Color & Control:

Engaging Different Perspectives

In conversation with Susan Lang, CEO of Lime Connect and Daniel Tench, Real Estate Account Manager, TD Bank Group.

Searching for a job can be stressful. For people with disabilities the challenge is often greater, with unemployment rates almost double that of people without disabilities.

TD recognizes and values how unique perspectives make a better workplace and partners with organizations like Lime Connect to leverage the best talent and to open doors of opportunity to all.

Abilities: Susan, can you tell us about Lime Connect, and your role?

Susan: I am the founding President and CEO of Lime Connect. Over a decade ago, we noticed that there was a significant gap in the disability talent space among university students and alumni. For individuals with disabilities, the corporate recruitment process can be extremely intimidating. Many students will not attend employer receptions because of the fear of employers not wanting to or willing to accommodate. We started Lime Connect to connect the pool of high potential, sharp students and professionals who want to have great careers. We prepare them with coaching, webinars and connect them with partners, like TD.

Abilities: What makes Lime Connect unique to support candidates with disabilities in their career search?

Susan: We provide everyone who is a part of the Lime Network access to all resources, including webinars, networking, and advice, such as whether and when to disclose. We also focus a lot of time on our receptions where our partner organizations attend to meet with potential employees. Our goal is to make it personal and build relationships with everyone in the Lime Network.

Abilities: Daniel, can you tell us about yourself and how you got involved with Lime Connect?

Daniel: I have a mild form of cerebral palsy and dyslexia and was aware of Lime Connect through guidance and accessibility offices in both high school and university. However, my first real involvement with them was at one of the receptions that Susan mentioned. It was a small, intimate event which made it easy to talk about accommodations I would need to help me be successful. The reception was such a great way for me to network with both recruiters and potential employers. In fact, I connected with TD at a Lime Connect reception. I spoke to a TD campus recruiter who was very involved with Lime Connect. I mentioned in conversation that I was interested in real-estate and was then connected with the SVP of the National Real Estate group. He and I chatted for a long time at the reception and then I followed-up with him and he helped me secure my first co-op placement with TD.

Abilities: What drew you to TD?

Daniel: TD recognizes that to be innovative they need to engage different perspectives. They are open minded and innovative when it comes to their focus on talent acquisition and development. My managers are very supportive and there is a dedicated area of the bank that focuses on Workplace Accommodation and Assistive Technologies. I use text-to-speech software and the software was remotely installed on my device with no issues and at no personal expense. I am certainly glad that I joined TD!

Abilities: What is the best part about your job?

Daniel: I learn something new every day. The bank is invested in developing their people and there is opportunity for me to continue to grow my career with TD.

Abilities: Susan, what changes have you seen over the past 10 years in the Canadian talent acquisition space?

Susan: I’ve seen an expanded understanding of what encompasses a disability. In the past, there was a lot of focus on physical disabilities but I’ve seen a real shift in the depth and breadth of understanding of disabilities. Companies are also realizing how disability can be a real asset. For example, a person who is dyslexic may have excellent strategic thinking skills; a person with ADHD may have an entrepreneurial advantage; and a person who is blind may have incredible planning skills as they have had to navigate the world in a different way and are able to think ahead and translate that into the workplace.

Direct funding is a game changer

Choice, control and flexibility. What’s not to like about the Direct Funding Program?

Sponsored by: Centre of Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)

Gone are the days of relying on an agency to send you a personal support worker you don’t know, to assist you at a time you didn’t choose.

That’s the beauty of Direct Funding. You hire your own staff, train them to meet your personal needs and create your own schedule. Under Direct Funding, which is funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, each budget is unique. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Available anywhere in Ontario, the program was created by people with disabilities who believed they could manage their own attendant supports (for tasks like dressing and showering) and assume the responsibilities of being an employer. In many ways, it’s like running a small business.

It may sound like a big challenge, but more than 1,600 people across Ontario have been a successful part of the program. Some were nervous about taking on new challenges but they’ve found with some risk, comes great reward. Ray, a 37-year-old program participant with Muscular Dystrophy who lives in southern Ontario, says his life has improved dramatically with Direct Funding.

“Freedom and flexibility. This is what the Direct Funding program has provided me. There is no price I can put on the immense impact this program has had on my quality of life, my relationships and my mental well-being.

I have the freedom and flexibility to hire caregivers who are best suited for me and my individual needs and I’m not restricted to a general community pool. I can now independently select caregivers for those specific needs brought on by my disability. I have the freedom and flexibility to spend quality time with my children, my wife, my siblings and parents without the requirement or obligation that they will later need to tend to my physical and personal care. I can now independently arrange for those tasks I wish I could do myself, including appointments and household responsibilities.

I have the freedom and flexibility to control my schedule. There is

communication and a direct link between me and my caregivers—no third-party

supervisor or schedulers to deal with. I can now deal independently with those

obstacles that created stress before.”

Every person is looking for these two things: freedom and flexibility. The Direct Funding program has given me exactly that. Direct Funding is suited to people who can “self-direct” and “self-manage” their attendants. Participants need a strong understanding of how their disability affects their day-to-day lives and the kind of help they require. That said, participants do not have to do everything on their own. They have the assistance of a bookkeeper to help with payroll and support staff at their local Independent Living Resource Centre to answer questions and provide guidance. There is also a network of other program participants—many of them veterans—to provide support.” —Ray