Is there an ideal workplace?

By Donna J. Jodhan

This is something that has occupied my mind for many years now and at the end of the day I would have to humbly submit that, indeed,there is no ideal workplace for the blind employee.  There is none for the sighted employee so why should I expect that there would be one for the blind worker?

If I were given a wish list as to what an almost ideal workplace could be, what would I wish for?  Well, here is my wish list. Let’s see how I do.

First, I’ll define what I mean by ‘workplace.’  It would include the facets and dimensions of a physical layout plus a virtual environment, so here goes.

With regard to the physical environment, I’d wish for:

  • Elevators that are easy to find
  • Buttons that are easy to access
  • Adequate lighting
  • Buttons that light up
  • Elevators talk back to you
  • Elevator doors that are brightly painted for easy identification
  • Work stations, offices, washrooms, conference rooms, and cafeterias that are easy to locate and navigate.

With regard to the virtual environment, I’d wish for:

  • Intranets that are accessible and navigable for blind persons
  • Documentation in alternate formats
  • Access software that can interact efficiently with mainstream software within the work environment.

Plus I’ll add to this list that it is always helpful whenever fellow employees, management, and supporting staff can be sensitized to the requirements of their fellow blind colleague.  This can certainly help to break down many of those artificial barriers.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan your freelance writer and roving reporter wishing you a terrific day.You can follow me on twitter @accessibleworld and @author_jodhan and chat with me on Skype at habsfan0526. Like us on Facebook at

For more of my blogs, please visit:, and

For my audio mysteries:  Visit


Based in
British Columbia, Cycling4Diversity encourages people to reach out and develop intercultural relationships in their workplaces, communities and neighbourhoods. The message has literally been taken on the road, encouraging students across BC to stop making assumptions and to start celebrating our cultural differences.

“What we are asking is (to) do one thing: to be inclusive.” ~Ken Herar, founder, Cycling4Diversity

Younger Canadians hold more negative views about religious diversity

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) and the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration (CIIM) have released additional details from a January/February 2014 national survey that examined ongoing concerns about religious diversity, racism, and intergroup relations.

“We have continued to analyze results from this survey which illustrate the ongoing challenges facing the country in the area of race relations and diversity”, said Rubin Friedman, designated spokesperson for the CRRF.

The survey reveals that, in descending from oldest to youngest, there is an increasingly negative view of all religious groups inCanada, the most negative view held by younger Canadians. Negative views of Aboriginal Peoples and Immigrants are also high among youth.

Table 1: Negative attitudes towards certain groups, according to age groups

 Negative Opinion































































“These results remind us of the need to re-examine teaching and education about religious diversity inCanada, as well as confronting attitudes toward Aboriginal Peoples and immigrants. While schools and other educational institutions have a front line role, it is essential to revisit the messages conveyed to the public with respect to religions and other groups,” said Rubin Friedman.

Executive Vice-President of the Identities Institute, Jack Jedwab, observed that, “These and other results of the survey confirm that the debate inQuebecabout secular values could easily heighten negativity about religious groups and minorities when discussions are held in a damaging atmosphere and framework. Such discussions must be handled with greater care and sensitivity than was recently demonstrated.”

Albert Lo, Chairperson of the CRRF concluded, “Our recent consultations during the Interfaith and Belonging Initiative show a widespread desire for a more explicit and common framework for the values inherent in Canadian citizenship. These are matters we need to pursue at an appropriate pace and through more involvement of Canadians at the grass roots, something the CRRF has done and proposes to continue, especially in reaching out to youth. As we face growing challenges in building a diverse society, all of us have the obligation as Canadians to understand the common bases for citizenship and the need for mutual respect as a cornerstone upon which equality and freedom can flourish.”

League Debuts WNBA Pride, a National Platform Celebrating Inclusion and Equality

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) tipped off WNBA Pride, a new national platform celebrating inclusion and equality, while combating anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bias.

“The WNBA welcomes all fans, athletes, and partners to our game,” said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie. “These beliefs unite the 12 teams of the WNBA and we are very excited to introduce the WNBA Pride platform which celebrates acceptance and inclusion. The WNBA takes great pride in working with extraordinary partners who share these values, and we are so grateful to our presenting partner COVERGIRL along with ESPN, GLSEN and GLAAD for joining the WNBA on this important initiative.”

