Students with Disabilities

The content in this section has been designed specifically for students who identify as having one or more disabilities.

Career Planning    Career Coaching    Disclosure    Accommodations    Employment Rights & Responsibilities    Resources

What is a disability?

Disabilities can be temporary or permanent, mild to severe, chronic or episodic, congenital (present at birth) or acquired, progressing to improving, and visible or invisible. They can be physical, cognitive, intellectual, mental, or sensory. Regardless of your disability type(s), we are here to support you as you plan for a successful career.

Career Planning

Career planning is a continuous process which involves several steps, including:

Self-assessment

At Western, we encourage all of our students to learn about their strengths. Numerous online assessments can help you learn more about your interests, values, skills and personality. Students with disabilities can also explore any existing documentation (such as psycho-educational testing reports or medical results) to better understand both their strengths and needs. Be sure to consider if your documentation is recent enough to be valid and reliable. Understanding your strengths can give you ideas about possible career paths.

For help with self-assessment, or to learn about your strengths, book a one-on-one career appointment today .

Research and Exploration

There are millions of possible lives each of us could lead.

Using what you learned during self-assessment, choose just a few possibilities to explore in depth. We encourage you to 'try on' career ideas by talking to those already in the profession, job shadowing, volunteering, completing an internship, or any other method of figuring out what feels right for you.

If you require accommodation of any kind to participate in an experience, you are encouraged to disclose your limitations and ask for what you need. You can learn more about disclosure and requesting accommodations in the Career Education workshops Accessibility in the Workplace Part 1: Disclosure, Accommodations, Employment Rights and Responsibilities and Accessibility in the Workplace Part 2: Self-advocacy in Action.

Decision-making and Implementation

Life is an accumulation of choices. Some choices feel minor, while others feel major. When we are young, we are often asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This question can feel overwhelming, as it implies a single, permanent choice. In reality, your career will be a long series of choices, with many twists and turns and new opportunities. All you really need to decide is where to start. Then, take the first step and keep an open mind.

Evaluation and Adjustment

Career development is a continuous process. At any time, you can step back, redirect, and make a new choice. For students with disabilities, this is especially important to remember. If a particular industry or job is not giving you the opportunity to use your strengths to your full potential (even with reasonable accommodation), you may decide to redirect and explore other options. You will know that a job is a good fit when you feel respected, encouraged and supported to use your strengths successfully.

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Career Coaching for Students with Disabilities

Wondering how your future goals might be affected by disability?

Nervous about requesting accommodations?

Unsure what career path will best utilize your strengths?

Career coaches can help you feel confident about your career choices and support a personalized approach to job search, networking, and interview preparation. Our team includes individuals with lived disability experience, and all coaches can share knowledge and best practices around career matters.

It's beneficial to begin career exploration as early as possible in your Western experience.

Reach out today to start planning for success!

Book an individual career appointment

Get in touch


Or call us at 519-661-3559


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Disclosure

Disclosure is the act of making others aware of your disability. Disclosure focuses on functional limitations, as well as what you need to successfully fulfill your essential job duties. You do not need to disclose your medical diagnosis - ever.

Whether or not to disclose your disability limitations to your employer is a very personal choice. It is also a choice that can change over time and vary by situation and circumstance. Although nervousness related to disclosure is common, there are many benefits, including:

Building Relationships

Disclosure conversations are a great opportunity to build and strengthen relationships at work. Clearly explaining your strengths can help employers to appreciate what you bring to an organization. Clearly explaining what you need to reach your full potential can help employers see the benefits of accommodation. Working together to find solutions can create a shared sense of accomplishment.

Success at Work

Once appropriate accommodations are in place, your workplace performance will become a more direct reflection of your capabilities and effort. Be sure to share your success with your employer and clearly communicate how your accommodations are helping and serving your shared goals.

Do I have to disclose?

You are only legally required to disclose if your disability poses a danger to yourself or others, which rarely is the case. An example of this would be a surgeon who develops a tremor, as a steady hand is required for successful surgery. In this case, the surgeon's disability would pose a danger to patients.

There are many different options for where, when, and to whom to disclose. For more information about the disclosure process, attend the Career Education workshops Accessibility in the Workplace Part 1: Disclosure, Accommodations, Employment Rights and Responsibilities and Accessibility in the Workplace Part 2: Self-advocacy in Action.

If you would like to discuss your own disclosure decisions, book a one-on-one career appointment today.


Disclosure Scripts

If you are new to disclosure conversations, it can be helpful to prepare a script in advance. Here is a sample dislosure script template. To learn more about using this template, sign up for the workshop Accessibility in the Workplace Part 2: Self-advocacy in Action.

Sample Disclosure Script

Thank you again for this job opportunity! I’m excited to see how my strengths in [skill/attribute], [skill/attribute], and [skill/attribute] will benefit the team.

I would like to share with you that I am a person with a disability, and I am confident in my ability to succeed in this job with appropriate accommodation.

[Challenge] can interfere with my ability to [task] due to [limitation]. In my experience, I can successfully overcome this challenge with [accommodation].

