CASE STUDY: PUBLISHED MARCH 31, 2021
Making employment within the Public Service of Canada accessible and successful for people with intellectual disabilities.
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WHERE POSSIBILITIES TAKE FLIGHT
Making employment within the Public Service of Canada accessible and successful for people with intellectual disabilities.
This case study bears the date April 2020 in its title and was slated for publication at that time, but given the dramatic changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to postpone the report. A year later, we have incorporated some reflections on 2020-2021, and are now ready to share the story of a unique and historical Inclusive Employment Initiative that began in 2015.
The initial phases of this journey focused on understanding the barriers to employment that existed for people living with intellectual disabilities and/or autism when they tried to enter the Public Service of Canada. Over those first three years, the foundational, grassroots work with individual managers and their teams was channeled into the design and testing of an Employment Supports Model and its underlying tools. The resulting model offered a step-by-step approach tailored specifically for Public Service managers and supervisors to address barriers, identify opportunities and benefits, and build appropriate supports to maximize the potential for employee, supervisor, and organizational success.
In March 2018, a Challenge to Deputy Ministers issued by the President of the Public Service Commission and the Chief Human Resources Officer of the Treasury Board, created awareness and impetus for the hiring and retention of 100 people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism in meaningful “real work”* positions. The Employment Initiative demonstrated that a targeted recruitment program can deliver employment results for adults with intellectual disabilities and/or autism who can be successfully matched, hired, and perform effectively in public service positions.
This case study describes the core elements of the Employment Initiative and provides examples of best practices, key achievements, and learnings that pertain to the unique nature of the Public Service, and some conclusions intended to be helpful in moving forward Public Service accessibility. The Treasury Board Secretariat and the Public Service Commission are currently undertaking many initiatives to increase accessibility and LiveWorkPlay looks forward to working with these and indeed all Departments and Agencies, to achieve the vision of the Public Service Accessibility Strategy: namely to be “the most accessible and inclusive Public Service in the world”.
Daniel Spagnolo, Volunteer Chair of the LiveWorkPlay Board of Directors
Keenan Wellar and Julie Kingstone, Co-Leaders at LiveWorkPlay
Jen Soucy, Director of Employer Partnerships and the Federal Employment Strategy Group (FESG) at LiveWorkPlay
Mary Gusella, Volunteer Chair of the Federal Employment Strategy Group (FESG) at LiveWorkPlay
* The phrases “real work” and “real work for real pay” are used as part of ongoing national and international movements in support of inclusive employment and is foundational to Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. For more information see pages 3 and 15 of http://irpp.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/study-no60.pdf
This case study chronicles a unique Inclusive Employment Initiative for people with intellectual disabilities1 and/or autism, designed and implemented by a community organization, LiveWorkPlay (Appendix 1). This employment initiative features a targeted recruitment program, with customized employee, supervisor and organizational supports, which collectively demonstrate an accessible employment model for the federal Public Service of Canada.
The diversity found within the disability community is clearly illustrated by people with intellectual disabilities. With an inequitable employment rate of under 20 per cent, people with intellectual disabilities are the most marginalized and vulnerable among us in Canada, and historically have been severely under-represented in the federal Public Service. Yet, this remarkably diverse population also represents untapped potential as a largely available workforce whose inclusion brings creativity, innovation and loyalty to their teams and yields wide-ranging benefits for employers, the economy and all Canadians.
Aligning with the recently passed Accessible Canada Act, especially the employment pillar of the Act, the Public Service Accessibility Strategy, as well as the innovation objectives of Public Service Renewal, Blueprint 2020, this employment initiative demonstrated the successful recruitment and hiring of 95 individuals as of December 31, 2019.
Of the 95 individuals with intellectual disabilities hired, 49 of these people were retained in casual or term positions and 4 were retained in indeterminate positions (as of December 31, 2019) since 2015. It is important to note that for those individuals not retained, only 13 were due to fit; the majority of these positions were simply short-term contracts (note that post-Covid-19 hiring numbers are found in the section “Supporting Covid-19 Working Arrangements”).
1 For LiveWorkPlay, including for the purpose of this Case Study Report, the phrase ‘persons (or people) with intellectual disabilities’ includes people with autism. As with all disabilities, there is a spectrum of diversity, and not all people with autism identify as having an intellectual disability. However, LiveWorkPlay supports these individuals as their support requirements often are very similar to individuals with intellectual disabilities.
A lasting outcome of the Inclusive Employment Initiative is the Federal Employment Strategy Group, a strong team of champions, who function together as a powerful and resourceful vehicle for knowledge transfer. The FESG shares experiences and enables real-time learning and best practices. Welcoming people with intellectual disabilities into the federal Public Service and creating accessible, supportive workplaces is a new area of work and expertise for many people. This informal group, a “coalition of the willing”, continues to exist, progress, and provides an excellent example of an empowered workforce as envisaged in “Public Service Renewal: Beyond 2020.
The work and thinking that evolved into this Inclusive Employment Initiative began in 2014, as a series of discussions with public servants at all levels, from interested managers and supervisors, to human resource specialists, and heads of human resources. A primary goal was to identify any barriers to the hiring of individuals with intellectual disabilities, from the need for inventories of candidates and jobs, to perceptions and attitudinal barriers. Of note, barriers associated with successful recruitment were significant.
