Disability and Work

Despite the passage of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the cumulative efforts of the disability rights movement, there is still a great deal of work to be done to realize equal rights for people with disabilities, making disability one of the key remaining civil rights issues. IHSP's year-long focus on disability included working with 10 outstanding policy fellows who conducted case studies around the world, an international conference bringing together leading researchers from around the globe, and a seminar series hosted at the IHSP.  International and national advisory boards provided expert advice throughout the process.  An edited volume based on this effort is forthcoming. 

Disability and Work: Global Strategies for Equity

On Saturday, May 5, 2012, the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy hosted its annual conference on Disability and Work: Global Strategies for Equity. People living with a disability, in both high- and low-income countries, experience significant barriers to accessing meaningful and competitive employment.   Despite the passage of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the cumulative efforts of the disability rights movement, there is still a great deal of work to be done globally to realize equal rights in employment for people with disabilities.  Viable solutions to reduce these inequities and advance equal rights and participation in the world of work for people with disabilities are crucial.  The conference brought together an international group of government, academic, business and civil society leaders to discuss innovative and effective strategies to improve employment outcomes for workers with disabilities. 

To view the agenda, click here. Please scroll down to access video recordings of each session and speakers' powerpoint slides.

Words of Welcome

Jody Heymann: Founding Director, McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy; and Principal Investigator, WORLD Data Centre


Michael Stein: Executive Director, Harvard Law School Project on Disability; and Cabell Research Professor, William & Mary School of Law


To view the video, click here.

Opening Keynotes: Setting the Stage:  Key Challenges and Strategies Globally

Barbara Murray: Senior Disability Specialist, Skills and Employability Department, ILO Geneva; and former ILO Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist, Asian and Pacific Region, ILO Bangkok

View the presentation [pdf].


Susan Scott-Parker:  Founder and Chief Executive, Employers' Forum on Disability; and Chair of the Business Taskforce on Accessible Technology 

View the presentation [pdf].


To view the video, click here.


Morning Plenary: Getting a Job, But Not Just any Job:  Towards Competitive, Meaningful Work

Tony Dolan: Chairperson, Canadian Council with Disabilities 


Frank Rusch:  Professor of Education, Pennsylvania State University; and Visiting Scholar, Center on Disability Studies, University of Hawai‘i

View the presentation [pdf].


Lauren Lindstrom:  Director, Secondary Special Education and Transition; and Associate Professor, Family and Human Services, University of Oregon

View the presentation [pdf].


Joyce Bender:  Founder and CEO of Bender Consulting Services in Canada; Chair of the Board, American Association of People with Disabilities; and host of Internet talk radio show, “Disability Matters”


Sophie Mitra:  Director of the Social Justice and Policy Research Unit of the Center for International Policy Studies; and Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Fordham University

View the presentation [pdf].


To view the video, click here.


Luncheon Keynotes: Effective Strategies in Low-Resource Settings    

Daniel Mont:  Senior Research Fellow and Leonard Cheshire Disability Fellow, University College of London (UCL); and former member of the World Bank's Disability and Development Team


Javed Abidi:  Chairperson, Disabled People's International; Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People; and Founder, Disability Rights Group, India

To view the video, click here.

Panel 1:   Effective Funder Strategies:  Innovation and Partnerships

Yolanda Muñoz: Disability Rights Fund; and former Coordinator, AQEIPS, Québec 


Molly Harrington:  Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy and Research Division, Ministry of Social Development, Government of British Colombia

View the presentation [pdf].



Hervé Bernard:  Inclusion Unit Manager, Technical Resources Division, Social Services, Livelihoods and Education, Handicap International Federation

View the presentation [pdf].


Michael Fembek: Program Manager, Essl Foundation; and Head of Social Affairs, bauMax Group, Austria

View the presentation [pdf].


To view the video, click here.

Panel 2:   On the Job: Promoting Accessibility, Retention and Equity

 Harvey Goldberg: Team Leader, Strategic Initiatives, Canadian Human Rights Commission


Susanne Bruyere:   Director of Employment and Disability Institute, Cornell University; and Chair, Global Applied Disability Research and Information Network (GLADNET)

View the presentation [pdf].


Joyojeet Pal:  Assistant Professor, School of Information, University of Michigan; and Visiting Researcher, RCAST, University of Tokyo

View the presentation [pdf].


Rienk Prins:  Research Director and Senior Consultant, AStri Research and Consultancy Group; and Associate Professor, ProgreSZ University of Applied Sciences in Social Security, the Netherlands

View the presentation [pdf].


