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Disability Inclusive Employer Self-Assessment Launched for Canadian Employers

News release

Disability Inclusive Employer Self-Assessment Launched for Canadian Employers

Open Door Group and Presidents Group developed free tool for Canadian employers.

VANCOUVER June 2nd, 2022 – In time for National AccessAbility Week, Open Door Group and Presidents Group, two BC organizations committed to improving employment for people with disabilities in Canada, are pleased to launch a new tool to help employers create workplaces that are measurably more disability inclusive.

The two organizations collaborated to dive deep into recent international research on what practices truly increase inclusion and retention of people with disabilities in the workplace. The organizations conducted a literature review seeking the most promising practices leading to disability inclusion and an environmental scan to evaluate what resources are available to employers who wish to expand their diversity and inclusion scope to include people with disabilities.

The result is an online 35 question self-assessment that is free to access and takes about 15 minutes to complete. The assessment identifies top practices in areas such as hiring and retention, employee benefits, physical and digital accessibility, mental health, and metrics. Employers who complete the self-assessment download their results report of up to 20 pages of resources including quick reads and valuable resources like training programs, templates and guidebooks.

Alona Puehse, Chief Executive Officer at Open Door Group says this initiative helps bridge the gap between employers who see the value in making their workplaces welcoming to this vast talent pool and the knowhow it takes to get started.  “We often work with employers of different sectors and sizes who want to be more disability inclusive, but a barrier is just knowing where to start,” Puehse explains. “This free, accessible, and evidence-based tool is intended to help fill that knowledge gap. In 15 minutes, employers can get a sense of where they’re at, and what tangible practices they can adopt to become more disability inclusive.  In this competitive labour market, employers can’t afford to miss this aspect of workplace inclusion.”

Presidents Group senior staff Yat Li is a communication professional with a hearing disability. Li says, “Ensuring a web-based tool that is inclusive of people with disabilities is important. Designing online content that includes people with disabilities is both the right thing to do and easy to accomplish.” Robin Silvester, President and CEO of Port of Vancouver as well as the Co-Chair at Presidents Group, says “It was important to design this tool to be compliant with international web accessibility content guidelines (WCAG 2.1 AA) so that people with disabilities, including disabled employers and employees with disabilities looking to evaluate their own companies can use the tool. Additionally, we worked with professional writers and accessibility testers with disabilities to develop this tool. We did it on time, on budget, and I think it is going to have a huge impact.”

The tool can now be accessed at DisabilityInclusion.ca.

Quick Facts

  • In Canada, 20% of working age adults (25 and over) have a disability.[i]
  • And yet, disability is the overlooked equity deserving group. Even organizations with mature diversity and inclusion efforts miss naming disability as a dimension of diversity.[ii]
  • People with disabilities experience higher rates of unemployment than nondisabled Canadians. Among Canadians aged 25 to 64 years, disabled people are less likely to be employed (59%) than those without disabilities (80%).[iii]
  • Nearly 650,000 Canadians with disabilities can work but are not currently employed.[iv]
  • People with disabilities say employers have a long way to go to reach disability inclusion. A 2021 poll by Angus Reid and Rick Hansen Foundation found (40%) of those living with a disability say that companies fall short when it comes to hiring those who are disabled.[v]

Associated Links

  • Disability Inclusive Employer Self-Assessment ca
  • Open Door Group org
  • Presidents Group ca

About Open Door Group

Open Door Group is a CARF-accredited, not-for-profit organization and registered charity providing employment services to thousands of individuals across BC each year. Open Door Group works with individuals who are interested in preparing for, finding, and keeping meaningful employment and employers of all sectors and sizes. In addition to employment services, they produce BC’s Untapped Workplace Inclusion Awards.

About Presidents Group

Formed in 2013, the Presidents Group is a network of 25 change-driven BC business leaders who are champions for more accessible, inclusive workplaces. Representing businesses of all different sizes and sectors, including crown corporations, transportation, tech, and food and beverage, the Group also plays an advisory role to BC’s Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. The Group’s vision is to make British Columbia the province with the highest employment for people with disabilities.


  1. [i] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2018002-eng.htm
  2. [ii] https://www.mercer.com/content/dam/mercer/attachments/private/gl-2021-the-state-of-disability-engagement.pdf
  3. [iii] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2018002-eng.htm
  4. [iv] https://www.crwdp.ca/sites/default/files/documentuploader/ont_cluster_report_accessible.pdf
  5. [v] https://www.rickhansen.com/sites/default/files/downloads/rhfpostelectioneng.pdf

Alona Puehse- Upcoming CEO of Open Door Group

Alona Puehse- Upcoming CEO of Open Door Group

Diversity, Workforce, Multicultural, Interview

Alona Puehse, incoming CEO of Open Door Group

The Open Door Group Board of Directors is thrilled to announce Alona Puehse as incoming Chief Executive Officer upon current CEO, Tom Burnell’s retirement on March 1st, 2022.


