Bridging the gap: Resources relating to disability and employment

Canadians with disabilities tend to be underemployed compared to those without disabilities. Stigma and inaccessible workplaces make it challenging for many who want to and are able to work find sustainable employment. Statistics Canada research found that among those with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years who were not employed and not currently in school, 645,000 individuals had potential to work. And COVID-19 saw mental health-related disabilities rise among employed Canadians.
There are many organizations to help support job search and career development for people with disabilities, as well as articles, books and other resources that offer helpful information to people with disabilities, employers and service providers. To mark National AccessAbility Week, taking place May 29-June 4, 2022, we have updated this article (originally published in 2019) with several new resources.
Leave a comment below or send us a note at if you know of a resource we should include in a future update.
#AbleTo is a social-media-driven campaign that aims to close the employment gap for people with disabilities and help every student and graduate find meaningful work. The website contains information for employers, as well as stories from recruiters and employers working with people with disabilities.
Canadian Accessibility Network
The Canadian Accessibility Network (CAN) is a national collaboration to advance accessibility for persons with disabilities through research, design and innovation, education and training, policy, employment and community engagement.
Canadian Association for Supported Employment (CASE)
CASE is a national association of community-based service providers and stakeholders working towards the employment inclusion of people with disabilities. It provides resources on supported employment, learning opportunities such as webinars and supported employment initiatives such as MentorAbility, a program that pairs jobseekers with disabilities with individual mentors to explore different career pathways.
Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities
The Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities is a federally incorporated non-profit dedicated to maximizing the inclusion, job retention, and advancement of current and future professionals with disabilities.
Canadian Down Syndrome Society Employment Resources
Featuring CDSS’s position statement on supported employment, information on why hiring people with Down Syndrome is good business and employment success stories. At the bottom of the page, it provides a list of provincial employment resources for people with disabilities.
Canadian Society of Professionals in Disability Management (CSPDM)
CSPDM seeks to minimize the socio-economic impact of disabling injuries and illnesses on employees and employers by establishing and supporting the practice of consensus-based disability management. It offers information about certification and continuing-education activities to help advance professional standards of quality, innovation and leadership in the field.
Council of Canadians with Disabilities
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ organizational priorities include disability-related supports, poverty alleviation and increased employment for persons with disabilities. CCD shares news related to its efforts to develop strategies for improving access to the labour market for persons with disabilities.
Discover Ability Network
Discover Ability has separate portals for jobseekers and employers. It is a free resource that connects people with disabilities directly to Ontario businesses.
Employment for persons with disabilities (Government of Canada)
Hosted through the federal government’s Job Bank, this page has tools and services that aim to help people with disabilities connect with employers. It also links to additional sites including the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work and the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities. The Government of Canada’s “Hiring persons with disabilities” page offers valuable information for employers.
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
The US-based Job Accommodation Network offers free, expert and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.
National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)
NEADS is mandated to support full access to education and employment for post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities across Canada. It functions collaboratively with post-secondary stakeholders, other non-governmental organizations, employers, disability service providers (on college and university campuses) and communities.
A CERIC-funded research project conducted by NEADS examined “Accessibility and universal design in career transitions programming and services.”

Resources to support the career development of people with Down syndrome

Neil Squire Society
The Neil Squire Society, with a vision of economic and social inclusiveness, serves people with disabilities and their future employers. It offers employment and computer tutoring programs, as well as ergonomic and assistive technology services. Neil Squire also offers Digital Jumpstart, a free online program that helps people with disabilities improve their digital literacy.
Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN)
The Ontario Disability Employment Network is a professional body of employment service providers united to increase employment opportunities for people who have a disability. It has over 140 member agencies, all in the business of helping people who have a disability get into the workforce.
Ready, Willing and Able (RWA)
RWA is a national partnership of Inclusion Canada (formerly the Canadian Association for Community Living), the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA) and their member organizations, funded by the Government of Canada. It aims to increase the labour force participation of people with an intellectual disability or who are on the autism spectrum.
Return on Disability Group
The Return on Disability Group provides:

Strategic advice: Delivering a customized plan to attract people with disabilities to companies
Product and experience development: Helping companies adjust their products, customer experience and recruiting process
Investments: Delivering outperformance by identifying public companies that profit by serving people with disabilities

Rick Hansen Foundation
Rick Hansen Foundation aims to create and deliver innovative solutions that remove barriers and liberate the potential of people with disabilities. The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program works to improve accessibility of the built environment in Canada.
The CareerWise website and CERIC’s Careering magazine have many articles related to employment and disability. Here are a few of them:

