"When was the last time you went into a bank and you ever saw a person with a disability working behind the counter?"

It's a question that both David Onley, the province's special adviser on accessibility, and CIBC have been asking.

They seem to have come up with a similar answer. 

"You probably have never seen one," Onley said — a fact that's reflected in many different workplaces, according to an Angus Reid survey commissioned by CIBC. 

Ont Throne Speech 20130219

Former Lt.-Gov. David Onley said it's extremely rare to see a person with a disability working on the front lines of a bank. (The Canadian Press)

The survey involved 1,002 Canadians with disabilities; 37 per cent of those respondents of working age said they were unemployed.

Of those who did have jobs, roughly a quarter said they were working in a role that did not reflect the breadth of their qualifications.

500 new jobs

CIBC responded to the results by announcing it would hire 500 people with disabilities this year. 

In a press release, however, the bank said it wanted its workforce to reflect "our diverse clients [and] communities."

"We want to let job seekers with disabilities know that at CIBC we focus on the abilities and personal strengths of people," said Laura Dottori-Attanasio, a senior executive vice-president and chief risk officer at the bank, in a press release. 

Front-line staffers

About 1.8 million Ontarians identify as having a disability — and the province's accessibility adviser says seeing a bank draw from that talent pool is long overdue.

Onley suggested CIBC turn the majority of new positions into front-line staffers so that "people can see [that] this is [their] practice of hiring."

​Jamie Burton, vice president at an IT consulting firm that helps companies be accessible to its employees, said there's an advantage to hiring people with disabilities. 

This untapped talent pool can help "solve their turnover rates, to increase innovation, [and] to have their employees reflect the communities that they serve," the Dolphin Digital Technologies executive said. "We don't give opportunities to see what [people are] capable of doing because our assumptions are in the way."