LiveWorkPlay worked with past, existing, and potential hiring managers and the FESG to articulate and consider all barriers. For each barrier, a solution was developed and incorporated into an “Employment Support Model” designed specifically for the federal Public Service. This grassroots effort was foundational, served as proof of concept for the Employment Support Model, and culminated in an official federal Public Service hiring challenge, issued jointly by the Chief Human Resources Officer, and the President of the Public Service Commission.
In addition, a tailored suite of tools and products for managers and human resources professionals was designed and developed to support the Employment Support Model, for instance a library of potential jobs and job descriptions. Throughout the learning process, LiveWorkPlay focused on building an approach that recognized the staffing policies, organizational structures and knowledge transfer needs of the federal Public Service in the context of this group of potential employees. An equally important goal of the Initiative was to acknowledge the importance of culture change in achieving accessible and inclusive employment over the long term, which would outlast and continue to advance beyond any grassroots or individual Champion efforts.
This case study is intended to be human, helpful and practical. In its pages can be found many photos of smiling employees, co-workers, and managers because ultimately, so much of inclusion is about how people feel, and pictures capture feelings where often words cannot. To make the report helpful, it tells the workplace stories of some employees to convey an understanding of the types of work they perform and how their managers and co-workers interact with them. Finally, many very practical steps that became best practices and lessons learned during the Initiative are identified.
A significant learning from the Inclusive Employment Initiative is that success in accessibility and inclusion can only be achieved if people with intellectual disabilities are provided with the supports they need. In fact, the social model of disability explains that it is not impairment or difference itself that is disabling, but society’s lack of provision for those who are differently abled, as well as negative attitudes. The right supports enable all people with all disabilities to contribute to their full potential. Finally, as many of us have learned from the LiveWorkPlay Inclusion Workshop, “if we are not intentionally including people, we are accidentally excluding them.”
With the passage of the Accessible Canada Act and the launch of the Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service, the stage is set for major progress in “improving the recruitment, retention and promotion of persons with disabilities” and “building an accessibility-confident public service.” The work described in this case study and LiveWorkPlay’s continuing work is intended to assist the federal Public Service in achieving these goals and its vision of being “the most accessible and inclusive public service in the world.”
LiveWorkPlay looks forward to continuing its ground-breaking, informative work with the federal Public Service, and presents this case study on the Inclusive Employment Initiative in a spirit of collaboration with a vision to improve the recruitment, retention and promotion of all persons with disabilities.
Tara’s smile is contagious! She brings so much energy to her office, and her colleagues are happy to have her contributing to the ISED team. Hard-working, reliable and pleasant to everyone, Tara says “I love my job.”
Her manager says that “Tara is so energetic, and all of her colleagues are very appreciative of having her on our team”.
Her colleagues say “Tara fits in perfectly. She’s always eager to come to work and willing to give 110% to complete the tasks that are assigned to her.”
At Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Tara is preparing materials that will be sent to her federal department’s clients. She knows it is important to perform her work accurately given she will be the last departmental representative to handle the documents. Tara works carefully and methodically, taking time to exchange a smile with colleagues who walk by her desk. While these descriptions might apply to thousands of public servants, Tara has Down syndrome. Tara was hired by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada in 2016. LiveWorkPlay supported Tara and the Department throughout the hiring process. With a united goal to learn and build on this successful employment experience, they worked collaboratively to share ideas and approaches on how to best support new employees and supervisors. The success of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Tara were important driving factors for LiveWorkPlay to focus their efforts on designing an Employment Support Model for the federal Public Service. Today, Tara remains a productive, valued public servant with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, and her story inspires us to continue to work collaboratively with the federal Public Service to identify more meaningful employment opportunities for these valuable, vulnerable members of our society.
Canadians with intellectual disabilities have historically been among the most marginalized citizens in Canada, often institutionalized and isolated from their neighbourhoods and communities. Over the years, knowledge, understanding and behaviours have improved, and the language of diversity and inclusion is now more prevalent across Canada.
In spite of this positive shift, many parts of Canada continue to invest in segregated approaches to supporting people with intellectual disabilities, including institutionalization and programs and housing that are situated only within the disabilities community, continuing to reinforce perceptual and practical separation from our communities and potential employers.
Statistics Canada indicates that more than 20% of Canadians have a disability. Of those more than 6 million people, the vast majority of their reported disabilities relate to physical conditions such as pain-related disabilities and/or mobility, sight, and hearing issues. While the barriers facing these populations are by no means insignificant, the problems they face and the solutions they need are often different from what people with intellectual disabilities may require. Because self-advocacy is often also a barrier, the voices of people with intellectual disabilities may easily become lost within the broader discussion around disability in Canada. For instance, programs aimed at employment and career development for people with physical disabilities often concentrate on technological, structural and mechanical adaptations. This substantially differs from the type of learning, communications, and social adaptations required to adequately support people with intellectual disabilities.
