226: Blended – (Dis)Ability in the Workplace

If you were listening last month, you’ll have heard that we were celebrating a whole year of Blended! In episode 12 we talked all about immigration – our guests gave us an insight into their personal journeys, and how those experiences shaped them; we talked about struggling with identity; and we reflected on what we can do, as leaders, to celebrate diversity through immigration, to create opportunities and to elevate those voices.

Now it’s episode 13, we’re stepping into year two of Blended, I’m so excited to bring you all more – and today we’re talking about disability. The subject of disability has come up in other shows, particularly when we’ve talked about rights or discrimination. But sometimes we are all guilty of talking broadly and lumping everybody together – so we say, “there’s a policy that covers women, LGBTQIA+, disability, race, religion” – but we know that these sweeping statements don’t work. Everybody is different, their needs are different and so we need to make sure we’re breaking it all down and talking about things on an issue by issue, person by person level. So I’m joined by another passionate group of professionals who are helping us shine a light on the issue of disability today.



[01.01] Introductions to our Blended panellists.

“I’m a person who can’t see that is living in a world that has been set up for people who can – and that’s the same for all disabilities.” Scott

  • Scott – Director of Public Policy at Alphapointe
  • Claudia – Senior Director of Global Logistics at Google
  • Prakash – Multi Model Operations at Toll Group
  • Doug – Program Manager in Workforce Development at NSITE
  • Victor – Chair of Board of Directors for Clothing Pick Up for Cerebral Palsy and Board Director for The Ontario Federation of Cerebral Palsy

“I can now say ‘I’m blind’ and I’m not cautious or ashamed. I encourage people that are going through the same thing, there’s a rainbow at the end, you can get through this and really succeed!” Doug

[11.52] The group reflect on what the word ‘disability’ means to them.

“Disability is a very broad statement that actually disempowers a lot of people.” Prakash

  • People first language
  • The evolution of language
  • What defines you as an individual
  • Words mean different things to different people
  • Developing more creative means of communication
  • Breadth of what the word represents – not all disabilities are visible

“I think it’s always safe to ask the person how they want to be referred to. In a situation where you’re not sure, it’s best to ask!” Claudia

[26.05] The guests share their personal experiences, both the challenges and the positives, and discuss some of the things they’ve learned from those experiences.

  • Creating safe spaces to educate and empower
  • Normalizing conversations
  • Making things accessible, from workplaces to websites
  • Creating equal opportunities
  • Honesty and visibility
  • Systems, technologies and remote working
  • The impact of COVID

“I’m a strong believer that we need to do what it takes to get employers to look at people, to pay them real dollars and give them real jobs so everyone has an opportunity in life.” Victor

[52.00] The panel discuss different company procedures and approaches, and their impact.

“You need to educate people about inclusion – you can have an accessible washroom, but that doesn’t mean you’re welcoming people.” Victor

  • Holding leadership accountable
  • Policies and targets
  • Breaking the tendency to only employ people like yourself
  • Training and awareness
  • Company culture and structure
  • Assumptions vs honest conversations
  • Flexibility
  • Accessibility vs inclusiveness

“It’s not just about diversity, race, gender, disability – it’s the culture-add that you get. By adding people of different backgrounds and abilities, you get a stronger, richer, high performing team.” Claudia

[1.09.03] The group reflect on possible solutions for opening up dialogues in our businesses, guiding leaders to a more inclusive way of working and celebrating and promoting people with disabilities.

  • Creating the right environments
  • Staff training
  • Keeping an open mind and resisting assumptions
  • Taking action and being committed
  • Being an ally

[1.20.22] The panellists each give their sum-up from today’s discussion around what we can we do to encourage diversity through disability. .

  • Don’t be scared to have the conversation, or ask the question – Prakash
  • Don’t be afraid to step down and empower the person with the disability – Victor
  • Promote awareness – Claudia
  • Remember that with diversity comes opportunity – Doug
  • Your future will be brighter and better when you find ways to engage with and include people with disabilities – Scott

“We need more pressure on our HR staffing teams to make sure that we have a diverse slate of candidates – and that means all kinds of diversity.” Claudia



You can connect with Scott, Claudia, Doug, Prakash and Victor over on LinkedIn.

Check out our other podcasts HERE.

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