The 5th Annual Inclusive Employer Awards, organized by the Rotary Club of Surrey, was held on October 24th at the Surrey Arts Centre. PICS was recipient of the 2019 Inclusive Employer Award in the Not-for-Profits category. It was a celebration in recognition of employers who are making a difference in inclusive employment. Four awards were given out to businesses in Surrey, Delta and White Rock who go above and beyond to hire people with disabilities.

Staff members take pride in winning this award. Together, we have helped create a culture of inclusiveness at PICS. The kindness and the support provided by PICS staff to employees and volunteers who have disabilities, is to be commended. PICS takes pride in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for their colleagues of any gender, sexual orientation, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.

PICS Case Manager, Career Path for Skilled Immigrants Program, Maninder Sanghera nominated PICS and a portion of that application is as below.

Question: Why are you nominating this business? Describe how this employer is inclusive and any innovations or accommodations/adjustments the employer has made.
Answer: PICS Society is a not-for-profit organization. PICS is an inclusive employer because they have always been very caring towards staff well-being and made necessary accommodations as per their needs. PICS Society is a diverse employer where employees feel valued and integrated. For this employer, it is not just a policy to build an inclusive workplace, but they also ensure that everyone feels included, regardless of their age, gender, disability, race, religion belief or sexual orientation. They have shown their commitment towards inclusiveness by hiring people from all walks of life and backgrounds and with different abilities. I am a person with a disability and use a wheelchair to get around. PICS provided spacious office which is located closer to the washroom, photocopier and the lunchroom for easy access. Some modifications were made in the lunchroom so I could easily access the microwave and the sink area. Also, PICS made some changes to handicap parking spots when I suggested. The management and staff are very supportive and have always looked out for me when I arrive and leave work and they ensure I safely get in and out of the car. PICS provides flexibility to employees who have small children and have other family commitments and in return employees never shy away from going the extra mile for PICS. I know few of my co-workers were provided with ergonomic office furniture because of posture issues. One co-worker met with a car accident and had been struggling with some health issues. The management has been very supportive and even allowed her to work from home after the medical leave finished and modified job duties with modified hours.

This employer has created a culture where everyone supports one another and always willingly take on extra tasks to accommodate one’s needs if necessary. This makes PICS Society stand out. I wish and hope that more employers get encouragement from PICS’s values when it comes to inclusiveness. My employer is always observing and making required changes and always asks for inputs/suggestions to make improvements when it comes to the building & program accessibility. PICS Society recognizes there are many physical barriers which prevent people from getting jobs and accessing services. For this reason, PICS Society took the step to get accreditation done from Rick Hansen; therefore, has The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC). PICS Society is also CARF accredited (the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) which shows PICS is showing commitment towards improving quality of services. In simple terms, I am proud to be working for an employer who cares.

Question: If you are a person with a disability, describe how your disability impacts your work and what your employer has done to support you.
Answer: I am a person with disability and use a wheelchair to get around. I joined PICS Society almost twelve years ago. PICS made me feel welcome, accepted and helped me grow professionally by providing an on-going support in the office. My job duties entailed travelling in the Lower Mainland for workshops, conferences, job fairs and doing outreach to other service providers in the Lower Mainland. Although I drive, taking the wheelchair in and out is a big challenge for me. PICS Society made modifications to job duties so that I am not required to travel to different locations in the Lower Mainland. They take the time to observe and gain feedback whenever needed from me to make changes to make workplace comfortable so that I can do my job best to my ability. They made changes and assigned duties to me which I could perform from the office to make equal contribution and do justice to my job. If this accommodation was not made, I don’t think I would have had a job. It is extremely difficult to find a job in community services that doesn’t require travelling whether to provide services to clients or doing outreach or attending conferences or working from another location. PICS takes my safety into consideration when changing job duties and made sure I did not travel alone for any work-related assignment. I look forward to coming to work every day, simply because of how my employer makes me feel. They have set a great example and set the bar very high.

Question: What types of accommodations did/does the employer provide during the hiring process?
Answer: The hiring process was simple and straight forward. I did not need any special accommodation during the hiring process. Although I felt nervous when I mentioned that it will be a challenge for me to travel to different locations in order to provide services, I thought I might lose some points and might not get hired but it was important for me to be open about my challenges. The hiring team asked if I would be comfortable if someone from the office is travelling with me, I felt at ease and stated it would be perfect if that is possible. I felt they would work around this challenge and they have over the last twelve years. I wish more employers would show in interviews that they are willing to work with the physical challenges if a candidate qualifies for the job. It takes so much stress away. PICS Society is a non-profit organization and depends on government funding and donations to operate. They are limited as in how much they can accommodate but they always have had a positive attitude and taken necessary steps to make sure I am comfortable. They have taken on practicum students and volunteers who have different abilities.

Question: Why do you think that inclusive hiring is important?
Answer: Inclusive hiring adds diversity to the workplace, and it allows for a broad spectrum of opinions, ideas, values and perspectives. Inclusive hiring uncovers special talents which otherwise are not recognized or appreciated by most employers. Diversity and inclusion go hand in hand, and there cannot be one without the other. By being inclusive, employers show their commitment towards their employees. Ultimately, this commitment leads to a healthier, happier workforce. Inclusive hiring is beneficial for employers as well as employees as it makes the employer standout and employees live with dignity and pride. Employers who are inclusive in their hiring are contributing towards their social responsibilities as they recognize the talents of people with disabilities who would have to depend on income assistance if no jobs were available for them. Inclusive hiring lowers the unemployment rate thereby strengthening the economy as a whole. A diverse workplace consists of different challenges, experiences, opinions and values which together achieve a common goal. It brings more creativity and people are pushed to think outside of the box. It opens minds and encourages employees to accept and respect each other. It is proven that inclusive hiring employer has low turnover rate and higher profitability.

PICS is honored to have been awarded the Surrey-Delta-White Rock Not-for-Profit Award for 2019 at the 5th Inclusive Employer Awards event tonight. Congrats to the organizing committee for a successful event and nominees for all the great work you do to help make society more inclusive!