Healthy And Productive Paid work for Youth with disabilities (HAPPY)

Healthy and Productive Paid Work for youth with disabilities logo

HAPPY is the latest project from the TRAIL lab, focused on enhancing inclusive employment for youth with disabilities. Dr. Sally Lindsay, senior scientist at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (Holland Bloorview) is leading the team in developing evidence-informed, gender-responsive solutions on disability disclosure and workplace accommodations.

This five-year project brings together an interdisciplinary team of researchers, employers, clinicians and youth with disabilities to develop, implement and evaluate evidence-informed and gender-responsive solutions to enhance healthy and inclusive labour force participation of youth with disabilities.

Funding for this project is provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Partnership Grant. Matched funding is provided by the Kimel Family Opportunities Fund through the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation.

Why focus on disability disclosure and workplace accommodations?

Little is known about the experiences of disability disclosure and workplace accommodations among young people with disabilities who attempt to enter and remain in the workforce. Understanding how disclosure and accommodations are facilitated in the workplace is critical to creating more inclusive and productive workplaces:

  • Self-disclosure of a disability is a prerequisite of receiving accommodations.1,2,3, However, many young people with disabilities are often poorly prepared to disclose their condition and to advocate for accommodations.4, 2
  • Accommodations can extend working life and enhance physical and psychological health and can often be provided at little or no cost 5,6
  • Workplace accommodations are supported by human rights and accessibility legislation 7 and place a duty on employers to provide reasonable accommodations 8
  • Although accommodations have the potential to improve work participation they are under-utilized with less than 1 in 5 people with a disability receiving accommodations.9,10
  • Despite the high prevalence of working-age Canadians with a disability, less than 30% of companies have disability-specific policies and only 18% of companies offer disability training programs.11

Project goals

This project aims to identify effective disclosure strategies and workplace accommodation processes, to improve quality of life and job performance for youth with disabilities.

  • The project team is developing toolkits and simulations for youth, clinicians, and employers, to support conversations around disability disclosure and to facilitate accommodation processes.
  • Toolkits are being co-created with participants from each of these groups, to ensure that they are reflective of the lived realities of youth with disabilities, and are tailored to the organizational contexts in which employers and clinicians work.
  • Simulations will also be co-created with these groups, and will demonstrate effective ways to have conversations around disability disclosure and workplace accommodations.

In addition, a gender lens will be applied in developing these tools in order to address gender-related barriers and facilitators to inclusive employment.

Thank you to our funders

Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada log

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Matched funding provided by the Kimel Family Opportunities Fund through the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation.


Thank you to our partners


Phase one


  • To explore how young men and women with disabilities disclose their condition and ask for accommodation
  • To understand how employers provide accommodations and/or need help with providing accommodations to youth with disabilities
  • To understand how gender influences how youth with disabilities ask for workplace accommodations and how employers provide accommodations


In the first phase of our project, we undertook a systematic review of workplace disability disclosure and requests for accommodations among youth with disabilities. The goal of this review was to explore the barriers and facilitators to disability disclosure and workplace accommodation requests for youth with disabilities. We also explored how and when youth disclose their condition when seeking or maintaining employment.

In this phase we also talked to youth with disabilities and employers who hire youth with disabilities to understand their perspectives around disability disclosure, inclusion, and workplace accommodations.

Through these interviews, we explored how young people with disabilities disclose their condition and ask for workplace accommodations, how employers provide accommodation and create an inclusive environment, and the concept of disability confidence, which refers to the knowledge and understanding of how to work effectively with, and include people with disabilities.

Phase two


  • Develop evidence on disability disclosure and workplace accommodations
  • Implement and evaluate evidence-informed, gender-responsive solutions
  • Build capacity for measuring and demonstrating broader health and socio-economic impacts of these interventions
  • Expand evidence base and research capacity on the integration of sex and gender-based analysis with respect to healthy and productive work
  • Enhance inter-disciplinary partnerships through research alliance


In this current phase, we are engaging in knowledge translation activities to share findings from phase one. We are also working with clinicians, employers, researchers, youth with disabilities, and other stakeholders to develop toolkits including simulations to enhance inclusive employment for youth with disabilities.

Where are we now?

We are currently in the second phase of our five-year project.


Our team

Project Director
Dr. Sally Lindsay

Dr. Angela Colantonio
Dr. Jennifer Stinson
Dr. Sandra Moll
Dr. Joanne Leck
Dr. Brent Lyons
Dr. Winny Shen

Dr. Nicole Thomson
Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai
Donna Barker
Tina Sarkar-Thomson
Donna Chisholm-Cross
Nadine Sunarich
Gabriella Carafa
Zenee Maceda

Project Management Staff
Hiba Ahmed, Research Assistant
Kavitha Thiyagarajah, Research Coordinator

Postdoctoral Fellows and Students
Dr. Azar Varahra, Postdoctoral Fellow
Vanessa Tomas, PhD student
Abby Vijaykumar, MSc student
Sara Hanafy, PhD student





1. Lindsay S. Discrimination and other barriers to employment for teens and young adults with disabilities. Disabil Rehabil. 2011;33:1340–1350.

