By Jack Lawson –
West Wellington resident Anna-Karina Tabuñar is changing perceptions about disability and employability with a documentary film. Talent Untapped is now entering the post-production period and Tabuñar will be looking for public funding in the spring.
Tabuñar, a veteran anchor for CTV Ottawa between 1996 and 2005, will be asking for $10,000 in support via Kickstarter, a crowd-funding platform, which will be used to make the documentary fully accessible to people living with disabilities. Backing the project will reward donors with anything from personal thanks from the filmmakers, to meeting the cast and crew.
“We want it to be something that people can feel. Every single one of us knows someone who lives with, or has lived with a disability,” says Tabuñar.
In December, Tabuñar presented a special screening on Parliament Hill, hosted by Senator Jim Munson.
Talent Untapped focuses on startlingly high rates of unemployment amongst those living with a disability. Up to 60 per cent of this demographic are unemployed according to Tabuñar. At a time when Canada is already looking at labour shortages, this untapped demographic is a problem Tabuñar says needs to be tackled.
“If business owners are looking for reliable, motivated workers they have to look no further than the disability community,” says Tabuñar. “There are agencies in our community than can help match them.”
One such organization, Citizen Advocacy, provides a variety of opportunities to applicants. Their Independent Facilitation and Planning program in particular aims to help applicants achieve whatever their aims are in life, with the assistance of a facilitator hired through the agency.
“Helping people with disabilities obtain employment is not the focus of what we do, but it is often an impact or an outcome,” says Brian Tardif, the Executive Director of Citizen Advocacy. “The advocate would be involved in helping them … whether it’s preparing a resume or going to interviews.”
In 2011 Statistics Canada revealed that those living with a disability, rated from mild to very severe, varied in rates of employment from 54 per cent to 26 per cent respectively.
A lack of understanding and empathy is another aspect that Tabuñar hopes this documentary will help address.
“People need to look at the one in eight people who live with a disability,” says Tabuñar.
Tabuñar herself is no stranger to disability. She contracted a rare viral illness in 2010, which caused her immune system to attack her peripheral nervous system. For most of her life Tabuñar had defined herself as a broadcaster, journalist, and spokesperson. After her illness she was left unable to read, write, or move unassisted.
“During my recovery I was surrounded by people who were part of the disability community,” says Tabuñar. “Part of my recovery involved getting back on track with what I do.”
This led Tabuñar to shoot interviews with “amazing people who just happened to have disabilities.” Interviewing people within this community opened her eyes to many of the social struggles facing those with disabilities.
“People need to be confronted with, or become accustomed to handicapped people in the general public,” adds Paul Wing, who is featured in the documentary. Wing was diagnosed with Parkinson’s after 38 years working as a videographer.
Wing describes an especially bad Parkinson’s attack, in which it took him 45 minutes to get from the sixth floor of a building to his car parked a block and a half away.
“Everybody looked at me, but not one person came up or asked me if I was ok,” said Wing. “This mentality is very prevalent in the general public. People have this misconception that people who move slowly or aren’t mobile aren’t motivated.”
“The main reason people aren’t participating in the work force is only because they aren’t on the radar of most employers,” adds Tabuñar.
Talent Untapped aims to reveal the tangible benefits of hiring from this highly motivated demographic to businesses.
“The documentary is just a tool,” said Tabuñar. “I want people to see the value here. The value in their contributions to the work force, and to their community.”
For a sneak preview of Talent Untapped, go to annakarinatabunar.com.