Facilities to shine a light on disability employment issues

Sarnia City Hall. (Photo by SL Chamber of Commerce)

Several buildings and landmarks will “light up” in purple and blue as part of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of disability employment issues.

Light It Up! for NDEAM (National Disability Employment Awareness Month) will be held Thursday night. Although this is the first time the campaign is being recognized nationally, it was launched in Ontario in 2020 by the Ontario Disability Employment Network.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said it’s encouraging to see a growing amount of support for the campaign and build on these types of conversations.

“I’ve always viewed it as a civil rights issue, that people with disabilities would have to be second-class citizens as it relates to employment and opportunities,” he said. “This is a good way to remind people of the benefits to hire people with disabilities. Any of us, at any point in our lives could have a disability.”

Bradley said providing equal opportunities to those with disabilities also helps employers.

“It’s also about an opportunity for employers to improve their workforce, to have more productivity, less absenteeism, and to move forward with a much more balanced workforce.”

Bradley said the city was recognized over a decade ago for its leadership on disability employment, particularly in the area of students, and admits more needs to be done.

“It’s ongoing. I still think there needs to be much more advocacy at the federal and provincial level,” he said. “There needs to be just not the patronizing statements the governments issue about hiring people with disabilities but to actually show that you’re doing it and the city has a good record in that area but we need to do much more in this area because it really is a civil rights issue.”

Bradley said the city often works with Community Living Sarnia-Lambton, particularly through a program which matches eligible students with an employer to help them gain experience. Eight summer students were hosted this past summer and hired to work in departments such as Sarnia Transit, Public Works, and Human Resources.

The Light it Up campaign is being held in conjunction with the re-activated “Mayor’s Challenge” which launched in Ontario in 2016. City and municipal members were asked to hire people with disabilities. In 2016, that challenge expanded by asking mayors to encourage those within the community to hire those with disabilities.

As of Tuesday, over 270 locations such as city halls, government facilities, businesses, and landmarks across the country have signed up to participate in Light it Up! For NDEAM.