Meet Untapped Award 2023 Top Finalists & Recipients
Open Door Group, in partnership with Presidents Group and Canadian Partners in Workforce Innovation (CAN WiN) are pleased to announce the top finalists and recipients of 10th annual Untapped Workplace Inclusion Awards:
WORKPLACE INCLUSION CHAMPION –Individual
Award Recipient: Faranak Sajed Nia, a champion of cultural diversity, disability inclusion, and accessibility, redefines leadership as the Manager of Care at two mental health facilities within Pioneer Community Living Association (PCLA). Her pioneering use of the Apricot software personalizes care, ensuring no need goes unmet. Her unwavering advocacy for property upgrades at Adrian House and Dominion House establishes an environment where inclusivity, comfort, and autonomy take center stage. As an immigrant and woman of color with a medical background, she adds invaluable richness to her role. Her daily practices are infused with cultural sensitivity, and her advocacy fuels systemic change. Faranak’s leadership emanates inclusivity, nurturing an environment of respect and belonging.
Top Finalist: Dr Faisal Khosa (MD, MBA, TI, FFRRCSI, FRCPC, DABR, FACR) graduated from medical school in Pakistan and completed postgraduate training and board certifications in Ireland, America, and Canada. He has an MBA in leadership and equity, diversity, and inclusion. A passion of his, Dr Khosa leads equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) research projects with high school and undergraduate students from underrepresented and minority groups. Their work has resulted in over 270 peer-reviewed articles and multiple invitations to host workshops on leadership and EDI for Doctors of BC, the Canadian Conference for Physician Leadership, Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health, Canadian Medical Protective Association, and more. For this work, he and his team have received provincial, national, and international awards including the recent Michael Smith Foundation – Health Professional Investigator Competition grant (2023-2028)
Top Finalist: Colin Reid has a remarkable career in education, from elementary to district levels, driven by his unwavering commitment to inclusive education. As the District Principal of Surrey School District’s Student Support/Inclusive Learning Department and President of the B.C. Council of Administrators of Inclusive Support in Education, Colin advocates for student diversity and inclusion. Identifying as an adult with ADHD, he shares his experiences, enriching BC CAISE members’ and educators’ understanding of ADHD in adulthood and the workplace. As BC CAISE President, Colin significantly impacts the disability community and accessibility. His partnership with the Disability Alliance BC directly supports 60 school districts in advancing inclusive education and Accessible BC Act compliance. Under his guidance, BC CAISE organized workshops, helping school districts initiate accessibility plans, with one-on-one support options. Colin Reid’s leadership is a catalyst for change, propelling inclusive education and accessibility in British Columbia.
WORKPLACE INCLUSION CHAMPION – Non-Profit Organization & Public Sector
Award Recipient: WorkSafeBC is a provincial agency with a mandate established under the Workers Compensation Act which includes promoting safe and healthy workplaces. WorkSafeBC’s approach to inclusion and accessibility will impact a significant portion of BC’s workforce, as they serve more than 2.6 million workers and close to 270 000 registered employers in BC. They also have their own workforce of more than 3500 employees.
WorkSafeBC’s accessibility journey began with an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) audit in 2021, revealing that employees with disabilities felt less included. They developed a 3-year EDI roadmap to embed EDI throughout the organization and enhance inclusivity. WorkSafeBC invested in specialized roles, launched an employee resource group for disabilities, and provided foundational EDI training for employees. They embraced a hybrid work model to support staff with disabilities and provided accessible templates and resources.
In the future, they plan to offer Inclusive Leadership training, role-specific EDI training, and enhance the applicant experience. WorkSafeBC is part of the Crowns Dialogue Network, collaborating on EDI topics, including accessibility, with other organizations.
Visit WorkSafeBC: https://www.worksafebc.com/en
Top Finalist: Lookout Housing and Health Society is committed to diversity, disability inclusion, and accessibility. They use inclusive language in job postings and actively recruit from diverse backgrounds. They prioritize hiring individuals with lived experience related to homelessness, mental health, and addiction. Lookout has a Peer Program that focuses on diverse representation and offers training and support. They have a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) committee to maintain an inclusive working environment and conduct surveys to inform hiring practices. They engage in cultural awareness events, encourage community participation, and provide diverse training opportunities for staff to foster inclusivity and equity in the workplace.
