Welcome to another episode of chatholic I'm back with Denise who is going to continue speaking to me about her journey, but also about. Dice and. What she developed with the hope to help people with disabilities, trying to get into the workplace and employment. And trying to make it easier for them to know what works for them, where their strengths are and that too, with the aim of that, guiding them to. The most suitable job that's available for them. So I am going to say. Hi to Denise again. When we last spoke, you were telling me about some of the things you've experienced. As a person with a disability and. I'm going to say the lack of support that you personally felt. At the time was available for you. That's where we left off Well, with your not so pleasant placement supervisor. And then you finding something that actually was helpful for you. Ah, Hamburg college, where it was a program for people with disabilities who wanted to get back into the workplace. And that was where the inspiration. for dice then began and now I am just going to leave it with you. Just to continue telling me about your journey and also explaining. About dice effort. if that's okay Hi, Denise, how are you?
Pretty good. Thank you Now I was a person with a disability. And it was a program for people with disabilities who wanted to get back into the workforce. They did some remedial, like math writing, job search skills, a bit of career assessment counseling, that kind of thing. And so so anyway, I managed to get that's where dice was born And I managed to get through a year of that. So I went back to, you know, Gail, her name was, and I said, Gail, okay. I proved myself. You've taken year a year out of my school, you know, schooling, I want a bonafide field placement. So it was really strange. I, I finally found, and you only had a binder, you had very limited selection, right? So I selected this one.
When was this? How far back are we going?
That was in the nineties, nineties, early two thousands. And so I said, you know what? So when I was interviewed by, it was a group home for women with severe mental illness and and the supervisor kept asking, needling me, trying to get information about my learning my disability, because Gail had again disclosed the learning disability and she tried to trip me up. So what, what I found was if I disclosed my disability, either in work or school they used that as an excuse for all kinds of mistakes, even if it was a normal learning curve, even if the mistakes weren't that serious, they automatically attributed my disability to it and felt that I couldn't learn, or I couldn't perform at the optimum level at the competitive level. So anyway, long, very long story short. I had a really bad review from this supervisor in the group home. It was, it was, you know, very hurtful. So the staff person who I was directly under she said, right, well do up a checklist and we can check off this, you know, to show that you're doing what you're supposed to be doing. And then they called for a meeting. and they wouldn't let the staff person in, they wouldn't let the checklist bring meaning to the checklist. So what transpired was two hours of verbal and emotional abuse and being kicked out of the school of social work. So that threw me into a crisis, a housing crisis, a psychological crisis. I ended up with back in, well, I ended up in a shelter cuz I had no place to live. And it turned out that there was another person who was sort of in a manic phase. And she said, well, come on, I'll go to Newfoundland with you. And so here we were traveling in winter on the train and on, you know, and we got as far as Nova Scotia and neither of us couldn't go any further.
