Canadian Pacific Railways on the right track: Training for LD’s
From the article CP on the Right Track: Training for LD by Cindy Blauer

For 20 years, Shawn McGaw has been employed at Canadian Pacific (CP) Railways as a buildings and bridges carpenter. He is also one of the Learning Disabilities Association of Quebec’s (LDAQ) longest serving Ambassadors.[1] Since 2006, he has been on an exciting journey of raising awareness in his workplace about learning disabilities (LDs).

His journey began when he told a CP Human Resource official about his volunteer work as Ambassador for LDAQ’s Montreal One Chapter, and asked if he could participate in that activity during the work week without affecting his vacation time. Recognizing the diversity component in Shawn’s story, not only did CP officials grant Shawn’s request, they also invited him to sit on the company’s Diversity and Employment Equity Panel.

Shawn was delighted by the invitation. His panel debut was at a November 2006 CP Lunch & Learn session held at Montreal’s Windsor Station. He spoke candidly about growing up with LD’s, facing and overcoming life challenges as a person with severe dyslexia and dyscalculia. “I could see that when I was speaking there were quite a few individuals who had some personal issues and you could see the emotions.” he recalls. It certainly caught the attention of many in Shawn’s workplace, as he explains: “(Now), they just pull me into an office and tell me about a problem they’re having with an individual…it just keeps growing, and the more we do, the more it happens.”

Shawn recalls fondly his address to CP’s Health and Safety Committee meetings for the company’s rail-traffic controllers, at which he identified the daily stresses for someone with even a slight disability and illustrated how a person with an LD might respond if pushed or panicked. By the end of his presentation, he explains “those who thought they were wasting their time coming to this thing…all stood up and shook my hand and said they’d been moved. We’ve helped a lot of people in that group as well as their families.” Informally, Shawn has also addressed CP instructors on an more informal basis, identifying some of the LD patterns to look for in trainees. He reads out loud to demonstrate. “Maybe they (LD trainees) just can’t read the questions.”

Several Lunch & Learn sessions have been held since Shawn’s panel debut in 2006, and the LDAQ’s Montreal One Chapter has been on hand to provide information about LD and services in the community. André Lapalme, CP Manager of Structures and Engineering Service, is one of a number of CP officials who has supported Shawn in his work with the LDAQ. He wrote a response to a letter of thanks from the coordinator of the Ambassadors, saying that “As a team at Canadian Pacific, it’s always a pleasure to support Shawn in this matter.”

CP’s Montreal Diversity Advisory Panel’s endeavours reach across Canada. Several lively presentations have also been given at sessions in Calgary, featuring Marty Hornstein, Director of LDA Calgary Chapter. The Montreal panel has also worked with CP’s technical training designers and the Learning Disability Association of Canada to develop an in-house e-learning module based on the LDAC’s publication Roadmap on Learning Disabilities for Employers. The program was launched in October 2008, during Learning Disabilities Month, and is available online to all CP employees.

In April 2008, members of CP’s Montreal Diversity & Employment Equity Panel were invited to attend an award ceremony in Calgary, where they were presented with the CP President’s Award for their ongoing contribution to building the company’s reputation as an inclusive employer. Shawn was also publicly recognized at this event for his continued effort to sensitize and inform audiences and constructively fuel productive dialogue about LD in the workplace. “This has been such an amazing journey for me,” he says. “I could not have ever imagined where it would have taken me in so short a time.”

[1] Ambassadors travel to different locations presenting to audiences their own unique perspectives about what it is like to have a learning disability and / or ADHD, and how they managed to overcome the obstacles faced over time. The service is provided by the LDAQ Montreal Chapter One.
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