May 31, 2019

National AccessAbility Week 2019: Youth The Future


During National AccessAbility week 2019, we are organizing a blogathon:daily blogs/vlogs on topics of accessibility.

Check out this vlog by Youth The future program Managers on the Youth The Future program and employment accessibility for young women with disabilities and Deaf women.



Youth the Future Program and Access to Employment by Anna Paz Arellano and Lourdenie Jean


Anna Paz Arellano (A): My name is Anna Paz Arellano. I am the coordinator of Youth The Future, Montreal.

Lourdenie Jean (L): And I am Lourdenie Jean. I am the facilitator at Youth The Future Montreal.


A: Youth The Future is a program Canada-wide that works to support youth between the ages of 15 and 30 who are living with a disability and are looking to find an entry level job. Here in Montreal we work specifically with just young women.


Youth the Future Program is a 20-week pre-employment skills development program that provides youth with disabilities the pre-employment skills necessary to enter today’s workforce.

What are barriers women with disabilities and Deaf women face when seeking employment?


A: More general obstacles that we would find is just general society and the view point towards people with disabilities and just disabilities themselves. And then also working with limitations and finding a job that will allow one to showcase what they are great at, and work with their interests, but also understand their limitations and being able to work with that. Sometimes it’s a smaller ocean, but it’s still there.


What does accessibility mean to you?


L: It’s really respecting different paces and different realities, different backgrounds.

A: To me accessibility is, that word I guess, is understanding that everyone has a different reality. To make the world also work with this reality, and that can be in helping somebody understand something, that can be in helping somebody get to enter the same building, that can be just having somebody be able to change hours a bit so that they can do a job that they would be great at, if this is what they’re meant to do. So it’s really just having everyone be more open and understanding, and open as well to learning how to invite everybody in.


What are the greatest successes of the Youth The Future program?


A: So there’s the great successes and the little successes. We like to underline the little successes because there are so many of those, and they also deserve applause. And the little success being, you know, somebody coming in who is really timid because of their past experiences and not necessarily knowing how to perhaps engage socially and by the end of the six weeks, called intensive training, which is full time here at YTF, seeing that that person has discovered a new aspect of how they can be with other people, because there was the space to learn, because there was that space that was safe. Because that little success can become a bigger success, because that opens up different jobs for this person, and has them understand another aspect of themselves which is great. But other success being, when we find, and this is the goal, a job with a participant with an employer who is inclusive, or wants to be inclusive as possible, and working as a team to make that employment last for as long as they want it to be. And seeing and getting a call two months later from an employer being like, hey this was so great, I’m so glad that I took a step, maybe I was scared at the beginning, but this person is doing great at their job and it doesn’t matter that they have a disability, cuz that’s really where we want it to be.


L: As you said, I do find it important to celebrate the little successes as well, and how they learn for themselves that they can grow. Because I feel like, working with the class intimately, sometimes I hear how women with disabilities feel like they are not often given the opportunity to show what they are capable of, and that’s not fair that that is taken away from them. And I feel like, once they relearn, they regain that confidence in themselves. They see that, oh ya you see, I wasn’t able to finish this thing last time, but then I was able to finish this six weeks intensive training, I’ve got to be proud of that. Or this homework, I found that difficult, but then I was able to prove to myself that I if I put in the work, not like I was told before, I can actually succeed at things. And I think that’s our greatest success.


What do employers need to know about creating a safe and accessible space for women with disabilities and Deaf women?


A: I think the biggest thing that needs to always be kept in mind is to be open minded, and to want to learn, and to listen. And to actively keep that conversation open in order to better accommodate and to make the space accessible. Because by doing that we can help somebody find their full potential. Because not everyone is going to know how to do it well, you know, and it’s also a learning experience for employers, but if they have that mindset, it’s always possible.


L: I guess at the end of the day, this learning is important for everyone, you know, they will be learning so much from the participant as well, just like you will learn from any employee right. I guess it’s really that, that they have to realize that having that openness will be so beneficial for them as well.


How do employers benefit from prioritizing accessibility and being inclusive to women with disabilities and Deaf women?


L: I often like to use this example of stairs versus elevators. You know, anyone can use an elevator, and anyone can benefit from elevators, because it just makes it faster, or for whatever reason. Whereas the stairs, well, it only works for some people. And then there’s this idea behind the elevators that you’re not going to gain from, for example the pace that how the elevators can go faster. It’s just a matter of accessibility again, of learning what are the different ways do things that, at the end of the day, we just end up benefiting from, for everyone


A: To know that there are so many ways and mindsets that we can bring to one task or one job, and just learn all these different ways of looking at things, and I think that women with disabilities have very unique individual experiences, as well as collective, and that these are experiences that are beneficial for anybody that’s willing to listen, and you know, some of this knowledge is very applicable to work, but also just being human.


What are some lessons you’ve learned from working intimately with women with disabilities and Deaf women surrounding issues of accessibility?


L: Definitely the different realities, the challenges, also I think it’s an awareness that is important for anyone. Even when you identify as having a disability, you can always learn from people who have a different disability. So it’s, I guess, having this wider angle of how to approach things and how to present things. That’s really key of what I’ve learned working intimately with women with disabilities.


A: For me, what I’ve learned is that there is no right answer, for anything, and no right situation or right job, but it’s just you know, we are really happy to speak here, because the conversation is really important to be had. And for employers to be aware of this and as well government to be aware of this. And see what we can put into place as a society all together to help make, you know, help to bring us all to the same, to access. To accessibility, again. Back to that word. That’s what I’ve learned.  


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