NEADS Student Leadership & Employment Forums Initiative

Funded in part by the Government of Canada

Since 1998, members of the NEADS Board of Directors have worked with local community agencies and post-secondary institutions to host a series of six Disabled Student Leadership Forums throughout Canada. These forums have strengthened the links between the national Association and its extensive campus network. They have also led to a series of recommendations to assist NEADS in addressing members' issues and concerns. This project will continue these valuable forums, and move them forward to explore new areas. It will also produce a series of reports and information products for youth with disabilities considering post-secondary education and employment opportunities.

The forums to date have made it clear that one of the most significant areas of concern for post-secondary students with disabilities, and indeed all people with disabilities, is employment. Much has been written about the under-representation of people with disabilities in the workplace. There is also an emerging recognition that education is one of the most effective ways to address this under-representation. For example, in a report entitled In Unison 2000: Persons with Disabilities in Canada, released by the federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for social services, the following statement is made:

".overall, people with higher levels of education are more likely to participate in the paid labour market and educational attainment among persons with disabilities has been increasing. The 1996 Census clearly shows the strong correlation between educational attainment and labour force participation rates among persons with disabilities." (33-34)

Mindful of these facts, Human Resources Development Canada's (HRDC) Youth Initiatives Directorate (YID) has included youth with disabilities in their work with "youth at risk." For example, the Directorate ensured the participation of disabled youth in the series of Youth at Risk Discussion Groups conducted across Canada in 2000.

Evidence shows that disabled youth are often excluded from the labour force as the Youth Initiatives Directorate has recognized in recent activities and consultations. This, coupled with the knowledge that higher education is one significant way to address these inequities in the system, offers a unique opportunity for the Directorate to partner with NEADS in order to explore these issues more fully. Specifically, the objectives and activities of this project are as follows:

  1. To hold Disabled Student Leadership and Employment Forums in the following Canadian cities: Winnipeg, Toronto, Victoria and Montreal from October, 2001 - April, 2002 and Ottawa (workshop during national conference and local forum), Vancouver, Calgary, and Halifax from November, 2002 - September, 2003. These forums will be hosted by NEADS board members.
  2. To address such topics as advocacy, leadership, and issues of concern to disabled students while in school and in making a successful transition to the world of work.
  3. To include youth with disabilities interested in post-secondary education and employment opportunities as participants in the meetings. To invite panel representation from community organizations/campus groups, HRDC, and employers.
  4. To provide a forum for HRDC to share information about federal government labour market information products and programming with disabled youth across Canada, along with programs relating to funding to pursue post-secondary study such as the Canada Student Loans Program (Canada Study Grants).
  5. To provide more detailed information for NEADS on effective ways to respond to the concerns of youth with disabilities.
  6. To provide HRDC with a rich information source on barriers and solutions to the problem of labour market under-representation of youth with disabilities.