Ryerson U. works to connect disabled job-seekers with employers

Disabled people face fear, stigma and other challenges on the job market. But a new social media project at Ryerson University is looking to change that by connecting disabled job-seekers with employers who are open to diversity.

'We're breaking down the silos' says man behind Magnet project

Prior to joining the Magnet project at Ryerson University, Tim Rose says he faced an uphill battle finding employers who were open to hiring a disabled person. (CBC)

Tim Rose has degrees in law and human rights. He also has cerebral palsy and, because of that, once spent more than four years looking for work. Now he's with a new online project at Ryerson University aimed at helping other people with disabilities overcome the challenges of finding a job. 

More than half of all disabled, working-age Canadians are unemployed, according to a 2012 survey — a state of affairs Ontario's former lieutenant governor David Onley once called a "permanent depression." 

But Rose says Ryerson's Magnet project wants to change that by connecting candidates with employers who are committed to hiring people with disabilities. 

"We're breaking down the silos — so we're not only connecting job-seekers and employers, but we've also got data that we're sharing with community organizations and with policy makers," Rose said Tuesday on Metro Morning.

"We're really trying to bring everybody together under one umbrella for the first time, to actually make a difference in those unemployment numbers." 

Rose says disabled job-seekers often face fear, stigma and other misconceptions from would-be employers. Disabilities are often wrongly associated with illness and employers think they will have to spend a lot on special accommodations. 

"Accommodations don't cost a lot of money,' Rose said. "Studies show the average cost … is $500. So if a company can afford $500 — how many companies are in that position?"

Hiring people with disabilities is not only the nice thing to do it's the smart thing to do.— Tim Rose

He faced those prejudices himself when, despite his considerable education, he got onlyfour job interviews over more than four years. 

"It was the hardest thing I've ever been through," he said. "No matter how sure I was in my skills and my education and who I was, after four years of hearing 'no,' that confidence starts to take a hit." 

"And the self-doubt comes in, and the struggle comes in, and you really start to question 'What am I doing wrong?' When in reality all I did wrong was be born with a physical difference." 

But it's not like that with all employers. Many, Rose said, want to hire disabled people but don't know where to find them. 

"So what we're trying to do is say we have the talent pool — here they are — and then that excuse goes out the window." 

Rose says studies have shown disabled employees are often more loyal, have lower absentee and higher retention rates and are often more creative at getting around problems. 

"A lot of employers out there are starting to realize hiring people with disabilities is not only the nice thing to do it's the smart thing to do, business-wise." 

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