Ways to enhance experiential learning for students living with disabilities

Posted on May 2nd, 2017

Providing work-integrated and experiential learning opportunities for students continues to be a widely discussed priority for higher education.

To this end, the Career Kick Start Strategy that was recently announced by the Ontario government is a certainly a step in the right direction. The changing nature of work and the challenges faced by students as they transition into the workforce post-graduation has been well documented.

In this discussion, however, I think it is important not to lose sight the unique challenges faced by students with disabilities in accessing these opportunities, and in gaining critical employment-related experience before they graduate.

I believe one of the greatest successes of post-secondary education in Canada has been the increased access for students with disabilities. Within the last twenty years, there has been a dramatic and welcome increase in the number of students with disabilities who have been able to attain certificates, diplomas, and degrees, which are crucial mechanisms to access quality employment.

At my own institution, we have seen annual double-digit increases in the number of students seeking accommodations for disabilities. However, this success does not always translate into employment. According to survey data, graduates with disabilities are still less likely to be employed than those without disabilities. Have employment outcomes for this group improved? Most certainly yes, but we need to do better.

The question then is: how can we better help students access the myriad of opportunities that will allow them to demonstrate competencies sought by employers?

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