In a small yellow building in the middle of a field, people from the Township of Hilliard seek help from Joel Carleton on anything from paying taxes to building permits.
He and his manager, Janet Gore, know just about everyone who walks through the door of this municipal office.
But this yellow building is extra special. It has helped Joel, who has a disability, find independence.
After a spinal cord injury in the early nineties, Joel knew he had to finish his education and get into the workforce. He signed up for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), a Ministry of Community and Social Services Income Support Program that could provide him with the resources he needed to accomplish his goal.
Joel finished his education and began volunteering in Hilliard's municipal office in the year 2000. Soon this became a paid job. Joel flourished, proving to be an indispensable asset to manager, Janet.
"I've been working here for over 23 years, and Joel teaches me something new each day," said Janet. "He's a quick learner and is an asset to this office and this community."
Joel is living proof of the ministry's commitment to support people who are living with disabilities to enter or re-enter the workforce. We are working hard to help people bridge to employment — and it's working. With help from ODSP, people living with disabilities are achieving their goals.
In the last five or six years there have been a lot of improvements to the program, which make it easier to see the benefits of working," Joel told us. "The supports that have helped me the most are the modifications to my work station; this allows me to move around more easily."
Joel's story is just one more reason why we are committed to raising awareness, influencing attitudes and changing behaviours. We understand that a qualified workforce that reflects the diversity of the community makes good sense for any business or organization.
"When you're able to work you have a lot more independence. You feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day," Joel tells us. "I had to make a lifestyle change, and it's normal now. I don't even think about my disability some days."
And it's clear this close knit community doesn't think about Joel's disability either. They know that when they stop by the little yellow building their needs will be met. It's Joel's ability to help them that keeps them coming back.