Enhancing Accessibility in Post-Secondary Education Institutions
TRANSITION TO EMPLOYMENT
For many people, finding meaningful employment after graduation from college or university can be difficult and stressful. This is particularly true for people with disabilities who have, upon leaving PSE institutions, lower employment rates than those without disabilities, make less money, and are more likely to be employed part-time. Access to post-secondary education is an integral component of achieving income security for people with disabilities. Connecting students with disabilities with meaningful work experience and employment opportunities after graduation can be even more beneficial.
The following are some considerations put forth by PSE institutions with regards to assisting students with disabilities transition to the workplace.
- Many colleges and universities have career services on campus for all students. Disability services should co-ordinate with career services to provide information and programming specifically targeting students with disabilities.
- Institutions that do not have a career service centre could run employment information and services for students with disabilities out of the disability office.
- Offer one-on-one consultations for students with disabilities with career advisors knowledgeable about the particular issues students with disabilities face in the workforce. Advisors should be able to offer assistance on topics such as how people with disabilities can effectively market themselves to employers, whether or not to disclose a disability, when to disclose a disability, what types of accommodations are available in the workplace, the rights and responsibilities of the employer and the employee, etc.
- Offer workshops specifically for people with disabilities addressing the main issues they may face in the workplace. Offer strategies for obtaining work and available resources. It may also be useful to include knowledgeable speakers, such as alumni with disabilities who have found meaningful employment, can speak to their own experience and provide tips.
- For smaller institutions, consider holding a general career workshop which includes disability specific content. Consider opening this workshop to the general public.
- Establish a mentoring network where students with disabilities can speak with alumni or mentors who have been successful in obtaining employment in their chosen profession. Whenever possible, match students with mentors with similar disabilities and similar career goals.
- Connect students with disabilities with employment through internships, co-op placements, volunteer positions, job shadows or part-time work. These programs allow students to gather real world experience, develop practical skills and knowledge, and to develop networks and references for obtaining future employment. The programs can be specifically for students with disabilities or open to the entire student body. In either case, it is important to ensure proper support and accommodations are considered for students with disabilities.
- Provide information on external programs to connect students with disabilities with work; many such programs are offered through local, provincial/territorial and federal governments.
- Prior to and following graduation, provide extensive career counselling and job search assistance to students.
- Ensure that accessibility issues are addressed when hosting job fairs or workshops as well as for online job search tools.