Durham Region has come a long way in the availability and prevalence of services for people with disabilities, but there is still a long way to go, according to Mark Wafer. Wafer is a local business owner who owns seven Tim Hortons locations. He has a staff of 250, 46 of whom have a disability. Over the past 19 years, Wafer has employed more than 100 people living with a disability.
“If you look at the basic services that a person needs which is food and shelter, that’s pretty much taken care of,” said Wafer. “That’s one of the things we can be pretty proud of in our country is that we do the basics, but unfortunately that’s all we do.”
Wafer says getting into the workforce can be extremely difficult for them.
“We don’t have facilities in place that allow a person with a disability to live a full life. Where that becomes most apparent is employment,” he said.
Wafer believes that the approach to providing individuals with a disability employment needs to be reworked.
“We’ve got to take the conversation away from the individual who has the disability and talk about business success,” he added.
For example, instead of letting an employer know you have a great individual looking for work, show the employer how hiring this person will benefit them. Hiring people with disabilities comes with its own variety of employer benefits, if employers are made aware of these benefits prior to an interview, there’s a much higher chance of them hiring the individual, says Wafer.
Although the region still has a lot of work to do, Wafer commends the Abilities Centre in Whitby for its work.
“The Abilities Centre is a gem. They’ve got the right people and they’ve got the right thinking and will certainly make a big difference.”