Statistics on poverty rates and rates of employment are clear evidence that people with intellectual disabilities face the most severe barriers to social and economic inclusion. (See report on Achieving Social and Economic Inclusion.) More than 60% of this current population are not engaged in the labour market (as compared to some 42% of the general disability population and 35% for the population as a whole). Of the 40% who are participating in the labour market, only 25% of those individuals are employed at minimum wage or better. Most organizations serving people with intellectual disabilities synthesize these figures to an unemployment rate of 75%-80%. (See Statistics Canada’s Survey on Disability.)
Today, there is an increase in the number of people with intellectual disabilities who are seeking and rightfully anticipating improved labour market participation. They and their families have new expectations about their futures. This expectation has been reinforced with the passing of the Accessible Canada Act, which provides the context for the federal Public Service as it aims to lead by example as an accessible employer and service provider. With the current rate of employment for persons with intellectual disabilities range between 5 and 20 percent, the federal Public Service’s continued leadership will not only contribute directly to changing the lives of individual workers, but it will also send a powerful message to the private and public sectors across the country.
In 1981, the Senate of Canada issued the Obstacles report after studying the plight of people with intellectual disabilities, made very many thoughtful recommendations. Since then, although the data on poverty and employment remain discouraging, there is improved awareness, understanding and acceptance of differences. We have come together as a society, with willingness and openness to hire people with intellectual disabilities. Canada and the federal Public Service is well positioned to take meaningful action on these recommendations. The Inclusive Employment Initiative, a partnership between LiveWorkPlay and nearly 30 federal departments and agencies is an excellent illustration of a collective readiness to hire people with intellectual disabilities successfully.
In 2014, LiveWorkPlay began work with public servants at all levels, from interested managers and supervisors, to human resource specialists, and heads of human resources to identify barriers to hiring persons with intellectual disabilities. Using this information and its experience with more than 100 private sector employer partners, LiveWorkPlay drafted the first Employment Support Model for the federal Public Service. The Model is a step-by-step approach, tailored to the needs of federal public service managers and supervisors, to address barriers, identify opportunities and benefits, and build appropriate supports to maximize the potential for employee, supervisor and organizational success. It should be noted that under the Model, job seekers were supported in the official language of their choice throughout all phases of the process.
The objective of the first phase of our pilot study (2014) was to heighten awareness, support hiring managers, their teams and new hires to be successful, and establish a proof of concept for the Employment Support Model. Numerous knowledge exchange sessions were held with various departmental management committees, Human Resources specialists, and hiring managers who expressed interest.
Some of the first employees recruited under the Inclusive Employment Initiative were hired during this informative period. As of March 1, 2020, these employees continued to thrive in their roles at the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). These early successes were used to further inform and refine Employment Support Model for the federal Public Service.
In the second phase of the pilot (2015), the Federal Employment Strategy Group (FESG) was created to share experiences and best practices, and to facilitate networking. Communications products, including educational videos, were developed and widely shared across the federal Public Service. This body of expertise and energy was also used to challenge and enhance the Employment Support Model. During this phase, important linkages with Treasury Board and the Public Service Commission were formed, and this partnership proved to be fundamental for our collective success. Today, the Federal Employment Strategy Group, a “coalition of the willing”, continues to exist, progress, and provides an excellent example of an empowered workforce as envisaged in “Public Service Renewal: Beyond 2020.”
On March 5, 2018, the LiveWorkPlay pilot study, and the work of the Federal Employment Strategy Group received a significant leadership investment. A federal Public Service inclusive employment challenge was issued jointly by the Chief Human Resources Officer of the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada and the President of the Public Service Commission (PSC) (Appendix 2).
The challenge was issued to all Deputy Heads across Canada and the federal Public Service to build upon the success of the LiveWorkPlay pilot study. Deputies and their Heads of Human Resources were challenged to hire and retain people with intellectual disabilities in meaningful public sector positions. With an identified goal of 100 jobs, the challenge served as a targeted recruitment effort. At Treasury Board Secretariat’s request, LiveWorkPlay acted as a “front-door”, handling all inquiries, including nation-wide support for the Inclusive Employment Initiative. This quality control measure was put in place to ensure a consistent experience across the federal Public Service. A Memorandum of Understanding developed by LiveWorkPlay focused on successful implementation of the Employment Support Model and enabled like-minded service providers across Canada to implement the Model, and achieve successful hiring and retention, regardless of their location.
The challenge garnered considerable interest from Departments and Agencies across Canada and resulted in a significant increase in new hires in the National Capital Region, and an encouraging number of hires in other parts of Canada as well.
By any and all measures, this challenge was a success. Together, the federal Public Service “Challenge,” bolstered by the Employment Support Model designed for the federal Public Service, demonstrate a truly accessible hiring and inclusive employment model.
Most notably, the challenge clearly demonstrated how leadership support, and a targeted recruitment strategy can dramatically address recruitment barriers and improve access to inclusive employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.
Public celebrations of our collective success in accessible, inclusive employment were featured in federal workplace campaigns, during conferences, and national and international commemorations such as International Day of Persons with Disabilities events.
Total Number of Hires: 95*
Number of Hires Currently on Strength: 53
Includes full and part-time positions.
