Roop Johal’s Story with an Inclusive Employer

We are delighted to work with our member Small Business BC to spotlight Roop Johal’s story about working with an inclusive employer.

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About the ‘Spotlight on Disability in the Workplace’ Series

Presidents Group created a series of short films promoting accessible employment opportunities in British Columbia. Restating the case for inclusive employment, the video series is an awareness campaign about accessibility and inclusion in the workplace.

We are profiling people with disability living and working in BC who love what they do!

The aim is to promote the benefits of accessible and inclusive workplaces as well as services available to improve and encourage inclusive hiring across BC. The films hope to celebrate diversity, break barriers and stereotypes and inspire others to pursue careers they’re passionate about.


Transcript For This Video:

[NARRATOR: Hands place a tea light on a small ledge. A woman of color in workout clothing holds a lunging pose on a yoga mat.]

ROOP: I oftentimes used to question “Why me?”

And I remember I always used to cry to my mom. She would always reassure me by “Roop it’s okay, everything happens for a reason.”

[NARRATOR: Words appear, “True Calling presents.”]

ROOP: At the beginning, I really struggled with the fact that I have dyslexia,

[NARRATOR: The woman speaks directly to the camera in an interview setting. She is in a modern office setting with several plants behind her and large windows. She is wearing a white knit top.]

because I knew that I was different from all the other kids. I knew that my development was much slower. I couldn’t tie my shoelaces, I couldn’t walk in a straight line, I couldn’t do math,

[NARRATOR: In a candlelit room, the woman picks up a dumbbell. Tattooed sunflowers cover the woman’s arm and shoulder. She holds the dumbbell as she lowers into a squat. Words appear, “in partnership with President’s Group.” She raises the dumbbell overhead.]

ROOP: I’ve had to really work hard, and that was ingrained in me now.

When I take on a project, I do everything in my power to make sure that it’s successful. And so for me in my dyslexia, having to adapt that way provides an advantage.

[NARRATOR: Wearing a long beige overcoat, the woman walks down a hall. She passes a wall emblazoned with the letters SBBC. Words appear with her full name, Roop Johal, and her title, Business Development and Sponsorship Manager, Small Business BC. Ahead of her, a small black dog trots into an office.]

ROOP: I’m Roop Johal, I’m the Small Business BC Business Development and Sponsorship Manager. We provide resources, support for local entrepreneurs, business owners who want to either start or grow business in the province of BC.

[NARRATOR: Roop enters a modern conference room. There are large windows and greenery. A white man sitting at the conference table looks up. He smiles as she approaches and joins him at the table. Her dog follows behind her.]

ROOP: What brings me the most pride is just the general work that we do. The fact that it’s a very community orientated organization aligns well with my personal values.

[NARRATOR: The man chats with Roop at the conference table. They smile at each other as they speak. Words appear with his full name, Tom Conway, and his title, CEO, Small Business BC.]

TOM: Roop provides amazing contributions to Small Business BC. She’s thoughtful, she’s super intelligent, she’s an instrumental part of this leadership team.

ROOP: I wanted to support those who have disabilities. I discovered the Presidents Group, and I decided to pilot something that we called Accessibility Month.

[NARRATOR: Roop sits at her office desk with her laptop open to the SBBC website. A banner on the site reads “Accessibility Month, September 1st to September 30th, 2021.”]

ROOP: And it was basically a month of free education, free resources that Small Business BC would traditionally offer to those who identify as individuals with a disability.

[NARRATOR: Roop types on her laptop. A tattoo running up the side of her forearm reads, “everything happens for a reason.”]

ROOP: Having individuals with a diverse background coming into your business can only provide new ideas.

[NARRATOR: Tom speaks directly to camera in an interview setting in the same office. There is a colorful mural behind him that depicts Indigenous people, nature, and animals.]

TOM: Hiring folks with disabilities paints a full picture of community. There are well over 500,000 individuals who identify themselves in BC alone with a disability.

