St. John’s, NL 2013

  St. John's, Newfoundland

Opening Keynote: Spencer West

Redefining Possible: My Journey

There is no can’t or won’t for Spencer only how. Hear Spencer’s stories about leadership and overcoming obstacle, including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, without legs.

Inspirational and charismatic, Spencer West speaks candidly about the struggles he overcame after losing his legs at the age of five. He speaks about overcoming stereotyping and bullying, about finding meaning and happiness in a material world and how he never lost the hope or courage needed to surmount personal obstacles. Infused with humour and humility, his westthought-provoking message inspires people to find opportunity in every challenge. With every  speech, Spencer leaves an indelible mark on his audiences, instilling hope and strong leadership so that they can inspire others to create positive change.

In 2008, Spencer took part in an international volunteer trip in Kenya, where he helped build a school in a rural community in the Maasai Mara. On this trip, he met and befriended local young people striving to overcome incredible challenges every day. He credits this experience for helping him recognize his true calling-to motivate and inspire people around the world as a voice for social change. He now serves as an international leadership facilitator in Kenya, India, and the Arizona-Mexico border leading 100’s of students on Me to We’s international volunteer trips.

Last year, Kenya experienced its worst drought in 60 years, and its effects are still being felt. In its time of need, Spencer decided to give back in his own unique way by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. His extraordinary feat attracted worldwide media attention, including CTV, CBS, the Telegraph, People Magazine the BBC and even TMZ. With the world watching, Spencer successfully reached the summit of Kilimanjaro, raising over $500,000 (and counting!) to bring sustainable clean water projects in communities affected by the drought. Once again, he had redefined possible.

Closing Keynote: Mark Wafer

Successful Business Model of Employing Persons with Disabilities

Mark Wafer is deaf, but that isn’t why he thinks it’s good to hire the disabled.

The Tim Horton’s franchise owner has employed 85 people in 18 years with disabilities, including 36 currently in his workforce of 210, spread over six locations.

He knows what he’s talking about when he says there is a very compelling business case for including people with disabilities inwafer a company’s hiring practice. Mark will speak about employers’ expectations of employees, not just because he is disabled himself and understands the barriers that can stand in the way of people with disabilities in the area of employment, but also because he believes hiring them makes good business sense.

“Employees who have a disability bring a fresh perspective to the workforce,” he says, pointing to studies that show less absenteeism, higher productivity, greater innovation, much lower turnover and a safer workforce.

“These are business benefits all companies should tap into.”

Many companies don’t, though, because they buy into a series of myths and misperceptions, leading to unemployment rates as high as 70 per cent for people with disabilities, he says.

“We have a huge worker shortage looming in the future,” he says. “Companies that don’t engage the disability community today will lose out later on, when it is too late.”