Youth Leadership Initiative.

Youth Leadership Initiative 

Future Leaders shaping the Future Workplace.

Did you know that post-secondary students with disabilities experience greater difficulties with gaining employment in comparison to their peers, and typically have higher unemployment and underemployment rates? 

The Disability Foundation’s Youth Leadership Initiative empowers youth with disabilities to lead a national three-year project to identify and articulate often overlooked attitudinal barriers to transitioning from studies to the workplace, as well as producing a solution to help break down those barriers. This project is run by a diverse group of young paid interns including those with disabilities who are working together to perform research and identify barriers, brainstorm solutions, and create a multimedia toolkit to support employers and post-secondary students with disabilities in the job seeking process. 

We are proud to have partnered with Royal Roads University for this project, who provided an engaging, thoughtful Leadership Foundations program as well as a platform for peer mentorship in a Community of Practice.

Read our press release:

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Our Results are in!

After months of survey collection responses & reviews, multiple focus groups and all of your help, the YLI team is excited to share our research report with you. 

Here’s what 450 Canadians aged 17-29 have to say about their employment journeys.

Our findings:

  • 51% of surveyed YwD aged 17-29 are unemployed, compared to 10.1% of youth aged 15-24 (April 2022)
  • The main barriers preventing YwD from getting work include low self-confidence, disability discrimination, lack of workplace accommodation, and hesitation in disability disclosure
  • 56% of YwD are confident in their ability to perform work tasks as well as their colleagues without disabilities
  • 54% of YwD believe they need more hours than their peers to perform the same work tasks
  • Probability of being hired jumps over 50% when YwD feel confident in their ability to perform job tasks
  • Programs offering vocational training or hands-on work opportunities are more likely to help YwD find work than those programs only teaching job-search skills

How to get involved

Youth with Disability and Employment Questionnaire 

Your voice matters!   

The YLI Team is currently working with our Advisory Committee Members to develop solutions that address youth unemployment and underemployment for people with disabilities. We created a questionnaire to collect insights into the attitudinal barriers we found in our study results, as well as seek your guidance as we gather resources needed to improve opportunities for employment amongst young adults with disabilities in Canada 

Information gathered from this questionnaire will be used to create the YLI Toolkit, a collaborative multimedia online resource hub aimed at serving both youth with disabilities and employers by providing a one-stop database of tangible solutions to overcome the identified barriers to employment for young jobseekers with disabilities. 

We appreciate any of your insights. Click the button below to take the questionnaire. 

National Advisory Committee Volunteer Opportunity

  • Do you have a perspective and understanding of the employment challenges post-secondary youth living with disabilities have encountered?
  • Are you passionate about striving for more accessible and inclusive Canadian workplaces?
  • Are you keen on teaming up with professionals and providing your experience or expertise to drive growth and success in the employment journeys of Canadian youth with disabilities?

You may be a great fit for the #YLI voluntary Advisory Committee! 

The Youth Leadership Initiative is looking for people of all ages across the country to join their Advisory Committee. The Committee has the goal to bring together people passionate about workplace accessibility and inclusion to provide tangible solutions to support Canadian employers and post-secondary youth with disabilities when seeking work.

How the YLI Advisory Committee Members support the initiative

The Committee Members will meet via Zoom and support the YLI team by:

  • Understanding the employment challenges youth with disabilities (YwD) face through discussing the YLI research findings
  • Fostering inclusive virtual spaces for diverse and intersectional perspectives on youth employment
  • Providing solutions and suggesting resources addressing attitudinal barriers identified in the YLI report
  • Overseeing the creation of and reviewing an online multimedia toolkit developed based on Committee’s advice and recommendation

Ideal candidates:

  • Youth with disabilities between the age of 17 and 29 
  • Professionals from employment agencies or career advisors 
  • Staff members from post-secondary institutes’ accessibility offices 
  • Faculty members from post-secondary institutes (Disability Studies, Psychology, Political Science, Equity Studies, and Woman’s Gender Studies)  
  • Employers from private sectors 
  • Counsellors or social service workers  

Why you should join the YLI Advisory Committee:

  • Contribute ideas to overcome employment barriers
  • Learn through intersectional perspectives
  • Build connections

Click the button below to learn more about this volunteer opportunity, If you have further questions, please contact us at

To apply, please email your resume and cover letter including: 

  • Reasons for wanting to become an Advisory Committee Member
  • Skills that you would like to contribute

Turn your ideas into an actionable plan. Join us today!

Apply for the YLI Advisory Committee by clicking the button below:

Take the Survey

Your voice matters! The Youth with Disabilities and Employment survey is still open for submission. 

If you are between the ages of 17 to 29 and living with a disability in Canada, share your employment story in this short survey.

Let’s shape our future workplaces together!

Thank you for your participation

About Our Logo 

It is a symbol of youthfulness and momentum. 

If we view ourselves as colours, we all start off as primary before finding ourselves and transforming into our secondary colour. The figures in the logo are moving forward, full speed ahead with their fists in the air, and ready to take on the world as a team! 

We believe our logo reflects our courage to make an impact and our commitment to grow through challenges. And these cannot be achieved without your support. Let’s shape our inclusive workplaces together! 


Meet our YLI Team!
Learn about how this project helps develop our interns as future leaders. 
Everything you need to know about the YLI
What is the YLI? What inspired us to start this research project? What are the progress & next steps? 
Learn about the YLI project in this 5-minute video.

Meet Our Team

headshot of Alice Pan

Alice Pan

Having completed a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Marketing and gaining work experience in the import/export industry, Alice is applying her diverse skills to her role as a Youth Leadership Initiative Coordinator at the Disability Foundation. As a compassionate and reliable person with a disability, she is committed to serve the youth community and promote diversity, inclusion and accessibility. Curious by nature, Alice enjoys travelling and learning about different cultures and history. By discovering the uniqueness of each destination, she is able to broaden her horizons and understand that “there’s no one way to live life”. 


Serena Bains posing in her graduation gown.

Serena Bains 

Serena is a Youth Leadership Initiative Coordinator with the Disability Foundation and a fourth-year Health Sciences student at SFU in the Population and Quantitative sciences stream. She is passionate about disability justice and supporting marginalized communities to receive the resources and rights they deserve. Serena’s interests include politics, painting and playing softball. She is excited to work with the Disability Foundation to further the vision of empowering and inspiring people with physical disabilities to re-imagine what is possible. 


Max Muratov outside smiling.

Max Muratov 

Max is the Head Researcher of the Youth Leadership Initiative, and he is also a graduate student from SFU in the political science program. Max’s interests include, soccer, reading, and movies. This project is a great opportunity to apply the research skills that he learned in university, and it is an opportunity to make a valuable contribution. Overall, he is excited to be working alongside such a diverse and talented team. 


Joshua Cabecinha-Alati  

Josh is our newest Youth Leadership Initiative Coordinator with the Disability Foundation. As a graduate from the University of Toronto with a double major in Political Science and Disability Studies, he has worked to support at risk youth and community members, previously working in the political sector. In his free time Josh enjoys reading, family time and practicing Muay Thai and boxing. Passionate about disability equity and social rights activism, Josh is looking forward to working in tandem with the Disability Foundation and YLI team to support and provide engaging opportunities for people with disabilities in Canada.


Our Stories

After completing the Royal Roads University’s Leadership Foundations program, the YLI interns and their peer mentors are excited to share their experiences and knowledge learned from the training.

Over the coming months, we’ll be releasing Part 2 of the video series and stories from our peer mentees, Max, Serena, and Alice, and peer mentors, Eric and Jordan. Stay tuned!