Number of Indeterminate Positions: 4
Number of Hiring Departments/Agencies 29**
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada | Canada Border
Services Agency | Canadian Food Inspection Agency |
Canadian Human Rights Commission | Correctional
Service Canada | Canada Revenue Agency | Canadian
Transportation Agency | Department of Finance Canada |
Elections Canada | Employment and Social Development
Canada | Employment and Social Development Canada,
Labour Program | Health Canada | Immigration, Refugees
and Citizenship Canada | Infrastructure Canada |
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada |
Natural Resources Canada | Natural Sciences and
Engineering Research Council | Office of the Auditor
General of Canada | Office of the Public Sector Integrity
Commissioner | Parole Board of Canada | Privy Council
Office | Public Service Commission | Public Services and
Procurement Canada | Public Health Agency of Canada |
Public Safety Canada | Royal Canadian Mounted Police |
Sport Canada | Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat |
* 54 = Total number of new hires since the Challenge was issued
** 14 = Total number of new departments and agencies that have hired since the Challenge was issued
The Inclusive Employment Initiative produced many positive public service outcomes, including 95 new hires, the retention in casual or term positions of 49 of these, and 4 indeterminate appointments (December 31, 2019).
These achievements are a result of two key factors:
LiveWorkPlay’s Employment Support Model and use of tools and products specifically designed to support hiring in the federal Public Service (Appendix 3). The relationship-building and collaborative approach utilized to create awareness and work with public servants who had an interest in learning about hiring.
The Employment Support Model
The Model – designed as a “win-win-win” for managers, organizations, and employees alike – was built on extensive discussions with managers who asked key questions such as:
- Where do I find a candidate with an intellectual disability?
- What type of work can these candidates perform
- How can I know they are able to perform the work?
- How can I access advice and guidance on how to make a hire successful
- Will the rest of my team be supported in working with the new hire?
- What happens if things don’t work out positively?
The following 5 pillars reinforce the Employment Support Model and have corresponding Tools2:
Detailed site assessment to determine the exact nature of the tasks to be performed, the characteristics of the workplace and the dynamics of the team in which the new hire will work.
The Workplace Assessment and Job Analysis Tool was developed for this purpose. Careful matching of the proposed new hire to the tasks, workplace characteristics and team dynamics by LiveWorkPlay Inclusion Specialists. The Job Matching Summary Tool was developed for this purpose.
Co-development, by the Inclusion Specialist and the Manager, of a tailored training plan that encompasses all elements of on-boarding, job preparations for the new hire and key expectations. The Training Plan Tool was developed for this purpose. Facilitation of personalized training for managers, as well as general training on inclusion in the workplace, encompassing all aspects of diversity. The Inclusion Workshop Tool was developed for this purpose.
Ongoing support, including employee retention and/or outplacement assistance, when required. The Manager Satisfaction Survey was developed for this purpose.
Relationship-Building and Collaborative Approach
From the outset, a grassroots relationship-building approach was used to connect to individuals who were receptive to learning more about the benefits and supports related to hiring a person with an intellectual disability. Hundreds of presentations to individuals, work teams and management committees at all levels heightened awareness and helped pave the way for early hires. The managers who became champions early on within their organizations were often invited to accompany LiveWorkPlay representatives to speak about their experiences to potential new hiring managers. During this time, a promotional video project was jointly undertaken by LiveWorkPlay and Innovation, Science and Economic Development, in an effort to showcase a successful hire and promote the Initiative throughout the public service. This video featured Tara the employee in the introduction of this report and was well received throughout all levels of the public service.
2 The LiveWorkPlay Employment Support Model and associated Tools are copyrighted by LiveWorkPlay
The Federal Employment Strategy Group (FESG)
Working with individual managers was a good starting point but early on, in 2015, there was a need to collaborate horizontally. The Federal Employment Strategy Group (FESG) was established to provide hiring managers with a venue to share information, exchange experiences and ideas on best practices. Quarterly meetings continue to be voluntary and well-attended – often being described by participants as “energizing.” At the Group’s suggestion, a Manager’s Toolkit was developed, containing one-page profiles presenting real life examples of tasks currently being performed by new hires, photos of employees and co-workers, as well as feedback provided by their respective managers (Appendix 4). The Toolkit also featured a one-page Public Service Commission statement on Options for hiring persons with intellectual disabilities (Appendix 5). LiveWorkPlay collaborated with Treasury Board Secretariat to make the Toolkit available online @GCCollab for all Public Service employees.
The existence and strength of the group has created an, as of yet untapped resource of public servants, eager to be change champions in pursuit of accessibility and inclusion in the Public Service of Canada.
The next section of this case study highlights some best practices developed by members of the Federal Employment Strategy Group work.
Demonstrating Commitment to All Employees:
CFIA’s senior management team has demonstrated their commitment to inclusive employment by articulating clear, reasonable hiring targets, and providing supports to facilitate success.
CFIA understands the value of diversity and is committed to supporting all employees in a manner that enables their success.
– Melissa Struthers, Champion of Persons with Disabilities, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Longer term, continuous work is strongly recommended. This allows time for the new employee and the manager to build a relationship and demonstrate success.
