Abilities that Work

Connecting with opportunities to contribute

British Columbia could become the most progressive region for people living with disabilities in Canada. This can only be achieved by respecting and reflecting the needs and wants of people living with disabilities in British Columbia.

The British Columbia government is consulting with British Columbians to better understand how government, businesses, and communities can increase accessibility and decrease barriers for people living with disabilities. This feedback will inform the development of a White Paper – a document that reflects the voice of British Columbians – that will form the foundation for a Summit in June 2014 on the issues facing people with disabilities in British Columbia.

The consultation will be guided by a leadership team made up of government, the disability community led by the Minister’s Council on Employment and Accessibility, and the business community led by the Presidents Group, to see what we, as a society, can do to reduce barriers and increase accessibility for people living with disabilities.

The approach is modeled after the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities pledge to ensure that any discussion of disability issues be done with the disability community – “nothing about us without us.”

Increasing accessibility for people with disabilities in British Columbia – Read more about the white paper

June 11, 2010

There is an ongoing need for competitively priced quality business services. People with abilities in our communities have the skills to meet this need.
People with abilities are a major untapped community resource capable of providing individuals and organizations quality business services at competitive prices.
Yet potential customers are unable to connect with and engage people with abilities due to limited knowledge of the skills and resources available and are concerned about the costs of engagement.
People with abilities are prevented from creating enterprise because they are unable to effectively connect with, inform and engage potential customers and others with similar or complementary abilities.
Abilities That Work is a cooperative community enterprise operated by people with abilities providing reliable and cost competitive outsourced business services.
Abilities That Work connects customers that need help to people with abilities by enabling them to tell their story about who they are, what they do, what they contribute and their fee.
Abilities That Work:
-Provides our community with quality business services at competitive rates,
-Provides people with abilities an opportunity to increase their independence, start a career, integrate into the community and be part of a community enterprise
Our success is measured by the revenue earned by people with abilities and the quality of our services.

In 2005,  Sam Sullivan invited me to a meeting of Connectra to explore ideas on how to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

I suggested an agency approach and had a few meetings with Kirk Duncan to develop the idea of repositioning Connectra as a community of people with abilities that work, – see Connectra logo attached – connectra.jpg – and a document prepared by Kirk summarizing one of our early conversations – Connectra as a Service.doc

When Kirk moved on early in 2007, Shaheeda Shariff and I had been working with one another for about a year. By that time, I had concluded that a community cooperative, operating independent of the need for government or philanthropic funding, would be possible, more desirable, and more sustainable, and that community service groups could work together to make the idea a reality. I registered www.abilitiesthatwork.com on behalf of the community in March of 2007. Since then I have been exploring how to create community and creative community enterprise around common community interests. There is a lot more to that story and to the story of Abilities that Work.

I now have a framework of ideas for a communication system, a process, and an economic model that could make this possible which I am beginning to introduce as a creative hypothesis to Creative Team Vancouver – www.creativevancouver.com. Abilities That Work is one of a number of opportunities for creative community enterprise.

Attached is an overview of the Abilities that Work story and a Power Point presentation recently prepared by Shaheeda Shariff – http://www.vancouvercommunityforums.com/oldhtml/door-shaheeda.html – with the assistance of Jim Randall – http://www.raconteur.ca/

Abilities that Work is a highly leveraged idea and opportunity – high contribution to community interests for the resources invested – that is coincident with Connectra’s interests in Creating Opportunities for People with Disabilities and Plan’s interests in creating caring communities to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

It is our mission to reduce the isolation and loneliness of people who are marginalized and ensure that the gifts and contributions of all members of a community are welcomed. We improve the lives of people living on the margins of society and enrich their communities by creating opportunities for mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships to form. We promote the leadership and participation of people with disabilities and their families in helping us to revitalize our communities. We do this by creating opportunities for dialogue, collaboration and partnership.

Abilities that Work is an opportunity for the community of service providers and people with disabilities to engage in creative community enterprise around a common community interest.

PLAN and the Disability Foundation as the two most successful, creative, and leading enterprises in our community would be a good place to start the conversation.

Connectra as a Service
Creating Opportunities for people with disabilities


Local companies continue to outsource services, using independent contractors do perform jobs previously done by employees. ConnecTra, through the Abilities Cooperative, is positioned to take advantage of this niche market by providing some of those services, including but not limited to information gathering, inbound & outbound telephone services and office/clerical duties. ConnecTra members, under the direction of the Program Coordinator, would perform these services and subsequent supervisory services.


Up to now ConnecTra has approached companies with a request to hire its members to perform miscellaneous duties and pay them a modest fee. In many cases the company feels it is doing a favour to ConnecTra due to the fact the company could have performed the services with existing personnel. In effect, the companies were providing ‘make work’ projects for the benefit of ConnecTra and its members.

This culture needs to change. Potential employers need to be transformed into clients and the services they want to contract out need to be provided in a cost effective and efficient manner by ConnecTra, via the Abilities Cooperative.


ConnecTra would like to position itself as a top-notch information service provider as we move forward to the 2010 Winter Olympics. With the trend to outsourcing services it is felt that finding the proper niche in this market would prove valuable to ConnecTra members who would be contributing. This value is derived not only from the financial perspective but also from the quality of life as well as the increased self-esteem perspective. The success of the project would come about due to a number of factors, including a high level of service competency, competitive service pricing and top end customer service. The fact that we hire, for the most part, people with disabilities has no bearing on a company’s decision to use our services. Their criteria is a combination of quality of service and competitive pricing.


In order to determine the viability of an outsourcing agency a number of steps need to be taken:

1. A survey to be conducted in order to determine the services local companies would consider outsourcing. Support for this survey may come from Simon Evans and his non-profit group, the BCHRMA.
2. A complete business plan would be developed to determine project viability. This plan would include results from the survey and form the foundation of an internal presentation to the Founder and the General Manager.
3. “Ability Profiles” to be performed on each current and all future ConnecTra members. This profile would include all contributions the member would like to perform.
4. When and if internal Disability Foundation approval is received, a similar presentation to be made to the Ministry of Human Resources so as to receive confirmation that this endeavour meets with their approval.


Connect to Power Point presentation

Plan Institute
Neil Squire Society

Courage to Come Back Awards
Vancouver Resource Society