September is a time for renewal for many people – for many reasons.
The kids are starting a new school year and people are returning from summer vacations and re-engaging – now refreshed and revitalized – with their careers. It is also the month to recognize the value of people with disabilities within the community and workforce.
This month marks the third annual Disability Employment Month in B.C., and executive director of the Campbell River and District Association for Community Living (CRADACL), Greg Hill, says Campbell River is ahead of the game in terms of furthering that cause.
“You really can’t generalize across the province about how things are going,” Hill says, “especially in how it pertains to special needs people, because it all depends on the community and the support from the community – and I would say Campbell River is better than most.”
While Hill doesn’t particularly like the term, he says there is certainly value in having these people’s contributions recognized.
“We still appreciate that there’s a month to recognize the advancements that are being made, but I don’t particularly like the term ‘disability,’” Hill says. “And I think that as words change and evolve through history, yes, we seem to come up with a new label for purposes of conversation, but those labels can really have a negative effect.”
Like the term, “retarded,” which has thankfully left society’s lexicon, “the term disabled, to me, still has a negative connotation,” he says. “Anything with the prefix ‘dis’ in it, is going to naturally evolve into a stigma and label of sorts,” because it focuses on what someone is unable to do, rather than their strengths.
“At CRADCL, we are all about recognizing similarities and celebrating ability,” he says, which is why they don’t use the terms “disability,” or “disabled.”
“I feel that every time we can avoid the use of a term that has a negative connotation, it’s an advancement,” he says.
And that’s not the only advancement that is happening in the field of employing special needs folks in our community, he says.
Here in Campbell River, for example, CRADACL itself has recently purchased a property and opened a boom boards business in Campbellton where they employ people with special needs making numbered signs for the logging industry, “and we have a fabulous confidential paper shredding business operating out of that site and a young man there also does scanning for people in the neighbourhood who want a quick, reliable, economical way to have documents scanned.”
They also support other kinds of “entrepreneurial endeavours,” as he calls them.
“We also do lawn mowing, we do janitorial work and we have a supported employment program which supports people in many industries in Campbell River.”
But it’s the business community itself that Hill says does much of the heavy lifting when it comes to employing people of special needs in the Campbell River area. And they’re not hiring these people because they want to look compassionate for doing so, Hill says.
“The people here in Campbell River are just great at having these people come and work as part of their workforce, because they recognize the value of having them aboard.”
People with special needs, Hill says, are some of the most loyal employees a company could have, and they rarely have attendance issues.
“They love having a job so much that they’re going to be there every day,” Hill says, “and following direction, attention to detail, these are the kinds of traits that they have in spades.”
While September is “recognized” as Disability Employment Month, they don’t have any plans for an official celebration.
“We’re just going to carry on doing what we do,” Hill says. “It’s great to have a month to be recognized, but what’s important is that we just keep advancing.”
He does say, however, that he and the organization are working on plans to celebrate in October, which is recognized as Community Living Month.
“We’ve done salmon barbecues in Spirit Square as a recognition of our appreciation to thank the community, and last year we did a concert. Although time is waning, I’m not quite sure what we’re going to do this year, but we will celebrate it somehow.
“I’ll get back to you on that.”