Traveling in Canada. In winter. I don't know if anyone could imagine. I'm saying this because speaking to my family who live in Canada, who are. When it's winter and they sent me pictures of. Just the snow and i have never seen so much no So i can't imagine that was any fun
Oh, yes. Especially if you get into Ottawa and that they often have ice storms So she said, I know this shelter, I can get us soon for the night. And luckily the shelter worker was really caring. She was a true social worker, young, not, you know, disillusioned. And she said, I'm really concerned about you. So I said, well she said, you know, she said, would you consider going to the hospital? And I thought, oh yeah, I've been there, done that. You know, I know what our responses get I would get, but I thought, oh, whatever, just to put off making the decision that I had to make. And I mean, just true to what I suspected the emergency room doctor was really cold callous, but his words resonated with clarity and with meaning, and it was the best thing he ever done for me. It was a cruel way of doing it, but he said, you gotta go back there and fight. So I ended up. the next day traveling across now. Canada is very, very big geographically, so I had to travel from Ontario, Quebec Nova Scotia, new Brunswick and Nova Scotia by bus three, two days And so I'm traveling back in December on a bus in the middle of a blizzard, the white outs snowstorm. And I, I remember standing in the phone booth when I got back and I was shaking. Talk about anxiety. I was sick. I was feeling faint. You know, I just, oh, it was just absolutely traumatic. To hold that phone out and contact this director of social work. As it turned out, he was the associate director, like a new person. So he made an appointment. I made an appointment, saw him, he listened to my story and I was just trembling. I was just, oh, and he, he listened. The first words that came out of his mouth was you were set up. And the next thing I knew I was back in the program, got my first, my field placements and my last year theory course, and I graduated, oh, it was a euphoric day when I walked up on that stage, mom had come back and you know, oh, it was the most euphoric moment of success of pride of accomplishment in my, of joy. True joy. in my entire life,
even now you were saying the joy that it caused you. I, I can hear the joy in your voice. I can hear it and I don't want to ruin it, but I do have a question. Were there any repercussions for Gail? The only reason I ask is because. At least anyone who was treated in a similar way to you, if she was reprimanded. At least no one else would have to go through a similar experience
I never did find out why there should have been, you know? and that's why I wanted to do this dice now. I mean, like, that was just the beginning because then I, you know, had the problem. Well, I couldn't drive. So here, I got this wonderful degree. And I've got this this precursor to dice, which says for disability impact on career and employment. And I have something to offer, you know, people and to, to avoid having to go through the trauma of repeated job loss and sense of failure that I went through. Right. And, you know, so I thought, well, okay, I can't in this field, you needed a car and a driver's license. Well, I spent thousands of dollars. It was specialized instructors trying to learn how to drive. And I came to the conclusion that I'm a danger to myself and to others on the road. And I thought no career is worth that. So I was barred from so many opportunities. And the other odd thing was that you needed a master's well, In order to have a master you needed you know, or work experience to get into the master's program. And so it was this double bind situation. So I thought, well if I want to work with people with disabilities, who I trouble with employment, I will have to go, I'll have to take the career and work counselor course and get the credentials for vocational assessment. Right. So I can, you know, do this dice. So that's what I did, but I felt no joy in it. For me, it was like a step backwards cuz you know, my cohorts, my peers were going on to masters and stuff like that. But so, but I did manage to get a job from that. And it was a fast track one year. Like there were three people waiting up with heart attacks, diabetes. I mean, the stress was just incredible. so anyway, I got the career work counselor diploma and I got my first job, but here was the attitude.
Did you find when you then got your first job, when you came out of this situation? And luckily managed to avoid having a heart attack. And diabetes. Did you then find that you were still being judged? When you were going for job opportunities.
Did they, you know, prejudge, you basically have a substance about you and here I got my first job in Y WCA youth R it was a program for youth with disabilities and Y WCA a, you probably have, you know, organizations from there in Britain, like they're worldwide. Right. And they're those to be, so women's right. Celebration and all of that stuff. Right. So anyway I was afraid to disclose my disability and of course, what would happen then, you know, with good reason. and so. I waited until it caused problems on the job. And that's what happens with a lot of people. They, they conceal it until it causes problems on the job. And then that destroys the employer worker relationship. They feel you were dishonest. Why didn't you tell me? And then that it limits your power in terms of rights to accommodations because it wasn't revealed upfront. there was like all these social service programs who were supposed to be four people with disabilities and people who needed help. They treated employees in the field like crap. It was so oppressive. And for example, she said, I knew you had a disability. I was waiting for you to tell when you were going to tell me, I was wondering when you were gonna tell me. and then everything like her attitude towards me, it was like, this curtain just came down, And you know what she said? She said, cuz I was I was suggesting a a job placement for a client. And they said, oh, people with learning disabilities can't work. She said, I know I have a family member with one and she can't work. And I'm thinking, yeah, you just answered my question about why I wouldn't disclose.
Did she not understand? Why you didn't? I don't know. why would you not understand why people maybe were a bit apprehensive in disclosing that information? Yes. You may have some people disabilities who unfortunately are unable to work. You also have people who have disabilities, who are able to work. I think that's very. Ignorant.