Brodie IS ISED and just like any other ISED employee, he enjoys his position and is happy that his employer and co-workers value diversity in the workplace.
Recruitment & Selection
I can’t speak highly enough of Holli’s enthusiasm, positivity and professionalism. She’s in a diverse workplace and making a great impact on our team already!
– Jessica Ly, Executive Assistant and supervisor of Holli, Privy Council Office of Canada
Preparation is Key:
The LiveWorkPlay Workplace Assessment and Job Analysis Tool was essential during the candidate selection process and was utilized to help find the best fit for Holli and the Privy Council Office of Canada (PCO).
Recruitment & Selection
The majority of departments have reported that hiring an employee with an intellectual disability, including autism, was “new territory” but that they are thankful that they took the opportunity and that using the support of LiveWorkPlay made it “easy”!
Toby’s team at ESDC planned for his arrival, which allowed for a smooth transition into his role and with the group.
Onboarding your New Employee
Workplace Preparation is Key:
Suzan’s manager at the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) worked closely with LiveWorkPlay to establish a robust training plan for Suzan that supported full integration into her new role and with her team.
We couldn’t imagine our team without Suzan. LiveWorkPlay assisted us through the entire hiring process, and they are always available to provide guidance and answer questions. It’s a great partnership.
– Natasha Levesque-Hill, Chief of Staff, Parole Board of Canada
Onboarding your New Employee
Developing a More Inclusive Workplace
Creating a workplace atmosphere that fosters and supports inclusion of all people:
The LiveWorkPlay Inclusion Workshop helped Claudia’s team at Health Canada become a more inclusive workplace for all employees.
“If you aren’t intentionally including everyone, you may be accidentally excluding someone.”
Health Canada is certainly benefiting from the experience of leveraging a well-organized partner program such as LiveWorkPlay to assist our hiring managers in welcoming new employees with intellectual disabilities, including autism, into their teams. This initiative has enhanced our commitment to inclusion and diversity.
– Simon Kennedy, as Deputy Minister, Health Canada
Developing a More Inclusive Workplace
“The workshop provided me with an opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns. I’m happy to work for a department that is considerate of the needs of all employees and is actively putting concrete strategies into place to include everyone at work.”
See LiveWorkPlay Inclusion Workshop
Retention & Career Progression Investing in people:
Congratulations to Troy as he receives his new indeterminate status! The RCMP considers Troy a valuable employee and was pleased to transition him into an indeterminate position after an initial term assignment.
Diversity and inclusion are embraced by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).I am thrilled to have Troy join our team. Troy, along with our thousands of amazing employees, is why the RCMP is such a great organization.
– Kevin R Jones, Deputy-Commissioner RCMP
Retention & Career Progression
The results of the Inclusive Employment Initiative over the 5- year period covered by this case study surpass the number of hires of people with intellectual disabilities in the history of the Federal Public Service based on all available information. While great work has taken place, certain challenges remain to be addressed to enable continued success and ensure employment initiatives and opportunities are truly accessible and inclusive. Chief among these ongoing challenges are:
Leveraging the Employment Support Model and scaling it across the federal Public Service since it has proven to be a successful vehicle for hiring and retaining individuals with intellectual disabilities. Because of its culture change elements, the Model also improves the disability confidence and competence of the federal Public Service. The Model may also be used to improve capacity building in organizations to support regional hiring opportunities. Raising awareness relating to hiring flexibilities amongst managers and human resources advisors. The Public Service Commission has given Deputy Ministers the authority to plan and implement recruitment strategies using a variety of vehicles. The Public Service Commission has designed and implemented a variety of hiring options to enable inclusive access to employment. However, the Initiative revealed a knowledge gap between the availability of employment options, and the use of these options.
Bridging to indeterminate status and overall career progression where performance warrants. Many of the hires under the Inclusive Employment Initiative have seen increases in workload/difficulty of tasks, maintained their positions beyond 2 years and been described by their managers as “exceeding expectations.” But, as of December 31, 2019 only four had been made indeterminate. This low rate of career progression highlights an important employment challenge and signals a need for continued efforts on culture change.
Acknowledging and addressing the “disability difference” for this population. The successful recruitment, retention and career progression of people living with intellectual disabilities requires a specialized approach. To provide inclusive employment opportunities, and a real chance at success, learning, communications, and social adaptations may be required, and these kinds of individualized adaptations may be unfamiliar or more challenging to implement than technological, structural or mechanical adaptations suitable to adjust for other kinds of disabilities.
Identifying Champions and Advocates
A key success factor in every hiring under the Inclusive Employment Initiative was the positive attitude of the manager/supervisor. Where senior managers and especially deputy heads in an organization were setting the tone for accessibility and inclusivity, the “success quotient” was at its highest. In the country’s largest employer, many more champions and advocates are needed. This is of critical importance if we are to move from a grassroots level effort to implementing an employment strategy for an accessible and inclusive Public Service.
Under the former Employment Equity Act, disaggregated data on the four designated groups was not collected so the success of federal Public Service programs to reflect the diversity of the disability community was not available. Measures to be implemented under the It is Accessible Canada Act will improve progress reporting. However, other less aggregated measures will also be important.
