Canada Post’s General Ability Test is ableist

The use of cognitive assessments is discriminatory practice

My neurocognitive impairment should not define how I get treated at work. Graphic Joey Bruce

I’ve had several concussions within the past decade. According to the neuropsychological evaluation I completed last year at The Montreal Neuropsychological Institute, I have a very mild neurocognitive impairment. Nothing life-changing, I actually got really lucky. Nonetheless, I do have short-term memory loss.

I recently applied to Canada Post and my application was rejected. It had initially been retained, as I have transferable work experience in completing and shipping web orders. But then, they asked me to complete a General Ability Test to evaluate my general cognitive ability and I failed it.

The reason I believe this test is ableist is because I know I absolutely have the abilities to do the job at Canada Post. A GAT is hardly a good indicator of whether a person has the relevant qualities for the job. Hands-on experience is a much better indicator of my work competency than simply being able to answer a few theoretical questions. 

The GAT is a short, sequential, five-slide test. On one slide, it tests your short term memory by showing you a paragraph with random facts about Canada Post. On the following slide, it asks you specific questions on what you just read, to see how much information you retained. The remaining slides evaluated my spatial awareness and other cognitive aptitudes. I don’t remember the specifics though because I have short-term memory loss.

What I do know is that having an intact short-term memory—while being useful—is not mandatory for one to be a good postal clerk. I worked at Concordia Book Stop, and when I would forget a customer’s order number, I would simply take a second look at the web order. 

Sure, my short term memory loss may have affected my ability to perform the job quickly, but I believe I was still one of the most efficient team members at the bookstore. How can a GAT accurately measure my potential to perform a job well when reality is not a sequential five-slide test? 

You wouldn’t even be able to tell that I have a mild cognitive impairment by looking at my work performance because it’s the type of impairment that is only noticeable through formal evaluation. Judging my ability to perform a job solely on my ability to pass a test—designed for me to fail—is hardly up to standard with their employment equity policy, which Canada Post boasts about.

How can a GAT accurately measure my potential to perform a job well when reality is not a sequential five-slide test?

“We are committed to employment equity and encourage applications from women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities and visible minorities,” says Canada Post’s website

I don’t consider myself to be disabled, so when they asked me if I was, I ticked “no.” I was unaware they were going to surprise me with a cognitive ability test. If; however, they accept applications from people with disabilities, does Canada Post ensure that these potential employees receive a fair cognitive assessment test? Or do they only accept applications from people with certain disabilities? 

Canada Post should be more transparent about the type of disabilities they accommodate—and which they do not—because without knowing the measures they take to ensure employment equity, this statement just seems performative.

If Canada Post stated they do not accept applicants with cognitive impairments, they would receive a lot of backlash from the general public. In fact, according to the Canadian Human Rights Act, it is illegal for employers to deny applicants on the basis of disability. The Act requires them to accommodate employees with disabilities. Canada Post, knowing this, likely only has the above mentioned employment equity statement on their website to protect them from potential lawsuits.  

I know this situation is partly my fault for not being more transparent about my cognitive limitations, but my doctors told me I shouldn’t experience any daily difficulties since I’m doing pretty well despite my brain damage. Canada Post’s GAT being unable to see past this is proof enough that the test is a poor indicator of one’s ability to perform the job—which is why it’s ableist.