Essex resident Marc Rocheleau knows better than to take his job for granted. He understands that in an economic recession, to have a job at all means he’s one of the lucky ones. But for Marc, having a job can’t be attributed to luck alone — it’s more so credit of his hard work and natural ability … and some strong insight.
Marc went blind unexpectedly at the age of 17.
“They told me that the loss of vision was end-stage glaucoma,” he says. “It started getting blurry, and then the vision just got darker until I couldn’t see anything at all.”
After going blind, Marc realized that to succeed in his chosen field of journalism meant he’d have to be especially driven.
“Around this area, there aren’t a lot of journalism jobs even for fully-abled people,” Marc explains. “For somebody who’s visually impaired, it’s definitely a lot harder to find work. And I think because I have a disability, sometimes people don’t take me as seriously, so I have to work a little bit harder to get them to see that I can do the job.”
And he’s definitely proven that he can do the job and do it well, working as a Public Relations Officer for the Essex Youth Centre since 2008. Marc writes articles about the centre for the local newspapers and online, and says it’s a job he really enjoys.
Although it wasn’t exactly an easy road to get there (Marc battled several mobility challenges and attitudinal barriers related to his disability), with help from the Ontario Disability Support Program’s (ODSP) Employment Supports and community service provider Insight Enterprises, he found the perfect fit at the centre.
“A lot of what we do is educate potential employers,” explains Paul McIntosh, Director of Employment Supports at Insight. “They’re much more willing to create an opportunity when they know that they’re surrounded by supports and that there’ll always be somebody there if they don’t know what to do.”
And just as much as Insight is there for the employer, they’re also there for the employee. Before Marc started his job at the centre, Insight helped him to get oriented and find his way around his new workplace. They also installed JAWS software on his computer, which is a specialized software for people with vision loss. JAWS reads words and commands aloud, and allows Marc to write, edit and research his articles seamlessly.
Marc’s boss and Executive Director of the centre, Sandy Larivee, says that employers need to think outside the box when it comes to hiring and be willing to take chances. She took that chance on Marc and is still singing his praises.
“He’s a good employee because he’s reliable and consistent,” she says. “He knows that his job is to get an article out and to find something that’s reportable each week so that we have that consistent media feedback.” Despite some initial bumps on the road to employment, Marc has found his ground at the centre, and says that’s in part to the help he received from ODSP Employment Supports and Insight.
“Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start,” he explains. “And especially with a disability, I think they help and they fight for you to get you in somewhere. They can talk to employers and show them that just because a person’s disabled, it doesn’t mean that they’re not able to do the job.”
Don't let good talent go to waste. People with disabilities can and want to work.