There were many learnings that emerged from the Inclusive Employment Initiative but the most important are:
When it comes to inclusive, accessible employment, there is no “one-size fits all” solution for recruitment, retention and job progression for people with disabilities. The supports and adaptations required to enable success may differ substantially from one disability to another. It is clear that when learning, communications and social adaptations and supports are put in place, all public servants benefit. This was noted regularly and illustrates the principle of inclusive design for extreme users.
Leadership is powerful, including the leadership of individual managers, human resource specialists or deputy ministers. The Inclusive Employment Initiative demonstrated what a grassroots effort can achieve through the efforts of the Federal Employment Strategy Group. Likewise, the “Challenge” very clearly showed the ability of senior leaders to influence positive action. Leadership at all levels fosters organizational progress and culture change.
Community organizations with specialized expertise can play an important role in supporting employment of people with disabilities in the federal public service. However, it is important to acknowledge that this is an area of expertise, and there are organizations who have invested in building their expertise and competencies in the employment of individuals with disabilities.
The LiveWorkPlay Inclusive Employment Initiative has proven to be a very productive partnership with the Public Service of Canada, with the tangible results described in this case study. The work is continuing and as of the writing of the study (April 2020) the number of hires stands at 109. A great deal of change has occurred during the five years since the Initiative began. The passage, in June 2019, of the Accessible Canada Act represents an historic step in the removal of barriers to full citizenship.
One of the Government’s desired outcomes of the Accessible Canada Act, is that job seekers at large, including public servants with disabilities, have equal access to employment opportunities and can contribute to their full potential. Employment rates and other related targets for people with disabilities, however, will likely not be achieved for people with intellectual disabilities without mechanisms to address their unique needs. Their poverty and unemployment rates are the highest of any disability population in Canada. The LiveWorkPlay partnership with the Public Service of Canada has shown that a modest investment in a proven employment approach results in improved, successful hiring of people with intellectual disabilities.
The Accessible Canada Act and its pending regulations, the Centralized Enabling Workplace Fund, the Federal Internship Program for Canadians with Disabilities, and the initiative to hire 5000 people by 2025 are historical and positive initiatives. This is a pivotal time in history for inclusion of people with all disabilities. By sharing this case study as widely as possible, we hope that all accessibility activities within the federal Public Service will be informed by the best practices and learnings described. In this way, the “lens” of intellectual disability will be integrated into the planning of the standards, departmental plans, feedback mechanisms, labour force gap analysis and progress reports under the new legislation.
While significant progress has been made by the Public Service of Canada and LiveWorkPlay working together, there is much work remaining. The successes we have achieved will require ongoing advocacy and champions to ensure people with intellectual disabilities are given the support to overcome the barriers to accessible Public Service employment and are fully welcomed into the workplace.
On March 13, 2020, the world as we all knew it in Canada and around the world fundamentally changed. Covid-19 and the resulting pandemic that has touched all of us has had real consequences for all individuals in our society, including members of LiveWorkPlay. In particular, those LiveWorkPlay members who were employed faced drastic, overnight panic, unease and anxiety as workplaces closed and Canadians faced a lock down. In the following weeks, all LiveWorkPlay members who were employed by the federal Public Service waited at home to learn if, when and how they might return to their jobs.
Once the employment implications of the pandemic become clearer in the spring of 2020, LiveWorkPlay worked tirelessly with managers in all Departments and Agencies to help to “pivot” employee roles. This was a period of tremendous innovation, with staff from LiveWorkPlay learning and teaching new tasks and using new virtual technology with employees with intellectual disabilities as well as their managers.
This was often all done remotely or if in-person, with strict safety protocols put into place. Prior to the pandemic, every employee who was directly supported by LiveWorkPlay in their positions with the federal Public Service worked on site for their employers. Seemingly overnight, many LiveWorkPlay members, like other employees in the Public Service, needed to be set up and oriented to working from a home-based environment. Some individuals supported by LiveWorkPlay were very quickly transitioned to working from home and continued performing their essential work in a new way. Others waited for a long period of time while LiveWorkPlay coordinated with their managers and Departments to gain computer access or to transition and potentially even change roles completely. Still other employees supported by LiveWorkPlay lost their jobs.
In these cases, term and casual contracts were terminated early or simply not renewed for a variety of reasons that can be traced back to the pandemic. By December 31, 2020, data collected by LiveWorkPlay indicates that 20* employees with intellectual disabilities and/or autism that worked in federal Departments and Agencies lost their jobs as result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
* This number will actually be larger at the end of fiscal as we have indications that some contracts already will not be renewed due to the pandemic.
While the Covid-19 pandemic was a blow to the Employment Initiative in terms of jobs lost, it also brought with it opportunities for learning and innovation. In particular, as of December 31, 2020, LiveWorkPlay is supporting 28 employees in working from home for the federal Public Service (12 employees have returned to the workplace on site). These include positions that pivoted during the pandemic to working from home, but also new positions for LiveWorkPlay members who have started during the pandemic. In June 2020, LiveWorkPlay was able to on-board the first position for a member that has been completely working from a home-based environment. That individual has gone on to receive an indeterminate contract with Health Canada! By December 31, 2020, 8 new positions for LiveWorkPlay members have been placed since the beginning of the pandemic.