So her attitude here, she was in a program that is supposed to help people with disabilities. And her negative attitude towards people with disabilities, needless to say that program didn't succeed. They didn't get the quota. And you know, and then there was another the second one I got was with costing. It was they have all kinds. It was for immigrants, but it had all kinds of like employment, housing resettlement. And this was for employment services and it was an employment consulting now because it was government based. It was very administrative, you know, reports, statistics, and all of this, which, and, and quota driven. Right. So needless to say, I didn't get it, but I, I was subjected this so much emotional abuse from that employer. So, but I negotiated with her. I said, look, I was referring people to whether it was a self-employment benefits program. So that's for people with disabilities and if they have a good business idea and they can't work in mainstream society, mainstream employment, then the government will pay so much money a year and give them training and they can do the start, their own business. And I was referring people for this. And I said, look, I want you to write the in terms of writing up the reason for the termination, if you can phrase it in such a way that would give me eligibility for EI employment insurance, which you had to be eligible for in order to get this program. So she did, and I went to another agency applied for the self-employment benefits program. Got accepted and got training and developed the dice into the electronic assessment tool and became owner and operator dice assessment, employment, counseling services for 10 years now. So dice stands for disability impact on career and employment, and it's a self assessment tool. It's strength. So a lot of the vocational assessments are clinical. It's a non-clinical tool with clinical assessment tools. The focus is on pathology. So for example, when I did the psycho vocational assessment, you're focused on, you know, like you know, memory problems, visual perception. So you come out feeling like, you know, you're really disabled, defective focuses on all your weaknesses, right? So I wanted something different. Now the thing is with dice, what there was. So I recognize a gap created between vocational assessment tools, like a strong interest inventory. What color is your parachute? Those kinds of, you know, what do I wanna be when I grow up questionnaires and vocational assessment and job place. So job placement are the services that you go to for employment services and say like, you know, I have trouble getting a job, you know, where can we place you? And, and so with those services, so there's a gap between vocational assessment and job placement. When disability factors, the effect of disability on work performance and career choice is not taken into account. And when the, the necessity of employment accommodations is not understood. So, you know, in my particular situation, you know, I would go to these employment agencies, spend an hour telling them how I can't work in customer service because of this, that the other. And the first thing they recommend is a job in customer service, where I said, well, haven't you been listening to what I said this past hour? no. So So, so the assessment tool started off with a a question and answer long answer style interview. And I realized that I could ask, go on like with endless questions and answers for all this long, right. And then still not get five oh, you know, certain things. And then I thought, well, it also relied on too much memory. So I developed a checklist of the categories. for example, it covers five areas, the disability profile. So that looks at the nature, the disability, the the coping strategies used. And then I look at strengths profile. So that looks at your aptitudes, the skills you require, like type being or whatever. And and qualities like what they call. Employability skills. So things like you know self-determination you know, being able to take up tasks and not rely on direction from the employer, that kind of thing, assertive all of those kinds of things. So these are what they call the soft skills. And so then I looked at, so there's a disability profile, a strengths profile, the careers accentuate, which accentuate disability. So I looked at the, the jobs that they've held in the past, which, you know, brought out where the disability brought out their challenges. So like for me, I had trouble with speed, physical speed. So jobs that involved typing were really problematic with me. You know, I couldn't multitask answer the phone, you know, and all of that. So I looked at how the disability affected, you know, performance. And then I looked at jobs, the next area looked at jobs that brought strengths. So for example, I'm really good at analytical. I'm got strong command of the verbal, you know, English language, which I take after mom. She had an even better command of it. And so I look at, you know, what did you do that made you shine that brought out the best of you A lot of accommodations could help you perform and improve the efficiency of the tasks that you had to do. And so I thought, you know, when I went into the business development they were saying, well, wait until you you know, develop it first and get more business before you take it online. So the online tool was a way of people getting access to the, so it was divided into the questionnaire, which, you know, I ended up getting checklists and checklists. I went online and with different disabilities and areas of functioning infected. So, I mean, I was always interested in anatomy, so I would divide it into CA subcategories, like you know, a neurological functioning, motor functioning, you know, that kind of thing, accessibility. And so over the years I developed a comprehensive checklist and the same thing with strengths profile. I looked at what poor aptitudes there were. And I found a way of sort of simply describing what each aptitude was, so that when you hover over a particular characteristic, it will give you a simple definition of what I meant by it. Cuz you know, what does motor coordination mean by motor? You know, like, you know, I had to really study. So I mean, in order for them to understand the assessment and answer it honestly incorrectly, they needed to be on the same page in terms of terminology.
you wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to be able to understand which makes sense because why would you make it difficult for them
exactly. And the checklist didn't it didn't, they didn't have to rely on memory. So what was, you know, what I was finding was like, oh yeah, I had trouble with this. I had trouble with that. Oh yeah. I'm really good with that. Really good at that. So it was the questionnaire and I finally managed to get a software developer who could program it. Now, the problem with dice was I wanted individualistic, not this template. One size fits all, like, you know you know, personality dimensions. You, you fall into this category and you couldn't do that with disability. Cause each person's disability affects them, even with the thing totally differently. You know? And so there was a problem in terms of software development in that, you know, people like university institutions, especially post-secondary they wanted something like, you know, automatic, you know, generated computer, you know, and where they could protest information speedily. and get answers in no time flat. Right. And the same thing with social service agencies, we service people with disabilities and, you know, so, but, so what happened? The intermediate results was partially populated assessment tool, where you had some things, there was the report template that was in a Microsoft word document. And I would have, you know, template like phrases that I would commonly use, I guess they call macros or whatever. So say like for example Soandso apply to, you know, this disability or worked in that for these years. These are the challenges they face. So basic scripts that would be there, you know, common. And I would use them over and over again. Right. So there would be that di partially. A template and dice report and the questionnaire. So some was automatically unpopulated and the beauty of dice that is an appendix or an, an addendum was that I started using the knob, which here in Canada and the north America, it's a national occupational classification system. So it's a list. Yeah. You have something similar in Britain.
We have something, we have something similar. I think we just, we have a lot more things that are, we have a lot more things that are actually tailored for people with different disabilities. Be that learn disabilities, physical disabilities. We do. We do have, we have quite a lot not a lot. That's a bit too generous, a word, but we have more than Canada does, but no, we do have something similar over here.
And so it's a listing of all the occupations that exist, and it goes into the the, the skills, the aptitudes that are required, the conditions that are like, for example, the environmental conditions or use of physical activities, like weighing, you know lifting visual, like eye, that kind of thing. So what evolved in addition to dice a large component of it, but it could stand alone actually in of itself was I had them check off all of the different occupations they were interested in. And from that I would get a sense of their occupational preferences. So their style of work. So for example, a methodical interest in working with information or an objective interest in working with things, and that became an integral part of the dice assessment. And so there was that component as well. And, and so, so we got, so the so what would happen was that the person now the idea was sound, but I had two pro two challenges. One is finding agencies who would, would purchase it and their, you know, objections were we already have something like this? No, you don't. Cause I created it from scratch from my own personal experiences. And secondly, we can't afford it, which I've been told by other people it's that agencies have funding for certain projects like this and yes, they can't afford it. And so even though they said it's a valuable tool, we would love to have it. It took 10 years for agencies slowly to come on board one, my career foundation stride, which was a service for people with mental illness trying to get him back into the workforce Brock university for students with disabilities and and Hamburg college, which was my big platform. But unfortunately, which was my biggest breakthrough. And that was just before mom died. And it gave her some peace in mind. She had Alzheimer's so I was struggling between a school crossing guard. Now, here is someone. For the bachelor social work degree, career work, counselor diploma, doing a school crossing guard job while I took care of mom and I tried to get my dice business off the ground. Now that is injustice at its peak. There is some, the system that someone told me, I haven't failed a system. The system has failed me.