Balancing adaption and access: Career services’ response to COVID
Canada’s lack of digital accessibility is robbing its workforce of resilient talent
Family and the employment journey of people with disabilities
How employers can take the lead to welcome jobseekers with disabilities
How my disability changed my perspective on jobseeking
How words impact employment barriers and stigma
Job boards aren’t designed with disability in mind. That needs to change
Myths and misconceptions about hiring people with disabilities (infographic)
Three mistakes career professionals make when supporting clients with autism
The impact of co-existing health conditions on life and work
Resources for jobseekers with learning disabilities
Resources to support clients and students on the autism spectrum
Resources to support the career development of people with Down syndrome
Sustainable employment a challenge amid labour shortage
Tools and resources for career professionals who support clients with vision loss
11 free webinars to help build inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities

Books, guides and reports
Accessibility and Universal Design in Career Transitions Programming and Services (National Educational Association of Disabled Students)
This is the Final Report, published in May 2019, of a CERIC-funded project undertaken by NEADS. The report finds that while there has been progress in advancing inclusion for students with disabilities in Canadian colleges and universities, there is still work to be done to reduce structural barriers, discrimination and alienation from access to career education and work-integrated learning.
This report was developed out of an expansion of the scope of research within the landmark The Landscape of Accessibility and Accommodation for Post-Secondary Students with Disabilities in Canada project. The results are discussed in a free CERIC webinar.
Career Development, Employment and Disability in Rehabilitation: From Theory to Practice – David Strauser
This book provides, from a rehabilitation perspective, comprehensive coverage of the dominant theories and techniques related to the occupational development, vocational behavior, and the organizational factors that impact the career development and employment of individuals with disabilities.
Careers for Students with Special Educational Needs – Mantak Yuen, Wendi Beamish and V. Scott Solberg
This book addresses in detail a range of issues in connection with preparing individuals with disabilities or other special needs for gaining employment and planning a career path beyond school. It presents strategies for personnel preparation, parent education, effective programs for career development and transitions, policies and policy research, and useful tools for assessment and intervention.
Cognitive Disability Digital Accessibility Guide (Media Access Australia)
This guide is designed to help professionals working in digital environments (with websites, digital communications, social media, digital and online documents, etc) to:

Understand the different needs of people with cognitive disability
Identify existing standards and approaches for dealing with those needs
Find practical solutions to accessibility issues associated with cognitive disability
Recognize that solutions and approaches for other disabilities can also benefit people with cognitive disability
Make your digital content and communications accessible to people with cognitive disability (and other disabilities as well)

Designing a Neurodiverse Workplace (HOK)
Approximately 15-20% of people are neurodivergent (i.e. have one of a collection of conditions that includes autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia). This report explores how designers can help organizations influence the physical and cultural adaptations required to create physical work environments that support the full range of employees: neurotypical and neurodivergent.
Job Search Handbook for People With Disabilities – Daniel Ryan
This complete career planning and job search guide for people with physical and mental disabilities has been completely updated to reflect the newest job search technologies and techniques. It will help readers identify their strengths; explore career options; find job openings; explore the hidden job market; write resumes, cover letters, and follow-up letters; and perform well in interviews.
Making Self-Employment Work for People with Disabilities – Cary Griffin, David Hammis, Beth Keeton and Molly Sullivan
This book is geared toward helping employment specialists, transition professionals, and individuals with disabilities and their families learn about getting a small business off to a strong start.
Returning to Work After an Acquired Brain Injury Guidebook (Brain Injury Canada)
This guidebook takes the reader through the various stages of returning to work after an acquired brain injury, including:

What to be aware of and prepare for when considering a return to work
Practical self-assessment and planning tools for return-to-work readiness
Collaborative planning with your employer for a successful re-entry outcome
Possible challenges and solutions when on the job

Roadblocks on the career path: Challenges faced by persons with disabilities in employment (Canadian Human Rights Commission)
This 2018 report finds people with disabilities continue to face barriers and stigma when looking for work, when seeking workplace accommodation and when trying to thrive or advance in their careers. Among the findings:

More than 30% of persons with disabilities report that their disability makes it difficult for them to change jobs or advance in their careers
Across Canada, nearly 30% of persons with disabilities report having asked for workplace accommodation that was not made available

Skills Gaps, Underemployment, and Equity of Labour-Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in Canada (Public Policy Forum)
While people with disabilities can achieve socially integrated, financially independent lives through secure, well-paid employment, they are often trapped in low-skill jobs at high risk of automation. In this report, Emile Tompa, Daniel Samosh and Normand Boucher underscore the importance of training opportunities that are well aligned with the skills likely to be in high demand in future.
CERIC literature searches
Learning Disabilities in the Workplace
This literature search, which was updated in April 2019, covers topics including: workplace bullying; dyslexia and ADD; accommodation; literacy and essential skills; gender and disability; disclosing illness and disability; and Aboriginal peoples.
Persons with Disabilities and Career Development
This literature search, which was updated in January 2017, covers topics including: employer practices; disability issues; employment retention; and disability and skills.

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