Patrick (Pat) Avery opens the door of the new Correctional Service Canada (CSC) Ford Transit van with his cell phone. This small action makes doing his job as parole officer supervisor easier
The van is the first accessible vehicle procured by CSC for community supervision and government use. For parole officers and their supervisors, having a reliable and safe vehicle to meet with offenders is essential. Pat, who uses a wheelchair, needed one that suited his needs. The new CSC van he now uses is loaded with features to aid him. At the touch of a button, a hydraulic lift system transports him in his wheelchair from the ground into the vehicle.
CSC’s 2022 Ford Transit accessible Van
“This is a great step forward for CSC and the public service as a whole,” said Pat. “Finding inclusive solutions to accommodate individual needs is a subject that shouldn’t just be talked about, it should be tackled. I know others who came before me helped remove stigma and bias for people with disabilities in the workplace.”
For the past 19 years, Pat has worked in the field of public safety. Over four years ago, he joined the Moncton Parole Office. He then moved to Charlottetown, P.E.I., to become parole officer supervisor in the parole office there. The process to buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle began.
The steep cost of accessible vehicles makes it prohibitive for many who have a mobility disability to purchase. The required modifications are significant: foot pedals, hand/driving controls, or transfer seats. Not every dealership provides vehicles that can be easily adapted, and few companies do the upgrades. Assistive products help people take part in life on an equal footing with others. But these are huge obstacles to employment. CSC is pleased to have been able to take these steps to assist employees.
Since 2018, Acting District Director Nicole Smith was involved in getting a van retrofit. She admits it has not been an easy or straightforward task, but a valuable one.
“I am thrilled that all the work that went into procuring this vehicle will help pave the way for future workplace accommodations,” said Nicole. “Big picture, having gone through these steps will undoubtedly open doors for future possibilities, and assist in the recruitment and retention of employees with disabilities.”
Procuring the accessible van was a collaboration between the Atlantic District Office, Atlantic Regional Headquarters, and National Headquarters. It involved creating a novel acquisition process. There were delays with the high demand for accessible vehicles. As well, the pandemic caused interruptions in the supply chain. Getting to a point where Pat could sit behind the wheel was not quick, but important and worthwhile.
A local Moncton, N.B., company that manufactures emergency and wheelchair-accessible vehicles incorporated the latest technological advances and innovations into the new 2022 Ford Transit.
The new accessible van has an easy to operate wheelchair lift
Providing access to assistive products supports a diverse workforce. It can be life-changing.
“This new accessible vehicle creates opportunities not only for myself, but for those coming behind me,” said Pat. “The world has evolved. Seeing people with disabilities do ‘regular’ jobs shouldn’t be shocking anymore. If anything, people with disabilities in the workplace just want to be on an even playing field, to feel supported and valued.”
Pat's contributions are remarkable—both in maintaining public safety and for breaking down barriers in the workplace.
“I understand that this may be the first adapted vehicle within the federal public service,” Pat noted. “The individuals in CSC who brought this unique request to a finished product should be proud of their leadership and determination to promote and advocate for an inclusive workplace.”
Pat in the new CSC accessible van
One of those individuals is Jennifer Hicks, Assistant District Director in Management Services. She has been instrumental in seeing this project to completion. Her goal was to remove barriers in the workplace.
“The purchase of this vehicle has been a collective effort that required all parties involved to be open and vocal about barriers and what we can do better as an organization,” said Jennifer. “The process required perseverance and collaboration when stumbling upon roadblocks and delays. Procuring this accessible vehicle has set a precedent, and it is showing others that it can be done.”
Pat will not be the only one to reap benefits of this new vehicle. CSC, and society as a whole, will be positively affected. A workplace built around people is one that includes people with disabilities. By hiring, welcoming, including, and supporting people who live with disabilities, we are attracting the best and brightest employees. We are also increasing innovation, improving productivity, and reducing turnover within our organization.