As a result of the number of individuals with intellectual disabilities and/or autism working from home, LiveWorkPlay has developed a series of best practices that have been effective in supporting these individuals. The many tools that LiveWorkPlay had created and that were mentioned earlier in this report-The Workplace Assessment and Job Analysis Tool, The Job Matching Summary Tool, The Training Plan Tool and the Inclusion Workshop Tool-all have been further developed and re-designed to work in our pandemic, virtual workplaces. At LiveWorkPlay, the focus continues to be on making the best employee-employer-job match, with new factors such as on-site safety protocols, at home technology set up, teaching tasks virtually, all now considerations in this process. Some examples of employees that have been matched, hired, on-boarded and are successfully working since the outset of the pandemic are attached in Appendix 9 to demonstrate the range of tasks that are being performed remotely by employees supported by LiveWorkPlay.
NOTE: This is the start of the appendices in the original PDF document. There are images and tables that do not translate into plain text, and these have been omitted from this plain text version.
Appendix 1: About LiveWorkPlay
LiveWorkPlay was founded in 1995 in Ottawa as an advocacy organization aimed at improving life opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities, including autism. A common concern expressed by parents, teachers, and citizens alike is the lack of focus from provincially funded support systems to deliver on outcomes that are more inclusive of this segment of the population.
The system is considered to be pushing individuals with these disability labels into group homes and group programs, essentially segregating them from our communities, limiting normal life, community engagement and employment opportunities.
LiveWorkPlay’s co-founders, Keenan Wellar and Julie Kingstone, were urged to take the organization beyond advocacy and start providing direct supports and services. The organization became a registered charity, established a volunteer board of directors, and opened its first office in 1997. In the first 5 years, LiveWorkPlay experimented with pre-employment training and social enterprises, such as operating a thrift store, intended to help people with intellectual disabilities, including autism, move into the labour market. These efforts did not have many outcomes related to actual transitions to authentic employment, and the organization was determined to do better.
Along with many other organizations who had reached a similar conclusion, LiveWorkPlay began to align with the growing field of “supported employment” and the “employment first” movement, which advocates for the practice of working directly with employers, as opposed to focusing resources on prolonged employment training. Sheltered training practices continue to this day but can demonstrate few successes – in terms of labour market outcomes – as compared to the supported employment approach.
LiveWorkPlay began receiving annual funding from the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services in 2001, which provided stability in supporting people in their homes and community lives but did not offer longevity to efforts in employment supports. Through various short-term grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, United Way Ottawa, and others, LiveWorkPlay managed to help dozens of individuals to obtain meaningful employment over the next decade and began to develop the Employment Task Force.
The Employment Task Force’s approach built upon the successes of individual employers to champion inclusive employment and facilitate connections with potential partners who would also hire persons with intellectual disabilities, including autism.
LiveWorkPlay has joined many leading-edge supported employment organizations and has presented its work at national and international conferences, including the Association of People Supporting Employment First (based in the United States), the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN), the Canadian Association for Supported Employment (CASE), and was a founding member of the Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN).
Still operating without a sustainable source of funding for employment supports, and encouraged by partners at EARN, LiveWorkPlay entered negotiations with the Ontario Disability Support Program Employment Supports (ODSP-ES) division to become a service provider. ODSP-ES service providers receive funding based on a fee-for-performance system (as job seekers are hired and continue in their jobs past various milestones, service providers received compensation according to a schedule). Creating the necessary infrastructure, including recruitment and training of new staff to effectively launch as a new ODSP-ES provider, was aided by LiveWorkPlay competing for, and ultimately winning, the Community Foundation of Ottawa New Leaf Community Challenge award of $125,000 in 2016.
LiveWorkPlay completed negotiations with ODSP-ES and was launched as a service provider in April 2017 and has met and exceeded all employment targets in the first two years of this role. Much of the credit for this success goes to the volunteers of the Employment Task Force, which branched out into two separate groups in 2017 due to inroads made specifically with the Government. The potential for employment outcomes with federal government departments and agencies motivated the creation of the Federal Employment Strategy Group – coordinated by staff member Jen Soucy and co-chaired by retired public servant Mary Gusella and Daniel Spagnolo from the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.
From 2017-2019 the FESG, in partnership with 25 federal government agencies and partners (with significant support from the Treasury Board Secretariat and Public Service Commission) delivered 75 jobs (and counting) as was celebrated in the House of Commons by local MP Anita Vandenbeld on February 19, 2019.
Appendix 2: March 5, 2018 Challenge from CHRO/PSC President
Dear Colleagues: Over the past year, we have been working on ways to increase the hiring of persons with intellectual disabilities in the public service, with a goal to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce, and to help persons with intellectual disabilities meet their full potential.
