September was Disability Employment Awareness Month in B.C. This edition of CLBC Connect shares family and employer stories and tips.
Annabel’s son, Francis, is a testament to the monumental impact that inclusive employment has on individuals, families, and the community.
Born in New Zealand, Francis, 22, is a Special Olympic athlete and took home the gold medal in cross country skiing at the 2018 World Games in Austria. He now works for Canada Landscape in West Kelowna.
“I’ve seen so many incredible changes in Francis since he began working. He’s matured, confident, and his communication skills have drastically improved. He no longer sits at home and watches television or plays video games – he’s very active and so much happier,” says Annabel.
“It also has had a very positive effect on our relationship,” she continues. “When he was living at home, we butted heads a lot, as many children and parents do. Now, he earns a paycheque, lives on his own, manages his own money, pays his rent, he does his own grocery shopping. I’ve even noticed he’s began to become very price conscious and thoughtful with his spending.”
“With Francis being employed, it has helped take a load off me as a mom,” explains Annabel who receives respite provided by Community Living British Columbia.
Gaining experience and developing skills
“Francis has amazing, proactive parents and an awesome, inclusive employer,” says CLBC facilitator Justin Dyck. “He works four days per week basically from March until the end of November each year, when he starts his skiing. The planning, vision for the future, and preparing Francis with the skills he needs happens almost entirely naturally via the groups he’s a part of, the friendships he’s created, what he’s learned through sports.”
After completing high school, Francis spent time volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, and later landed his first paying job at a local golf course. While working under the wing of a senior staff member, he began with a weekly two-hour shift, later progressing to two days a week.
Today, Francis works four shifts each week March through November and earns above minimum wage.
“Francis is very dedicated to his job. He’s strong, reliable, punctual, good at physical labour, and has a great work ethic, so landscaping is a great fit,” Annabel explains. “As is for anyone, it’s important to find the right job for the right person; a job that matches their unique skills and interests with the work that needs to be done and an understanding employer. Francis is on the Autistic spectrum which affects his speech skills. He has come a long way, but that’s still something we consider.”
All part of the process
When asked what has worked in terms of supporting Francis’s employment success, Annabel shares a few tips.
“Start at home. At fourteen, I had Francis helping out at our two-acre vineyard, driving a tractor, and mowing the grass. Also, it’s important to be proactive. In our case, I contacted the possible employers, connected them with WorkBC, and set up interviews for Francis. But beyond that, you need to let go and let your child fly. They are going to have setbacks. They are going to make mistakes. Francis has had his fair share – he’s fallen off his bike during his 14-kilometer ride to work, he’s experienced some workplace bullying, he’s missed his bus. At times, he hasn’t wanted to go to work at all. It’s all part of life. The self-respect and independence he has gained is well worth it.”
Employment is a priority for people of all abilities
A job promotes friendships, financial security, belonging and confidence. CLBC recognizes that collaboration and partnerships help people find and keep employment.