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NTEC Awards Business Champions Who Strive for Inclusivity, Accessibility

Hiring the disabled is not only the right choice ethically speaking its the smart choice, says Mike Bradley, long-time Mayor of Sarnia-Lambton
by Cathy Pelletier

At a gala banquet in Niagara Falls last week, N-Tec awarded its Business Champions for hiring the disabled. Joining N-Tec staff Jodi Delage and Kathleen Kelly were: Darla Bell, Fallsview Indoor Waterpark; Wilma Olive-Mills, Chocolate F/X; Norm Kraft, Niagara Recyling; Ryan Wills, Fallsview Casino Resort; Chris DiRaddo, Sassafrass Farms; Rob Welch, Lancaster Brooks & Welch; Bruce Vandersluys, Dobbie’s Florist; Mike DiRaddo, Plant’s Choice; Craig Maguire, Oh Canada, Eh; Sylvia McCormick, Third Space Café; Meghan Grove, Future Waste Recycling; Kayleigh Sexton, The Powerhouse Project; Dan Bouwman, Heartland Forest; Gary Beynon, Doc Magilligan’s Irish Pub.

Gary Beynon needed help in his kitchen at Doc Magilligans Irish Pub.

We needed a dishwasher and someone to butter toast, explained the executive chef, reflecting on his relationship with NTEC (Niagara Training and Employment Agency).

Within a week, I had two great employees, said the Niagara Falls business leader. Job coaches come in and work with the employee the first couple hours of the shift. When Brett came in, he was very shy. He started buttering toast and now hes a line cook. He cooks and helps out with every aspect of the breakfast. Hes a key player. Everybody loves him. Hes so much more confident than when we hired him. You just have to be willing to take a chance, so I encourage everyone to go out and find their own Brett.

NTEC hosted a gala awards ceremony last week to celebrate Beynon and other local Niagara entrepreneurs for being business champions, and including disabled people among their work force.

Agencies such as Community Living, March of Dimes Niagara, Start Me Up Niagara, the NRP Diversity and Inclusive Program, the Niagara Parks Commission, and Venture Niagara, were also recognized for their inclusiveness.

NTEC has committed to finding the best fit for those individuals we support and the businesses, said John Fast, interim CEO and CFO. “Tonights about celebrating success. It is very satisfying to see the growtha 400 per cent increase in just the past two yearsfor individuals placed in competitive employment.

Revealing the agencys new Work Now logo, NTECs manager of employment Jodi Delage stated, Business champions are accessible and inclusive, and from the top down, develop innovation to suit their objectives.

Mayor Mike Bradley of Sarnia-Lambton appeared as guest speaker at the banquet. In 2012, Sarnia was nationally recognized for its accessibility and inclusiveness, and in 2014, Bradley received the Lieutenant Governors award for his personal contributions as an advocate for the disabled, both on the physical and mental spectrum.

Bradley, who has acquired countless additional awards for his inclusive philosophy and activism in his 30 years as mayor of Sarnia, issued a challenge to his fellow Ontario mayors.

The mayors challenge started in 2010, he explained, and it was to hire the intellectually-challenged and disabled. In 2016, we changed it from Do the right thing to do the smart thing. At some point, youve got to find something else besides being elected. You need something within your soul as an elected person to inspire you while advancing your community.

When it comes to accessibility, most communities are doing the minimum, stated Bradley.

In my own community, were building a new sports complex. We did the maximum number of (disabled) parking spots. Its about creating a culture of inclusiveness in your community; to bring people into your business. You can do much more at the grassroots level than at the provincial or federal.

Bradley said he struggles with the language of disability and its related issues.

I dont like intellectually-challenged, he said. To me, this is not about charity. Its just about human rights. I hope you wont just think about one day a year, but think about being a part of the population thats disenfranchised as a citizen. The unemployment rate for those who are disabled is incredible. The barriers of employment are soul-crushing barriers. Our government said its going to change by 2025. Its not even close. If it were any other segment of society, people would fight back.

According to Bradley, Im not just appealing to peoples good nature. Its time. We are all full citizens of the community. Some people see employment and accessibility as a medical issue. Its not. There are 17 million Ontarians who are not included right now, and its not right.

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