Special Olympics could leave a legacy of meaningful jobs in Calgary

Goodwill assists companies, non-profits, and municipalities in becoming more inclusive of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

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With Calgary set to host the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games, organizations are ramping up efforts to encourage Calgary businesses to hire people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

The Games Legacy program was announced last October, encouraging organizations to work with the Goodwill Industries of Alberta’s Employer Inclusion Accelerator program to adopt inclusive hiring practices.

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Dale Monaghan, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Alberta, said he welcomes the opportunity to use some of the legacy funds raised to enhance the program.

“Goodwill is a specialist; we’re very proud of now being one of the largest employers in Alberta of people with disabilities and barriers to employment, through our stores and our career centres,” he said.

Goodwill helps companies, non-profits and municipalities to become more inclusive of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This includes best practices in hiring people with special needs, and training and grooming in career development.

“People with disabilities are tremendous employees, and they are very loyal to the employer that sees their unique abilities as something that can be embraced and leveraged,” Monaghan said.

Cindy Ady, CEO of Tourism Calgary, emphasized the importance of being more “intentional” with workplace inclusion. She said Tourism Calgary, as a partner of the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games, will work with Goodwill Industries.

“In the month of March, they’re going to come into our organization and train our entire staff on an assessment of how our hiring practices are looking. And how we could implement the recommendations from Goodwill, and how we as an employer can be more inclusive when we’re recruiting and hiring for positions,” Ady said.

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Searching seven years for work

Darby Taylor, 29, cheerfully greets a customer at the Lil E Coffee Café, where he works in downtown Calgary.

“My role is cashier mainly; I also work at a drip coffee station; it makes me happy,” he said.

Taylor has autism and an intellectual disability, and has spent years volunteering at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, The Military Museum and Crowchild Twin Arena to develop skills to make him more employable.

It took him more than seven years to find his job at Lil E Coffee Café, which makes room for employees with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

Taylor has been with Special Olympics Calgary for 17 years and will serve as an athlete ambassador for the upcoming Games.

He is currently saving to travel someday, but in the meantime he is looking forward to the Games at the end of the month.

“My goal is to someday go to the Taj Mahal in India, and I would love to go to Nepal.”

‘Profound sense of belonging’

Cheryl Bernard, president and CEO of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and co-chair of the Special Olympics Games in Calgary, said the legacy program promoting workplace inclusivity will build better communities and ultimately a better city.

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“The common thread that I see is what the dignity of a job does for an individual; it opened my eyes to the potential to see the pride and joy on their faces when they talk about their work and the profound sense of belonging,” she said.

“So, give that opportunity; take a chance. Through this employer inclusion program training, Goodwill is allowing corporations to feel comfortable going down this path. And I promise you, you’ll never go back.”

Bernard said she has been involved in sports all her life, and that sometimes the true value of sports can go unnoticed.

“Within Special Olympics lies this classroom where the athletes are the teachers, and they are teaching us these invaluable lessons and the power of sport; they’re showcasing friendship, acceptance, inclusion and just pure joy.”

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