the system has definitely failed you. And unfortunately, I suspect you are not the only person that the system has failed
no, it is far too common. So so dice then I thought, well and so of course, then I thought, well, I couldn't, well after mom died, I couldn't afford, she died at home. I kept her out of the nursing. Now I know people with Alzheimer, they do have to put them in nursing homes. You know, like each situation is different. But I struggled. It wasn't easy. I got frustrated. I lost my patience with her at times I was very angry and really didn't like her, but love prevailed. And this was dedicated love. And I, you know, I rest easy knowing that was a one success moral success that I've had in my life was keeping mom out of the hospital and keep letting her die at home in peace. I was there alone when she died and and I, and it was a real monumental milestone for me, cuz I was always terrified of death, terrified of watching people or seeing the corpse or anything like that. So it was a real growth experience for me and a spiritual experience. but it was traumatic.
No, it must have been because that was, that was your mum. I can't imagine how traumatic that must have been for you. This is your mum.
Oh, it was. Yeah. And, and feeling that, you know, like being in the other room on the line and, you know, and the doctors saying, you know, I felt guilty because instead of being in the room with her, I was in the other room calling 9 1 1. And that, and you know, I, cuz I knew because I thought I had to have someone come and pick her up, you know, but she's dying. I need, you know, some kind of intervention now and, but I wanted her to die in peace and I mean the, you know, emergency personnels, you gotta get her on the, you know, do CPR. I thought, are you crazy? She's 96. She's dead. Basically. I'm not going to abuse her body and bring her back to this horrible insistence. Right. and so I just went through the motions. Right. And you know, it's like, But the, the nurse was saying, I said, I wish I was just with her. And she said, you know, there's a reason why you weren't in the room with her at that time. And she said, because she didn't want you to be there. She knew how hard it would be for you. And my mom witnessed her mom dying.
she knew she knew what it was like to see a mom, her mom, she saw her mom dying. And actually she didn't want that for you.
Exactly. So so anyway, so I was trying, I thought, well, I can't, I don't have the luxury of trying to get this business off the ground on a school passing guard and rent increasing and, you know, owner new ownership and, you know, it was just horrible. Right. So living arrangements. So anyway, I thought, well, what can I do with dice? Because all throughout the system, I was coming up through the roadblocks from, you know, social services, employment, counseling, post-secondary education systems. And I thought I'm going to convert it into a self-assessment tool so that I can, it's accessible to everyone. Cause you know, people who apply for programs, they don't get accepted. So there's this, this tool that they can't use because they're not accepted into the social program. And I started writing the passion of dice and went through how it was conceived, you know, the challenges, the wave, the cross, and essential, and basically how, you know, the seed has to fall to the ground and die before it becomes resurrected into new life. And I'm thinking, how can dice be resurrected into new life? It is now dead. You know, what can I do to resurrection resurrected again? So the concept of the ebook and what I was astounded was I paid a vanity publishing press, and I got published in say like you know, burns and noble and, you know, vivo and all of those, but I couldn't get it because you're responsible for your own marketing. And I'm terrible at marketing. I couldn't get any sales, so I thought, well, this isn't gonna do any good. So I was fine looking for someone to take over the software. Basically I wanted a legacy. I didn't want dice to die with me. I was entering my senior years. You know, and there was no one to take it on and I didn't want it to die. I wanted one good thing, one useful thing to do in my life. And that was to use that talent that God has given me for the good people with disabilities. If I could do that, then I would feel like I was a success in my life. And, you know, even trying to find someone to take on the dice, you know, like the electronic version I had So I took my talent and buried it in the ground. And so often in my life, that's exactly what I feel felt like doing, saying okay to hell with you. God, I'm not impressed. I'm not, this is not funny. You know, if this is what I'm gonna get to hell with it basically. And then, but I couldn't be angry with God for mom. And then I realize, you know, it's not God doing this to me. It's the system doing this to me. It's people doing it. I'm thinking, okay, at least when the time comes, they will be able, you know, dice will become a legacy in perpetuity or whatever and that's okay.
