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Jim Kyte: Former Hockey Player Excels in Academia 600 468 adam

Jim Kyte: Former Hockey Player Excels in Academia

What do you do? Share a bit about who you are. 

I have had a varied career in several very different areas. First, I was a professional hockey player for 17 years, including 13 seasons in the National Hockey League with the Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, and San Jose Sharks. I have a 100-decibel hearing loss so I have the distinction of being the only deaf hockey player in the history of the NHL. My hockey career came to an abrupt end when I was a victim of a car accident and sustained a serious brain injury. 

I attended a networking event and met the Dean of the School of Business at Algonquin College. A week later, he followed up on our brief conversation. He was looking to start a new program related to the business of sport and he asked me to be on the industry advisory committee. The person developing this new academic program abruptly left the college. I saw a window of opportunity so I reached out to the Dean and asked, “What needs to be done?” Despite lacking a formal education, I developed the program, hired all the staff and successfully launched the new Sport Business Management postgraduate program in nine months – all completely out of my comfort zone, again!

I have been at Algonquin College for the past 20 years. I completed my MBA in 2012 at the age of 46. Today, I am the Dean of the School of Hospitality and Tourism, a position I have held for the past 7 years.

What is the biggest barrier to accessibility in your life?

Deafness is an invisible disability and communication is critically important. I do not use sign language as I wear two powerful hearing aids and read lips to understand the world around me. I am also brain injured, and have a heart condition that is controlled (most of the time) with medication.

The biggest barrier I feel is unconscious bias, which refers to a bias that we are unaware of and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgements and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. 

Whoever thought someone who couldn’t hear the whistle or their teammates on the ice could play in the NHL? I encountered many naysayers along the way because they made false assumptions. Every time somebody told me I couldn’t do something, a little voice in my head would say, “Just watch me”.

Because of my deafness, I am proactive in communicating my needs to new people that I meet. For instance, speaking loudly and clearly without putting their hands over their mouths, and telling teachers/coaches not to turn their backs to me ensures that I am able to understand them. Taking the initiative to build awareness about my needs has been essential to my success. 

For people looking for work right now, what’s one piece of advice you would give them?

Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Prepare through education, research or experience. Build your resume to meet the qualifications of the job, which only gets you in the door to an interview. Then practice, practice and practice again your interviewing skills.
Gather as much knowledge about the role and the company as you can, then practice being interviewed with another person.

What keeps you motivated when things are hard?

Whether you think you can or cannot, you are right. Believing in yourself and persevering through hard work and a positive attitude are important keys to success. 

The benefits of building a diverse workforce are well known, but still the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in Canada is high. What would you say to recruiters that are trying to build a diverse team? How can they access the “untapped market” of people with disabilities?

The business case for hiring a person with disabilities is hard to ignore for any recruiter for the following reasons:

  1. Research shows replacing an employee costs can be as high as 50%-60% of that employee’s salary with overall costs ranging anywhere from 90%-200%. Therefore, recruiters know that it is very expensive to replace people but job turnover among people with disabilities is estimated to be 20% of the rate of other employees. 
  2. 86% of people with disabilities rate average or better on attendance than their colleagues without disabilities, so they are employees that are more reliable. 
  3. 90% of people with disabilities rate average or better on job performance compared to their colleagues without disabilities.

  1.  The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  2.  Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities
  3.  Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities
  4.  Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Job accommodation isn’t something everyone is comfortable talking about, it’s personal and it can be tricky to navigate. In your experience, how do you approach a conversation about accommodation at work?

Be proud of who you are but do not let pride get in the way of asking for help. Employers want to see their people succeed but they are not mind readers. They do not know what they do not know—unless you tell them. 

Anna: Looking Beyond Barriers to Find Meaningful Work 600 468 adam

Anna: Looking Beyond Barriers to Find Meaningful Work

My name is Anna. I’m an editor for a medical communications company for which I work remotely. I also have a couple of clients in various fields that I freelance for. I had a spinal cord injury at age four that left me paralyzed, which I recovered from two years later. This injury has resulted in me having chronic nerve pain throughout my body but mainly in my neck, arms, and back. My disability is invisible, which at times can be difficult because people don’t know that I have a disability at first glance.


A large portion of the population thinks that people with disabilities aren’t able to work and require so much extra time and effort in order to be part of the workforce. This is highly untrue, many people with disabilities are fully capable of doing jobs just as well as people without disabilities. 

The Benefits of Modern Technology

Many innovations not only benefit accessibility but also a larger demographic which include:

  • Typewriter – Gave us the invention of the keyboard but was originally created by Turri as a way to communicate with a blind woman he was in love with
  • Emails – Invented by Cerf who wanted to create a way to communicate with his deaf wife
  • Ergonomic Furniture – Used by those with chronic pain but also used by those who want to enjoy the health benefits

Just because someone has a disability and needs some extra accommodation, doesn’t mean they are incapable of completing their work.