To view the video, click here.

Afternoon Plenary:   National and Regional Policy Approaches    

Nancy Milroy-Swainson: Director General, Office for Disability Issues, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada



David Stapleton: Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Studying Disability Policy, Mathematica Policy Research; and former Director, Cornell University’s Institute for Policy Research

View the presentation [pdf].


Ryoko Sakuraba:  Associate Professor, Graduate School of Law, Kobe University, Japan; and Visiting Scholar, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge

View the presentation [pdf].

Stanislao Maldonado Zambrano:  Researcher, Center of Studies for Development and Participation; and former Consultant, Special Commission on Disability Studies, Congress of the Republic of Peru

View the presentation [pdf].

Anna Lawson:  Senior Lecturer, School of Law; and Deputy Director, Centre for Disability Studies, University of Leeds

View the presentation [pdf]. 


To view the video, click here.


Closing Keynote:  The Way Forward Globally: Rights, Equality, Empowerment and Development 

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo:  Coordinator, Office for Disability and Inclusive Development, USAID; former Senior Operations Specialist, World Bank; and Commissioner, South African Human Rights Commission

To view the video, click here.

Next Steps

Michael Stein: Executive Director, Harvard Law School Project on Disability; and Cabell Research Professor, William & Mary School of Law 

Jody Heymann: Founding Director, McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy; and Principal Investigator, WORLD Data Centre

To view the video, click here.


Case Studies of Global Innovations by IHSP's 2012 Policy Fellows

See "Fellow" tab for details.

Seminar Series on Disability and Equity across the Life Course (2010-2011)

Normand Boucher Thursday March 31th, 2011

Normand Boucher, Adjunct Professor, School of Social Work, Université Laval; Researcher, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and Social Integration (CIRRIS); Co-Investigator, Disability Rights Promotion International Project, Canada.

“Monitoring Disability Discrimination in Canada and Globally: Innovative Strategies”

Annette MajnemerWednesday March 16th, 2011

Annette Majnemer, Interim Director, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy; Associate Editor, Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology; Co-Editor, Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics

“Promoting Leisure Participation in Children and Youth with Developmental Disability: Research, Practice and Policy”

Voices of Change: A conversation with International Disability LeadersTuesday February 8th, 2011

Judith E. Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights to the U.S. Department of State and Former World Bank Advisor on Disability and Development

Steven Estey, Former Human Rights Officer at Disabled Peoples International and Chair of the International Committee of Council of Canadians with Disabilities

“Voices of Change: A Conversation with International Disability Rights Leaders”

Listen to the audio clip [.wma]

Tara Flanagan  Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Tara Flanagan, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology; and Director of Social Policy, Advocacy, Research, Community (SPARC) 

“Self-Determination, Community, and Responsibility: Social Inclusion for People with Developmental Disabilities”

James MacDougall  Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

James C. MacDougall, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, McGill University

"Rights of the Deaf in Canada: Improving Policy and Legislation".

Listen to the audio clip [.wma]

Joan WolforthThursday, November 18th, 2010

Joan Wolforth, Former Director, Office for Students with Disabilities, McGill University

"Providing Equitable Access for University Students with Disabilities: Issues and Challenges Faced by Students, Service Providers and Institutions".

Listen to the audio clip [.wma]

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Tanya Titchkosky, Associate Chair and Graduate Coordinator, Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto;

Rod Michalko, Lecturer, University of Toronto and Adjunct Professor, Critical Disability Studies, School of Health Management and Policy, York University


2011-2012 Policy Fellows

Policy Fellows studied programs and policies by private sector companies, governments and NGOs that are advancing equal rights and participation for people with disabilities in the labour force. They conducted field work in India, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the US, and the UK. Case studies included private sector companies that promote inclusion of persons with disabilities in Brazil and Norway, advocacy networks advancing inclusion in India and the US, and national-level policies in Denmark and Sweden.

IHSP Fellow Morgon Banks Lena Morgon Banks, Microbiology and Immunology/International Development Studies, McGill University

The Impact of Disability Coalitions in the US in Advocating for Equity in Employment: A Case Study on the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCS)

Morgon Banks double-majored in Microbiology and Immunology and International Development Studies. Morgon first became interested in health and social policy while interning at Prevention and Access to Care and Treatment (PACT), a non-profit that helps disenfranchised HIV-positive and high-risk individuals in inner-city Boston attain better health and quality of life. Over this past summer, she worked in Chandigarh, India with the Haryana State AIDS Control Society where she helped evaluate the effectiveness of HIV prevention programs receiving governmental funding. Morgon was also active on campus as the director of the McGill Global AIDS Coalition. Her research interests include the increased vulnerability of marginalized populations, including the disabled, to HIV infection and other negative health outcomes, the mental health impacts from the stigmatization of various diseases and disabilities, and the role of comprehensive public policy and health systems to address these issues.