Over the past 13 years, Alona has demonstrated her ongoing commitment to furthering Open Door Group’s mission of opening doors to lifelong learning and career success.  She has held the role of Chief Operating Officer for the past four years and we are delighted to appoint her as incoming CEO.   Under her leadership, we have no doubt the organization will continue with great momentum and she will bring a strong vision for Open Door Group’s next chapter.” Bill Rana, Chair, Open Door Group Board of Directors.


By way of background, Alona came to Open Door Group from the private sector in 2009, bringing with her a strong track record in international business development and a fierce desire to support people through employment and economic independence. Her passion and entrepreneurial vision quickly became a beacon within the organization. She has a genuine passion for diversity and inclusion, social justice, and lifelong learning, demonstrated through her achievements at Open Door Group and her work in the community as a volunteer.


I’m honoured to be selected as the incoming CEO. Open Door Group has always operated on the fundamental belief that all individuals have the ability and right to succeed. The meaningful work we do – together with our community, government and business partners, is important, now more than ever.  We are facing many unprecedented issues in the economy, the climate, socially – all having profound impacts on how we look at work. To take on these challenges and opportunities with such a dedicated team, is the greatest honour.” Alona Puehse


Alona will be starting her role as CEO on March 1st, 2022. The Board extends its gratitude to Tom Burnell for his 27 years of dedicated service which involved many significant accomplishments, including growing Open Door Group from a small, Vancouver-based organization delivering skill development workshops to people with disabilities, to what is now one of the largest non-profit organizations in the province serving thousands of British Columbians to build skills and achieve career success.

Contact us today

Benefits that a diverse workforce will bring to your business.

Benefits that a diverse workforce will bring to your business.

Diversity, Workforce, Multicultural, Interview

Why is diversity in organizations important?

We live in a diverse society, of people with different ethnicities, Persons with Disabilities, LGBTQIA2S+, men and women. In a society with such cultural diversity, it is necessary and important that organizations develop a mature posture to face differences. Diversity in the workforce means acknowledging employees differences and supporting inclusion for a variety of different perspectives, which is highly beneficial planning and executing a business strategy.

What are the benefits of having a diverse workforce?

Performance and Reputation as a Progressive Employer

A business or organization that values ​​diversity is more accurately reflects the world. Valuing diversity also contributes to a company’s reputation. After all, it is an attitude of awareness and responsibility towards society. In addition, learning about the diverseness that employees have in the workforce is disseminated in the social environment by the professionals themselves. When they go to other environment, they reproduce the behaviors learned at work. With that, they become examples for other people.

Knowledge and Experience

Diverse cultural perspectives can inspire creativity and drive innovation. Local market knowledge and insight makes a business more competitive and profitable. Cultural sensitivity, insight, and local knowledge means higher quality, targeted marketing. Since it means that employees will have different characteristics and backgrounds, they are also more likely to have a variety of different skills and experiences.

Employee Retention

When there is a lot of exclusion in the team due to the difficulties of living with differences, it is common to leave the company. Sometimes, because they cannot support the segregation dynamic among colleagues, some team members prefer to leave their jobs. This process is very problematic. Intolerant teams tend to have a high turnover rate because professionals do not account for the exclusion. With a diverse group that welcomes differences, employees feel more secure and welcomed. This contributes to cooperativeness and a sense of belonging. Thus, turnover is much lower in the company.

Productivity, Creativity and Motivation

In an environment that values ​​differences and brings diversity as an element that adds to the business, employees feel they have more freedom to have authenticity and genuineness at work. This contributes to more originality in the production of their work. Further, the diverse environment provides conditions for new ideas and more engaged and creative team, ready to unlock their potential.

Increased Profits

Companies with a diverse workforce make better decisions, which gives them a serious advantage over their competitors. As a result, companies with diversity in the workplace achieve better business results and reap more profit.

Reduce Recruitment Costs Working with Programs like the OPPORTUNITIES FUND 

Employers who hire a new employee utilizing Opps Fund may also be eligible to receive disability support services such as the provision of funding for technology or equipment, workshops (such as Mental Health First Aid for their staff), and on-site job coaching for their new employee.

Where to Start?

It is only possible to learn to respect diversity through learning and understanding. Inclusion programs in the company are a great alternative to promote employee engagement, to educate your team, promote interaction with different customs and to raise awareness about inclusion in the work place environment. These iniciatives help professionals mature and also strengthen ties between colleagues.

OPEN DOOR GROUP  provides support to business and employers who want to improve diversity in their workforce. Connect with us to learn how we can help you.

Contact us today

Our condolences to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and all Indigenous communities.

Our condolences to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and all Indigenous communities.

Trigger warning: loss, death
Horrific news of the 215 children’s remains found at the former Kamloops residential school. Our condolences to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and all Indigenous communities.
The 215 children and all other lives so wrongly taken, may you rest in peace, and may your families find healing. Lives taken, families torn apart, intergenerational trauma – this is a painful reminder of the atrocious history of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous People. We acknowledge that this deep rooted racism still exists today, and we must do better.
Support available:
Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
The IRSSS can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
Within B.C., the KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides a First Nations and Indigenous-specific crisis line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s toll-free and can be reached at 1-800-588-8717 or online at www.kuu-uscrisisline.com.

