Durham Chronicle Volume XLIV, Issue 11
20 The Chronicle April 10 - 16, 2018 chronicle.durhamcollege.ca
Community chronicle.durhamcollege.ca April 10 - 16, 2018 The Chronicle 21 DC journalism grad 'rocks' Aly Beach The Chronicle “Together We Rock!” is a fitting name for an Oshawa-based business, which teaches best practices for accessibility and inclusivity in the workplace. Together We Rock! was founded in 2006 by Durham College (DC) journalism grad, John Draper. Draper has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and is non-verbal. To speak, he uses a communication board on his wheelchair and assistive computer technology. According to their website, the name “Together We Rock!” comes from a comment a classmate made about Draper after he gave a presentation on disabilities and the media’s portrayal of disabilities. His classmate said “you rock,” to which Draper replied, “together, we rock.” According to Draper, Together We Rock! provides learning opportunities to businesses to help them create more accessible and inclusive workplaces. They offer online resources, presentations, strategies and connect businesses to experts who can help them create a more inclusive business and market. Draper’s presentations and workshops have had more than 60,000 attendees. “My presentations and leadership workshops are designed to inspire employees to take one step to achieve an extraordinary workplace that is accessible to and inclusive of everyone,” said Draper, 37, in an email. Together We Rock! has assisted more than 250 businesses and organizations. They primarily work with Canadian companies, but some of their resources have been purchased internationally. They recently filled orders for Australia and Singapore. Fees vary per service. The business focuses on both accessibility and inclusivity, as they are not mutually exclusive. According to Draper, an organization can Photograph by Aly Beach Mark Wafer, keynote speaker and accessibility advocate (right) and DC journalism grad John Draper (left) at an event called "DiscoverAbility." be accessible, but it doesn’t mean they’re inclusive. “Accessibility and inclusivity are not the same, and it’s not enough for communities and workplaces to merely be physically accessible. I may gain physical access to a location only to experience attitudes, interactions, and practices that do not create a welcoming and inclusive experience,” said Draper. The Together We Rock! business values include believing in possibilities, celebrating diversity, strong leadership and envisioning “extraordinary” communities. Draper said the business “lives, sleeps and breathes” its values, which are embedded in all choices the business makes. “Accessible and inclusive communities don’t just happen; they are created. Now is the time,” said Draper. Draper said he works with people who realize that change starts with each individual person. He said creating accessible and inclusive environments is a human problem that needs a human solution. “Each day I witness or hear from people who are making a difference by creating more accessible and inclusive communities and workplaces. Through the leadership of ordinary people, the world is changing,” said Draper. As a person with a disability, Draper has his own wishes when it comes to accessibility and inclusivity. “My dream is that someday I can go wherever I choose and feel welcome. Whether that means an entrance to a physical space is ramped to accommodate my wheelchair or the customer service I receive is welcoming and responsive to my needs,” said Draper. Employers should 'DiscoverAbility' Aly Beach The Chronicle Businesses understand economics. Inclusivity? Sometimes not so much. Fifteen per cent of people in Canada have a disability and according to former Tim Hortons franchise owner, Mark Wafer, hiring people with disabilities can increase profits for a business. “We’ve talked about this from a legislative point of view. We’ve talked about it from a charity point of view. And we have done it in the past, but it hasn’t worked. We’ve got to talk about this to businesses from an economic point of view, because that’s what they [business owners] understand,” said Wafer. Wafer and his wife hired almost 200 workers with disabilities in their seven Tim Hortons restaurants over the course of 20 years. On average, there were about 46 out of 250 employees who had disabilities. Because of his success he believes being an inclusive employer can increase the bottom line for a business. Wafer was in a car accident with a tractor trailer carrying steel when he was 18. He broke several bones, including his spine. He also lost most of his hearing. He was not expected to live, and considers himself lucky to be able to walk again. “This showed me and it shows us, how quickly, in the blink of an eye, that your life can change, you can become disabled. You can join that demographic…the only demographic that you can join,” said Wafer. Wafer spoke at a morning keynote event called “DisccoverAbility” at the Whitby Abilities Centre on March 15. The event promoted the hiring of people with disabilities and was attended by accessibility advocates and accessibility advisors from government agencies and organizations. As of 2012, one in seven Canadians has a disability. That is roughly 15 per cent. According to Statistics Canada, 50 per cent of this demographic are unemployed. Wafer explained, anecdotally, this number is higher because of people who are studying in post-secondary schools or have never worked before. If you re-evaluate the numbers, Wafer suggests, this would mean people with disabilities actually have an employment rate of 70 per cent. “During the great depression the highest unemployment rate went up to 24 per cent. That was considered a national tragedy. And today with 70 per cent unemployment, people with disabilities live in a perpetual Mark Wafer speaking at the Whitby Abilities Centre March 15. depression,” said Wafer. Wafer attributes these number to employers and managers believing misconceptions and stereotypes about people with disabilities, such as working slower and being less productive and innovative. “The greatest barrier a person with a disability faces in order to get into the workplace is attitude. The attitude of our employers, the attitude of society towards people who have a disability,” said Wafer. In Wafer’s experience, employee absenteeism among people with disabilities was 85 per cent lower than those without. “These workers were not looking at the clock to see when was their next smoke break. These workers were working in a safer manner. These workers didn’t take time off. They required no supervision,” said Wafer. Wafer stressed that people with disabilities are innovative, despite stereotypes. He explained people with disabilities have to find different ways to do things to accommodate their disabilities. “They’re already doing things totally different to you and me. Innovative thinking, differently thinking. And that innovation is created in the workforce,” said Wafer, “it’s not created by hiring brilliant people. It’s created by hiring regular folks, who think differently, who problem-solve differently.” Hiring people with disabilities will make a business more money, according to Wafer. In the fast food sector, the average employee turnover rate is 100 per cent to 125 per cent. Wafer said his was under 40 per cent. It costs about $4,000 to train a new server or cashier. So by having Photograph by Aly Beach a lower turnover rate, he was making more money than other Tim Hortons’ in the area because he did not have to spend more money on training new employees.Wafer opened his first Tim Hortons in the early 1990s. He needed a dining room attendant and hired Clint Sparling, a then 23-year-old man with Down syndrome was hired. Sparling opened Wafer’s eyes to how inclusivity is good for business. “I realized very quickly that Clint was my best employee,” said Wafer. Clint has now been working at Tim Hortons for 22 years. He is now the dining room manager, married, owns a condo and is living a full life, according to Wafer. “He’s living a full life because he has a job, and more importantly, a paycheque. That’s how we all live a full life: paycheques. And the fact that we’re able to contribute to society,” said Wafer.