Disability and Work in Canada 2021 Virtual Conference:
Achieving equality of opportunity and choice in careers, jobs and work

Disability & Work in Canada initiative logo


Achieving equality of opportunity and choice in careers, jobs and work 

Virtual Conference – December 1 & 2 and 6 & 7, 2021

The Disability and Work in Canada 2021 (DWC 2021) Conference was held virtually this year over four days in early December (December 1 & 2 and December 6 & 7) from 12:15 to 3:30 EDT. The theme for this year’s conference was the “Achieving equality of opportunity and choice in careers, jobs and work,” with subthemes for each day as follows:

  • Wednesday December 1, 2021, at 12:15 to 3:30 EDT – Fully including persons with disabilities in the COVID19 recovery
  • Thursday December 2, 2021, at 12:15 to 3:30 EDT – Making inclusive workplaces a reality
  • Monday December 6, 2021, at 12:15 to 3:30 EDT – Ensuring secure and comprehensive supports for persons with disabilities
  • Tuesday December 7, 2021, at 12:15 to 3:30 EDT – Moving forward together towards full inclusion in employment

Back to DWC2021 Main Menu (link once in main DWC2021 page)

Day 1: Wednesday, December 1, 2021 – Fully including persons with disabilities in the COVID-19 recovery 


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Check-in and Opening Welcome (MC) - Day 1 Theme: Fully including persons with disabilities in the COVID19 recovery


Mahadeo Sukhai photo

MC: Mahadeo Sukhai, Head of Research and Chief Accessibility Officer, CNIB






Indigenous Opening



Laura Calmwind photo

Laura Calmwind, Traditional Knowledge Keeper and Practitioner





Keynote; Disability Inclusion in Employment: The Path Forward


Keynote Speaker:

Carla Qualtrough photo

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Government of Canada


Maureen Haan photo

 Maureen Haan, President & CEO, Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW)


Session Description: The Minister of Employment and Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Honorable Carla Qualtrough will be kicking off the 2021 conference with her keynote presentation followed by a Q&A session.




Accessibility Standards Canada-funded research projects: An update and description of next steps



Arif Jetha photo

Arif Jetha, Scientist, Institute for Work & Health



  • Arif Jetha photo
    Arif Jetha
  • Mahadeo Sukhai photo
    Mahadeo Sukhai
  • Tara Connolly photo
    Tara Connolly
  • Vera Roberts photo
    Vera Roberts
  • Arif Jetha, Scientist
  • Mahadeo Sukhai, Head of Research and Chief Accessibility Officer, CNIB
  • Tara Connolly, Assistant Director, Research & Development, READ Initiative, Carleton University
  • Vera Roberts, Senior Manager, Inclusive Design Research Centre

Session Description: Over the last couple of years, several novel research projects have been funded by Accessibility Standards Canada that examine and address emerging barriers to inclusion in the labour market faced by persons with disabilities. Each of these studies aimed at producing an applied evidence base that could inform strategies to promote barrier-free employment. In this session, the leads of several funded projects will provide an update on their respective research studies and highlight key findings. Each speaker will also describe how results from their research can advance Accessibility Standards Canada priorities. Finally, the session will end with a
moderated question and answer period where speakers will describe how their projects align with Disability and Work in Canada’s Pan-
Canadian Strategy.

Discussion question: What are the main barriers to employment that could be addressed by the Accessibility Act and Standards?

Tags: Accommodation, Employoment Supports, Evidence-informed practices, Innovation




COVID-19 impacts on persons with disabilities: What the statistics tell us


Moderator: Steve Mantis, Chair - Research Action Committee, Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups

  • Steve Mantis photo
    Steve Mantis



  • Marni Lifshen photo
    Marni Lifshen
  • Deborah Stienstra photo
    Deborah Stienstra
  • Carrly McDiarmid photo
    Carrly McDiarmid
  • Gregor Sharp photo
    Gregor Sharp
  • Kristiann Man photo
    Kristiann Man
  • Marni Lifshen, Research Assistant, CCRW
  • Deborah Stienstra, Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work, University of Guelph
  • Carrly McDiarmid, Analyst, Statistics Canada
  • Gregor Sharp, Senior Research Associate, The Angus Reid Institute
  • Kristiann Man, Knowledge Translation Specialist, CCRW

Session Description: In this session we will hear about a number of surveys and reports that have examined the experiences of persons with disabilities, employers and the larger community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional Materials and Resources:

Discussion question: What data/information/statistics do we need to support economic recovery from the pandemic for persons with disabilities?

