By Mike Davey
Thompson, Manitoba — February 28, 2014 — Good help is hard to find, but it helps if you can see whatâ€™s really there. Danny Morris was able to look past the surface, gaining a new full-time prepper for his shop and a Champion of Diversity award for himself.
Morris has been the owner of Mystery Lake Body Shop in Thompson, Man., since 2002. Since 2013, he has employed a young man by the name of Keegan Sinclair, who is deaf. What started as a work experience program grew into full-time employment for Sinclair.
The Society for Manitobans with Disabilities approached Morris about the possibility of providing a work experience program to Sinclair early in 2013. Sinclair began training at Mystery Lake Auto Body as a prepper, with help from an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for the first two days, to ensure clear communication during the work experience. Due to the high cost of bringing interpreters to the remote community of Thompson, there was a need to explore the use of video conferencing technology for follow up, monitoring and evaluation.
Brenda Davidson of the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities says exploring this sort of ASL interpretation is an important step in providing access to employment for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
â€œAccessing interpreters this way is a relatively new practice in Manitoba and Dannyâ€™s willingness to utilize this service is helping to break down barriers to accessing services for deaf and hard of hearing people in Northern Manitoba,â€ says Davidson.
Technology such as IPads and cell phones has helped Sinclair and other staff members communicate.
â€œHe can text through his phone, and we have a great big easel board in the back where the other staff can write messages for him when we need to,â€ says Morris. â€œIn Thompson, it can be hard to find good workers. Keegan has done very, very well here. All he wants to do is work. Heâ€™s never late, he very seldom calls in sick, and heâ€™s good at what he does.â€
Itâ€™s undoubtedly been a learning experience for Sinclair, but the other staff members at Mystery Lake Body Shop have picked up new skills as well, with several of them already learning some ASL.
|Brenda Davidson of the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities and Danny Morris of Mystery Lake Body Shop at the award ceremony.
Morris was recognized with a Champion of Diversity award at a ceremony in Winnipeg last October. He received his award from Manitoba Lt.-Gov Philip Lee at a ceremony in the rotunda of the provincial legislature, along with other employers from around the province.
Davidson believes itâ€™s important to acknowledge the contributions made by employers like Danny Morris.
â€œDeaf people in the northern part of the province often have barriers to accessing employment,â€ says Davidson. â€œDanny is kind of a leader in this regard, an employer who is willing to try something new. Itâ€™s nice to know there are progressive employers like Danny, someone who could see that Keegan has the same abilities as everyone else and was willing to give him a chance.â€
For more information on the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities, please visit smd.mb.ca. For more information on Mystery Lake Auto Body, please visit thompsonautorepair.ca.