Christopher Murphy is Supervisor of Specialized Transit Services with the London Transit Commission. In this role he maintains an 8 million dollar operating budget; oversees a staff of 10 dispatchers & call-takers on a 365 day operation; oversees primary and secondary service contractors, which includes drivers; processes all new specialized transit registrations; and reviews functional assessments with Occupational Therapists, in addition to many other responsibilities.
Christopher also happens to have substantial vision loss since birth, with his best-corrected visual acuity 20/200. While he has never had a driver’s license, he successfully manages drivers on a regular basis. “You just adapt,” says Christopher. He credits his Mother with teaching him at an early age, “If Chris can’t see it, Chris needs to learn to see it.” This is an outlook Christopher has always put into effect, whether in his personal or professional life.
Christopher first came into contact the ATN Access in 1989, while in university and working with CNIB. At that time, the mandate of ATN Access was to assist people with vision loss to become computer savvy and job ready (since that time ATN has expanded to assist people with all types of disabilities). Christopher knew that he would need additional computer skills, and once he received his degree in 1993, enrolled in ATN’s programs. He is a graduate of their summer and full time programs from 1993 to 1994.
Through ATN Access, Christopher learned how to use computer programs such as JAWS (a screen reader program used to read the screen with text-to-speech output), and how to manipulate things to work for him in a work environment, whether how to make print bigger or how to effectively utilize voice software.
At the conclusion of this program, with the assistance of ATN Access, Christopher found employment with the London Transit Commission. In 1995, he began his 20 plus year career with the London Transit Commission in Customer Service, moved to Treasury and then took a dispatch position when one opened in Specialized Transit Services.
Throughout his time at the London Transit Commission, Christopher has always made it clear to those he works with that, “I’ll let you know if I can’t do something.” He recalls his initial period working as a dispatcher as a time with a huge learning curve. He was dispatching 17 vehicles, and as he had never driven was unfamiliar with many of London’s side streets.
At the same time, the London Transit Commission hired another employee, also with a physical disability, who had previously worked 25 years as a taxi driver and dispatcher and had an incredible knowledge of London’s streets. Christopher says, “I leeched off his brain for a good three months, and any time I didn’t know where an address was I memorized it. By the time I started dispatching I had most of the streets where we were going memorized.” He admits memorization is a lot of work, and credits his strong determination over having a good memory.
In 2001, Christopher moved into his current role as Supervisor of Specialized Transit Services. He knows from personal experience that people adapt and find their own way in the workplace, and doesn’t think of people as having disabilities in this regard. He credits the London Transit Commission as being a great employer who puts ability first, and keeps open lines of communication with all their employees.
Julie Hall, Human Resources Manager at the London Transit Commission says, “Chris has been a valued employee of London Transit since June 1995. Over the course of his employment, he has been promoted and held the roles of Customer Service Representative, Accounts Payable Clerk, Specialized Transit Call-Taker and Dispatcher. Chris now supervises the Specialized Transit Department; a department which provides service delivery to citizens of London who have a disability preventing them from being able to use London’s fixed route services. Chris exemplifies our belief that by focusing on employee abilities, rather than disabilities, London Transit will benefit from a greater range of skills in the workplace. Chris is highly respected by all those who work with him and has been a great asset to London Transit!”
Within Specialized Transit Services, they work together as a cohesive team. From 2001 to 2015, registrants with a permanent disability utilizing Specialized Transit Services increased from 1500 to 6500. In 2017, Specialized Transit Services will be expanding to accommodate temporary disabilities, and Christopher expects this will triple the amount of registrants utilizing their service. He says, “Each year we’re always changing our policies and procedures and getting new technology,” and exclaims how much he looks forward to this type of positive change and challenge. Through Specialized Transit Services, the London Transit Commission provides door-to-door service for the price of bus ticket.
Christopher also believes in giving back. He has been a board member for ATN Access since 1997, and is currently the Board Chair. Vicky Mayer, Executive Director of ATN Access says, “ATN is very fortunate to have Chris sit as the Chair of our Board of Directors – not only has he walked in our clients shoes – he is very in tune with both the community of London and the community of clients we serve. He brings that empathy and the wisdom to our processes.”
There are many myths and misconceptions that surround employing people with disabilities. The Ability First Coalition asked Christopher as Supervisor of Specialized Transit Services at the London Transit Commission to comment on some of the questions that typically arise when speaking with other employers.
Is the employee turnover rate high for those with disabilities?
Speaking of employee retention Christopher says, “I’m the perfect example. I’ve been here 20 years and I’ll retire here in another 20 years.” He notes he would like to continue to advance within the organization, as his loyalty remains with his longtime employer the London Transit Commission.
He also talks about a number of other London Transit Commission employees who have disabilities and have been with the London Transit Commission for equally lengthy amounts of time, “When someone has a disability and they feel comfortable in their job, I’d like to see you try to move them out of it. If they are good at it, they’ll only get better.”
Will employees with disabilities have a higher level of absenteeism?
In regard to the misconception that employees with disabilities have higher absenteeism levels, “Again, it’s the opposite,” Christopher says, “I don’t buy that employees with disabilities are high on absenteeism. I haven’t seen it here and I’m on an Employee Assistance Program Sub-Committee.”
Is it expensive to accommodate employees with disabilities?
Christopher replies, “You’d be surprised how much an accommodation may cost. Sometimes it’s just a way of thinking, which is free.” He has come up with many of his own solutions throughout his career, and has worked with other team members to do the same.
Are higher levels of supervision required for employees with disabilities?
“Not in my experience as a supervisor in fact quite the opposite.” Christopher expands by saying that one of the biggest things he needs to remind his employees is to get up and move around. His team is so involved in their work, they often forget. He says the biggest challenge is that employees with disabilities often work too hard.
What types of jobs are suitable for employees with disabilities?
“There is no limit to what a person with a disability can achieve in the workforce; no different than a person without a disability.” Christopher’s own career trajectory at the London Transit Commission is an excellent example of his assertion that the only limits that exist for employees with disabilities are the ones falsely created by labels.
Will employees with disabilities be safe in the workplace?
“Of course, health safety rules are for all employees. Disability or not, employers dictate safe working environments.” This is a statement the Ability First Coalition hears echoed by many employers who successfully hire people with disabilities.
What are other ways my business will benefit by hiring employees with disabilities?
“Mobility, vision, hearing or cognition are all just words that can be better understood by working with a person that might be challenged by these words. Look beyond the words/labels that have been branded onto persons with disabilities and look beyond the obvious and embrace the potential,” advises Christopher.
Christopher’s final advice for employers considering adding an employee with a disability to their team, “Employers should realize that a disability is an inconvenience. Persons without disabilities have the same inconveniences in life, they just are presented differently. Have an open mind, don’t be afraid.”
“Hiring for ability first makes good business sense. You can’t go wrong. You’re investing in a person who knows what it’s like to be an underdog and rise above it, and will give a really unique contribution to their employment situation,” says Christopher Murphy, Supervisor Specialized Transit Services, London Transit Commission