Cheryl Colmer is the Regional Manager for Neil Squire Society in Ontario, with its office located in Ottawa. She believes the key to helping people with disabilities succeed in the workforce is to keep the lines of communication open between employers and employees, viewing EARN as a positive role model opening doors to more partnerships between members.
1. Tell us about your organization.
- Neil Squire Society (NSS) has been delivering employment services in Ottawa for about 25 years, nationally NSS is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2019.
- NSS programs offer an opportunity for people with disabilities to develop computer skills, build their employability skills and re-enter or enter the work force.
- Assistive technology services help remove barriers.
- Offer career development to identify suitable employment goals through to resume writing, interview practice and job search strategies and support.
- Support employers in recruiting, hiring and training employees with disabilities.
2. What types of job seekers with disabilities do you help find employment?
- NSS is a cross disability organization serving people with physical, mental health, vision loss, hearing loss, intellectual disabilities and learning disabilities.
Does not provide on the job coaching due to funding restrictions so the organization partners with other service providers to offer this support to its clients.
3. What services and supports can you provide to assist employers once they have hired someone with a disability?
- Support is flexible in terms of keeping the lines of communication open between an employer and an employee to identify and discuss accommodation solutions.
- Accommodation needs and solutions can occur at any point in an employee’s career; employers may need help to know what questions to ask to provide appropriate accommodations and this is where NSS can help.
- Solutions may be technology, software, hardware, training or strategies.
4. What are the top 3 misconceptions employers have about hiring persons with disabilities?
- A perceived lack of experience working with employees with disabilities, when many employers may not realize they may already have team members with invisible disabilities on staff whom they are supervising.
- Employees with disabilities won’t perform/be as effective as other employees.
- Supervising employees with disabilities requires more time and energy and costs more in the end.
5. What approaches can be used to address these misconceptions?
- What helps to dispel these misconceptions are awareness sessions, having conversations, and the key is keeping the lines of communication open.
- Ultimately individual employers/supervisors who have experience/exposure to individuals with disabilities are the ones who are more open to hiring employees with disabilities.
6. Is there one last thing you’d like to add that we didn’t cover?
- Team at NSS love what they do and enjoy partnering with the other EARN members to ensure they are meeting the full range of employment needs of their mutual clients.
- EARN has really opened the door to allow more partnerships between service providers, to encourage a spirit of true partnership which makes everyone’s jobs easier.
Many thanks are extended to Cheryl Colmer for taking part in this interview. Cheryl is the Regional Manager for the NSS in Ontario. To find out more about Neil Squire Society services in Ottawa visit https://www.neilsquire.ca/