To answer any questions you may have, I would like to arrange a meeting. Please let me know your availability at your earliest convenience.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and understanding.

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Accommodations

Wondering which accommodations are appropriate to request at work?

Unsure which accommodations are right for you?

Accommodations are very individualized. Anything that is necessary for you to successfully perform the primary duties of your job to the best of your ability can be an accommodation. Employers are legally required to provide reasonable accommodation up to the point of undue hardship. For more information about legal requirements, see Employment Rights and Responsibilities below.

Accommodations allow you to perform to the best of your ability. They should directly address your functional limitations, which are usually identified by a doctor or other health care professional. Accommodations can include changes to your workspace, to your work schedule, or to how you perform your work tasks. Specific accommodation solutions can be requested, but your employer does get to decide exactly how to accommodate your limitations. For example, you may prefer a specific type of technology, but if your employer already owns something similar that serves the same purpose, it is appropriate to use what already exists.

For more details about types of accommodations and how to request them, learn more in the Career Education workshops Accessibility in the Workplace Part 1: Disclosure, Accommodations, Employment Rights and Responsibilities and Accessibility in the Workplace Part 2: Self-advocacy in Action.

If you would like to discuss your personal accommodation needs, book a one-on-one career appointment today .

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Employment Rights and Responsibilities

Your right to workplace accommodations is protected by several pieces of legislation, including the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the Human Rights Code (HRC), and the Federal Employment Equity Act. Employment equity must be practiced at all stages of the hiring process, from job posting to interviewing and beyond. Employment equity means proactively removing barriers and inviting inclusion for all.

Employers are legally required to provide reasonable accommodation up to the point of undue hardship. An example of undue hardship would be a financial cost beyond the resources available to the employer. However, many workplace accommodations are free. Most other accommodations cost less than $500. Even if an employer feels they cannot financially afford the accommodation, they must thoroughly explore alternative funding sources before declaring undue hardship. For all these reasons, reasonable accommodations are usually implemented easily.

You also have responsibilities to your employer. You are responsible for telling your employer if and when your disability affects your ability to complete the essential duties of your job. It is your responsibility to clearly explain your limitations and needs, which may involve completing paperwork such as a functional limitation form with your doctor or other health care professional. It is also your responsibility to suggest possible solutions. Your employer may be new to the accommodation process; they may be willing to help, yet unsure of how to do so. You can help them to help you.

Once accommodations are in place, it is your responsibility to provide feedback on the success of the accommodation. If the accommodation is working, you can share exactly how the accommodation is helping you. If the accommodation is not working, you can explain why and propose an alternative solution.

Your disability may not affect your job at all. If so, great! Rest assured; these legal rights exist in case your situation changes in the future. However, if your disability could cause unsafe working conditions for yourself or others, you legally must disclose this information to your employer.

If you would like to learn more about employment rights and responsibilities, attend the Career Education workshops Accessibility in the Workplace Part 1: Disclosure, Accommodations, Employment Rights and Responsibilities and Accessibility in the Workplace Part 2: Self-advocacy in Action

If you have questions about your personal situation, book a one-on-one career appointment today.

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Resources

Employment Support

ATN

ATN (Accommodation Training and Networking) provides employment support for persons with disabilities. Their focus is on creating community and belonging by providing whole-person, strengths-based supports that empower people to realize their goals and improve their lives.

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Canada's Best Diversity Employers

Now in its 16th year, Canada's Best Diversity Employers recognizes employers across Canada with exceptional workplace diversity and inclusiveness programs. This competition recognizes successful diversity initiatives in a variety of areas, including programs for employees from five groups: (a) women; (b) members of visible minorities; (c) persons with disabilities; (d) Indigenous peoples; and (e) lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual (LGBT) peoples.

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Canadian Hearing Services

Canadian Hearing Services empower Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians to overcome barriers to participation. Their Employment Services were created for the needs of Deaf and hard of hearing job seekers and are free for those over the age of 16.

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CASE Disability Employment Awareness Month

CASE is the Canadian Association of Supported Employment and supports both employers and employees with disabilities. This page provides an overview of Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM).

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CNIB Blindness at Work

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) program called Blindness at Work provides employment supports for employers as well as blind or partially sighted employees.

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Discover Ability Network

Discover Ability Network is a free portal that helps job seekers with disabilities match with meaningful employment opportunities and offers employers resources to help them hire and retain persons with disabilities, foster inclusive workplaces, and benefit their bottom line.

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Job Bank (Government of Canada)

The Government of Canada Job Bank has tools and services that can help job seekers with disabilities connect with the right employment resources.

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Jobs Ability Canada

Jobs Ability is an AI-driven virtual platform that connects job seekers who have disabilities to employers. Job seekers create a profile to showcase their employment skills and are shown open jobs that fit their profile.

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LEADS

LEADS Employment Services is a not-for-profit employment and skills development agency. They provide specialized services for people with disabilities and/or employment-related barriers throughout Southwestern Ontario.

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Lime Connect

Lime Connect provides tools, self-confidence, community, and connections that help people with disabilities achieve their dreams. They support their partners in recruiting, onboarding, developing, promoting, and retaining all of their disabled employees.

