disabilities. His expertise ranges from next-generation sequencing data analysis and pre-clinical drug development, to governance roles and performance measurement in higher education and not-for-profit organizations.

Beth A. Robertson is the Senior Research Associate for Inclusion; Education and Skills; Future Skills at the Conference Board of Canada in Ottawa. She is a social scientist who specializes in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, with expertise in the areas of gender, disability, technology and industry. She has served as Director of the $1.1 million small grants program “Gendered Design in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) for Low and Middle Country,” based out of Carleton University with funding from the International Development Research Centre.

In addition, she was Adjunct Curator of Gender and Globalization for Ingenium: Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation. Robertson has hosted mini-documentaries for Accessibility TV and was co-primary investigator of Carleton University’s Disability Research Group. She has curated exhibits, published articles, given public presentations, organized symposiums and developed pedagogical materials related to accessibility, human rights and technology.

We continue the conversation with Life After Covid-19 Q&A Part 2…in our next series.

Accessibility TV

Accessibility TV is a Canadian entity which reaches individuals, companies, organizations and governments related to Accessibility issues, information and ideas. Our audience exceeds the 4.4 million Canadians who live with a disability by including policy makers, corporations, companies and the army of family, friends and organizations who directly support the 1 in 7 Canadians with a disability on a daily basis.