The WNBA will be the first professional sports league to establish an integrated marketing, media, grassroots and social responsibility program for the LGBT community including a new special site, where league and team Pride content, events and schedules will be posted throughout the season. Information will also be shared on the league’s social media channels where the content will be aggregated with the hashtag #wnbapride.

“The WNBA Pride platform will raise the bar in helping to end anti-LGBT bias in sports, while also celebrating the tremendous value LGBT athletes and fans bring to the game,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.

Additional elements of WNBA Pride will include:

  •       Team participation in local LGBT Pride festivals and parades
  •       Fifth annual LogoTV/AfterEllen Score Your Seats Sweepstakes, where fans will have the opportunity to win a trip to a WNBA Finals game
  •       Presence at the Provincetown Memorial Day Weekend taking place May 22 – May 26 and Women of Color Weekend taking place May 29 – June 1, where the WNBA will serve as the presenting partner of both weekend celebrations
  •       Advertising with lesbian-targeted outlets

“Every day in the news we see that inclusion is the new standard for our society, and every day we see more and more people reject prejudice and anything that would divide us,” said Phoenix Mercury Center Brittney Griner. “I’m proud to be a part of the WNBA and NBA family that has chosen to embrace the LGBT community, not just for the out athletes like me, but also the allies and fans who love them.”

Disability Report Opens Door to Greater Accessibility

As the B.C. government releases a report summarizing what was heard throughout a disability white paper consultation, it has taken an important first step with a commitment to create an accessibility secretariat.

The Disability Consultation Report: Moving Together Toward an Accessible B.C. is government’s summary of the voices of the thousands of people who participated in the province wide consultation, sharing their ideas and solutions for how society can better support people with disabilities to fully participate in their communities. Full details from the consultation can be found at

One idea heard loudly and clearly throughout the consultation was that people with disabilities need help navigating the system in order to better understand and access government supports and services. In response, an accessibility secretariat will be created within the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation.

The secretariat will work across government to develop improved navigation support and information sharing about programs, services and resources available for people with disabilities in B.C. It will be fully up and running by fall 2014.

In addition, government will host a summit on June 16 in Vancouver. The summit will include discussions around short-, mid- and long-term strategies to support the goal of B.C. becoming the most progressive place in Canada for people living with disabilities. The summit will bring together the disability community, government and business communities, and will be available province wide via live-streamed video on the consultation website.

The B.C. government is also partnering with the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities offering 100 spots, available through a random selection process, for disability community members to attend. This partnership will ensure a fair and transparent process around the administration of these spots.

Jane Dyson, executive director of the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, said, “We believe a random selection process for participation at the summit is the fairest process as we anticipate there will be great interest in attending the event. We’re happy to help ensure that as many interested groups and individuals as possible have an opportunity to attend.”

Government will invite senior officials involved in supporting accessibility, leaders of disability groups who took the time to submit a written submission and key members from local government, First Nations and the business community.

The disability white paper consultation was launched Dec. 3, 2013, and closed on March 11, 2014, the anniversary of Canada’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“Recognizing that people with disabilities can play a greater role in the workplace and are an underserved segment of the consumer marketplace is an important message coming out of this report,” said Tamara Vrooman, chief executive officer, Vancity and co-chair of the Presidents Group. “Inclusion and diversity build vibrant workplaces and create a sense of fulfilment for all employees. We believe moving forward, support for inclusion must come from the business sector if we’re to help remove perceptions about people with disabilities and implement solutions that will attract more employees and consumers with disabilities.”

A copy of the Disability Consultation Report: Moving Together Toward an Accessible B.C. is available at

Diversity in the Hospital C-Suite: Walk it Like You Talk it

By Molly Gamble

Cultural and gender diversity is a laudable goal, especially for organizations’ C-suites, which have traditionally lacked variety in this respect. Many healthcare leaders associate a diverse leadership team with improved patient satisfaction, more successful decision-making, achieved strategic goals, better clinical outcomes and stronger financial performance. Yet, despite the beneficial connections, only about 25 percent of healthcare leaders feel minority executives are well-represented in their organization’s management, according to a recent WittKieffer survey.

There seems to be a paradox within healthcare, an antinomy in which executives uphold diversity as a business value, yet fail to ensure its personification in their own team or board. Only 15 percent of professionals felt the diversity gap in healthcare leadership has closed, according to the survey, suggesting a considerable amount of work remains.