[NARRATOR: In a boardroom, Roop chats with two people of colour, one who was wearing a Sikh Dastar. They each sit before an open laptop. There are large windows, plants, and a large sign that reads SBBC. Roop and her team are conversing and collaborating in a positive manner.]

TOM: To ignore that population is ignoring a large swath of folks who can contribute to this society.

57% of employers don’t have to make any modifications to their offices to make it accessible. And those that do, the average cost is $500. There are modifications you can make that that are very simple, even making your work hours a little more flexible. So I would tell my colleagues who are intimidated, don’t be afraid, and you’re going to benefit from having them on your team.

ROOP: There’s a different thought process or creativity that comes with people who are dyslexic. It’s like these wires in your brain that instead of just going straight to the plug, they kind of twist and turn and then go to the plug.

TOM: If we feel like we’ve exhausted every potential business development opportunity, Roop will always come up with a new idea.

[NARRATOR: Roop stands alone in a Chinese garden. She wears a black vest and holds a sketchbook. She is pensive as she walks through the pathways of the ornately decorated garden, passing through a delicately carved archway, through to a peaceful pond. The reflections of the garden play on the rippling water as she sketches the nature she sees around in her book.]

ROOP: I experienced discrimination from having dyslexia a lot. First it was as a child, then as I got older, experiencing discrimination from teachers because they weren’t educated on the fact that dyslexia is a gift. That’s when I realized that this is something that I want to carry forward with me forever. In advocating that dyslexia is not something for anybody to ever be ashamed about.

I want to fight for everybody who ever experienced that hurt that somebody feels when they are looked at differently, because I never want to feel that again. And I never want anybody else to ever have to experience that.

[NARRATOR: Tom works at his desk at the Small Business BC office. He wears glasses as he focuses on the work on his monitor. His fingers type at a keyboard, and he is wearing a wedding band.]

TOM: For the longest time, I don’t know that I would have considered my addiction a disability. It’s something I knew I had to live with. I was so used to hiding in a closet as a young gay person, I knew how to hide in the closet as an alcoholic.

But I’m now at a point in my life where I feel very comfortable sharing that. I am just so grateful to this 12 step program, to all of my family and friends who’ve helped support me along the way. And I’ve been sober now for 22 years.

It’s a lifelong journey now. And I’m just so grateful to be able to help and support other folks in the same situation.

[NARRATOR: A sign in the office reads Small Business BC,]

TOM: At Small Business BC, one of our values is inclusivity and diversity. And we want to make sure that we’re creating an atmosphere so that anybody coming through these doors will feel comfortable.

[NARRATOR: In the garden, Roop passes by a circular doorway in slow motion. Behind the doorway, there is greenery, trees, and a pond. As she passes she carries a camera in her hands. She continues through the garden, passing through different pathways carefully handling her camera in her hands and pausing to manually focus the camera on her surroundings.]

ROOP: I feel very supported having dyslexia working at Small Business BC. It wasn’t something that I addressed straight away, because it shouldn’t have to be. And so I first started off with mentioning it to my management once I had on boarded SBBC and it didn’t influence their perspective on me. It didn’t make them question my capability to do the job. If anything it was an asset.

I don’t want people to treat me differently because I’m dyslexic.

[NARRATOR: She focuses the camera lens on a cluster of trees. The curving tiled roof of an Asian-styled gazebo peeks out from behind the trees. As the camera captures her image, a close-up shot of her face reveals her brown eyes.]

ROOP: It’s just a part of who I am just like my eyes are brown. I want to prove to those who thought that I couldn’t that I can, and I have.


[NARRATOR: Roop smiles at the ornate archway of the garden. The pond and gazebo are out of focus in the background. Fade to white, words appear: True Calling, Love What You Do. The government of Canada and British Columbia logos. Funding provided by the Government of Canada British Columbia Workforce Development Agreement.]