These inventions show that when we’re working to improve accessibility, these efforts end up benefiting a much larger audience. It also shows how accessibility has been embedded and woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. 50 years from now, I hope to see people with disabilities included in the workforce with no discrimination and for every effort to be made to accommodate them.

Advice for Others Seeking Employment 

When looking for jobs, if you come across one you like, don’t worry too much about the number of years of experience listed. Many employers give a number of years you need in the field in order to qualify for the job. This excludes a number of people who may not have the years of experience listed in the posting, but have other valuable skills and knowledge that make them a great fit for the role. Applying for a job you may not have a lot of experience in shows you have confidence in your abilities. 

Advice for Recruiters

I would encourage recruiters to give people with disabilities a chance and to make room for accommodations. There are various jobs that can be done from home and don’t necessarily need an employee to come into work. This can be a big help to someone who has a disability as it allows them to work and contribute to society while being able to do so in a way that doesn’t cause pain or discomfort. 

I work from home and my company is very understanding of doctor’s appointments. If I worked in an office setting, I wouldn’t be able to leave in the middle of the day to go to an appointment. My company allows me to work earlier or later to make up any time I miss which has been extremely helpful. 

Working During a Pandemic

COVID has allowed it to be easier to get a work-from-home job. Prior to the pandemic, it was uncommon to work from home, which made it more difficult for people with disabilities to find jobs. The pandemic has created an environment where work-from-home is regularly accepted and many companies are planning to keep it that way even after the pandemic is over.

Finding Motivation, Looking Ahead

The past year has been a crazy time for everyone, especially those struggling with disabilities. Don’t forget to find ways to have fun and stay motivated. A year ago I started working out a minimum of three times a week. This has been a big motivator for me because I’ve watched myself get stronger and have worked hard to build muscle. It hasn’t been easy but seeing my progress has encouraged me to keep going. 

SCIO has plenty of useful resources that can be accessed for educational purposes and is a great way to build an amazing support system. I recommend their services to anyone in the disability community and encourage you to reach out to find out how they can help you.

Judy: Finding Meaning After Covid Job Loss 600 468 adam

Judy: Finding Meaning After Covid Job Loss

My heartfelt gratitude and appreciation goes to the extraordinary, remarkable and incomparable staff in Employment Services who have changed my life and given me hope. I became involved with SCIO after an ODSP caseworker told me about their services. Following a second lay off from a long-term position in a prestigious cultural organization, it was difficult to find stable and meaningful employment with numerous physical challenges. Although I was a client of countless social services and not-for-profit organizations related to employment, it wasn’t until I became affiliated with SCIO that words transformed into action. 


Positive Transformation through SCIO’s Employment Services

I am incredibly grateful to have Richard Mccallum and Carmit Kordov in my corner as part of my Employment Services team. They have been my sounding board when circumstances have been trying, and on a more positive note, my springboard to a better future. Both provide unparalleled service, support, advocacy, assistance and compassion.

Life can change in a heartbeat. I have faced multiple barriers to employment because of health-related adversities. Although searching actively for years, I was refused job offers, because many employers failed to see my abilities over my disability. Since becoming associated with SCIO, the Employment Services team has helped me improve the quality of my life. I now have multiple seasonal and year-round roles working in customer service.   

Before the Pandemic

Prior to COVID-19, I worked with the C.N.E. as an Info Booth Attendant in the Queen Elizabeth Building, the Enercare Centre as an Information Ambassador during large tradeshows, the Salvation Army as a Bell Ringer and as a T.T.C. Customer Service Representative staffing subway stations during scheduled closures. I also took on other projects through an employment agency periodically.

Finding Meaning During a Pandemic 

Last year, I lost three jobs due to COVID-19 but continued my work with the TTC. This year, only the Bell Ringer position was restored. Despite the job losses and financial uncertainty, I still have an opportunity to interact and assist the public which provides me with purpose, meaning and income. I have gained new skills utilizing my professional and personal experience at every opportunity and in every employment environment. In addition, I truly love the work that I do, which SCIO has helped me obtain. I cannot thank the employment services team enough – my life has been greatly touched by them and I feel very fortunate to have been connected to them.  

With any disability or health challenge, it’s important to manage one’s day to the best of our ability. Thanks to the assistance of medical professionals, supportive friends, family, organizations that lend a hand and employers who accommodate and understand what members of the disability community experience on a day-to-day basis, I realize that no challenge or task is too great. All that is required is a positive attitude, determination and perseverance. We are all capable of helping others meet their goals through small gestures of kindness and empathy. Through my employment journey, I have learned that no challenge or task is too small.