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[This week’s blog comes from Karolina Rachtan, a career advisor at the University of Guelph!]

As a career advisor focused on accessibility, I’m always learning about exciting resources available to students with disabilities that support confident and successful career development.

Karolina Rachtan

Karolina Rachtan, University of Guelph career consultant

The problem? Many students don’t know they exist. My mission is ensuring every student I meet learns about these resources, considers using them, and can feel in control of – and positive about – their career journey! Here are some of my favourite resources for students with disabilities:

Canada’s Best Diversity Employers

Many students I work with are uncertain and nervous about how employers may handle their disability disclosure and/or request for an accommodation. Although the Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, unfortunately, less than ideal treatment of individuals with disabilities still occurs in some workplaces, whether intentionally or not. Sometimes, I advise students to target employers well-known for their positive diversity and inclusion practices to mitigate some of their fears around disability and employment. The Canada’s Best Diversity Employers list features employers across Canada with exceptional workplace diversity and inclusiveness programs. Students can develop a targeted list of inclusive employers recognized in 2019, or in previous years dating back to 2008. If you have a disability, knowing an employer was formally evaluated and recognized for their inclusivity and diversity practices may alleviate some anxieties associated with job searching.

Job Accommodation Network

Need to approach your employer to request an accommodation? Unsure of what to say or how to explain your needs? Not sure what your needs are? The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a free source of information and guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Although it’s an American-based resource, much of the information still applies in Canada. Their Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) feature lets users explore various accommodation options for people with disabilities in work and educational settings. Both jobseekers and employers can find information about a disability and related accommodations to help develop accommodation strategies, and have healthy, productive, and successful conversations about accommodation needs. You can use the information to identify your accommodation needs and provide employers with clear recommendations.

Supporting Employee Success

How are workplace expectations set? The free Supporting Employee Success tool on Workplace Strategies for Mental Health helps you and the employer collaboratively plan and implement successful mental health accommodation strategies. The tool also allows you and the employer to identify workplace expectations, how the expectations can impact the job, and recommendations for employee success – all in writing, enabling the employer to identify organizational initiatives and supports.

Part 4 of the document allows the employee to plan and write responses to both supervisors and coworkers about their accommodation needs. This gives you time to think about your needs and frame them in a comfortable, workplace-appropriate way. If you’re planning on approaching your employer with an accommodation request, consider bringing a copy of this tool with your sections filled out. They’ll likely appreciate your initiative, as well as having something concrete to refer to when developing your accommodation plan.

Dolphin Disabilities Mentoring Day

I saved my favourite for last, Dolphin Disabilities Mentoring Day (DMD)! Career advisors always tell students that the best sources of information about a career are the people in those careers. It’s that simple.

Often, the thought of reaching out to a stranger for career guidance intimidates students (even though from my experience, most people LOVE talking about themselves and are happy to help!). DMD lets you meet a mentor without a cold call or email. Sign up, provide some information about your interests, and you could be matched with a mentor who you’ll spend a day learning from. DMD is a free, annual event that takes place across Canada, as well as Boston, the U.K., and France on October 30, 2019. The day is an excellent way to learn more about a career that interests you, develop your professional network, and demonstrate your strengths to an employer. This one day could potentially make a huge impact on your career.