It's 9 a.m. at Paddy Flaherty's pub in Sarnia. Bar stools sit upside-down on countertops and tables. The floors are swept clean for the new work day. Although the lights are still low and only a few workers have arrived to start their shifts, the traditional Irish pub is friendly and inviting.
Ashton Robinson likes the warm and welcoming environment, and he's felt comfortable there ever since he was hired. Ashton has a developmental disability, and after graduating from high school two years ago, he wanted to find a job. With a little bit of help, he succeeded.
Robinson applied for Employment Supports from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and chose Community Living Sarnia-Lambton to help him find the right place to work. Through Employment Supports, Community Living helped prepare Robinson for a one-week voluntary work assignment at Paddy Flaherty's. His experience there was so successful that he has been there ever since.
The pub seemed like a good fit. Scott Dargie, the owner, had hired people with disabilities in the past. He says using Community Living's services makes a lot of sense. "They have job coaches who make sure that [new employees] are going to fit in with the job," Dargie explains. "There's no outward expense for me, and it provides an opportunity for somebody that may not have been there."
Ashton took the opportunity seriously and is a dependable member of Dargie's staff. Hired as a dishwasher, Ashton is now learning food preparation skills. He develops new skills every day and has discovered how his abilities can lead him to a promising career. "I love my job," says Robinson, adding that he'd like to become a chef someday. "It would be awesome. My brother lives in Yellowknife, training to be a chef."
Andrea Hands works at Community Living Sarnia-Lambton and helps clients make a smooth transition to their work placement. She got to know Ashton well and knew she had found the best place for him to succeed. "We were really confident that he was able to do the job and was a, reliable, dependable and motivated individual," says Hands. "And that's what employers are looking for, whether [the candidates] have a disability or not."
As Ashton continues to develop his skills, Community Living will be there for him. "If Ashton becomes a cook apprentice, we're able to come back in and provide support," says Hands. She says the new changes to the ODSP not only helped Ashton find a job and keep it, but also provides him with ongoing job coaching.
Ashton is on his way to realizing his dream of becoming a chef. With the opportunity available to him from an accessible employer like Scott Dargie and important support agencies like Community Living, nothing can stop him from achieving his goals.
Don't let good talent go to waste. People with disabilities can and want to work.