39 Breaking Down Barriers to Employment: A Labour Canada Initiative


Lisa Kuiper & Chelsea Mohler, Brock University

Over the past twenty years, Canada has experienced an increase in students with disabilities attending colleges and universities, and who are in turn graduating with diplomas and/or degrees. This rise is likely a result of recent anti-discrimination laws, an increase in support services offered to persons with disabilities, and an increasing need for higher education to obtain employment. While a post-secondary education provides students with knowledge and enhanced skills that will assist them in the workforce, students with disabilities are employed at rates lower than their non-disabled peers, and/or experience long periods of under-or-un-employment.

To address barriers in obtaining and retaining employment for students and recent graduates with disabilities, the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) developed “Breaking It Down”, a series of workshops and attendant web portal, aimed at educating post-secondary students, graduates with disabilities, and Federally Regulated Private Sector Employers on the barriers for people with disabilities.


  • Diversity
  • Inclusion
  • School-to-work transition
  • Students with disabilities
  • Employment portal
  • Support
  • Resources
  • Career development
  • Disclosure
  • Accommodations



Lisa Kuiper, Employer Development Manager
Career Education, Brock University



Lisa Kuiper, Brock University
As the Employer Development Manager, Career Education at Brock University, Lisa is responsible for the development of employment opportunities for students, graduates and alumni. Lisa also works with all students on developing their careers; with a specialization in working with diversity students within the post-secondary education system. Working within the Human Resources & Recruitment field for over 20 years, Lisa has a wide variety of experience related to graduate recruitment, employer development, and diversity. She previously held positions with Human Resources Development Canada (now Service Canada) and worked for the Public Service Commission on their Post-Secondary Recruitment Campaign. She is Chair of the Diversity Committee and an active member of the Career Association for Career Educators and Employers (CACEE) and the National Association of Career and Employers (NACE). Lisa is currently the Business Development Director with the Human Resources Association of Niagara (HRPAN), and sits on the Brock University’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (BUAAC). She has also served on the Board with Pathstone Mental Health and Human Resources Professional Association of Niagara. Lisa is the recipient of the CACEE Excellence in Innovation Award for Diversity and was awarded the President’s Distinguished Staff Service Award for Outstanding Contributions from Brock University this past year.

Chelsea Mohler, National Educational Association of Disabled Students
Chelsea is a researcher, educator, advocate, and passionate scholar who happens to be legally blind. She holds a Master’s of Science in Occupational Sciences from Western University, Canada. Her graduate thesis work focused on the process persons with vision loss implement to maintain gainful employment. Chelsea’s research takes an occupational justice lens, that is, she uses constructs of social justice and social inequality to understand the equitable opportunity and resources that enable people’s engagement in meaningful occupations. This framework views participation in occupation navigating higher education and employment as a person with a disability. During her time at Western, Chelsea was chair of the graduate equity committee, and commissionaire for students with disabilities. In her role in these positions, she worked to advocate on behalf of graduate students with disabilities. Chelsea has previously held the position of research assistant at The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), and currently works for the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS). In her role with NEADS, Chelsea is a research consultant on two projects. One focuses on the transition into post-secondary for students with disabilities, and the other focuses on a student mentorship model aimed at educating employers on creating a culture of accessibility and inclusion in the workplace. Additionally, Chelsea has co-authored articles exploring the culture of inclusive education for students with visible and invisible disabilities, in the context of the graduate education environment. Through her research and scholarship, Chelsea strives to educate students and professionals about inclusion and diversity; her aim is to empower educators and students to have a more inclusive mindset around education, using her own personal experience as a tool to increase awareness. Chelsea’s passion for inclusive and accessible educations stems from her own journey as a researcher and academic living with vision loss. Chelsea believes that through telling her own story, and sharing her own experiences, she can encourage students and educators to make positive change.




Participants learned about the “Breaking It Down” interactive workshop series and web portal.  The presentation addressed how the “Breaking It Down” workshops and portal differ from traditional models of employment support delivery. The session encouraged career educators and employers to engage in facilitated discussions about the issues aimed at creating a knowledge exchange process. The presenters each took a group (divided room into 2 groups) to discuss the key features of the portal, and discuss with participants how this portal can be used when working with students and recent graduates with disabilities. Feedback was elicited from the group on how to further promote the portal to students, recent graduates, and employers. 

Key Findings

Participants indicated a clear need for such resources for SWD, Career Educators and employers for such information on Disclosure Process & Timing of Disclosure and the Disability Impact on Career/Employment (DICE) Assessment Tool (utilized by Brock University, Career Education) – and these resources are provided on the Employment Portal which will be launched in a few months.

Next steps in research/program/initiative, etc. Feedback was provided at the session and continues to be provided after the conference via email and phone calls. Collaboration continues and feedback will be reviewed and will be shared with the Breaking Down Barriers Advisory Committee to implement/revise on the Employment Portal and Breaking Down Barrier events. Information on the launch of the web employment portal, will be shared across Canada to Career Educators, Post-Secondary Students with Disabilities and Employers who want to hire them.

Implications for Career Education

Providing support and resources to CE and Employers to assist students with disabilities in their successful transition from schooltowork. 


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