The most recent Clerk’s report cited the success of an innovative employment pilot project undertaken by seven departments with LiveWorkPlay, an Ottawa-based organization that promotes programs to overcome barriers to employment for persons with intellectual disabilities. The pilot is testing the use of an internationally proven employment support model. Since then, we have had 38 successful hires, with 27 of those currently active in 14 departments: an increase of 29 new hires in the last ten months.
This is a good start, but more can be done. We encourage you to engage with your Heads of HR and management teams to find opportunities for persons with an intellectual disability to contribute to your organization in the coming year. There are a number of other organizations across Canada similar to LiveWorkPlay that could support your organizations. We are hoping to reach the objective of hiring 100 persons with an intellectual disability in the federal public service by December 2018.
Tools and best practices will be shared with your Heads of Human Resources to assist with your internal discussions. In addition to the support provided by specialized community level organizations who work with persons with intellectual disabilities, the Public Service Commission has staffing and assessment specialists who are available to work with departments on a case-by-case basis.
Persons with intellectual disabilities are an asset to any organization. Our thanks go to those departments paving the way. Your efforts are helping to identify and resolve barriers and work toward building a more diverse and inclusive public service.
If you have any comments or concerns regarding this initiative, please contact Carl Trottier, Assistant Deputy Minister, Governance, Planning, and Policy Sector, Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer at (613) 907-5156 or at email@example.com. To reach the staffing and assessment specialists of the Public Service Commission, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anne Marie Smart Chief Human Resources Officer Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Patrick Borbey President Public Service Commission of Canada
Appendix 3: The LiveWorkPlay Employment Supports Model – this is a complicated flow chart image that cannot be replicated in plain text.
Appendix 4: Employer-Employee Profiles – these are complex documents with images that cannot be replicated in plain text.
Appendix 5: PSC Guidelines from the Toolkit
The following are suggested speaking points and practical options for public service managers and human resources advisors about recruiting persons with intellectual or other disabilities.
- The federal public service recognizes the importance of a representative workforce
that reflects Canada’s diversity and provides access to federal public service jobs to
- When addressing an employment equity gap, hiring managers are encouraged to adapt
resourcing strategies such as non-advertised appointments, expanded or restricted areas of
selection, and to recognize that there is a place for persons with intellectual disabilities in the
- When working with persons with intellectual disabilities as part of a hiring process, it is
important to remember that there are options with respect to flexibility during the
assessment phase, such as:
o considering various sources of information, including volunteer work experience
and work samples
o focusing on abilities required to do the job rather than previous work experience
or knowledge that can be gained on the job
o assessing abilities at the level required to do the job
o using assessment tools that are adapted
- Managers also have the option to hire a person with disabilities who has qualified in any other
- There are also on-the-job training opportunities and employment options that can help
applicants acquire public service work experience and job-specific knowledge, including:
o the Federal Student Work Experience Program / COOP / RAP
o casual employment
o variable work hours, part-time or seasonal work
“Diversity and inclusion are key foundations in building the public service of the future. Persons with an intellectual disability can and do make important contributions to serving their country and their fellow citizens.”
Patrick Borbey, President, Public Service Commission
Appendix 6: ISED HR Recruitment Strategy
This is a complex table with images that cannot be replicated in plain text.
Appendix 7: Suzan from Parole Board Visual Onboarding
This is a series of images and text that cannot be replicated in plain text.
Appendix 8: LiveWorkPlay Inclusion Workshop
Do You Want to Increase the Performance of Your Staff and or Team?
Neuroscience shows us that we are not able to perform at our best when we are feeling threatened. We spend on average 80% of our time at work navigating social situations. Many workplaces are inadvertently creating situations that create social threats for employees. This has significant negative impacts on staff engagement, performance, and morale. Did You Know that Supporting Your Team to be at Their Best Creates a More Inclusive Workplace?
By intentionally using strategies that reduce social threats your workplace culture will:
1 Develop more of a culture of curiosity about others leading staff to develop shared goals and focus on what they may have in common instead of what makes them different
2 Encourage co-workers to appreciate and recognize each other’s contributions
3 Increase the focus on the development of a culture of clarity and openness
If you and or your team are interested in learning more LiveWorkPlay can help!
LiveWorkPlay can provide a facilitator to provide for a 90-minute interactive workshop for 30 individuals or less. Your team will learn a common language and framework that has been developed based on brain research that will help you implement intentional strategies to make your workplace more inclusive for all.
Appendix 9: LiveWorkPlay Employee Profiles February 2021
To Managers, Supervisors and HR Professionals,
Since 2015, LiveWorkPlay has successfully partnered with accessibility leaders in many departments and agencies to support the hiring and retention of people with intellectual disabilities. During this Covid-19 pandemic, LiveWorkPlay is now using its expertise to assist successful work from home arrangements as managers and supervisors within the federal Public Service continue to seek ways to increase the diversity of their teams and ensure the participation of people with disabilities in their workforce.
Attached are a few examples of work performed remotely and profiles of several federal public servants supported by LiveWorkPlay.
You are invited to review and share these profiles with your staff and co-workers. If there is an opportunity within your organization to hire an individual to work remotely or within a more formal workplace, supported by a LiveWorkPlay inclusion specialist, please contact email@example.com.[End of document]