Get To Know Our 2016 Coalition Members

Mar 23, 2016

Over the last year, the Ability First Coalition has continued to evolve and we are excited to announce the appointment of three new members to our Executive Committee. You will undoubtedly recognize some long standing members of the coalition, as well as be introduced to new faces around the table. What all our members have in common is their overarching intent to motivate and support other employers to hire and retain persons with disabilities.

The Ability First Coalition Executive Committee

The Executive Committee of the Ability First Coalition is comprised of five members: two Co-Chairs, one Past Chair, one Treasurer, and one Secretary.

Ability First Coalition Co-Chair Dianne Evans, Branch Manager, Kelly Services, "I have been involved with Ability First since its inception. I was impressed by the dynamic group and knew together we could affect awareness in the corporate community to recognize ability without prejudice of any kind. Given my role with Kelly Services, it mirrored the philosophy of our company and I was thankful for another platform to continue to champion equal opportunity based on skill set."

Ability First Coalition Co-Chair Lesley Oliver, Diversity & Accessibility Consultant, Western University, "I am a passionate advocate for creating an inclusive society where people are respected and celebrated for their individual talents. It’s very rewarding to help raise awareness and remove barriers so individuals with disabilities can partner with employers to help achieve organizational goals and also achieve their own personal goals. I admire the Ability First Coalition for fostering a community of employers who ensure equitable access to opportunities and I want to do my part to help build upon this culture of respect and inclusion."

Ability First Coalition Past Chair Bert Floyd, Senior IT Manager Assistive Technologies, TD Bank, "I joined the Ability First Coalition to share the successes we’ve had at TD in creating employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. In my role with Assistive Technologies at TD, I help accommodate employees in the workplace to remove barriers and let their abilities shine through. The accommodations are often simple and inexpensive and not only benefit the employees, but also benefits TD with dedicated employees, lower turnover, increased customer satisfaction and a more robust and diverse workforce."

Ability First Coalition Treasurer Brigitte Neale, Selection Committee Coordinator, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, “Hiring for ability is a cause that is close to my heart, as I have two family members with different forms of disability, thus was able to view societal impact on them while growing up. As a professional in Human Resources, I became passionate about the Ability First initiative as I began working with those with varying abilities. These employees have proven to be some of the most loyal and hard working people to organizations and in turn can show positive effects on a business’ bottom line. I see this effort as a great benefit in propelling integration of those with disabilities within the community. I hope to do my part in promoting the smart thing to do, by creating social justice with accessibility within our community to those with varying types of ability.”

Ability First Coalition Secretary Kate Huner, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Human Resources, The Corporation of the City of London, “I have joined the Ability First Coalition because of my passion for being an active member of an inclusive society and community. I have an extensive background in AODA policies and legislation from my time working for the Province of Ontario. Particularly, I spent much of my time working for the Ministry of Community and Social Services, where I had the privilege to work on critical social and labour market policies and programs, predominantly for persons with disabilities. I believe that everyone has a role to play in being part of building a better, more inclusive society. I am excited to be part of the great work and advocacy that the coalition does and I look forward to contributing. We all have so much to offer and we need to ensure our society is open, inclusive and free from discrimination.”

Ability First Coalition Members

Ability First Coalition Member Mary Forret, Marketing Manager 3M Canada, “I joined Ability First to continue the success I saw while living in Toronto and want the same for the City of London. The employees I’ve had the pleasure of hiring and working with in the past, work hard, have fun, and approach life with a very positive outlook. They have been a wonderful addition to the companies I have worked for. I personally have learned a lot from these individuals and would like other employers to experience the same. Ability First is a great way to connect with all important parties in the process.”

Ability First Coalition Member Katie Froussios, Branch Manager TD, London University Gates, “I am excited to join the Coalition to support employers in finding the right candidates for their job opportunities. Over my 20+ years with TD, I have worked with many community groups in supporting persons with disabilities in finding work. TD has been a great employer for our diversity initiatives. I am passionate to take our best practices and help other employers have the same success when hiring persons with disabilities.”

Ability First Coalition Member Denise Gold, Independent HR and Diversity Consultant, “I have always been of the opinion that people with challenges have a place in this world just like everyone else. Being a member of the Ability First Coalition provides me with the opportunity to share my experiences and make known the advantages of hiring a person with a disability.”

Ability First Coalition Member Amy Grant, Human Resources Manager, 3M Canada, “At 3M Canada we strongly believe in fostering an inclusive workplace. I saw joining the Ability First Coalition as an opportunity to share our successes but more importantly as an opportunity to learn from other employers, and create awareness in the London community. As employers, we have come along way in how we work with individuals with disabilities however we know there is still a lot of progress to be made. I am honoured and excited to be a part of this ongoing journey.”

Ability First Coalition Member Betty Holme, Director, Organizational Effectiveness, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, “I joined the Coalition originally as a company representative, but after being on the Coalition it became obvious that there was a vast resource of virtually untapped talent that deserved an opportunity to shine. It has been my experience that in most cases when you give a person with a disability a chance they perform to the best of their ability! Their positive attitude towards their work can have an amazing impact on the rest of the team.”

Ability First Coalition Member Doug Mantle, Assistive Technology Support Specialist, King’s University College, “We all have differing abilities. Once accommodated, they become strengths that allow us to excel as dedicated, creative, and resourceful members of any team we join. As an Assistive Technologist, I specialize in finding the right tools and resources to turn those challenges into strengths. Providing support to those attending post secondary education has proven to me that, with the right accommodations, everyone can succeed. Being part of the Ability First Coalition team, I hope to support individuals and businesses by sharing my experience, knowledge and specialized skills. Technologies support abilities, and hiring based on ability first just makes sense!”

Ability First Coalition Member Jason Ménard, Content Strategist, Digital Echidna, “At Digital Echidna we have taken the initiative to include accessibility in everything we do. Personally, I was introduced early to the concept that ability is all that matters through my cousin who, due to an accident, was left quadriplegic. It’s not about accommodation, but rather giving people the tools they need to let their talent, intelligence, and skills shine through. That’s also the Ability First philosophy and it’s why I’m proud to be a part of this Coalition.”

Ability First Coalition Member Martin Withenshaw, London Project Director, Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning and Development Board, “The Ability First Coalition promotes the hiring and retention of persons with disabilities. The coalition’s mandate aligns with my beliefs. I believe all people have the right to work and be included in the workplace. This reinforces diversity and inclusion for all people in our society.”

Partner in Employment (PIE) Representative

The Ability First Coalition welcomes Wendy Lau, CEO with LEADS Employment Services as the current representative for Partners in Employment. This role provides a unique opportunity to share knowledge about employment agencies for people with disabilities, training opportunities, community resources, program models and employment supports at the Ability First table. This promotes communication and understanding between Partners In Employment service agencies and the Ability First Coalition. 

Interested in joining the Ability First Coalition?

The Ability First Coalition is comprised of volunteers from across the London and area business community. Please consider applying for membership if you are interested in supporting the coalition’s mandate, “Business professionals, motivating and supporting employers to hire and retain persons with disabilities.” The coalition is always looking for other like-minded individuals to help champion our efforts.