Research

At the heart of the Autism CanTech! Project is a research project, that looks to undertstand the barriers that exist for the Autistic community to have meaningful employment, and to learn about the experiences of the employers and what supports they need to enhance inclusion and accessibility in their workplaces and employment practices. 

ACT! Research Synopsis

In 2017, 67% of Autistic adults were unemployed in Canada1. Canada’s digital economy is facing critical talent shortages. 2 The Autistic community wants to gain employment that is strength-based and meaningful, yet Autistic workers struggle with adequate training, the recruitment process and workplace communications. 3 The Autism CanTech! (ACT!) Program hopes to bridge the gap between Autistic workers and address workplace shortages. Alongside, the Research project wants to better understand: what are the current barriers to employment and what are the necessary supports for inclusive workplaces?   

The research objectives are to:

  • Learn what specifics supports are required by both Autistic workers and employers to redress employment barriers
  • Share findings with the Autistic services communities, Business approaches (both the digital economy and Equity Diversity & Inclusion initiatives) and the critical disability community
  • Advocate for evidence-backed change in employment practices

To gather information, we will use focus groups, interviews and photography with employer-partners, Autistic youth and their supports. 

We are exploring through Disability Social model lens: environment creates disability, not individual impairments. Therefore, we aim to explore what are optimum conditions to create long-term, meaningful employment for Autistic youth. In turn, the workforces have potential to become more diverse and equitable. 

Being part of the research component of ACT! is completely optional for all parties and has no impact on their standing in the program.  

Interested in being involved in the research? More information is below. Email Lead Researcher, brooke.leifso@norquest.ca.

For Autistic Program Participants:

Forms for participants that under guardianship here: 

For participant supports (parents, siblings, support workers): 

For Employers-Partners:

For ACT! Staff:

For more information on the research being conducted for the Autism CanTech! Project, please contact Lead Researcher Brooke Leifso, Research & Academic Innovation, NorQuest College Edmonton, AB:  Brooke.Leifso@norquest.ca

About the Researchers

Brooke Leifso, MA is a Disabled/Crip applied researcher based out of NorQuest College (Edmonton). She brings many levels of lived experience to the Autism CanTech! project and uses an intersectional social model approach in her work. She has lived experience of disability and disability advocacy, has facilitated support groups for parents with disabilities (Gateway Association), and adults with developmental disabilities to self-advocate and build community (Self Advocate Federation) and has worked for many years as a front-line Child and Youthcare Counsellor working with youth in government care with multiple diagnoses including Autism. In 2019, she researched and co-authored the Edmonton Performing Arts Accessibility Report, taking an intersectional approach and participant led approach to making performing arts accessible. Other publications and conference presentations include Autism CanTech! Hopeful Beginning of a Success Story (Disability and Work Conference, 2021), 

Leifso is responsible for research coordination, recruitment, data collection, data analysis, policy analysis and dissemination of findings. 

Fola Oluwasina (He/Him) is a well-motivated and creative public health professional that brings diverse skills and expertise to all aspects of his work. He has cognate experience and expertise in project designing and evaluation. He has developed and designed several evaluation tools to support research independently, both qualitative and quantitative studies, and has substantial knowledge in the planning and implementation of programs in various capacities.  

Fola is a postdoctoral fellow with NorQuest college and the lead evaluator for the Autism CanTech(ACT!) project.  In future skills research, he will work on providing a  high- provides high-quality quantitative &qualitative methods and participatory methodologies to monitor and evaluate program performance, results, and Operations Research. He will also provide information on the progress and impact of the project by establishing a critical reference point to assess the changes and impact. 

The plan for this study has been reviewed by a Research Ethics Board at the University of Alberta. If you have any questions regarding the rights of you as a research participant or how the research is being conducted you may contact the Research Ethics Office at 780.492.2615.

NorQuest College
Edmonton Campus

10230 108 St NW
Edmonton, AB T5J 4Z7
contact@autismcantech.ca
1.833.405.9919

Douglas College
New Westminster campus

700 Royal Avenue 
New Westminster, BC V3M 5Z5 
778.628.5823 

Humber College
North Campus

205 Humber College Blvd,
Toronto, ON  M9W 5L7
416.795.5561

Program information


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Treaty Acknowledgement

Amiskwac√ģw√Ęskahikan

The ACT! Program is honoured to teach and learn across many traditional and treaty lands including the unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples of the QayQayt (KuhKite) and Kwikwetlem First Nations to the West; through the treatied lands and traditional territories of the Nehiyawak, Dene, Stoney Nakoda, Nakota Sioux, Tsuutina, Annishnabe, Metis, and Inuit; all the way to the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit in the Place of the Alders along the Humber River Watershed in the East. The Autism CanTech! Team is dedicated to ensuring that Indigenous voice is centered, honoured and respected. In this spirit, we invite you to reflect on your relationship to the lands on which you are currently located, and take action for positive change in your community in this time of reconciliation.