Welcoming disabilities in the workplace

Ellen Zilkie has a developmental disability, and is tasked with reading, scanning and collecting relevant articles for Kyllo.

Job well done: Ellen Zilkie clips and sorts newspaper files for MLA Greg Kyllo.

Job well done: Ellen Zilkie clips and sorts newspaper files for MLA Greg Kyllo.

As part of October’s Community Living Month, MLA Greg Kyllo was excited to announce the efforts of his most-recent employee, Ellen Zilkie.

The “article organizer extraordinaire,” has a developmental disability, and is tasked with reading, scanning and collecting relevant articles for Kyllo.

A lover of news and reading, the job is a repackaging of the old for Zilkie, who said she is enjoying being inside. Having done bundle-drops for the Observer and Market News for 15 years, she kept up with the local events, saying that’s how she first heard about Kyllo.

Now, she’s putting books together and keeping articles up to date.

“I put it all into categories,” she said.

“One of the tasks we have in the office, we always try and comb through the local media—we want to track some of the good news stories,” said Kyllo.

Kyllo’s constituency assistant, Holly Cowan said it was difficult to find time to organize the clippings, so hiring Zilkie was a perfect fit.

“She’s awesome, we love Ellen,” she said.

“She’s got a great sense of humour and morale,” said Kyllo,  as Zilkie showed off her new teal and purple shoes which she wears in her office.

Kyllo had the idea of hiring someone with a developmental disability in his office for a while, after seeing the success of Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, who had a developmentally-disabled person working office.

“In government we talk about how we need to be more inclusive, so I thought ‘what a great idea.’”

He also thought it was a good idea because “we’re going to have a shortage of workers, because (there will be more) workers leaving the workforce than those coming in, so we’re having a look at how we can provide increased employment opportunities for person’s with disabilities.”

The 54 year old is a life-long learner, as she accomplishes new tasks on the job. She’s new to a scanner, and learned how to scan documents.

She enjoys keeping busy, having three part-time jobs. She also works at Shoppers Drug Mart and the Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap.

“You gotta do something for your mentality. You can’t just sit around just doing nothing,” said Zilkie.

Shuswap Association for Community Living vacational counsellor Vicki Donnelly helped train Zilkie, so she was well-prepared for the job. The association helps train the individuals with no cost to the employer.

“You need that encouragement,” said Zilkie, who presented a floppy folder which holds her to-do list.

To find out more on how to get involved visit the SACL website.

**** A previous edition of the Observer stated that Zilkie collected articles for Kyllo’s campaign, which is incorrect. Kyllo’s constituency office and campaign are separate.