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Toronto’s Diverse Workforce includes Disability

February 28, 2020,
Did you know that 25 per cent of the working population identifies with having a disability? It is slowly becoming the norm for companies to report that they are an equitable hirer, but the question remains the same: are they really?

With the help of the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW) and the Youth The Future program, local companies all throughout the GTA transform their equitable desires into reality.

Youth The Future – run by CCRW, a nonprofit organization funded through the federal government – allows youth ages 15-30 to gain the required pre-employment skills before entering the workforce. The knowledgeable staff bring in outsourced programs, such as Safe Food Handlers and First Aid, to ensure that these participants are competitive for the job market. The participants are prepped on how to disclose their disability, prepare for an interview, and determine any resources/accommodations they may need.

What makes CCRW Youth The Future different from other pre-employment programs? CCRW runs 20-week sessions, each bringing in 15-20 clients who identify with having a disability. Unlike most pre-employment programs, CCRW is not catered to just one specific disability, and boasts a large group of employees with various educational backgrounds. This adds different perspectives when brainstorming the best accommodations for the participants.

In 2019, CCRW partnered with BALANCE for Blind Adults to assist in accommodating participants with sight loss.

CCRW builds rapport with local companies in the GTA by providing on-the-job support. CCRW employees will assess the workplace and provide accommodations when needed. They will provide the necessary check-ins to both the employee and employer to ensure success and job retention.

Local employers are making a difference. In Scarborough, staff from CCRW came across a gentleman with a desire to make a change in the community. Leonard See, manager of the Peanuts Club at the Central Eglinton Community Centre, hired one of the Youth the Future program participants as an early childhood educational assistant.

The assistant uses a magnifying glass as an assistive device to help read stories to the children. As most children do, they had many questions about why a magnifying glass was being used, and both the new employee and manager spent time explaining the reason why. And then the manager went above and beyond any expectation, and bought all the children magnifying glasses to be more like their teacher. What a success.

The Youth the Future program held their graduation ceremonies on Feb. 5, inviting all participants and employers. It was a cause for celebration. Some of the recognizable employers for this session included OR Solutions, BALANCE for Blind Adults, Central Eglinton Community Centre, Unique Window Tinting & Detailing, and Salvation Army Distribution Centre.

For more information on how to make a positive impact on someone’s life and show that diversity includes disability, please contact the CCRW at 1-800-664-0925 or by email at

Elizabeth Grady is the Scarborough-based Youth the Future program facilitator and job developer for the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work, serving Toronto.

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