The following questions are based on research and aim to debunk common myths related to recruitment of co-op students with disabilities. Do you have a question that isn't asked or answered here? Please reach out to us.
What types of jobs can students with disabilities do?
All students, including students with disabilities, have the academic background and intelligence to fulfill the co-op positions you seek. How a co-op student gets that job done may need to be considered with a different lens.
Like all people, some people with disabilities have strengths that make the person better suited to some positions and industries. University of Waterloo students with disabilities provide the same benefits and potential as any other candidate. The availability of workplace accommodations, where required, and the willingness of management and fellow employees to allow people with disabilities to perform to their maximum ability, are the only things most people with disabilities require.
Employers can utilize the abilities and education of students with disabilities by looking at their current co-op positions and rethinking the requirements of the job. How someone gets the job done might be different than you think.
Are people with disabilities reliable employees?
Yes. Studies show that people with disabilities have lower absenteeism and stay with employers longer than their non-disabled counterparts.
86% of people with disabilities rated average or better on attendance compared to their colleagues without disabilities. 
Staff retention was reported as 72% higher with employees with disabilities than their colleagues without disabilities 
When it comes to Waterloo, our co-op students are exceptional employees - regardless of disability. 95.0% of our students receive ratings of "very good" to "outstanding" from employers. 
Will hiring people with disabilities increase safety incidents at my workplace?
No. In fact, people with disabilities have 40% lower safety incident rate and 78% lower overall costs associated with accidents. 
An employer has a duty to accommodate the employee up to the point of undue hardship. If an accommodation is likely to cause significant health and safety risks, this could be considered undue hardship.
Co-op students registered with the University of Waterloo's AccessAbility Services can arrange to meet with an Accessibility consultant to discuss what might need to go into their accommodation plan. This way, students can bring specialized insight and confidence to conversations you'll have about creating effective accommodations.
I want to hire co-op students with disabilities. Where should I look to find qualified candidates?
Qualified job seekers with disabilities can be found wherever those without disabilities are found. Employers looking to hire co-op students should ensure that brand exposure strategies are inclusive. This means making sure job descriptions are written in a way that demonstrates your willingness to consider co-op students with disabilities and that the job postings are available in accessible formats on your website (if applicable). Learn more about how to make your websites accessible.
How do I interview a candidate with a disability?
As in most interview formats, you want to focus on the abilities of the candidate, and how the candidate will accomplish the essential functions of the job. If you’re unsure about the person’s capability to do the job, ask “How would you perform this task?”
You might want to modify your traditional interview and adopt an inclusive interview approach. For example, consider providing the candidate with information on the interview format prior to the interview.
If you suspect that the student you are interviewing may have disabilities that could impact their ability to perform the essential requirements of the job, it is the candidate' responsibility to disclose that to you. However, keep in mind that applicants with certain disabilities may perform better when provided with questions that gauge ability as opposed to behaviour.
Learn more about asking appropriately worded interview questions on our top 5 tips page.
How can I create an accessible and welcoming environment for students with disabilities?
Most accommodations are inexpensive and easy to implement. Some common accommodations include:
- Flexible work hours
- Redistributing some work tasks with other employees
- Arranging for access to a quieter workspace
- Providing assistive technologies
When an employee tells you they need accommodation because of their disability, the Ontario Human Rights Code states that employers in the province of Ontario must accommodate the needs of employees with disabilities to the point of undue hardship.
The majority of people with disabilities do not require special workplace accommodations. Approximately one-third of employees require a one-time cost accommodation and the typical expenditure is around $500. With available funding opportunities, any accommodation costs are easily offset. Regardless of cost, there are benefits to providing reasonable accommodations, such as improving your employee’s productivity and morale.
Work with your co-op student to create an accommodation plan that you both agree on. Individual accommodation plans are a formal way of recording accommodations that you would provide to an employee with a disability. Co-op students registered with the AccessAbility Services can arrange to meet with an AccessAbility Consultant to discuss what might need to go into an accommodation plan.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) states that an employer in the province of Ontario has a duty to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship on your organization. Undue hardship is considered valid when an accommodation may:
Cause quantifiable, substantial costs that would seriously affect the organization’s viability
Exceed available resources even after both the organization and individual seeking accommodation have applied for outside funding sources
Cause significant health and safety risks to any individual within the organization
Read the OHRC’s policy on undue hardship to learn more about providing appropriate accommodations for employees.
Less than 1 in 10 people with disabilities have mobility-related disabilities.  Even if a person has a mobility-related disability it does not necessarily mean that they cannot work in a physical labour position.
With that said, employees are required to complete the essential requirements of the job. As an employer, assess the essential requirements of the job, the ability of the individual, and what accommodations would enable the employee to fulfill the essential requirements. There may be no available accommodations that would allow the employee to fulfill the essential requirements of the job:
Is it true that people with disabilities cannot be terminated once they are hired?
In Canada and the United States, you cannot terminate an employee for reasons related to a disability. Further, you have a duty to provide necessary and adequate accommodations when requested. When accommodations are possible, employees with disabilities should be held to the same performance standards as other employees.
It may be possible that there are no available accommodations that would allow the employee to fulfill the essential requirements of the job.
If an employee is not meeting performance expectations, follow the same procedures you normally would, for example: discuss the problem with the employee, look for solutions, document the situation and if necessary, terminate employment.
When working with a co-op student for four months, be sure to determine what the essential requirements of the job are and if accommodations can be made to meet them - chances are they can.
 Ministry of Economic Development and Growth. (2017). Partnership council on employment opportunities for persons with disabilities report. Government of Ontario. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/page/partnership-council-employment-opportunities-persons-disabilities-report
 Deloitte. (2010). The road to inclusion Integrating people with disabilities into the workplace. Deloitte. Retrieved from http://www.employmentaction.org/employers/links-and-resources/diversity,-inclusion-and-employment-equity/The%20Road%20to%20Inclusion.pdf
 Co-operative Education, University of Waterloo. (2019). 2018 Co-operative Education Annual Report. University of Waterloo. Retrieved from https://uwaterloo.ca/co-operative-education-annual-report/
 Robinson, R. (2012). Creating an Inclusive Workplace: Integrating Employees With Disabilities Into a Distribution Center Environment [Professional Safety]. insurancenewsnet.com. Retrieved from https://insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/Creating-an-Inclusive-Workplace-Integrating-Employees-With-Disabilities-Into-a-a-346155
 Government of Canada. (2012). A profile of persons with disabilities among Canadians aged 15 years or older, 2012. Statistics Canada. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2015001-eng.htm
 Ontario Human Rights Commission. (2016). Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability. Government of Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/sites/default/files/Policy%20on%20ableism%20and%20discrimination%20based%20on%20disability_accessible_2016.pdf