By the time people with disabilities ask Lisa Hooper for help finding a job, they have been told for years that their mental or physical challenges will limit them to menial labour or living on a pension.
“They come in with low self-esteem and self-confidence, not necessarily believing they can do anything, but wanting to do something,” said Hooper, who runs L. Tara Hooper and Associates Inc., a Brantford organization that provides job coaching and works to convince employers that hiring people with disabilities is good for business.
Hooper has seen the difference landing a job can make when it comes to mental health and sense of self.
“In some cases, they may have never had a paycheque before,” she said. “There almost aren’t words to describe the absolute joy they feel that they have this job and get to go to work like everybody else and bring home a paycheque like everybody else.”
Hooper was delighted to receive $29,000 in funding from Service Canada during a presentation by Brant MP Phil McColeman on Friday. The money will allow her agency to help five more people through job hunts and the interviewing process, as well as provide additional support after they are hired.
McColeman hopes the funding will help businesses “recognize that hiring someone who has barriers and challenges is something they can do to enhance their business” and promote an inclusive community.
Hooper said employers are becoming more aware of the value people with disabilities bring to the workplace.
“It’s getting better,” she said. “It’s certainly not moving as quickly as we would like.”
The new funding is part of a $30 million federal investment in the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, which link job seekers with small and medium-sized enterprises.