In our last article, we discussed the need for more educators with disabilities. We also outlined how the first step to employment, in education and other careers, is job placement. In this article, we explore accessible job placements for students with disabilities.
Accessible Job Placements
Many educational courses and programs involve job placements. Some types of school-related job placements include:
- Co-Op placements in high school or university courses
- Participation on Student Council for credit and experience
- Service-learning opportunities
- Volunteer work as part of a course or co-curricular record
- Internships during undergraduate or graduate programs
- Teaching or research assistantships during graduate school
- Practicums or field work for professionals, like student teachers or social workers
Programs like these match students with short-term placements related to their educational fields. In these placements, students often gain school credits and work experience. These placements are vital for later employment and job success.
Job Placement Barriers
Job placements should be open to students of all abilities. However, according to a report by the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), many barriers make job placements inaccessible. For instance, in class, students work with professionals in their school’s accessibility office to make sure they have the accommodations they need. For example, staff help students arrange accommodations such as:
- Communication supports in class, like interpretation or note-taking
- Textbooks, handouts, and slides in accessible formats, like Braille or e-text
- More time, or quiet space, for writing tests and exams
- Physical access to classrooms, offices, libraries, residences, etc.
- Computer accessibility in classes or libraries
- Support or training to develop organization or concentration
- Helping professors or other staff understand why accommodations are needed
In contrast, staff in these offices do not help students to arrange accommodations during job placements. Instead, students must rely on career counsellors or other staff responsible for helping to arrange job placements. However, these staff often do not have enough training to work with students who have disabilities. Staff do not always know how to help students find employers who will welcome workers with disabilities. Likewise, they cannot always help students learn to advocate for themselves if supervisors or colleagues believe harmful myths about disability. As a result, students do not have the support they need to enter and succeed in short-term job placements.
An education standard could mandate solutions to make job placements accessible for more students. For instance, a standard could mandate networking between accessibility professionals, guidance or career counsellors, and other faculty or staff in charge of matching students with placements. Staff with experience arranging accommodations could share their knowledge with staff responsible for placements. Alternatively, staff in charge of job placements or career counselling could receive training on the barriers students with disabilities face, and solutions for these barriers. In this way, staff would be prepared to work with all students, not just non-disabled students.
In addition, school staff could network with or learn from local agencies or programs that support job-seekers with disabilities. For instance, the Peel region has recently created a project called Accessful, which offers resources to support high-school students with disabilities searching for summer jobs. Similarly, organizations such as Leads Employment Services in London support people as they gain job readiness skills, search for work, or hire workers with disabilities. School staff could learn from these organizations, or partner with them to ensure that students have the support they need to find and succeed in accessible job placements.