We Can Work. Together. by Paul Seale
Finding a job can be hard, and even harder for anyone facing barriers because of a disability. “There are a lot of stereotypes about people with disabilities, people like me who are deaf or hard of hearing.” says cashier Peggy McKinney of the Old East Village Grocer, simultaneously signing in American Sign Language.
The OEV Grocer is a non-profit store owned and operated by ATN Access, and the right to be employed is a central part of ATN’s advocacy for persons with disabilities. That includes everything from making workplace accommodations to using the store as a live training ground for people facing workplace barriers to learn job skills.
As for Peggy, her talent and hard work allowed her to succeed for years in administrative work across Canada while raising her family. Even still, as an older adult, she found herself precariously employed. “Employers often see only your disability and not what you have achieved or what you can accomplish in the future,” she says, still signing. In search of gainful work, she became a client of ATN Access just as the agency was pushing ahead with plans for a social enterprise grocery store. Peggy assisted with the set-up – everything from building shelves to helping make the store fully accessible.
Impressed by her abilities, the store managers offered her a job, and you can find her at the OEV Grocer today, running the cash, tracking inventory, and mentoring clients. Able to lip-read and sign, Peggy is invaluable to deaf clients and cherished by deaf customers, but she knows every area of the store well enough to teach or help anyone.
As Peggy says, employers just need to “give a person a chance to show ‘I can work!’”