IHSP Fellow Laura BenshoffLaura Benshoff, Department of English, McGill University

Disability Rights Advocacy and Employment: An Indian Example. A Case Study of the National Centre for the Employment of Disabled People (NCPEDP)

Laura Benshoff completed her B.A. Honours in Cultural Studies with a minor in History at McGill. Her interest in the 2011 IHSP fellowship themes stemmed from previous volunteer work with developmentally disabled youth and her current honours thesis research interests, which involve applying disability theory to mental illness and its cultural and medical determinants in North America. She is interested in the relationship between culture, social inclusion and health care and hopes to apply what she learns through the fellowship to a graduate degree in public health administration, social work, or law.

IHSP Fellow Megan Galeucia

Megan Galeucia, Department of Anthropology, McGill University

Improving Employers' "Disability Confidence": A Case Study on the Employers' Forum on Disability

Megan Galeucia completed major in Anthropology and minor in Social Studies of Medicine at McGill. Her research interests include the political and social impacts of new medical technologies, linkages between economic and social policy and food production and distribution, and the general field of women’s health. She is also interested in how media technologies such as film and radio can be used as tools for conducting and presenting research. Megan writes for the Health and Education of the McGill Daily and is a co-director of Cinema Politica, an organization at McGill that screens documentary films on political and social issues. She intends to pursue a Master’s in Medical Anthropology and/or Public Health.

IHSP Fellow Emma Goold

Emma Goold, Department of Political Science/International Development Studies, McGill University

Promoting Workplace Inclusion in Latin America

Emma Goold completed an Honours BA in Political Science and International Development Studies. Along with volunteering in Montreal, she has worked as an English teacher in southern Chile and participated in community-building projects in rural Mexico. These experiences have made her aware of the vital importance of well-researched social policy for addressing the macro- and micro-level causes of social inequality, and she is looking forward to expanding her understanding of these issues through the IHSP fellowship program. 

Lynsey Grosfield, Department of Anthropology/Women’s Studies, McGill University

Disability or ‘Workability’?: A Case Study of Labour Market Policies for the Disabled in Denmark

Lynsey Grosfield studied Anthropology, with a minor in Sexual Diversity Studies. Her previous experience in health and social policy has included analysing the integration of aboriginal consultations in environmental policy at Environment Canada, and researching Fairtrade-Organic coffee certifications and regional market accessibility at Coopérative de Solidarité du Café Equitable (CoopSol). She plans to continue on to graduate work in medical anthropology, where her current research interests are health and equity in general, but more specifically, culturally-sensitive mental and reproductive health initiatives for refugees, immigrants, and indigenous persons in rural areas.

Laura Kalef, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, McGill University

Developing Inclusive Employment via Job Training for Disabled: Lessons from Telenor Open Mind

Laura Kalef completed a Bachelor’s of Science with Honours in Kinesiology at McGill. Her research interests involve the development of healthy and active lifestyles for children with disabilities. In accordance with this year’s fellowship theme, Laura is looking forward to expanding her studies to see how individuals of all ages adapt their lifestyles in conjunction with developed health and social policies.

Matthew Morantz

Matthew Morantz, Department of Chemistry, McGill University, Mphasis India

Matthew Morantz was a researcher in the Department of Chemistry at McGill University, conducting investigation in the field of Organic Electronics. He is the founder and executive director of Making Waves Canada, a national not-for-profit organization providing affordable and accessible water safety education to children with special needs. His interests include disability rights, social justice initiatives, as well as policies leveraging the omnipresence of handheld mobile technology for lasting development.

Anna O’Kelly, International Development Studies/Anatomy and Cell Biology, McGill University

The Quota Legislation in Brazil and its Implementation in Sao Paulo: Lessons Learned about the Role of Both Public as well as Prive Sector in its Execution

Anna O’Kelly completed a Bachelor of Arts and Science degree studying International Development and the Biological Sciences. She is interested in mitigating current healthcare inequalities, especially with regards to women’s access to healthcare in developing regions. Obstetrical complications contribute heavily to the overall disease burden in the developing world; as such, this year’s Fellowship theme is especially pertinent. Anna is actively involved in pre-hospital care both within the McGill community as well as at home in California, and hopes to be able to expand on these skills in order to contribute more effectively to the healthcare needs of marginalized communities.