Visit Lookout Housing and Health Society: https://lookoutsociety.ca/
Top Finalist: Canucks Autism Network (CAN) offers employment programs for Autistic job seekers and provides training and support to employers. They are a provincial delivery partner for the Ready, Willing & Able program, helping employers adopt inclusive hiring practices and recruit neurodivergent talent. CAN also connects job seekers to resources and supports employers in hiring individuals on the autism spectrum or with an intellectual disability. Through the Skills Training Employment Program, CAN provides training, work experience, and coaching for Autistic job seekers, focusing on employability and social skills to aid long-term employment.
Visit Canucks Autism Network: https://www.canucksautism.ca/
WORKPLACE INCLUSION CHAMPION – Social Enterprise
Award Recipient: PASS Marketplace, part of PALS Adult Services Society, is dedicated to supporting individuals with autism and neurodevelopmental conditions. They employ program members as production assistants, providing job coaching and training. They emphasize a culture of belonging and inclusivity, including being 2SLGBTQ+ friendly, respecting preferred pronouns, implementing a gender-neutral dress code, and celebrating different cultures and holidays.
PASS Marketplace offers employment opportunities regardless of age and prioritizes mental health and well-being, providing training and support for employees. They pay close attention to personal boundaries and expectations, which is particularly significant for individuals with autism. Their primary emphasis is on promoting disability inclusion by providing adaptable work arrangements, sensory assistance, and adopting a strength-based approach to boost individuals’ confidence and workplace success. PASS is committed to hiring neurodivergent individuals and supporting them in various roles.
Visit PASS Marketplace: https://passmarketplace.ca/
Top Finalist: Mission Possible offers inclusive employment opportunities to individuals facing employment barriers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Their social enterprise provides property maintenance and community safety services, prioritizing those with barriers to employment. They hired 118 individuals through their Employment Readiness Program, offering paid work experience, coaching, training, and wraparound support. Notably, 43% of those hired identify as having a disability, and 53.4% represent a culturally diverse workforce, with 22% being indigenous. As a result, these demographics demonstrate the culturally diverse nature of the workplace at Mission Possible, which is reflective of the community they serve, in the Downtown Eastside.
Visit Mission Possible: https://www.mission-possible.ca/
Top Finalist: The Granola Kid, a local social enterprise, specializes in a range of nutritious granola flavors, which can be purchased online (website/shopify), at Farmer’s Markets, and at Strong’s grocery in North Vancouver. This family-operated business not only offers delicious products but also actively contributes to its community. A significant aspect of The Granola Kid’s mission is its commitment to social responsibility. A portion of the proceeds from their granola sales is dedicated to supporting the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation (DSRF), an organization that has played a pivotal role in the founder’s life from a young age. In addition to its philanthropic endeavors, The Granola Kid has become a prominent advocate for disability inclusion. The business has been featured in films, media outlets, and themed fundraisers, shedding light on the importance of accessibility and promoting a more inclusive society. By actively participating in these events and initiatives, The Granola Kid strives to raise awareness about accessibility needs and create a welcoming environment for all.
Visit The Granola Kid: https://www.thegranolakid.com/
WORKPLACE INCLUSION CHAMPION – Rising Star (Presidents Group)
*Note: The top finalists and recipient are selected by the Presidents Group from members of their Community of Accessible Employers. The Rising Star Award recognizes organizations in the Community that demonstrate an emerging practice of accessibility and inclusion in the workplace.
Award Recipient: Canuck Place Children’s Hospice stands out for its commitment to providing a supportive and inclusive work environment. They prioritize flexibility by offering a range of options, including self-scheduling, flexible hours, and hybrid work arrangements. Their People & Culture team has taken the initiative to enhance disability management within the organization, completing the Disability Management Practitioner Certificate Program and establishing an in-house disability management program. Notably, Canuck Place acknowledges the interconnectedness of physical, mental, and emotional health, approaching each team member as a whole person. They create customized return-to-work plans, ensuring that every individual’s unique needs are addressed. This holistic approach underscores their dedication to the well-being of their staff.
Visit Canuck Place Children’s Hospice: https://www.canuckplace.org/
Top Finalist: Stanley Park Ecology is committed to creating an inclusive and diverse workplace. Their job postings emphasize the importance of fostering inclusivity and celebrating diversity. They notify candidates about shortlisting for interviews and readily offer accommodations for those who may require them. To ensure accessibility for all, the organization has made health and safety information and manuals available in accessible formats, and they seek input from individuals on their preferred information delivery methods. Stanley Park Ecology also supports work-life balance through “hot hours” between 11 am and 3 pm, allowing staff to choose flexible start and end times that align with their individual preferences and needs. This approach reflects their dedication to creating an accommodating and diverse work environment.
Visit Stanley Park Ecology: https://stanleyparkecology.ca/
Top Finalist: CTRS Market Intelligence prioritizes employee well-being through a range of initiatives. They provide sick leave without the need for requests, offer extended pay for medical leave, and go beyond a living wage by doubling wages for lower-end employees. Additionally, they accommodate disabilities by adjusting work tasks and ensuring tasks don’t worsen conditions. These efforts underscore CTRS’s commitment to fostering a supportive and equitable workplace.
Visit CTRS Market Intelligence: https://ctrs.co/
WORKPLACE INCLUSION CHAMPION –Small BC Business (1-99 employees)
Award Recipient: Meaningful Access Consulting (MAC) is dedicated to fostering equitable inclusion by making spaces accessible. With over a decade of experience, they’ve shifted attitudes towards accessibility through consulting and educating organizations on inclusive access. Their family’s firm perspective, rooted in lived experience, brings empathy to their work. MAC conducts site audits, offering tailored recommendations for clients, from restaurant washrooms to community centers. They work with clients like The City of Richmond, City of Cranbrook, BC Transit, and the Province of Alberta to ensure compliance with Accessible BC and Canada Acts. MAC’s proudest achievement is reshaping how people perceive accessibility, influencing policies and frameworks for broader engagement. They continue to collaborate on important initiatives, setting high accessibility standards for both existing infrastructure and new developments. At Meaningful Access Consulting, they are committed to advancing disability inclusion and accessibility, striving to create a society where no one is excluded.
Visit Meaningful Access Consulting: https://www.meaningfulaccess.com/
Top Finalist: Jalapeño Employee Engagement (JEET) is a leader in promoting inclusivity, shaping workplace culture and the broader community with innovative practices. They prioritize diverse hiring with a “Skill-first, Resume-later” approach and communication workshops for all voices to be heard. Their “Journey with Jalapeño” mentorship program ensures seamless integration. JEET’s ” Jalapeño Cultural Fiesta” celebrates cultural diversity with food festivals and storytelling, fostering appreciation and cross-cultural collaboration. They extend their commitment beyond internal practices, forming partnerships with community organizations, actively participating in advisory boards, and influencing policies that champion inclusivity.
Visit Jalapeño Employee Engagement: https://jalapeno.app/
Top Finalist: Fairware, a Vancouver-based sustainable promotional products company founded in 2005, focuses on ethically sourced and environmentally responsible branded merchandise and corporate gifts. It is a certified women-owned and LGBTQ-led company, a member of the Fair Labor Association, and a Certified Living Wage Employer. Fairware promotes a safe and inclusive workplace, encouraging respect and courtesy among its team members. The company is deeply committed to social justice and equity, they are a member of the Presidents Group, working to create more accessible, inclusive workplaces. Fairware’s hiring practices follow Fair Chance and Open hiring principles, fostering an environment where team members can thrive. They embrace cultural diversity and equal-opportunity hiring, welcoming candidates from various backgrounds and abilities.
Visit Fairware: https://fairware.com/
WORKPLACE INCLUSION CHAMPION – Medium & Large BC Business (100+ employees)
Award Recipient: London Drugs, a prominent Canadian retail and pharmacy company, demonstrates remarkable leadership in inclusive hiring and engagement practices. Their commitment spans over eight years, partnering with various provinces to create an inclusive workforce. They launched the 2023 London Drugs Inclusive and Accessible Hiring Campaign, engaging store managers and touching base with candidates promptly. Their diverse talent pool exhibits higher retention, reducing turnover costs.
London Drugs provides essential e-learning modules on inclusive hiring for supervisory employees, fostering inclusivity and ensuring community representation within their stores. They are actively addressing the mental health and wellbeing of their employees through a partnership with Headversity, emphasizing proactive mental health training and building resilience. In these ways, London Drugs is making a tangible difference in building an accessible and inclusive work environment.
Visit London Drugs: https://www.londondrugs.com/
Top Finalist: Meridian Farm Market embraces a culture of inclusivity and diversity, fostering a positive work environment across its nine locations. Collaborating with organizations such as the Canucks Autism Network and Community Living BC, they craft inclusive roles tailored to individual goals and capabilities. Through personalized training plans and adjusted job requirements, Meridian empowers employees with disabilities to reach their employment aspirations. Their commitment to inclusivity has led to substantial growth in disability representation, accounting for 5-10% of their workforce, across a range of positions, including supervisory roles. This inclusive approach has not only resulted in long-term employment for individuals with disabilities but has also enriched the vibrant culture and operations at Meridian.
Visit Meridian Farm Market: https://meridianfarmmarket.ca/
Top Finalist: Microserve prioritizes fostering an inclusive culture and demonstrating leadership through actions promoting diversity, disability inclusion, and accessibility. Their equitable recruitment process ensures equal opportunities, while partnering with over 200 organizations helps make roles visible to underrepresented groups. Leadership training focuses on diversity and inclusion, aiming for a diverse leadership team. Their dedicated Wellness and Engagement function organizes various initiatives for employee well-being and engagement. Microserve also focuses on cultural diversity, offering educational opportunities on Indigenous history and reconciliation. Their strong commitment to disability inclusion includes partnerships with Spectrum Advantage and participation in events promoting workplace accessibility. A remote-first hiring policy allows them to hire individuals from diverse communities and provide accommodations for people with disabilities.
Visit Microserve: https://www.microserve.ca/
Top Finalist: Securiguard’s core values emphasize inclusion and diversity, and they actively champion equal employment opportunities through their Employment Equity Program. Their comprehensive Diversity & Inclusion Strategy is dedicated to enhancing workforce diversity, particularly among underrepresented groups. Securiguard is highly engaged in career events and job fairs to connect with a diverse talent pool, including those facing employment challenges. Collaborating with organizations like Ready, Willing and Able, they hire individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Their Indigenous Employment & Training Program is designed to create job opportunities for Indigenous Peoples, featuring outreach, training, and sponsorship. Their commitment to ongoing learning, including Indigenous Awareness Training, reinforces a diverse and inclusive work environment. Furthermore, they offer support to veterans through a specialized program, covering training and licensing costs for military reservists and veterans.
Visit Securiguard: https://www.securiguard.com/
About Untapped Workplace Inclusion Awards 2023: Untapped Awards 2023 marked a significant milestone—a decade of recognizing and celebrating individuals and organizations leading the way in diversity, inclusion, and accessibility to ensure that everyone can thrive and succeed in the workplace.
The event, held on October 13th at PARQ Vancouver, gathered 300 guests from across Canada, including business leaders, service providers, government representatives, industry experts, and advocates who united to celebrate the remarkable progress in advancing disability inclusion in workplaces.
The Untapped Awards are proudly presented by Open Door Group, Presidents Group, and the Canadian Partners in Workforce Innovation (CAN WiN).
More info: https://www.untappedseries.ca/
Join the movement and help us spread the word about the Untapped Awards by using the hashtags: #Untappedawards and make sure to tag us on your social media posts: @OpenDoorGroup, @Accessibleemployers, and @Canadianpartners.
We respectfully acknowledge the work of Open Door Group & Untapped Awards takes place across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario — the homelands of over 500 distinct Indigenous nations and cultures. We extend thanks, honour, and respect to our hosts for stewarding these lands since time immemorial.