MaRS and CIBC are pleased to announce the winners of the Inclusive Design Challenge: Access to Work, in honour of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Lime Connect, based in Toronto and New York City, has won the $50,000 grand prize for its support of university students and professionals (including veterans) with disabilities in accessing work.
Runners-up SenseTech Solutions Inc. and Zera Café will each receive $20,000, while Liebs&Co. and SPOT will be awarded the honourable-mention prizes of $5,000 each. These organizations impressed the judges with bold solutions that transform access to meaningful employment for persons with disabilities.
See how the challenge winners are applying their solutions to support accessible career entry below. Reserve your spot for the launch of the next challenge in the series, Support at Work today:
Lime Connect (grand prize winner)
Lime Connect (Lime) is a global not-for-profit organization focused on rebranding disability through achievement — providing the largest network of high-potential individuals with disabilities (PWD) in the world with tools, self-confidence and connections to achieve their dreams; and in turn, supporting corporations in empowering the success of disabled employees.
Lime’s work is changing lives, but not enough of them. To scale programs and services and reach more individuals, a new online platform is being launched. The platform will be established as the go-to resource for careers, education and community in the disability talent space; and benefit people with disabilities, employers, universities, and the public at large, regardless of location. This work will lead companies of all sizes, industries and locales to fully value and seek the broad range of strengths and talents that can be found in employees with disabilities.
SenseTech Solutions Inc. (runner-up)
SenseTech Solutions is a software company that specializes in the design and development of accessible simulation software to solve real-world problems. SenseTech Solutions developed VRAI OP, a software platform that offers an accessible and customizable experience to practice, and autonomously evaluate interviewing skills. The platform also gives the affordances to employers, employment and employment support agencies to connect with potential candidates, and perform asynchronous interview opportunities. This core functionally provides an affordable, customizable and scalable solution for employers to formulate accessible content, as well as connect and engage with persons with disabilities in the career entry phase.
Zera Café (runner-up)
Zera Café is a not-for-profit social enterprise catering business that has a mission to offer meaningful gainful employment and socialization opportunities to young adults of all abilities. Zera Café’s solution aims to solve the problem that people with neurodevelopmental diversity (NDD) are chronically underemployed and are therefore lacking income, social opportunities, visibility within the community, respite for caregivers, and financial independence, which can have an impact on available housing options. We do this by offering meaningful work that is suited and challenging to the individual in a supportive and accommodating environment. The obvious impact is the job itself and the life skills that Zera Café employees benefit from. The bigger impact is Zera Café’s commitment to developing relationships with other employers in the food industry to more regularly hire people with NDD to work in their businesses. By having their director do it successfully themselves, Zera Café lends credibility and will be able to place some of their employees in other jobs so that the organization can train and support others in their place so that we maximize the impact.
Liebs&Co. (honourable mention)
Liebs&Co. educates organizations about disability through seminars, so that they can create an accessible and inclusive workplace for all people. Liebs&Co. is about educating the workplace on being accessible for disabled people, teaching organizations to attract disabled talent, and suggest practices that will help companies create a more inclusive culture for all people. The company’s solution will impact access to employment for people with disabilities by educating leaders, managers and entire organizations about inclusive practices that should be incorporated into their everyday culture within their workplace.
SPOT (honourable mention)
SPOT is breaking down barriers to employment through mobile-app technology that turns unfilled job opportunities into gig-economy opportunities. Through the MaRS and CIBC Inclusive Design Challenge, SPOT will be adding filters to our Gig Opportunities so that jobs can be flagged as accessible for a wide range of disabilities. SPOT’s opportunities do not require commitments and allow for flexible schedules which we identify as two major factors preventing any person with a disability from participating in the labour force when they are feeling able and willing to work. SPOT’s mobile accessibility, flexibility and new inclusive app design made possible by MaRS and CIBC will allow persons with disabilities greater access to employment opportunities that suit their needs, creating a higher success rate for persons with disabilities in re-entering the workforce.
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To learn more about the series, visit our homepage here.