Technology Breaking Down Barriers in Employment for the Disabled, says BMO

    Role models are finally taking centre stage - Ontario Lieutenant Governor
    David Onley, Order of Ontario, joins BMO Financial Group in recognizing
    United Nations' International Day for Disabled Persons.

    TORONTO, Dec. 3 /CNW/ - On a day that the United Nations has set aside to
highlight issues of equity and access for people of disabilities, BMO
Financial Group told members of its own diversity councils that Canadian
businesses and BMO in particular, are making encouraging strides towards
building inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities.
    The Diversity Councils of BMO Capital Markets and BMO Private Client
Group gathered in the bank's Head Office tower in Toronto today to hear
Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley deliver a keynote address and to view
an impressive demonstration of adaptive technology which accommodates people
with disabilities in the company's workplaces.
    Mr. Onley's remarks were webcast live, with captions, to all employees of
BMO and captioned by American Sign Language interpreters and a note-taker at
the event.
    The Honourable David Onley, Order of Ontario, Ontario's 28th Lieutenant
Governor, was welcomed as an important role model and an important symbol of
who Ontarians are as a community. "A few years ago, we would not have seen
someone with a visible disability as the representative of the crown," said
April Taggart, Senior Vice-President, Talent Management and Diversity. "Now,
young people with disabilities in Ontario, through David Onley, can say 'It's
not impossible for me to be on TV, to be a journalist, or to one day become
the Lieutenant Governor...The future just became more accessible!'"
    "International Day for Disabled Persons invites us to reflect on the
unfortunate reality that, in many parts of the world, disability remains a
barrier to many of the things we take for granted here in Canada. Some
countries do not have the economic capacity to address accessibility as a
pressing human rights issue," she said.
    "At BMO Financial Group we have made significant progress towards making
our working places more accessible," said Ms. Taggart, who cited several
examples of technologies, workplace accommodations and bank initiatives that
have not only opened the doors to opportunities for people with disabilities,
but have helped individuals personally succeed and contribute to the bank's
overall success.

    -  JAWS - A screen reading program that assists the blind and visually
       impaired to read, write, send email and perform a host of other
       computer activities is one example of workplace accommodation. This
       technology has opened up educational and employment opportunities that
       were previously inaccessible and JAWS is available in a variety of
       languages.. - "We have a sense that blindness is total darkness when,
       in effect, it is not always that; there are degrees of vision," -
       April Taggart

    -  TTY/TTD Machines - a telephone device for the deaf, deafened and hard
       of hearing that assists communication with customers, colleagues, and
       other stakeholders - "We employ deaf employees in a variety of roles
       in the bank - including financial services roles with customer
       interface. We are seeing these technologies being used successfully
       throughout the organization."  - April Taggart

    "In 1992, within our own community at BMO, we embarked on a Task Force on
the Employment of People with Disabilities to examine myths and barriers about
disability and employment that existed in the workplace. We have been able to
successfully dispel and dismiss these myths," said Ms. Taggart. "For example
one common myth was that people with disabilities took a disproportionate
amount of sick time. Experientially, this has proven not to be the case.
Moreover technology is creating more and more opportunities that simply were
not there before."

    -  Learning disabilities: At the time that BMO's Task Force Report on the
       Employment of People with Disabilities was written in 1992 there were
       very few ways to accommodate the learning disabled in the workplace.
       Now BMO uses tools such as Kurzweil, a reading technology for learning
       disabilities that allows the learning disabled to be employed
       effectively, since learning disabilities are absolutely no reflection
       upon intelligence. In fact, BMO has employees with learning
       disabilities working very successfully in investment roles. A number
       of years ago they simply weren't there because technology did not
       support them.

    -  Myths:

            1.  Accommodating special needs cost too much - BMO has learned
                that this is not the case and that many disabilities can be
                accommodated at reasonable cost.
            2.  There has been a longstanding belief that people with
                disabilities will hurt profitability when, in fact, they have
                increased profitability.

    "Companies that leverage diversity and "mirror the market" will attract
new customers and find new markets," said Ms. Taggart. "We're finally
understanding that disability is a natural part of culture and now the
business community is catching up and realizing it is also a business
opportunity. At BMO, we recognize that creating a work environment that is
supportive and inclusive for people with disabilities isn't just about
corporate social responsibility or a philanthropic pursuit; there's an entire
business case for inclusion."

    Group                                  Purchasing Power
    Women                                  Control more than 80% of consumer
                                           and household spending(1)
    Visible Minorities (Canada)            $76 billion(2)
    Persons With Disabilities (Canada)     $25 billion(3)
    Aboriginal People (Canada)             $24 billion(4)
    GLBT (U.S.)                            $610 billion in 2005(5)

    1  The 80% Minority, Joanne Thomas Yaccato, 2003 and Quick Facts - Buying
       Power, Catalyst
    2  A Business Case for Diversity, Dr. Jeffrey Gandtz, University of
       Western Ontario, Fall 2001, HRSDC
    3  The Impact of Employment Equity on Corporate Success in Canada,
       Kimberley Bachmann, March 2003
    4  The Aboriginal Population: The Current and Future State, Clint Davis,
       July 13, 2006
    5  Buying for Equality, Human Rights Campaign, March 2006

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: Media Relations Contact: Ralph Marranca,
Toronto,, (416) 867-3996

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