So why do CEOs talk-the-talk but slow down when it comes time to walk-the-walk? “You know as well as I the many demands on our health system right now. There are many boards and CEOs who are spiritually and strategically committed to this work, but they have so much on their plate,” says Jim Gauss, chairman, Board Services Practice at Witt/Kieffer. “[Diversity] has to fit in the larger context of a health system’s or hospital’s business case,” he says.

Here are five points on how a diverse leadership team, aside from being right in principle, is beneficial for a healthcare organization’s  business, and three best practices for organizations bolstering their diversification efforts.

Five ways leadership diversity connects to health system or hospital business strategy

1. Improved patient satisfaction. Roughly 62 percent of healthcare leaders believe cultural differences among healthcare leadership can improve the patient experience. A culturally diverse board and executive team can enhance an organization’s public image and improve credibility. A good rule of thumb — and effective conversation-starter — is to compare a hospital’s board and leadership team to the population it serves. “The best organizations are doing this: putting mirrors up to themselves and asking if they really reflect the communities they serve,” says Mr. Gauss.

2. More vetted decision-making. Sixty-five percent of healthcare CEOs believe understanding cultural differences support successful decision-making, according to the survey. In this realm, the term “diversity” not only refers to demographic attributes, but also diversity in thought, education and skills. “I’m working with boards to bring in diversity of thought and perspective, first and foremost,” says Mr. Gauss. “It doesn’t always mean we’re talking about diversity in the narrow sense.”

3. Accomplishment of strategic goals. About 54 percent of healthcare professionals agree that diversity in recruiting allows their organization to reach their strategic goals. A difference in perspectives and cultural understandings unveils new angles for organizations to explore when setting strategic goals, planning for how they will be reached and how they will affect various components of the delivery system and communities served.

4. Improved clinical outcomes. Healthcare systems that have textured and varied understandings of patients’ ethnic backgrounds, linguistic needs and other cultural perspectives are associated with more competent care and better clinical outcomes. Forty-six percent of healthcare professionals believed diversity in leadership leads to improved clinical outcomes, according to the survey.

5. Improved bottom line. Nearly 40 percent of survey respondents indicated a diverse leadership team is more likely to improve a healthcare organization’s bottom line, due in part to the combination of values previously listed — better outcomes, improved efficiency, greater patient satisfaction and enhanced credibility. “It may still be a few years away before this becomes abundantly clear, but I’d say you’ll see a lot more people on the financial side of the house paying attention to [diversity],” says Mr. Gauss.

Three best practices for hospital diversification efforts

1. Infiltrate values of diversity throughout the entire organization. It’s one thing to recruit diverse candidates to a healthcare organization’s board and management, but the hard work lies in instilling the value throughout every level of the organization’s culture. Some organizations have been successful at this, and Mr. Gauss says those hospitals and health systems are now held in high esteem among healthcare professionals. “Those are ‘magnet’ organizations for diverse candidates — those that do good work are then sought out by diverse candidates,” he says.

2. Rally support from the board and C-suite.
The organizations Mr. Gauss deemed most successful in diversifying their leadership are those that aggressively planned programs and goals around the effort. CEOs and boards can solidify ideas and goals about diversity and make them a successful business strategy. “I think the most fundamental issue of all is that those organizations that do the best work in this area undoubtedly have strong board and CEO support,” says Mr. Gauss. “Without proper CEO and board support, a lot of things don’t happen.”

3. Consider what works best for other organizations. Not all diversity initiatives are successful. In the survey, only 37 percent of respondents said their organization’s cultural sensitivity programs were effective, whereas 94 percent of respondents agreed that mentoring programs were an effective best practice to cultivate organizational diversity. Diversifying a leadership team or culture can take three to five years as it is, leaving little time or space for hamstrung initiatives. Other practices respondents deemed effective in the survey include seeking ways to move individuals from college and/or healthcare jobs to healthcare administration; obtaining employee feedback on diversity efforts; developing ongoing minority leadership training programs; and networking with diversity organizations.

This article originally appeared in Becker’s Hospital Review.

Three companies receive 2014 Best Employers Award for 50 Plus Canadians™

Three Canadian companies have been awarded a 2014 Best Employers Award for 50-Plus Canadians™. The awards, sponsored by the Workplace Institute, will be presented at  KAA-Booming in June.

