Friday, April 7, 2017 2:15 PM

Twenty-three of British Columbia’s top business leaders have come together to achieve one common goal – to support and encourage meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities throughout the province.

With close to one million job openings expected in B.C. over the next decade, people with disabilities – 334,000 British Columbians, aged 15 to 64 – represent an important employee talent pool.

The Presidents Group, a change-driven network of business leaders, was appointed in 2013 to help increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities and create a more accessible consumer marketplace. To further support the goals of the group, 11 new members came on board today, bringing the total number of members to 23 highly-regarded B.C. business leaders.

Members work with the business community to encourage employers in a number of different sectors to hire more people with disabilities and commit to sharing their collective learnings on the recruitment, hiring and retention of employees with disabilities with other employers.

To support the work of the Presidents Group and help identify potential solutions to help employers to hire and retain qualified employees with disabilities, two Accessibility and Inclusion Consultants have been hired, funded through the Vancouver Foundation.

The consultants – Marco Pasqua and Mahin Rashid – will work with the business and disability communities to research, pilot and develop a toolkit of resources, approaches and processes that support increased success rates in the recruitment, hiring and employment of people with disabilities in B.C. The work of the consultants will help employers to better identify and eliminate barriers and make positive changes to make their workplace more accessible and inclusive.

The Presidents Group is part of the Accessibility 2024 Leadership Team, working with government and the disability community to deliver on Accessibility 2024, B.C.’s 10-year action plan to become the most progressive province for people with disabilities in Canada.


Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation –

“Since 2013, the Presidents Group has created a strong foundation of leadership and direction when it comes to improving employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities.

The expansion of the group is great news for businesses and employers, as well as people with disabilities in B.C. who want to work as they are able.”

Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO, Vancity, Presidents Group co-chair –

“Creating accessible and inclusive workplaces is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense. We’re working hard to create a diverse workplace at Vancity that reflects our communities and it’s exciting to work with other business leaders who share that commitment to accessibility.”

Craig Richmond, president and CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority, Presidents Group co-chair –

“One of our top priorities at YVR is providing an accessible airport for everyone – including our employees with disabilities.

It’s an honour to bring my experiences at YVR to contribute to Presidents Group and effect real change, and I welcome the insights and experiences of the new Presidents Group members as we move forward with supporting B.C. businesses to be more diverse and inclusive.”

Quick Facts:

  • The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 4.5 percentage points higher than for people without disabilities – 11.6% vs. 7.1% – despite the fact that people with disabilities are highly educated, with skills that are comparable to people without a disability.
  • It is well documented that workers with disabilities perform just as well or better than their co-workers in punctuality, attendance, work quality, task consistency and overall proficiency.
  • The Accessibility 2024 action plan, released in June 2014, is in response to the thousands of British Columbians who took part in a public consultation on what society can do to reduce barriers and increase accessibility for people with disabilities.
  • The creation of the Presidents Group arose from a recommendation from the Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility and also aligns with outcomes resulting in the feedback received from the public consultation on disability held in B.C. from December 2013 to March 2014.
  • In 2014, to celebrate inclusive employers and the contributions of people with disabilities in the workplace, government proclaimed September as annual Disability Employment Month throughout the province.
  • Employment achievements to date include:
    • In 2015, government launched the Technology@Work assistive technology program – operated by the Neil Squire Society – to give people streamlined access to tools and devices they need for employment.
    • As part of Accessibility 2024, the Province has committed $9 million over three years for the program.
    • To date, 494 clients have worked through the Needs Determination process. Of these, 346 clients have already received assistive technology through the program;
    • The WorkAble internship program for new graduates with disabilities to enter the B.C. Public Service is well into its second year, with 75% percent of first year interns still working for the public service.
    • Since 2014, more than $4 million has been invested to implement innovative post-secondary training aimed at increasing the success of people with disabilities in trades, technical and high-demand market programs such as entry level construction.
  • According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, approximately half of these persons are employed.
  • There are 84 WorkBC Service Centres throughout the province delivering the Employment Program of BC, including a range of supports and services to help people with disabilities find employment. More than 27,800 British Columbians with disabilities have found a job through WorkBC. To view the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, visit:
  • Almost 90% of consumers prefer companies that employ people with disabilities, according to a study cited in a 2012 Conference Board report. To view the report, visit:

Learn More:

Accessibility 2024:

The Presidents Group:

Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility:


A backgrounder follows.


Twenty-three members make up the Presidents Group

The Presidents Group includes the follow 23 influential business leaders from throughout British Columbia:

  • Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO, Vancity (co-chair)
  • Craig Richmond, president and CEO, Vancouver Airpot Authority (co-chair)
  • Lisa Beecroft, owner, Gabi & Jules Handmade Pies & Baked Goods *
  • Mark Blucher, president and CEO, ICBC
  • Mark Brand, restaurateur and social innovator
  • Dan Bregg, president, Buy-Low Foods LP (a Jim Pattison Group company) *
  • Zdenka Buric, managing partner, NATIONAL Public Relations *
  • Robin Ciceri, president, Research Universities’ Council of BC
  • Lindsay Gordon, past president and CEO, HSBC
  • Jan K. Grude, president & CEO, Pacific Blue Cross *
  • Chris Hatton, COO, HSBC *
  • Peter Hrdlitschka, president, Ledcor *
  • Jim Lightbody, president & CEO, British Columbia Lottery Corporation *
  • Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, CEO, Century Plaza Hotel and Absolute Spa Group
  • Fiona Macfarlane, managing partner, Ernst and Young
  • Jessica McDonald, president & CEO, BC Hydro *
  • Rocky Ozaki, vice-president, BC Tech Association *
  • Shom Sen, president & CEO, British Columbia Automobile Association *
  • Robin Silvester, president & CEO, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority *
  • Kirsten Sutton, managing director, SAP Labs Canada
  • Marilyn Tyfting, senior vice-president and chief corporate officer, TELUS International
  • Marsha Walden, CEO, Destination British Columbia
  • Elizabeth Watson, QC, founder, WATSON

* New Presidents Group members


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