Michelle Olding, Department of Anthropology/Women’s Studies, McGill University

Citizenship, Disability and the 'Right to Work' in an Active Society: A Case Study on Swedish Social Policy and Labour Market Program for Disabled People

Michelle Olding received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and Gender Studies from McGill. Her prior research experience includes a project with the Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research (NAMHR) that considered the role of digital storytelling in healing initiatives among indigenous youth. Her research interests include the social determinants of mental health inequities, the effects of emerging ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) on global health systems, and the links between social policy and disability experiences. She intends to pursue graduate studies in the Social Studies of Medicine or Medical Anthropology.


Kali Stull, Department of Anthropology, McGill University

Addressing Employability and Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities in a For-Profit Company: Serasa Experian's Employability Program for Persons with Disabilities

Kali Stull completed a BA in Anthropology, with minors in Social Studies of Medicine and Environmental Studies. Particularly interested in medical anthropology and food politics, Kali has valued the time spent working with community groups and organizations that focus on food security and the social dynamics of nutrition. She is further interested in the social and environmental determinants of health as well as the ways we can come to understand the individual lived-experience of health and illness.

Disability and Equity at Work

(Heyamann, Stein, Moreno. Oxford University Press, 2013) 


Disability and Equity at Work
Disability and Equity at Work, Oxford University Press 2013

"Despite international and national guarantees of equal rights, there is still a great deal of work to be done to achieve equality in employment globally for individuals with disabilities: in OECD countries, the employment rate of persons with disabilities was just over 40%, compared to 75% for persons without a disability, and in many low- and middle-income countries the employment rates were even lower. There are many reasons why persons with disabilities fare poorly in the labor market. Some have to do with inequitable access to resources that matter for work including access to education, to credit and funding, and literal physical access to buildings and transportation. Employers tend to underestimate the productivity of a worker with a disability and overestimate the cost of an alternate work arrangement, and are unaware of public policies and programs designed to address potential challenges.

Disability and Equity at Work will be the first book to document what can be done to improve the employment situation of persons with disabilities around the world. Increasing employment rates makes economic sense. Some estimates put the forgone income of having people with disabilities outside the labor market at about 5-7% of a given country’s GDP.  Disability and Equity at Work identifies successful strategies at every stage of a worker’s career.  Bringing together evidence-based recommendations and in-depth case studies of successful policies and programs around the world, this edited volume provides innovative and effective solutions to the challenges faced by persons with disabilities in the job market.

Chapter contributors include leaders from international organizations, government, civil society, and academia, including experts from UN agencies, national governments and regional bodies, leaders in nongovernmental advocacy and research organizations, and senior academics in the field. Disability and Equity at Work fills a needed gap that will appeal to those interested in and engaged in public policy, global health, equal rights, business, labor, and other fields."

Disability and Equity across the Lifecourse International Advisory Committee (2010-2012)

Michael Stein (Committee Co-Chair)
Executive Director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability 

Shuaib Chalklen
Special Rapporteur on Disability for the UN Commission for Social Development

Nora Groce
Leonard Cheshire Chair and Director of the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre, University College London

Venus Ilagan
Secretary General, Rehabilitation International

Rosemary Kayess
President, Disability Studies and Research Institute, University of New South Wales, Australia

Janet Lord
Senior Partner, BlueLaw International LLP

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo

Disability Advisor – East Asia & Pacific Region, World Bank

Maria Veronica Reina
Executive Director, Global Partnership on Disability and Development

Diane Richler
Chair, International Disability Alliance

Carlos Rios
Secretary of Investigation in the Federal Judicial Institute of Mexico and Director of Studies of the Public Security, Justice and Human Rights at the Rafael Preciado Hernández Foundation A.C.

Eric Rosenthal
Founder and Executive Director of Disability Rights International

Disability and Equity across the Lifecourse National Advisory Committee (2010-2012)

Michael Bach 
Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Association for Community Living

Normand Boucher 
Professeur associé, École de service social, Université Laval

Henri Dorvil 
Professeur, École de service social, UQAM

Al Etmanski 
President and co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN)

Tara Flanagan
Assistant Professor, Educational and Counseling Psychology, McGill

Amanda Grenier 
Associate Professor, School of Social Work, McGill

James MacDougal 
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, McGill

Annette Majnemer 
Interim Director, Occupational Health and Physical Therapy, McGill

Michael Prince 
Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy, University of Victoria

Deborah Strienstra
Professor in Disability Studies, University of Manitoba

Back to top