“The people in these organizations have created innovative programs and policies to attract and retain their experienced, highly skilled older workers,” says Barbara Jaworski, founder of the awards and CEO of the Workplace Institute. “They recognize that employees over 50 are a valuable resource worth retaining and are doing what they can to protect that resource. These three employers are also leading the charge to eradicate stereotypes about older workers and celebrate what all demographics are contributing to today’s organizations.”

This year’s winners are:  AltaGas (Canada/ US), Hydro Ottawa (Ontario) and Sodexo (Canada).

The Best Employers Award for 50-Plus Canadians™ is open to all Canadian companies with more than 20 employees. Criteria for the awards are excellence in the areas of hiring, training, career development, retention, workplace culture, health care, employee and family benefits, retirement policy, pensions and pre- and post-retirement support systems.

The award is designed to recognize and reward innovative and effective programs or initiatives within organizations that lead the way in best practices concerning older workers while achieving organizational goals. Nominees are asked to demonstrate how their organization has introduced or tried new ideas or programs with mid to late career employees and the rewards they have reaped from doing so. 

About the Workplace Institute

The Workplace Institute is a global organization helping employers in all sectors tap into the skills and talents of all employees, but especially older workers. They do this through training, customizable online resources, education and presentations. For more information, go to

TRIEC and RBC announce winners of 8th Annual Immigrant Success Awards

The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) and RBC have recognized the winners of the 8th Annual Immigrant Success (IS) Awards; organizations and individuals who are helping employers do just that to the advantage of employers, immigrants and the region as a whole.

“Historically, immigrants have made significant contributions to Canada’s success. Yet, 10 years ago, a diverse group of the region’s leaders founded TRIEC because the region was not effectively leveraging the immigrant talent it possessed to the detriment of us all,” said Margaret Eaton, Executive Director of TRIEC. “We are so proud of the role TRIEC and its partners have played in helping skilled immigrants succeed during the past decade. The IS Award winners really demonstrate the magic that can occur when immigrants have the opportunity to contribute to their full potential.”

Celebrating its 10th anniversary today as well, TRIEC has long championed innovative solutions to immigrant employment in the GTA, the type of solutions highlighted by this year’s IS Award winners. With different backgrounds and expertise, each of these winners demonstrate the exceptional value of immigrant entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship for the GTA economy.

“Each of the winners has been a catalyst in their own unique way for integrating skilled immigrants into the GTA’s labour market,” said Zabeen Hirji, Chief Human Resources Officer at RBC, the sponsor of the IS Awards. “RBC is proud to support the IS Awards, which reflect our belief that a diverse and inclusive workplace plays a key role in driving employee engagement, innovation and a stronger, more competitive,  business. We are confident that the winners and nominees will inspire others to better integrate skilled immigrants into workplaces throughout our region.”

Two organizations and one individual were recognized recently for their contribution to immigrant employment in the GTA. The winners were selected by a panel of senior human resource professionals, business executives and industry stakeholders.  They were:

Entrepreneurship Connections (ACCES Employment and the Business Development Bank of Canada)

ACCES Employment and BDC partnered together in 2011 to launch Entrepreneur Connections, a program designed for newcomers who plan to launch a business in Canada. The four-week program is a great example of a partnership, between ACCES Employment and the Business Development Bank of Canada, that provides positive, tangible results for both skilled immigrants and employers. Entrepreneur Connections helps immigrants translate their past experience and education into the Canadian market. The program provides individual coaching to start a business, teaches the foundations of a business plan, offers legal consultation for a business launch and pairs the participant with an established mentor. 


emergiTEL was founded by Aneela Zaib, who immigrated to Canada in 1988 and leveraged her international background and expertise in IT and Telecom to launch this national business. Considered one of the fastest growing companies in Canada, emergiTEL is a full solution provider of staffing, outsourcing, consulting and training services for the Telecommunications and IT industries. With first-hand knowledge of the employment challenges faced by skilled immigrants, Zaib has tasked emergiTEL with a commitment to support new Canadian professionals, a significant portion of the company’s roster, by managing their overall career paths and connecting them with employers they would not normally have access to.

