Having a disability means you may need some additional supports when you’re ready to keep learning, or to join the working world.
As you think about the post-secondary education that interests you and the jobs you want, take time to consider what supports you might need to do your best. They might be the same supports you developed as a youth, or you may need something new to meet the different challenges of adult life.
Types of supports and services
There are many options when it comes to the type of support or service that will help you most. You’ll likely work with a team of people to help you decide what will be best for you. Your team should include people who are trained to match your needs to certain technologies, such as service providers, your family doctor, or school instructors with specific training.
In this video, Wade discusses how he used to feel discouraged. But, now that he’s found the supports he needs from adaptive technologies, friends, other students, and staff, he’s doing well. He no longer feels alone in working toward his goal.
Post-Secondary Success Stories: BSc in Psychology (2:58)
Wade is pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Learn how he overcame feelings of discouragement and accessed the supports and adaptive technology he needed to be successful.
Assistive and adaptive technologies
These terms are often used to refer to the same things: new or altered equipment or software that help you learn, communicate, and function more easily. This typically means products that address challenges you might have with speaking, hearing, seeing, walking, learning, or other functions. They can be low-tech, such as:
- A magnifying glass
- A walking cane
- A sketchpad
- A motorized scooter
- A keyboard with a different layout
There are also many high-tech versions, such as:
- Recording devices, hearing aids, and cochlear implants
- Screen readers, high-contrast colour settings, and braille translation software
- Onscreen keyboards, spell checkers, and word prediction programs
- Augmentative and assistive communication systems (AACs) such as the one famously used by physicist Stephen Hawking
In this video, watch how Nick is taking the adaptive technologies he used in school and now applying them to his work:
Adaptive Technologies on the Job [4:18]
Nick has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around. Adaptive technologies helped him in school and now help with running his lawn care company.
Support can also come in the form of a support worker, personal assistant, or service dog, who can assist you with daily tasks, including those at school and work. Anthony at Your Service is an Alberta delivery service that hires people with intellectual disabilities. Each employee is partnered with a driver, who provides personal assistance with the deliveries.
Physical and procedural changes
In some cases, you may require changes to the actual physical space at your work or school. Examples include:
- Wheelchair ramps, automated doors, and wheelchair-accessible washrooms
- A workspace that’s arranged to accommodate your physical needs
In other cases, the modification may be to a process or procedure, such as:
- Flexible schedules to support a shorter work day, modified work hours, or different start and end times
- Extra time to finish class assignments, or the opportunity to take your exams orally as opposed to writing them
In this video, identify the changes that Carly was able to make to help her succeed in university:
Post-Secondary Success Stories: Attaining University Goals (2:50)
Carly is a university student with an invisible disability. Learn how she's adapted her learning style and reached out to get the supports and accommodations she needs to be successful.
Accessing supports and services
You can access supports and services at any stage of your education and career. Here are some sources you can explore to see what best fits your needs.
- Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES) offers funding to support accommodations in post-secondary, during your work search, and in the workplace.
- Alberta’s Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program offers supports to learn skills and find work, along with many other services.
- Alberta Aids to Daily Living helps people with disabilities to pay for equipment and supplies, such as hearing aids, wheelchairs, and communication devices.
- Inclusive education and the Transitional Vocational Program are designed to help people with developmental disabilities get a post-secondary education and learn skills needed to live independently. All publicly funded post-secondary schools offer inclusive education, as do many other learning programs.
- Resources for students with disabilities outlines your rights as a post-secondary student in Alberta with a disability. There’s information on a variety of related topics, including planning your education, training programs, and financial assistance.
- Disability services offices at every publicly funded post-secondary school in Alberta can help you with finding information, a place to live, services, and funding.
- The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) is a national organization that supports people with disabilities in post-secondary education and finding employment.
- EmployAbilities offers a variety of services to help you learn skills, and then find and get a job.
- Inclusive employers hire and welcome people of all abilities and commit to helping you succeed on the job by working with you to get the supports you need for success.
- The Vocational Rehabilitation Program helps people who receive a Canada Pension Plan disability benefit with job training and looking for work.
- Alberta’s Internship for Persons with Disabilities offers 1 year of paid work experience with the government, in jobs related to finance, administrative support, and research.
In this video, Kim discusses how her learning disability meant she could only read and write at a Grade 4 to 6 level. But, thanks to a diverse array of services, funding sources, and supports, she was able to pursue her master’s degree and advocate for people with disabilities:
Post-Secondary Success Stories: Graduate Student and Community Advocate (2:25)
Kim is a graduate student with a learning disability. With the help of assistive technology and access to post-secondary funding, she's becoming a strong advocate for her community.
Paying for your education and training
There are many ways to pay for your education. But, as a person with a disability, you have access to additional sources of funding provided by governments and private sources:
- The Government of Canada offers grants for tuition, services and supplies, and accommodations while you study.
- The Alberta government offers grants for students with disabilities.
- You can search for scholarships related to your disability. Get a head start with this Top 10 list of scholarships for students with disabilities.
- DisabilityAwards.ca lists several scholarships and bursaries offered by individual organizations in Alberta. It also help you search for financial aid by disability, and by province.
- The Advancing Futures Bursary supports youth who have been in care as they start their post-secondary education.
In this video, Mark talks about how the right funding and supports helped him earn his diploma, live in residence, and pursue an international practicum:
Post-Secondary Success Stories: Diploma in Disability Studies (2:59)
Mark is leveraging his own life experience to pursue a diploma in disability studies. Learn about his experiences in residence and the work he completed overseas for his international practicum.
Like Mark, your determination is the first key to success as you start your post-secondary education or a new job. Take the time now to research and use all the services and supports available to you as you build for your future.