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Feb. 1, 2017

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A recent report says Laurier is a leader in best practices when it comes to helping students with disabilities find employment after graduation.

The Carleton University report "Preparing for Employment – Trends and Best Practices: an environmental scan of programs and collaboration between disability service offices and career service offices at colleges and universities across Canada" highlighted Laurier's efforts in two areas.

The university was recognized for the depth and quality of online resources available to students and alumni with disabilities, with the report noting that Laurier's website is content-rich and well-organized. The report also highlighted Laurier's RBC Career Transition Program for Students with Disabilities as a model of collaboration between the university's Accessible Learning Centre and Career Development Centre.

Launched in 2007 with funding from the RBC Foundation, the RBC Career Transition Program has since expanded to include specialized services for other groups, including Aboriginal students and alumni, international students and LGBTQ students and alumni.

"Those schools that have developed a collaborative working relationship between the disability office and the career office are better equipped to support the hiring process and match qualified job seekers with employers," the report stated. "Brock, Laurier and Guelph are leading the way in terms of best practices, providing employers with comprehensive information on the business case for hiring students and alumni with disabilities."

The August 2016 report was prepared by Carleton University's READ Initiative (Research, Education, Accessibility and Design) and authored by Dean Mellway and Dale Stevenson. Mellway, who is director of the READ Initiative, earned his Master of Social Work at Laurier.

"Clearly, Wilfrid Laurier University was one of the top three schools in the country in terms of their overall ability to work together between the disability office and career office, as well as in terms of their web presence," said Mellway during a telephone interview from Ottawa.

Jan Basso, Laurier's director of co-operative education and career development, said the report's findings reflect a spirit of collaboration in providing employment services for students with disabilities at Laurier.

"Providing the highest level of services to help students with disabilities find employment after graduation is a priority," said Basso. "Collaboration between departments and staff members has helped enhance those services and we are continually seeking ways to innovate when it comes to the services we offer."

Formed in 2012, the READ Initiative is dedicated to supporting academic and service units at Carleton in an effort to improve access and inclusion for persons with disabilities locally, nationally and internationally.

Increasing employment rates and opportunities for persons with disabilities is an important issue, with the workforce participation rate of working-age Ontario adults living with a disability at 46 per cent. That number is just two-thirds of the 69 per cent participation rate of individuals who do not report a disability.

The study says post-secondary institutions have an opportunity to increase the employment rate among graduates with disabilities by tailoring their employment and disability services throughout students’ academic careers, including offering services or programs that prepare them for the workforce and making connections with potential employers.

Mellway said funding presents the biggest obstacle to improving employment services for students and alumni with disabilities. He is lobbying the province to change that.

"Across the country, there's a lot more collaboration between the offices than we expected to see, but the big thing is the lack of staff resources available for specific programs," said Mellway.


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