Presented each year at the Great Valentine Gala, the CFPDP Corporate Awards recognize the exemplary contributions of Canadian companies and organizations in support of people with physical disabilities. Manulife and Ryerson University

Manulife believes it’s incredibly important to have a diverse, inclusive workplace where everyone is comfortable being themselves.

At Manulife, support for diversity and inclusion is viewed as not only the “right thing to do,” but also an essential strategy for unlocking the full potential of its employees.

“No one should have to choose between being who they are and doing what they love,” said Roy Gori, Manulife’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “As we continue to build a high-performing team and culture, it’s incredibly important to have a diverse, inclusive workplace. Each of us has a role to play in ensuring everyone gets treated with courtesy and respect and is made to feel welcome.”

Employee accommodations To support its employees with disabilities, Manulife has introduced a host of measures aimed at addressing the specific needs of the individual. These measures include recruitment processes, accommodation and return to work processes, performance management, career development and advancement, and redeployment.

Ultimately, the goal is to ensure all employees with disabilities are able to participate fully at work and make the best use of their talents.

Examples of accessible equipment and facilities offered to employees with special needs range from customized chairs and computer equipment to specialized lighting and quiet rooms. There is also a variety of assistive technologies available, including screen magnification and screen-reader tools, scanners and speech-to-text software.

Through its WorkSmart program, the company supports the wide-ranging flexible work needs of a diverse modern workforce.

To deliver on this objective, the program leverages enhanced mobile technologies such as video conferencing, instant messaging, Skype for Business, OneDrive, Yammer, Avaya One-X Communicator and remote access.

For all employees, including those with disabilities, the benefits include reduced commuting and the option to chose how, when and where they work.

Customer Accommodations: A priority of Manulife’s customer experience team is to deliver communication solutions that meet the capabilities of each of its customers. Accordingly, an intake process has been put in place to assess customer needs and, as required, to determine which business units and communication media are involved.To further enhance customer convenience, users of the service are provided with a single point of contact, reachable by email or phone.

One of Manulife’s key corporate values is expressed through the call-to-action: Share your humanity. It’s a concept that includes building a supportive, diverse and thriving workplace, where people can bring their authentic and whole self to work, and where opportunities for career advancement and fulfillment are readily available to everyone.

Unconscious-bias training To support and nurture this value across its workforce, the company has developed an unconscious-bias training program called Inclusion Starts with You. In 2018, it rolled out the online program in 10 languages, reaching more than 4,000 employees in leadership roles and 26,000 other employees.

Of those who took the training, 92% agreed it helped them learn how to manage their biases and be more inclusive at work, while88% agreed it helped them identify their own biases. Another 87% said they would recommend the training to their colleagues.

Last year, for the fifth consecutive year, Manulife employees volunteered as mentors for Disabilities Mentoring Day in Canada.This unique opportunity, organized by Dolphin Technologies, offers individuals with a wide range of abilities the chance to participate in a day of job shadowing.

For company employees, the learning goes both ways as mentors and mentees alike gain valuable experiences that enrich their lives.

Manulife is an annual sponsor of Rotman’s inclusive design conference, Access to Success. The conference invites participants to pitch a business case for a product or service based on inclusive design – something that addresses an accessibility limitation but is also of universal benefit.

Based in Toronto, Manulife is the largest insurance company in Canada and one of the largest worldwide, with more than C$1.1trillion in assets under management and administration. It employs more than 34,000 people, who serve nearly 28 million customers.

Ryerson University is a leader in supporting the special concerns and needs of Canada’s growing disability community through its internationally acclaimed School of Disability Studies.

In 1999, Ryerson became the first university in the country to provide a degree-education exclusively from a disability studies perspective.

“We are extremely proud of our Disability Studies curriculum,which is designed to prepare students for leadership responsibilities in management, community development, advocacy, policy and planning,” said Dr. Mohamed Lachemi, Ryerson’s President and Vice-Chancellor.

“It also supports the academic goals of individuals seeking to enhance their capacities as advocates and change-agents for the disability community,” he added.Upon completing their studies, students receive a Bachelor of Arts, B.A. (Disability Studies).

About the Disability Studies program: The Disability Studies program allows students to build on the di-rect practice skills they have acquired from other Ryerson pro-grams such as Developmental Services Worker, Educational Assistant, Mental Health and Addictions, as well as other Ontario College diplomas in disability studies. Students applying to the program can also cite previous related work experience and other related post-secondary education and experience.

Core required courses cover a range of topics, including disability theory, policy, community building, advocacy, empowering practices, access and technology, leadership, research methods,ethics and media representation.

The program is offered on a part-time basis and consists of the equivalent of approximately four semesters of full-time coursework.

To promote access for people from across Ontario and else-where, all required courses are available either as intensive on-site courses or through distance education. Some of these courses are also available in traditional once-a-week classroom formats.

Career opportunities for program graduates: According to Ryerson, program graduates have a wide variety of career trajectories available to them. These include teaching at the high school, college and university level; working for the Ontario Public Service, municipal governments, mental health associations, public health agencies and in the arts; and taking on leadership positions in various non-profits and community and peer-support agencies across the disability community.

The Inclusive Media and Design Centre: Ryerson also recognizes the critical role of design in helping society overcome the challenges faced by people living with disabilities.

The school’s Inclusive Media and Design Centre (IMDC), founded in 1994, specializes in the design, creation and evaluation of inclusive media and technology.

Under the leadership of Dr. Deborah Fels, Director of the Centre for Learning Technologies, IMDC aligns closely with Ryerson’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and social equity, with many ofits projects focusing on inclusivity in technologies for individuals who are blind, low-vision, deaf or hard of hearing.

Over the years, the centre has engaged hundreds of under-graduate and graduate students, forged countless academic and professional partnerships, and produced a prodigious amount of research and applied technology, spanning accessible entertainment, education, health and well-being.

Accessibility at Ryerson: Not only is Ryerson a recognized leader in advancing accessibility and inclusion through its academic curriculum, but it’s also dedicated to supporting the needs of community members with disabilities across campus.

According to the school’s 2014-2018 Diversity Self-ID Report, 12% of students, 7% of full-time faculty and 6% of employees are persons with disabilities.

Ryerson is committed to the principles of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and aims to ensure that dignity, integration and equality of opportunity are embedded in all aspects of the University culture.

Through its university-wide Access Ryerson initiative, it is seeking to remove all barriers to the full participation of all community members with disabilities.