I am still spiritual. Don't rule out that something else might something else may come your way. And I think the best way bearing in mind, I'm not religious. Only way that I can think to try and explain it in my head from the little I know about the Bible is Jesus didn't have one disciple. So he had many disciples for that reason. He didn't rely on one disciple. So just, I don't know. I just, I think it's worth bearing that in mind.
Yes. Yeah. I fully agree. And I thank you for that hope because you know, like you said, it worked in the situation. I was desperate, you know, someone reached out and said, okay, I'll take it over for you. And they recognized the value of the tool. They like it. And they said, you know, when it, he, he offered like 5%. For five years, but it's like, okay, you're an executive director of an employment agency. When are you gonna get this off the ground? They'll probably be dead. by the time you get it off the ground. But on the other hand, like you said, there could be different ways now. I mean, the ebook if I could even find a way of you know, get generating revenue from it, you know, eventually, for example, when I was trying to market the E book, I went back to the social service agencies and. What do you call it? Resource things, you know, how, you know, libraries and that, and they wouldn't post it because it's not free. And I'm thinking, you know, they say, oh wow, you have a valuable book here. Wonderful. But no, it either didn't cover their mandate. It wasn't their category or it was charged. So no, we're not gonna let people know about it. So I'm thinking, well, that's not fair. How can I get out the book? You know? And I thought, well, you know what, there, when you come to a butt stumbling block, you can either go over it under it or around it or through it. Right. And I've been trying to go through always. And I thought there's only one under one other way left and that's basically. I called it over it over the radar so they can, the system can control me by not giving me a job. The system can control me by not, you know, purchasing the dice and, you know, and of course my problem was completing it in a timely manner manner when I got it. You know? So I was talking to a business you know, person when I was trying to sell dice and he, you know, gave advice to businesses who wanted to sell their business. And the coach said, he said, the business idea is sound. He said, it's a business model that doesn't work. And, and that made perfect sense. So I said, okay, I'm gonna have to convert the business model into a self-help book so that people can go, you know, pick up this book, be in the driver's seat. Take control of that self assessment, access it from anywhere in the world, access it, you know, there there's no financial restrictions, no financial limitations. This is, and, and the system can't do anything to it. You know, it's subverting the system by making this available in spite of other efforts towar. I think this is a new chapter, a new beginning, so in terms of the, you know, like the, the system and all of the roadblocks that so called helping professions and information like library systems and all of that. And, and post-secondary educations as much as they say, we really want to help people. And provide you with all these resources. And yet they're looking at me and seeing, and this was a very confusing thing. Yes. I wouldn't mind if they said, you know, oh, this is a pile of malarkey, People with disabilities could use this tool. We are not bridging that communication so that these people can have, have access to that valuable tool. Now that in a sense, you know, the definition of evil is the desire for power and control and, and the thinking that they don't need anyone that they are totally in control and in power, you know, have power over what they do. Like they don't need anyone else. So. In that sense, the system is evil to me, you know, in the sense of power control, deliberately blocking people from, from help from needed help. And I'm thinking, and it never made any sense to me until I I've thought about it in that perspective from the perspective that this is power and control, this is oppositional defiance. This is recognizing something valuable and rejecting it because of who I am. And that's not just so I thought, okay, I am going to find a way of connecting to these people who want it, who need it. I am going to find my way of. Letting my skills shine and my talent be used and shared with others. No matter how much you don't want me to, I will find a way. Thank you.
On one note before I go, I just wanna say said it before, but you said earlier about being a failure, someone who keeps going about something that they're so passionate about can never be defined or deemed a failure ever. So just don't forget that.
And in that sense, I guess I could say I've been successful in because you know, even though, you know, normally I pretty much of the fact that I'm not getting anything for this, but actually I'm getting a lot and you know, I'm taking that. And in spite of it, I'm doing it not because of, but in spite of the, that this is something I give from my heart.