A round of applause

Kerri Breen
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Workplaces receive accolades for supporting people with disabilities

Local businesses were honoured for doing their part to hire and support employees with disabilities Monday.

The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work's Partners for Workplace Inclusion Program (PWIP) held its fifth annual business awards ceremony at the Capital Hotel in St. John's.

Ron Ellsworth, chairman of the Business Advisory Committee for the Partners for Workplace Inclusion Program, speaks to people gathered at the annual business awards luncheon Monday. - Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Local businesses were honoured for doing their part to hire and support employees with disabilities Monday.

The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work's Partners for Workplace Inclusion Program (PWIP) held its fifth annual business awards ceremony at the Capital Hotel in St. John's.

Employment specialist Lori LeDrew said it's important to acknowledge employers that have made inclusion a priority.

People with disabilities face significant barriers to employment, she said.

"Oftentimes there are stereotypes that exist. And also, just a lack of education around accommodating persons with disabilities in the workplaces."

The seven awards given out marked achievements in various categories.

Human Resources, Labour and Employment Minister Susan Sullivan, who's also the minister responsible for the status of people with disabilities, said she was glad to learn there were more employers at this year's ceremony compared to other years.

"The level of participation and the enthusiasm we've seen in this room ... certainly shows that the commitment towards improving inclusion in our province is growing," she said.

She congratulated businesses for promoting inclusiveness and highlighted the provincial government's progress in disability policy and programming.

The Canadian Coast Guard was named most supportive large employer.

Bea Noel, business services officer for the coast guard, was touched by the win.

"In government we want to look like the Canadian population we serve," she said, adding the coast guard provides whatever accommodations new hires need to do their jobs successfully.

One of those hires was Ellen Pardy, who was diagnosed with dyslexia last year and hired through PWIP. Previous to her diagnosis, Pardy lacked confidence in her abilities and told herself she wasn't smart enough for university.

After the diagnosis, she said, her life started to make sense.

"But I was still unemployed, feeling down because of all the things I felt I missed out on. I had felt frustrated and embarrassed for so long, I didn't think that I was worthy of a good job," she said.

In spite of her self-doubt, Pardy set out to better herself. She researched opportunities for adults with disabilities and came upon the Partners for Workplace Inclusion Program.

"The girls at PWIP had seen me at my worst," she said. "I was feeling helpless and insignificant in society. I just didn't know which way to turn."

She and LeDrew reviewed her options, and eventually Pardy got a job at the coast guard's marine and civil infrastructure department as a document management clerk.

"I thought I won the lottery," she said. "Now I have my own office with a harbour view. I also work with wonderful people, and my manager, John, is very understanding and supportive."

"I couldn't ask for anything better," she added.

The award for most supportive manager for PWIP clients went to Janice Glasco and Raymond Porter at RJ's Janitorial.

PWIP participants Linda Janes and Stephen Boyd won employment retention awards. Janes has been working as a receptionist since 2005, and in 2004 Boyd turned a non-paid placement into a full-time job as an information and holdings clerk at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Helen Flynn of DFO was honoured for going the extra mile in helping Boyd become employed.

Keyin College won the award for most supportive training provider, marking the fifth year the college was recognized.

Dianne Haines of Professional Warehouse Demonstrators accepted the award for hiring the most PWIP clients.

"The more staff they bring me, the happier I am," Haines said of the program.

The Town of Flatrock won the award for most supportive small employer. The town was approached by LeDrew and agreed to take on an employee to do outdoor maintenance for 12 weeks last summer.

Dianne Stamp, town clerk, said she wasn't expecting the award.

"It was a big surprise. It's good for the town, though."

kbreen@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Keyin College, Canadian Council on Rehabilitation, Capital Hotel Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canadian Coast Guard

Geographic location: St. John's

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