Supporting access to learning opportunities for students with disabilities
June 3, 2021 Gatineau, Quebec Employment and Social Development Canada
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s young people—particularly young Canadians with disabilities—have been among the most affected. During National AccessAbility Week, it is important to recognize the many contributions that Canadians with disabilities have made and continue to make in our communities, and to ensure that they have the tools they need to succeed now and into the future.
Today, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, announced $240,000 in funding to the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) for the Virtual Access for All program.
This program is a two-year project that will support students with disabilities so that they can successfully navigate the transition to post-secondary education. With this funding, NEADS will offer virtual mentoring and webinars on various topics related to accessibility, as well as expand their National Student Awards Program, which provides scholarship awards to post-secondary students with disabilities.
Students with disabilities often face systemic barriers to education, which make it more challenging for them to complete their studies and may cause them to graduate with more debt. Projects like this play an important role in ensuring students with disabilities can successfully complete their studies and be a part of an inclusive economic recovery for all Canadians.
This project adds to the investment made in Budget 2021 to support students with disabilities. This includes the extension of disability supports under the Canada Student Loans Program to recipients whose disabilities are persistent or prolonged, but not necessarily permanent.
The change will benefit an estimated 40,000 recipients with non-permanent disabilities each year through access to up to $30,000 in grants, in-study supports such as assistive services and equipment, and specialized repayment assistance on their loans.
Removing barriers to accessibility and inclusion gives Canadians with disabilities the opportunity to participate more fully in our communities, helping our economy prosper so that all Canadians benefit.
“Post-secondary education is an incredible opportunity that all Canadians deserve the chance to pursue. That is why it is so important that we reduce the barriers for young Canadians with disabilities as they make that transition. Our government is proud to partner with organizations such as NEADS, which ensure that students with disabilities can access the supports they need to complete their post-secondary studies. We are all equal partners in Canada’s economic recovery, and when every Canadian has a fair chance at success, we all benefit.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough
“We would like to thank Minister Qualtrough and Employment and Social Development Canada for supporting this important two-year project. The board and staff of the National Educational Association of Disabled Students are excited to help disabled students in transition to college and university studies and in the critical early stage of their post-secondary journey. A doubling of up-front grants in the Canada Student Loans Program for disabled students this year and last and significant increases in funding and the duration of the Canada Summer Jobs Program also prove the Government of Canada is committed to accessible and affordable education and career-related employment experiences for students and graduates with disabilities.”
– Margaret Lyons-MacFarlane, Chair and New Brunswick Director, NEADS
The Government of Canada supports students in their academic careers through a variety of supports. This includes the Canada Education Savings Program, the Canada Student Loans Program and the Supports for Student Learning Program. In addition, the Government has a number of programs targeted at persons with disabilities to help them manage the costs of completing their post-secondary studies:
- Students with a permanent disability who demonstrate financial need receive the Canada Student Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities. The grant can be used to cover the costs of housing, tuition and books.
- Students with a permanent disability who require exceptional education-related services or equipment, such as tutors, note-takers, interpreters or technical aids, may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 through the Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities.
- Students with a permanent disability are also exempt from the fixed student contribution, which requires students to contribute up to $3,000 per year toward their education.
- The Repayment Assistance Plan for Borrowers with a Permanent Disability is available to Canada Student Loan borrowers who have a permanent disability. This plan can reduce or replace the recipient’s monthly student loan payment, depending on their financial situation, and ensures that the loan is fully paid off in 10 years.
- Students who have a severe permanent disability that prevents them from achieving sufficiently gainful employment may be eligible to have their student loans forgiven through the Severe Permanent Disability Benefit.
- As of October 1, 2020, Canada Student Loan borrowers who need to withdraw temporarily from studies for medical or parental reasons, including mental health reasons, can receive up to 18 months of interest- and payment-free leave.
Budget 2021 proposes to provide $118.4 million to conduct a two-year pilot expansion of the Supports for Student Learning Program. These funds would support national and local after-school organizations who work to ensure that vulnerable children and youth can graduate high school, and do not become further marginalized because of the pandemic.
Every year, the Canada Student Loans Program supports over 75,000 students and borrowers with permanent disabilities through enhanced grants and repayment assistance.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Office of the Honourable Carla Qualtrough
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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