Hope is the most powerful quality a person can have. I’m a first-year communications student at Carleton University and I’m hopeful that my professional career will be as fulfilling as my academic career has been to date. Even though I have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair to get around, I’m able to do anything and go anywhere on campus. The school has made it possible for me to be the independent woman I’ve always wanted to be.
So I have hope Ottawa and Ontario will be able to close the employment gap for graduates with disabilities, just as Carleton has ended the graduation gap. I’ve read that the school boosted the seven-year graduation rate for students with disabilities from 52 percent to exceeding the general population some cases. I’m benefiting from this achievement. Yet the employment gap persists. People with disabilities are three times more likely than people without them to be unemployed or out of the labour force.
This disparity has persisted for over a decade. The big difference that separates the two challenges is their complexity. Closing the employment gap requires the involvement of several groups beyond colleges and universities themselves. Employers play an especially key role. I have hope they will carry out their role. I volunteer at Carleton’s Disability Awareness Centre, so I’m fully up to speed about the many events that feature employers eager to recruit graduates with disabilities. The growing number of these gatherings gives me hope that businesses recognize that employees with disabilities can flourish if they’re given a chance.
I realize also that opportunity is a two-way street. It requires someone to offer it and someone else to grab it. So I urge my fellow students to play their part. More to the point, my advice to students with disabilities is to have hope that we’ll be able to enjoy fulfilling careers, and to act on that hope by taking advantage right now of networking events and employment opportunities such as co-ops, internships and placements. It’s up to us to get involved and stay involved. We won’t close the employment gap without us students rising up and having hope.