The holiday season is the busiest time of year for Good Foot Delivery, a non-profit courier service whose employees all identify with disability. Good Foot’s employees make deliveries on foot or via public transit throughout the Greater Toronto Area every day.
Good Foot was founded by Sudbury native Jon Gauthier and his sister Kirsten out of Jon’s struggle to find employment. The unemployment rate for Canadians with disabilities is higher than the Canadian average. A BMO study from 2013 found that an overwhelming majority of small businesses – nearly 70% – has never hired a person with a disability.
When I spoke to Good Foot’s managing director, Greg Kasparian, he brought up that he understands why employers would choose to hire an able-bodied person over someone who is disabled, because the training time and cost are generally less. However, he found that putting in the time to train someone who truly wants a job tends to bring in better retention and more reliability. A 2012 survey found that more than three-quarters of employers who did hire workers with disabilities reported being happy with the hires. According to Greg, most of Good Foot’s employees are people who just want to get out of the house and become engaged with the community.
That engagement is an excellent way to subvert stereotypes about the mobility of people with disabilities. Societal discrimination against people who are disabled lies in the assumption that they are fundamentally less able than others, or even downright incapable of performing certain tasks.
Obviously this is not the case, because in the five years that Good Foot has been in service, they have had regular clients such as Virgin and Wind Mobile, and their amount of annual deliveries has grown exponentially – they wrapped up 2015 with approximately 11,000 deliveries. Their team has grown to have about 30 dedicated people, and they always have a waitlist of eager volunteers and potential employees that they hope to be able to work with soon.
Good Foot’s use of the subway and other transit systems not only makes a bold statement about the real ability of people with disabilities, but is also an example of what can be done when transit is made to be accessible. However, less than half of TTC stations are currently wheelchair accessible, so there is still work to be done. The work does not begin and end with the TTC, and while companies like Good Foot should definitely be celebrated, it should not be up to people with disabilities to carve out niches for themselves in the workforce. The sooner that employers, the transit commission, and the rest of us accept responsibility for our complicity in disability-discrimination and begin making socially conscious choices, the better.
Written by Shailee Koranne.