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Hiring more inclusively

Third annual Mayor's Luncheon looks to show benefits of hiring people with developmental disabilities

By: Viola Pruss

  |  Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2014 06:00 am

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Talk about workplace inclusiveness and how it benefits employers is once again the subject of the third annual Mayor’s Luncheon.

The event will be held on Wednesday, May 21, at the St. Albert Inn & Suites. This year’s speakers will focus on creating more diversity and better workplace culture, said Cindy de Bruijn, executive director of Gateway Association.

The non-profit, Edmonton-based association devotes its time to supporting people with developmental disabilities and their families and, in collaboration with the city of St. Albert, is the main organizer of the event.

“When you have people with disabilities as part of your team, it helps enhance your workplace culture to be one that is more appreciative, more collaborative,” she said. “It fosters a real sense of appreciation among employees.”

The keynote speaker for the event is Margot Ross Graham, vice president of integration for Williams Engineering and CBC Radio Edmonton’s workplace columnist.

Ross will discuss how companies can create and maintain a powerful workplace culture and position themselves well among competitors.

Other speakers include Diane Bergeron, national director of government relations and advocacy for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), and de Bruijn.

“We will talk about broad workplace culture in general and then I am going to bring some of the specific strategies to workplace culture that includes people with disabilities,” she said.

The luncheon was first started after a group of parents met with Mayor Crouse to discuss what the city can do to help improve employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities, said de Bruijn.

It since evolved into an annual event that gives employers an opportunity to learn about some of their options when it comes to hiring inclusively.

But it also means to unravel the myths surrounding employment of people with developmental disabilities, she said.

“There are myths out there in regards to employee-related costs, absenteeism and (a lack of) punctuality,” she said. “We would see a lot of employers say to us ‘I’d be open to it but I have so many questions, I have so many uncertainties’.”

The Mayor’s Luncheon will take place on Wednesday, May 21 from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., at 156 St. Albert Trail.

Tickets are $40 each, or three for $100, and can be purchased online at by searching “St. Albert Mayor’s Luncheon.”

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