Tags: COVID-19, Measurement and Accountability




Episodic Disabilities and Post-COVID Recovery



Melissa Egan photo

 Melissa Egan, National Lead, Episodic Disabilities, Realize



  • Helen Anderson photo
    Helen Anderson
  • Elisabeth Harrison photo
    Elisabeth Harrison
  • Lacey Croft photo
    Lacey Croft
  • Melissa Egan photo
    Melissa Egan
  • Faraz Vahid Shahidi photo
    Faraz Vahid Shahidi
  • Helen Anderson
  • Elisabeth Harrison, Research Associate, ReVision Centre, University of Guelph
  • Lacey Croft, Research Assistant, University of Guelph
  • Melissa Egan, National Lead, Episodic Disabilities, Realize
  • Faraz Vahid Shahidi, Associate Scientist, Institute for Work & Health

Session Description: In this panel presentation, four groups will highlight Episodic Disability-focused initiatives and research that build awareness and understanding of what this community has faced regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and ways that recovery can be more fully inclusive.

Additional Materials and Resources:


Discussion question: What have we learned during the pandemic about supporting people with episodic disabilities?

Tags: Accommodation,COVID-19, Initiatives, Lived experience



The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD): how are we doing?



Maureen Haan photo

Maureen Haan, President & CEO, Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW)



  • Steven Estey photo
    Steven Estey
  • Stephanie Austin photo
    Stephanie Austin
  • Mitchell Drydak photo
    Mitchell Drydak
  • Eppo Maertens photo
    Eppo Maertens
  • Steven Estey, Consultant, Self-employed
  • Stephanie Austin, Director of Policy and Engagement, Office of Public Service Accessibility
  • Mitchell Drydak, Employment Facilitator, Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW)
  • Eppo Maertens, Dir AE clients travail âges - Dir EI Clients Older Workers, ESDC

Session Description: The title of Stephanie Austin's talk will be: Two-years since the launch of Nothing Without Us: An Accessibility Strategy for the Public Service of Canada - What have we learned?

Stephanie will share some highlights of what has been accomplished in the federal public service to identify, prevent and remove barriers to
employment and barriers in service delivery experienced by persons with disabilities.

Mitchell Drydak will be going over how Canada is supporting the Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities with the introduction of the Pan- Canadian Strategy.

How is Canada acting on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? This session will go over the ways Canada is implementing strategies to uphold the CRPD's vision.


Additional Materials and Resources:





Discussion question: Employment initiatives – what can the government and the civil society be doing differently to ensure employment for people with disabilities is realized?

Tags: Accessibility, Accommodation, Career Advancement, COVID-19, Disability-confident workplace, Employment supports, Evidence-informed practices, Hiring, Initiatives, Innovation, Intersectionality, Lived experience, Measurement and accountability, Partnership, Return to Work, Technology, Wellness




Vignette and Break

View the vignettes at the Vignettes page



DWC Governance Discussion



Ron Saunders photo

Ron Saunders, Adjunct Scientist, Institute for Work & Health



Emile Tompa photo

Emile Tompa, Senior Scientist, Institute for Work & Health, Director, Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy (CRWDP)


Michael Prince photo

Michael Prince, Landsdowne Professor of Social Policy, University of Victoria



Session Description: Over the last two years, the DWC Steering Committee has been actively working on formalizing the initiative’s governance structure and seeking to expand representation of disability community members participation in it. In this session two members from the Steering Committee and the inaugural Chair of the Advisory Committee will give a short presentation on the plans for governance of the initiative. We will speak about the initiative’s vision, mission, activities, guiding principles, core values and governance committee structure. The bulk of the session will be a dialogue with delegates in attendance about the governance plans. We hope to also discuss ideas on how the DWC initiative can effectively engage with stakeholders going forward.