2. Bruyere S, Ericson W, Van Looys J. Comparative study of workplace policy and practices contributing to disability non-discrimination. Rehabil Psychol. 2004;49:28–38.

3. Munir F, Leka S, Griffiths A. Dealing with self-management of chronic illness at work: predictors for self-disclosure. Soc Sci Med. 2005;60:1397–1407.

4. Brown K, Hamner D, Foley S, et al. Doing disability: disability formations in the search for work. Sociol Inquiry. 2009;79:3–24.

5. Brohan E, Henderson C, Wheat K, et al. Systematic review of beliefs, behaviours and influencing factors associated with disclosure of a mental health problem in the workplace. BMC Psychiatry. 2012;12:1–14.

6. Dong S, Oire S, MacDonald-Wilson K, et al. A comparison of perceptions of factors in the job accommodation process among employees with disabilities, employers and service providers. Rehabil Counsel Bull. 2012;56:182–189.

7. Sanford J, Milchus K. Evidence-based practice in workplace accommodations. Work. 2003;27:329–332.

8. Davis L. Disabilities in the workplace: recruitment, accommodation, and retention. AAOHN J. 2005;53:306–312.

9. Bruyere SM, Erickson WA, VanLooy S. Comparative study of workplace policy and practices contributing to disability nondiscrimination. Rehabil Psychol. 2004;49:28.

10. Leeuwen MT, Blyth FM, March LM, et al. Chronic pain and reduced work effectiveness: the hidden cost to Australian employers. Eur J Pain. 2006;10:161.

11. Moon N, Baker P. Assessing stakeholder perceptions of workplace accommodation barriers: results from a policy research instrument. J Disabil Policy Stud. 2012;23:94–109.

Webinar Series 

Our inclusive employment webinar series launched in April 2019.
See a list of the upcoming and past webinars:

Topic Presenter(s)Date 
Building a disability disclosure simulation as an educational tool for employers.
Dr. Sally LindsayJune 23, 2020

Understanding & Evaluating Services to Youth with Developmental Disability.

Dr. Michael Wolf-Branigin, M.S.W., Ph.D., PStat®, Professor of Social Work at George Mason UniversityApril 22, 2020
Job characteristics and job retention of young workers with disabilities.Dr. Carrie Shandra, Associate Professor, Sociology, Stony Brook UniversityMarch 31, 2020

What are the training needs of managers that wish to hire employees with disabilities?

Valérie Martin, M. Sc, Ph. D.  Candidate, University of Montreal March 10, 2020
How do we measure inclusion at the workplace? A systematic review using the COSMIN methodology.Dr. Mana Rezai, DC MHSc, Post-Doctoral Fellow, TRAIL LabJanuary 29, 2020
Disability disclosure research. Dr. Brent Lyons, Assistant Professor; York Research Chair in Stigmatization and Social IdentityDecember 5, 2019
CNIB Employment data.Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai, Head of Research and Chief Accessibility Officer at the CNIBNovember 20, 2019
Gender sensitive review.Dr. Sally Lindsay, Dr. Mana Rezai, Dr. Kendall KolneOctober 3, 2019
Disclosing disability and asking for accommodations: A lived experience perspective.Emily Chan, Zak Priest, Polina KosarevaAugust 22, 2019
Addressing the employment goals of young adults with psychiatric disabilities.Dr. Elizabeth Thomas, Research Assistant Professor, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Temple University July 9, 2019
Action Potential: The future of work and disabilityJamie Burton, VP of Dolphin Digital Technologies Inc.June 12, 2019
Gender and employment among youth with disabilities. Dr. Sally Lindsay, Elaine CagliostroMay 22, 2019
Inclusion, disability disclosure and accommodations: Employers' perspectives.Dr. Sally Lindsay, Elaine CagliostroApril 25, 2019
Workplace disability disclosure and accommodations for youth with disabilities.Dr. Sally Lindsay, Elaine CagliostroApril 16, 2019

If you are interested in participating or co-hosting a webinar with us, please contact us


Get involved!

  • Are you a researcher interested in collaborating with your peers? Join REINVENT, our Research Alliance for Inclusive Youth Employment.
  • Want to join the TRAIL Lab as a student? Click here to find out about current opportunities.
  • Interested in participating in our research? See below for all HAPPY studies we are currently recruiting for: