null Recognizing the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Advocates and colleagues gather at the RI-MUHC to raise awareness and help promote the integration of people living with disabilities into our work and research spaces

December 8, 2023

People living with disabilities face countless obstacles. One of these is integration into the workplace, where people with disabilities are often underrepresented.

To address this important issue, and to mark the International Day of People with Disabilities, the RI-MUHC recently hosted an event entitled “Recruiting and Retaining People with Disabilities." Hosted at the Montreal General Hospital’s newly refurbished Osler Hall on November 30, 2023, the event welcomed a panel of experts to discuss the issues and opportunities around this timely and relevant topic.

Presentation by Audrey Daigneault of AIM CROIT (left), Jini John (centre). Photo on right shows members of the RI-MUHC EDI team with invited members of the expert panel, including (from left) Susanne Bazin, Diego Herrera, Mariam Mkrtchian, Rebeca Varela, Jini John, Audrey Daigneault, Cynthia Del Vecchio, Sonia Rea, and Mélissa Lévy.
Presentation by Audrey Daigneault of AIM CROIT (left), Jini John (centre). Photo on right shows members of the RI-MUHC EDI team with invited members of the expert panel, including (from left) Suzanne Bazin, Diego Herrera, Mariam Mkrtchian, Rebeca Varela, Jini John, Audrey Daigneault, Cynthia Del Vecchio, Sonia Rea, and Mélissa Lévy.

Dr. Rhian Touyz, the RI-MUHC’s Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer, gave opening remarks before a hybrid audience of about 80 attendees. She noted that the organization is fully committed to fostering an inclusive, equitable and accessible workplace and research space. “We are seeking to build an environment where representation exists throughout the organization and every member feels valued, respected and supported to reach their full potential,” said Dr. Touyz.

An impactful video was shared, featuring testimonials from two members of the RI-MUHC community. Both shared their insights into living and working with a disability. “People are not used to seeing people with disabilities, who have different ways of doing things,” said Suzanne Bazin, senior clerk in the RI-MUHC administration team. “Society tends to look at the disabled side of a person, not the enabled side,” added Jini John, research assistant in the Surgical and Interventional Sciences (formerly IRR) Program of the RI-MUHC. Ms. John also presented an in-person testimonial, describing her own trajectory and her experiences in the job market. She discussed the ways in which her visual impairment had impacted her working life, but also had strengthened her determination to succeed.

Diego Herrera, the RI-MUHC’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion specialist, hosted the event. Mr. Herrera reminded the audience that the RI-MUHC has made a strategic commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). This commitment includes taking concrete steps to open doors for six underrepresented equity-seeking groups, guided by an EDI institutional policy and the EDI Action Plan approved by the Fonds de recherche du Quebec – Santé (FRQ-S).

The second speaker, Audrey Daigneault, presented the Montreal non-profit organization AIM CROIT. Their mission is to help people with physical, sensory or neurological disabilities develop their full potential within the labour market. Ms. Daigneault explained how AIM CROIT works with employers and applicants to facilitate recruitment and accommodation for thousands of people living with different limitations. “In most cases, people with disabilities are able to access employment without the need for special accommodation,” she said. “But if needed, AIM CROIT is here to help access the resources they need to meet their needs.” The RI-MUHC has recently partnered with AIM CROIT, so that these services will be available to the research community.

The third presentation was made by Mélissa Lévy, from La Fondation Moelle épinière et motricité Québec (MÉMO-Qc). The organization works to facilitate the social integration of people with spinal cord injuries, promote their rights and support research. It also works to develop the employability of people with physical and neurological limitations. In her talk titled “Reinventing autonomy,” Ms. Levy, spoke of the services her organization makes available for people with spinal cord injury and also for employers. For example, her team helps build strategies for integrating people with disabilities into the workplace, adapting workspaces, and applying for grants and subsidies to support any needed accommodations. The RI‑MUHC research community may access the services of MÉMO-Qc through a recent partnership.

A lively question period followed the three presentations. The panelists addressed about how to do interviews, and how to retain and support an employee with a disability after they are hired.

In his concluding remarks, Diego Herrera thanked both the panelists and the audience. He reiterated that 5% of the RI-MUHC’s work force identifies as living with a disability, but with 8.4% in the city of Montreal, this population is still underrepresented in our workforce. With this in mind, the RI-MUHC is developing diversified recruitment and onboarding processes, supporting teams in identifying inclusive practices, creating educational tools, and establishing partnerships. Mr. Herrera also reminded the audience that the MUHC hospital also has many initiatives underway, including work to renovate washrooms to accommodate people with disabilities, to add braille to some areas and to install adaptive switches that open doors for people with limited mobility. An online tool, Approche respectueuse et adaptée aux personnes en situation de handicap, is available to all healthcare employees who interact with patients.

Further Resources

Anyone with questions about hiring persons with disabilities at the RI-MUHC is encouraged to contact

A recording of the expert panel on Recruiting and Retaining People with Disabilities may be accessed by members of the RI-MUHC community on the RI Portal (login required).

The RI-MUHC EDI team has prepared a new resource to assist hiring managers entitled “Recruiting and Retaining People with Disabilities”. (This pdf will be available by end Dec 2023.)

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