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Hiring Bias a Barrier to Success in Workforce for People with Disabilities in Canada

  • Published: 2011-10-27 : Author: BMO Financial Group
  • Synopsis: Unemployment among Canadians with disabilities is disproportionate to general population and to a degree attributable to hiring bias that should be eliminated from Canadian corporations.

Main Document

Hiring Bias in Canada a Barrier to Success in the Workforce for Canadians with Disabilities.

70 per cent of Canadians with disabilities are unemployed versus 7.1 per cent of the general population.

The level of unemployment among Canadians with disabilities is highly disproportionate to that of the general population and to a large degree attributable to a hiring bias that can and should be eliminated from Canadian corporations, according to BMO Financial Group.

The comments come during National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The NDEAM initiative was introduced last year in Canada with the goal of increasing employers' understanding of the positive outcomes of hiring people with disabilities.

According to statistics, 16 per cent of the population lives with a disability; and 70 per cent of them are unemployed; versus 7.1 per cent of the general population.

"We know from our own experience that intellect, creativity, ambition and productivity do not discriminate ....they reside equally within people with disabilities as much as they do within people who do not experience barriers to accessibility," said Sonya Kunkel, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at BMO. "In fact, overall performance results and retention of employees with disabilities are stronger than for the general employee population.

"These are highly motivated, talented colleagues who just needed the opportunity to prove themselves," said Ms. Kunkel.

"Building a diverse workforce is not just the right thing to do, it is sound business practice," says Mark Stewart, Director, Product Development & Management, BMO Investments Inc. "At BMO, we were able to lead the market with a quick response to the government's Registered Disability Savings Plan incentives in 2008. We have sustained our leadership position to this day because of the deeper understanding and insights we gained from talking to our own employees about the unique financial needs of families who support people with disabilities."

BMO Financial Group has been at the forefront of finding innovative ways to break down barriers to employing more people with disabilities. Its Pre-Employment Training Program (PET) is a primary example. The program works with community agencies to identify talented candidates it was overlooking through its regular recruitment channels. It then delivers six weeks of coaching and training to close any of the gaps so often experienced by candidates with little or no work experience. During this period, it also assesses any accommodation needs of the recruits for example, setting up the computer program Zoomtext for someone who is has low vision to eliminate workplace barriers that can impede the candidate's on-the-job success.

"We've just hired 10 great new graduates of the PET program. They will start their new careers with BMO on Monday," said Ms. Kunkel. "They'll be working at the bank's Meadowvale Customer Contact Center in Mississauga, which is a fully accessible building."

BMO started its PET program in 2007 and has hired 99 persons with disabilities through the program, with excellent results.

In addition, last week BMO held a career fair for job seekers with disabilities in Toronto. The candidates, who were all recent college or university graduates, met with leaders from all our business groups. Twenty-five job candidates with disabilities were interviewed by hiring managers for positions in our retail bank, corporate areas, and Technology and Operations departments. The candidates had already applied and been pre-screened.

Disability and Inclusion at BMO Financial Group:


Today, 91% of our Canadian branches provide level or ramped entries to accommodate customers with disabilities. Many of our branches also offer wheelchair-height seating arrangements at service counters. As a result of a major upgrade of our ABM network, our new ABM platform offers improved accessibility. The ABMs' height has been lowered and, where possible, they provide front accessibility for wheelchair users. - To assist customers with low vision, our ABMs also have screens with contrasting bright colors to make instructions easier to read, pulsing light bars that direct users to the card slot and envelope depository, and large-character keypads.

In addition, BMO Bank of Montreal offers:

Alternate format statements for Everyday Banking, Business Banking and Mutual Funds in Braille, large print, audio or E-text versions. - Fully personalized large-print checks with perforated guidelines. - New Accessibility at BMO homepage on, which offers a one-stop location for all accessibility-related questions. - Personal Better Banking Guide for Everyday Banking in an accessible electronic format on - Information for arranging Sign Language interpretation services in branches. - Accessibility enhancements to to increase accessibility for customers that use assistive technology. - Through our employee resource group, Waves, for our deaf and hard of hearing colleagues, we receive counsel on best practices for serving members of their community. Thanks to their recommendations, our BMO Bank of Montreal Direct Banking Client Service Center is equipped with a teletypewriter (TTY/TTD) which allows our clients who are deaf or hard of hearing to have all of their banking needs met through one single point of contact. - BMO is the leading provider of Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs).


BMO has a dedicated Workplace Accommodation Advisor, responsible for supporting the accommodation needs of employees with disabilities across the company. - BMO has a team in our Recruitment and Intake department focused on sourcing talent with disabilities. - BMO is the only major financial institution with disability specific accessibility employee resource groups: - EnVision for employees who are visually impaired - WAVES for employees who are deaf or hard of hearing, and - StepAhead for employees with physical disabilities. - Our new Meadowvale Customer Contact Center, where the 10 new PET graduates will work, is a fully accessible workplace with: - Wheelchair-friendly mill-work design throughout the building. - Accessible washrooms throughout - with door openers and custom designed mirrors. - Supplemental washrooms and showers- all fully accessible. - Accessible parking. - Enhanced fire alarm system that use strobe lighting and an email notification system.


BMO sponsors a BMO/Lime scholarship and internship program for students with disabilities. - BMO Capital Markets Equity Through Education Program gives one day's institutional trading commissions, earned in both Canada and the US, to programs that support education for bright, deserving people. 2011's trading day raised CAD $1.5 million. $12.6 million has been raised since 2005 and has benefited over 2,500 students through organizations such as Lime Connect, a network for talent with disabilities. - BMO is a corporate sponsor of The Foundation for Fighting Blindness' annual 140 km cycling fundraiser, Cycle for Sight. - Each year, BMO attends the People In Motion trade-show to promote BMO's Registered Disabilities Savings Plan to our customers. - In 2011 BMO is a Gold Sponsor of the JOIN Employer conference which includes a Global Leader Summit and multiple workshops to share best practices regarding the employment of persons with disabilities. - In 2010 BMO Financial Group was awarded Employer of the Year for our ongoing commitment to developing and maintaining an inclusive and diverse workforce for persons with Disabilities.

About BMO Financial Group - Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly-diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $477 billion as at July 31, 2011, and more than 47,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.

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