Additional Materials and Resources:

Disability and Work in Canada (DWC) Governance PPT





Forecasting strategies for inclusion in the future of work 



Arif Jetha photo

 Arif Jetha, Scientist, Institute for Work & Health



  • Arif Jetha photo
    Arif Jetha
  • Kay Nasir photo
    Kay Nasir
  • Ali Shamaee photo
    Ali Shamaee
  • Ayesha Zubair photo
    Ayesha Zubair

  • Arif Jetha, Scientist, Institute for Work & Health
  • Kay Nasir, Research Coordinator, Institute for Work & Health
  • Ali Shamaee, Research Coordinator / Foresight Specialist, Institute for Work & Health
  • Ayesha Zubair, Senior Product Manager, Enterprise Learning Strategy and Innovation, RBC Royal Bank

Session Description: The future of work refers to the large-scale interrelated technological, sociopolitical and environmental trends that are rapidly transforming the working world. For people living with a disability, the future of work offers potential benefits as well as emerging barriers to employment. The overarching aim of the panel presentation is to build a better understanding of the future of work and its implications for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the labour market. The panel presentation will be composed of three sections drawing from research led at the Institute for Work & Health. First, the future of work will be defined and key trends that represent challenges and opportunities for people with disabilities will be introduced. Second, perceptions of the future of work held by people living with disabilities will be described. Third, strategies and recommendations to support the employment of people living with disabilities from policy leaders and disability employment service provides will be presented. The panel presentation will end with an interactive discussion so that audience members can engage with the topics presented.

Additional Materials and Resources:

Link to the study on the transitioning to the future of work for vulnerable groups:

Link to the report on fragmentation in the future of work (English and French):

Link to the academic paper of the study on the future of work for people with disabilities:

Tags: Digital divide, Future of work,School-to-work transition, Technology



International Business Leaders Forum: COVID-19 recovery for People with Disabilities with an international scope



Steven Estey photo

 Steven Estey, Consultant, Self-employed



  • Stefan Tromel photo
    Stefan Tromel
  • Murteza Khan photo
    Murteza Khan
  • Francis Bilodeau photo
    Francis Bilodeau

  • Stefan Tromel, Senior Disability Specialist, International Labour Organization
  • Murteza Khan, CEO and a Founding Trustee of Bangladesh Business & Disability Network (BBDN)
  • Francis Bilodeau, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategy and Innovation Policy Sector at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Government of Canada

Session Description: Join international business leaders to understand COVID recovery for people with disabilities from a variety of different countries.




What stops us from working? Increasing the Participation of Persons With Disabilities in Expanding Employment Opportunities for Canadians With Disabilities



Alec Farquhar photo

 Alec Farquhar, Chair, Engagement, Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy




  • John Rae photo
    John Rae
  • John Stapleton photo
    John Stapleton
  • John Rae, Human Rights Advocate
  • John Stapleton, Principal, Open Policy

Session Description:

John Stapleton will present statements and analysis from interviews with persons with disabilities and the barriers that they face when trying to become employed. In conjunction with the Social Assistance Coalition of Scarborough Ontario (SACS), this paper and presentation explore new theories of poverty and joins them with statements made by people with lived experience of poverty and disability who were interviewed for the project. It concludes with recommendations to remove barriers to work experienced by persons with disabilities who rely on social assistance.

John Rae will provide insights into what governments, business and other organizations must do to assist people with disabilities to access and remain in the workforce).

Additional Materials and Resources:

What stops us from working (Short Form) (PowerPoint)

What stops us from working_10 years later (Full Version) (PDF)

What stops us from working_10 years later-v.7 (Final Paper) (PDF)


John Rae's DWC2021 presentation (YouTube video)

Tags: Employment supports, Income supports, Lived experience, Return to Work, Social assistance






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DWC Partner Organizations: CCRW logo, ONIWG logo, and CRWDP logo