The overall goal of the present study was to examine the employment experience of postsecondary graduates with learning disabilities (LD) in the province of Ontario. More specifically, employment success, job satisfaction, impact of LD within a job setting and experience with employment transition services during postsecondary education were examined. Utilizing a uniform and current definition of LD (LDAO, 2001), this study surveyed graduates from 20 of Ontario’s colleges and universities to capture their employment experiences. The research was conducted through Ontario’s two Assessment and Resource Centres (ARCs), which collectively provide comprehensive psycho-educational assessments for students enrolled in Ontario’s postsecondary institutions. The pool of participants for the study included graduates of postsecondary institutions who had received a diagnosis of LD from these centres between the years 2004/05 and 2007/08 and who had entered the labour market.
Key Findings from the Study
• Findings regarding the employment status of graduates with LD from Ontario’s colleges and universities showed that since graduation, 69.1% of the sample reported being employed on either a full-time or a part-time basis, while 16.4% reported being
unemployed. In addition, 10.9% indicated that they had returned to school, and 3.6% reported their occupational status as that of homemaker. The main findings regarding the impact of LD in the workplace centred on strategies to manage the impact of LD on these individuals, disclosure of their learning disabilities and the consequences of disclosure:
1. Low-profile, low-technology strategies such as time management and support from friends and family were favoured over highly visible or high-technology strategies such as assistive technology and self-advocacy.
2. The majority of respondents (71.9%) indicated that their LD impacted their performance in the workplace, yet the majority (62%) also chose not to disclose their LD in this setting.
3. The reasons for not disclosing were cited as fear of being judged, embarrassment and a belief that the LD did not impact job duties.
4. Gender, age, type of institution and job satisfaction were related with selfdisclosure in the workplace, with females, older students, college students (relative to university) and those indicating lower levels of job satisfaction being more likely to disclose their disability.
• Regarding job satisfaction, the sample reported being satisfied with their current employment, as 70.8% of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with eight different aspects of job satisfaction. Differences in salary level, strategies used on the job to reduce LD impact and self-disclosure of LD occurred relative to job atisfaction. Job satisfaction and salary levels were higher for individuals who used more strategies
4 – Employment Experience of Ontario’s Postsecondary Graduates with Learning Disabilities on the job to reduce LD impact but not for those who engaged in more self-disclosure about their disability.
• Similar to the general Ontario college population, career services were not used to a great degree by this group of students. Work experiences such as co-op placements and job search training were accessed by approximately one-quarter of survey respondents.
• Focus interviews conducted post survey highlighted respondents’ sensitivity to their information-processing-speed problems and the extra time required to complete tasks relative to the time taken by coworkers. Comments regarding self-disclosure in the workplace tended to be negative, while comments pertaining to job satisfaction were typically positive. The respondents emphasized the valuable role played by disability services offices on various college and university campuses.
• For the most part, students with LD graduating from Ontario’s colleges and universities are obtaining employment that they find satisfying.
• LD continues its impact in the lives of these students, with the majority of them stating that such traits as slower speed of information processing, spelling and reading impede their performance on the job.
• LD graduates in the workplace often choose not to disclose their disability, primarily citing reasons of judgment and embarrassment as preventing them from making the
• This group of graduates with LD accessed the career services offered on the campuses of Ontario’s colleges and universities infrequently but at a rate similar to that of their nondisabled peers.
• The present study highlights areas very much in need of further exploration, including factors underlying the disconnect between stated LD impact on the job and unwillingness to disclose a disability in the workplace. The limited use of career services is a new and surprising finding. In addition, the preference for low-technology strategies over technological accommodations in the workplace is in need of further analysis.