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ODEN

The Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) is a province-wide organization that brings together businesses and Employment Service Providers to increase employment opportunities for job seekers who have a disability.

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Specialisterne

Specialisterne is an internationally recognized leader in harnessing the talents of people on the autism spectrum, or with similar neurodiversities, by providing them with the opportunity to sustain meaningful employment.

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Workplace Strategies for Mental Health

This page from Canada Life has resources and tools to help employees address workplace issues. Find an array of approaches for conflict, bullying, accommodation and well-being.

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Accommodations and Disclosure

JAN (Job Accommodation Network)

JAN helps individuals with disabilities explore accommodation ideas and provides practical suggestions for requesting and negotiating accommodations with an employer. The website includes searchable A-Z lists of conditions and accommodations. *Note that this is an American website, though the accommodation ideas are still relevant to Canadians.

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Mental Health Works

The Mental Health Works Resources page offers numerous links to guides, videos, and other educational materials for employees and employers about accommodating for mental health in the workplace.

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Self-Advocacy Toolkit, March of Dimes Canada

The Self-Advocacy Toolkit is a guide for people with disabilities and their families and caregivers. It is designed to help you build your skills to advocate for yourself in everyday life. Whether you want some help advocating to family members, healthcare providers, service providers, government agencies, or an employer, this toolkit will give you some helpful tips and resources to become the best advocate you can be. /p>

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Tips and Considerations for Students when Disclosing a Disability to an Employer

This handy chart from Guelph University, shared by Discover Ability Network, highlights some of the advantages and disadvantages of disclosing a disability at different times throughout the job search process.

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Government Resources

Accessibility in Ontario

Learn about the laws and frameworks for making Ontario more accessible, including the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.

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Accessibility Standards Canada

Under the Accessible Standards Act, Accessibility Standards Canada is committed to creating accessibility standards for federally-regulated entities and federal organizations, recognized as the National Standards of Canada.

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Canada’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan, 2022

This first-ever Action Plan is a blueprint for change to make Canada more inclusive of the more than 22% of persons – or 6.2 million people – that identify as having a disability in our country. The Action Plan has 4 initial pillars: financial security, employment, accessible and inclusive communities, and a modern approach to disability.

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Employment Equity Act

The purpose of this Act is to achieve equality in the workplace so that no person shall be denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability and… to correct the conditions of disadvantage in employment experienced by… persons with disabilities.

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Federal Disability Reference Guide

This guide is a tool for identifying, clarifying, and promoting policies to address issues that affect people with disabilities. The guide helps to ensure that legislation, policies, programs, and services are inclusive, respect rights, and promote positive attitudes.

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Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)

Learn about the OHRC policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability, including the duty to accommodate and undue hardship.

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Resources for People with Disabilities in Ontario

Learn what programs and services are available to help prevent, reduce and remove accessibility barriers you may face in everyday life. The website includes support for health, finances, taxes and employment.

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Other Resources

Abilities Magazine

Canadian Abilities Foundation envisions an inclusive, universally accessible society, where all people belong and are valued. Our mission is to facilitate the exchange of information, promote accessibility and provide inspiration and opportunities for people with disabilities. We publish Abilities, Canada’s Lifestyle Magazine for people with disabilities.

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ADHD Career Resources

This page includes links to numerous resources to support the career development of persons with ADHD.

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AMI (Accessible Media Inc.)

AMI is a not-for-profit media company that entertains and empowers Canadians who are blind or partially-sighter. It hosts numerous audio and video channels available on demand.

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Clifton Strengths Assessment

When disclosing a disability, it is helpful to begin the conversation by drawing attention to your strengths. Complete the Clifton Strengths for Students assessment to learn more about your strengths.

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Disability Etiquette

This infographic from Disability IN has some great suggestions for respectful interaction with persons with disabilities.

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Disability Inclusion

This article by Dean Askin explores the positive trend towards disability inclusion in businesses and workplaces.

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Free AODA Training

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was enacted to expand the government's mission to offer full accessibility to all disabled Ontarians by 2025. This free online course open to everyone covers basic information about AODA, comprehensive details about its standards, and the benefits they offer Ontarians.

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Made by Dyslexia

Support to empower Dyslexic Thinking in every workplace.

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Makers Making Change (Neil Squire)

Cost should never be a barrier to anyone who needs assistive technology. Our guiding vision at Neil Squire is to achieve economic and social inclusiveness for all people with disabilities. Makers Making Changes leverages the capacity of community-based Makers, Disability Professionals and Volunteers to develop and deliver affordable Open Source Assistive Technologies.

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NEADS (National Educational Association of Disabled Students)

Since its founding in 1986, NEADS has had the mandate to support full access to education and employment for post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities across Canada.

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Neuro-Inclusion Language Guide

This Neuro-Inclusion Language Guide from Autism CanTech is a helpful resource.

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Reach Out Crisis Services

Reach Out is a free, 24/7, confidential mental health and addiction support and services line for people living in London and the surrounding area.

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Talking About Disability

This article outlines 13 "polite" ways people talk about disability that are actually rude (and what to stay instead).

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