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The following article is about a Manitoba Employer who has benefited from hiring someone with a disability. It was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press and collected through an initiative called “Perspectives in Change”.

Celebrating Progressive Employers & Capable Employees

Bison Transport

By Sylvia Jansen

Photo of Jeff Johnson
Jeff Johnson
Photo: Lisa Waldner

When Jeff Johnson arrives for work at six each morning, he does not know what his work day will be like. A custodial engineer at Bison Transport in Winnipeg, Johnson works in the shops department, which ensures the safe operating condition of the Bison fleet of 1100 trucks, 4000 trailers and other equipment. On any given day, Johnson may spend his day driving through the city, picking up parts for trucks in the shops, or even picking up their drivers. Johnson may spend his shift cleaning and organizing sections of the shops; as a qualified forklift operator, he might spend most of his time managing the forklift.  He has received the company’s ‘charging ahead’ award for his exceptional service. Observers of this capable, successful employee are usually surprised to learn that he has an intellectual disability.

“Jeff has an admirable work ethic,” says his supervisor Simon Vandersteen, maintenance manager at Bison. “He treats his job like a career, and he rolls well with change every day. Jeff has worked here for 15 years, and it would be tough to replace him!” Johnson’s responsibilities have evolved over time, and he enjoys his career as a full-time member of staff with a competitive salary and benefits.

When asked what he might say to another employer considering hiring someone with an intellectual or developmental disability, Vandersteen’s response is immediate. “It just makes sense,” he says. “Everyone with a disability has the potential and desire to contribute to society. You need to have an open mind—people will have areas where they are challenged and areas where they are better than most. You get an employee who wants to be at work, who is willing and able.”

Connecting Employers and People

It’s good business. Many employers discover, as with all good hires, a good fit with an employee who has an intellectual disability means reduced turnover and increased success for everyone. Community agencies that provide supported employment services help connect the right people with the right employer. They help with training, and provide ongoing support to employee and employer—all without cost to the employer.

The agency that connected Jeff Johnson with Bison Transport is SCE LifeWorks, 227 – 530 Century St. Winnipeg R3H 0Y4.

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