Emiliano Mendez

Emiliano Mendez, originally from Mexico City, has established a successful career working for several Fortune 500 companies in Canada and is currently employed in the financial sector in Strategy and Transformation Services. With all of this professional success, Mendez has not forgotten the challenges he experienced during the early stages of his career and he has since co-founded the not-for-profit organization, LAMBA (Latin America MBA Alumni Network). LAMBA’s objective is to support professional development and networking for Latin American business professionals in Canada. The organization started as a small group of Latin American MBA graduates from top business schools in Canada and today has over 500 members from the Americas. LAMBA is credited for giving the Latin business community in Toronto wider recognition, positioning its members as valuable talent in the workforce and offering bridge programs that help internationally trained professionals to succeed in their careers. Recently, Emiliano accepted the role of President of LAMBA. 

For more information on TRIEC and the IS Awards, go to, or @TRIEC. 

About the Immigrant Success Awards

The IS Awards are presented by TRIEC and sponsored by RBC, with funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the support of media partners Canadian HR Reporter, CBC Toronto and the Toronto Star.

About Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council

The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) creates and champions solutions to better integrate skilled immigrants in the Greater Toronto Region labour market.

Can the glass ceiling be broken?

In a previous article I posed a question to my readers asking the all-important question: “Is there a glass ceiling?”  I know only too well how sensitive a topic this is for all stakeholders and the comments in this follow-up article are mine and mine only.

In that previous article I outlined the artificial barriers which I feel lie in the way of workplace advancement and now I’d like to respectfully make some suggestions as to how these barriers could be fixed.

1.         A hesitation on the part of management to recognize the potential of those blind employees who do indeed show potential.

This barrier could be fixable if management consciously recognizes the potential of a blind employee.  Trust needs to be built between management and employee.  A commitment to work on hesitations on both sides could be initiated and a continuous effort to explore various avenues could be developed.  Awareness training may also be helpful.


2.         Technological barriers that either prevent or encumber the progress of a blind employee.

For better or for worse, technology often has the last say when it comes to the career and progress of a blind employee.  In several cases technology often prevents or hampers progress but there are to work around this. It does take a lot of patience, a considerable investment in time, and an initiative on the part of all concerned.  A willingness to understand how access technology interacts with mainstream technology is definitely needed. Out of this exercise could come a greater level of appreciation for the technological barriers faced by blind employees in the workplace.

3.         Hesitation or unwillingness of coworkers to be open minded to the potential of their blind coworkers.

This barrier is often a difficult one to overcome and my suggestion here would be to persist with awareness training and conscious efforts to deal with and openly discuss hesitations on the part of co-workers.

4.         Lack of proper or adequate training for blind employees

Timely and adequate training for blind employees is a must and can go a long way to breaking down this particular barrier.  Training should always be made accessible to blind employees in the same way that it is made available to mainstream employees but a word of caution:  The type of training that you would need to offer to your blind employees needs to be carefully thought out and the appropriate experts in accessibility and access technology need to be sought if the training is to be made meaningful.

5.         A possible attitude on the part of a blind employee that there does indeed exist a glass ceiling.

The so-called glass ceiling can only be broken down through a concerted effort on the part of management to show the blind employee that opportunities for advancement are there for the taking but there needs to be a healthy dose of reality thrown in for good measure.  By this I mean that expectations need to be carefully managed and clearly communicated to the blind employee so that at the end of the day everyone is on the same page.

I hope that my suggestions can be of use with regard to this particular area and that they can be used as fixes to barriers to advancement in the workplace.  Fixes are not always easy to accomplish.  Some are fast and quick while others take a longer time to accomplish.  Some may not see immediate results while others may never prove successful.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan, your freelance writer and roving reporter wishing you a terrific day.

You can follow me on twitter @accessibleworld and @author_jodhan and chat with me on Skype at habsfan0526. Like us on Facebook at

For more of my blogs, please visit, and For my audio mysteries, visit

Diversity Walk

Every year, for the past 12 years, the Diversity Centre of Northeast Ohio has held a Walk, Rock & Run that starts and ends at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. It’s a day filled with food, fun and, of course, great music. This year the event attracted over 8,000 participants. The purpose is simple: to raise awareness for diversity issues.

“The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio does great work in promoting diversity throughout the area. It’s a chance for people to come out and celebrate differences.” ~Russ Mitchell, WKYC Channel 3