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Sobeys employee with autism shares his story

Michael Jacques, a Sobeys staff member in Fonthill, Ont., has published a book that focuses on the importance of inclusion and perseverance

michael-and-marcel-jacques

Michael Jacques loves his job at Sobeys so much, he often even comes in on his days off to help out. “They’re like a second family to me,” he says of his co-workers at the Fonthill, Ont. Sobeys store where he’s worked for nearly nine years. 

The 27-year-old Jacques, who has autism and an intellectual disability, was at the Bay Street Sobeys location in Toronto on July 11 to promote his book, Can’t Read, Can’t Write, Here’s My Book. It was part of a book tour he embarked on this summer at various Sobeys locations in Ontario and Nova Scotia. Written using speech-to-text on an iPad, his book tells his life story with a particular focus on the importance of inclusion and hard work. 

He was accompanied on the book tour by his father, Marcel Jacques. In an interview with Canadian Grocer, they both stressed how store franchisee Ron Kore has been so great at providing accommodations for Jacques, focusing on his particular learning style to get the best out of him. 

“When he first started out, they showed him what to do and how to do it, because with Michael, you can’t just tell him, you’ve got to show him,” says Marcel Jacques. “And then you stand there and make sure he’s got it right, then you can walk away and you’ll know he’ll get it done.”

Michael Jacques says he does “everything at the store except for [things involving] knives and money,” noting that he can be a bit clumsy so working with knives would not be a good idea; and “when it comes to money, I have no concept of money⁠—it doesn’t matter if it’s $20 or $50, it doesn’t mean anything to me. So if I worked the cash, the store would be bankrupt,” he joked.

By helping him out with accommodations and focusing on his strengths, he says, Fonthill Sobeys has earned his loyalty.

“I couldn’t ask for a more loyal and dedicated employee than Michael,” says franchisee Kore, in a media release. “Michael always comes to work with a smile on his face and an eager go-getter attitude, ready to tackle whatever may come his way.”

Sobeys often hires employees with various disabilities, according to the father and son⁠—and at the Fonthill store, Kore will frequently team Jacques up with any new employees who have disabilities so he can show them the ropes. “He knows I’m the man for the job because I understand, but also because I will push them in my own way because I know they can do it,” says Jacques.

Sobeys will be selling Jacques’ books at all stores throughout Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, with part of the proceeds going to Special Olympics Canada and Community Living Ontario.

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