Equity Through Education Project: Phase II
On May 17th 2006 the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) became one of four Canadian recipients of donations from the second Equity Through Education program supported through BMO Capital Markets.
Our new project, which commenced in the spring of 2006, will continue to support equitable opportunities for post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities. The focus for the next Equity Through Education initiative will have three aspects:
- Scholarships for students and an award for campus groups;
- Demonstrations and consultations to enhance our job site – the NEADS Online Work System (NOWS) and;
- Development of a mentorship program.
Scholarships for Post-Secondary Students With Disabilities and an Award for Disabled Students Groups on Campus to improve student life
A major barrier to access to post-secondary education for students with disabilities is financial in nature, as disability-related academic accommodations are often expensive, and students who are not eligible for government loans programs are concomitantly not eligible for disability bursaries provided by these agencies. While disability scholarships and awards are one way of alleviating this barrier, currently, only a limited number of scholarships are available for post-secondary students with disabilities to defray their education costs (tuition and disability-related accommodations). Most of these scholarships are limited in financial scope; apply to a single part of the population of persons with disabilities; or are entrance scholarships. The great majority of these scholarships focus on the undergraduate college and/or university experience, and do not extend to graduate or professional programs.
One of our purposes is, therefore, to award up to four individual NEADS Equity Through Education Scholarships per year, for three years, at a value of $3,000 each. These scholarships will be offered to encourage full access to post-secondary education for persons with disabilities who often have greater barriers to participation in higher education and extra costs because of their disabilities. The tuition scholarships will be awarded in the following categories of study: University undergraduate (Arts and Science); Graduate/Professional; and College. Students must be registered in a post-secondary institution and provide documented proof of registration. The award will be offered to outstanding applicants, who meet the criteria of the program, as selected by an Equity Through Education Scholarship Selection Committee to be identified by the NEADS board of directors. The scholarships will be paid directly to the post-secondary institution (in the students’ accounts) that the recipients are attending to defray the cost of tuition fees for post-secondary study.
Secondly, we will award one NEADS Equity Through Education Organizational Project Award per year, to be granted to a post-secondary campus group of students with disabilities or access committee addressing disability issues at a university or college, to support innovative programs/initiatives to improve campus life for students with disabilities. The amount of this award will be determined by a selection committee based on the features and merits of the winning proposal, but will be approximately $5,000.
Development of the NEADS Online Work System (NOWS) through demonstration forums for employers and students
The NEADS Online Work System (NOWS) is a bilingual, online service where employers can post opportunities and search for job-ready candidates with disabilities. Students and graduates with disabilities can register to look for employment in their fields of interest and can upload their CVs to be viewed by recruiters from registered employers. NOWS has grown tremendously since its launch in 2003; currently, over 1070 students and graduates with disabilities, as well as 56 employers, from different sectors of the economy, registered to use the site.
NEADS is extending the development and awareness of the NEADS Online Work System www.nows.ca, and to recruit additional employers to the site. To enhance the multi-sector representation of the NOWS registrants and to encourage the employers to use our job site more frequently to post employment opportunities. To allow students and employers, in a one-day event, to learn about the features of our free job site and to use the NOWS service as an important tool in their career and recruitment searches/strategies.
Three to four NOWS events will be held in 2006/2007, and three to four will be held in 2007/2008. These interactive forums, with demonstrations provided by members of our webteam, would be held in different regions of the country in accessible hotels with disability accommodations provided – as required – including sign language interpretation. One of the events in 2006/2007 will be held in conjunction with the NEADS National Conference in Ottawa, with the employer luncheon taking place the Friday before the conference.
Additionally, we will expand NOWS to allow Career Centre and Employment Resource Centre professionals access to the benefits currently offered to students. These new users will have the ability to search for jobs and print them for students and graduates they serve. The screening process for these new accounts will be similar to that of employer accounts.
To further supplement NOWS outreach to employers and its ongoing development, NOWS will be profiled at up to three conferences per year. NEADS will host a NOWS booth at the exhibition/tradeshow portion of these conferences. Exhibits will be focused on conferences and tradeshows targeted at employers and HR professionals – with an emphasis on recruitment, equity and retention.
Development of the framework for a National Mentorship Program
Well-structured and appropriate mentorship experiences can help students to make a more successful transition into the employment market. Students with disabilities, who often face more barriers and obstacles when looking for work than their non-disabled peers, can benefit greatly from such a program.
NEADS will capitalize on the networks established and issues identified by NEADS over the past 20 years, the establishment of the NOWS website, and specifically during the 2005-2007 Job Search Strategies Forums (JSS) Project, and to meet an identified need arising from the JSS Forums, by developing a framework and piloting an extern/peer mentoring program for students with disabilities in post-secondary education.
The mentorship program must be inclusive of a broad range of sectors (including science/technology, biotechnology, university/college, government, financial, etc.). The Program would be designed to have both English and French components. Previously established mentorship programs in post-secondary education settings can be used as models to build this program.