New home for Thrive

New home for Thrive

THRIVE has a new home!!! It is in the Vancouver- Fairview neighbourhood in a beautiful heritage house. We don’t have a THRIVE signage yet but the entrance to the office is from the back alley.

The new Thrive office is location is:
1151 W8th Ave
Vancouver, BC  V6H 1C5

Between Spruce and Alder Street

Our office will be open for 1:1 in person appointments by the end of May. If you want to schedule in-person 1:1 session, please connect with your Recreation Therapist or Kim (kim.collens@opendoorgroup.org) for more information on exact available dates and times.

Gardengate May Plant Sales

Gardengate May Plant Sales

Certified organic bedding plants grown by Gardengate participants and volunteers!

Things to know:

  • Orders are PICK UP ONLY. There will be no shipping or delivery (some things on the website we have used could not be edited and could cause confusion).
  • Payment will occur when you pick up your order. We prefer debit payment but cash or cheque will be accepted. We do not accept credit cards.
  • Our sales site tracks inventory and will inform you when things are sold out. However, with the nature of living stock, some plants may not be viable for sale when it is time to fill orders. We will do our best to ensure that the items you order are healthy and your order is filled to completion.
  • Sales are just one part of our program. If you reach out to us, please give us time to get back to you!

Thank you for your patience and understanding!
Questions? email gardengatesales@opendoorgroup.org

Gardengate Virtual Grand Opening

Gardengate Virtual Grand Opening

You’re invited to the virtual grand opening of the Gardengate Training Centre!

The expansion project of the Gardengate Training Centre is finally complete.

The program had been operating out of a 700 sq ft space since 2000 that was largely unusable during winter months due to lack of heat. With over thousands of people from the community visiting Gardengate each year, the program has now expanded its facility to a 2200 sq ft. building.

The space expansion allows more people to participate in the program. As well, with the new addition of a commercial kitchen, the program gives participants the opportunity to cultivate more skills such as cooking, carpentry, sales, marketing and machine maintenance.

Join us for the unveiling of the new facility on April 22nd via zoom. Once you have registered via Eventbrite, you will receive details on how to join our virtual event.

Date: Thursday, April 22nd, 2021
Time: 1:00PM
Location: Zoom (you must RSVP via Eventbrite for details)

RSVP Here:


Taylore’s Story

Taylore’s Story

Taylore was a single mother who was relatively new to living on the Sunshine Coast. Her daughter was soon starting grade 1 so she wanted to search for full time employment as her current part-time income was not sustainable.

She had a number of educational achievements, including a Bachelor of Vocational Education. In addition, she had work experience. Even so, she lacked knowledge of the local labour market and a network on the Sunshine Coast. She said, “My foot had never hit the floor looking for a job. I had always been tapped on the shoulder.” After talking to people about her search for employment, she received recommendations to go to WorkBC.

Taylore’s employment goal was full-time employment in teaching, administration or IT. Her case manager at WorkBC Sechelt recommended that she participate in the Jobs in Demand cohort that was soon starting. The program would help develop her resume and skills as well as obtain industry specific training and certificates. Early into the program, she started helping the other participants. She supported them with computer use and with their resumes and cover letters. She joked to the employment facilitator, “I want your job!”

As luck would have it, there was an opening with Open Door Group (ODG) for an employment facilitator just as the JID cohort was ending. With encouragement from her case manager, the JID facilitator and the other JID participants, Taylore applied for the position. She was hired, initially on a casual contract, which became full-time within a few months. Taylore recently completed 52 week of sustainable employment at the end of December 2020.

“I’ve never believed there are no jobs out there – and I’m from Newfoundland! You just have to go out and find them. When luck meets opportunity, you have a new challenge to pursue.”

Employer Webinar Series

Employer Webinar Series

Register to learn about the free services that WorkBC offers employers

Vancouver City Centre and Sea to Sky WorkBC is hosting a monthly webinar for employers on the WorkBC wage subsidy program. Attend one of the sessions to learn more about WorkBC services for employers and how to specifically access the wage subsidy program.

Date: 4th Wednesday of every month
Time: 3:00PM

Register here:


Gardengate January Update

Gardengate January Update

New Gardengate Facility – Spring 2021

The Gardengate program has been working towards completion of a new facility since its groundbreaking in September 2020. The program has been operating out of a 700ft space since 2000 that is largely unusable during winter months due to lack of heat. The space expansion will allow more people to participate in the program. As well, with the new addition of a commercial kitchen, the program gives participants the opportunity to cultivate more skills such as cooking, carpentry, sales, marketing and machine maintenance.

The launch of the new facility will take place in Spring 2021!! This will include a public open house that will be by invitation and spread out over several days to comply with pandemic restrictions. Stay tuned for the official dates and times.

Winter prep for spring!

Working at Gardengate during the winter is also very busy. You will find people participating in carpentry and small machine maintenance, as well as preparing for the new season of planting!! Yes, all of that begins in January and February so that we can enjoy a bounty from spring to fall.

Gardengate plants sales will begin in May with both online purchase and in person options. In person sales will take place Saturday May 8th and 15th from 9:00am to 1:00pm. Online sales will be announced closer to May regarding the online launch.

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