Tomorrow, December 3, is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The annual observance aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
- IDPD events taking place December 3 (United Nations)
- Upcoming Accessibility Services Canada free webinars in January and February 2022
In honour of the observance, several members of the SLC community shared their insight into offering support to persons with disabilities in the spirit of awareness and Belonging:
Jodie Petel Macquisten, Program Liaison, Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE)
Karen Ducharme, Coordinator, Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE) and Professor, College Prep and CICE
Mary Ann Lyons, Learning Specialist, Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE) Program
Michael Cooke, VP, Student Affairs
Kathy Doering, Spiritual Care Facilitator
What does International Day of Persons with Disabilities mean to you?
Jodie: Recognition of the struggles persons with disabilities encounter and a way to help make these individuals feel part of the community.
Karen: This day is a time to reflect and to continue to be open to learning about accessibility and inclusion and how to use this learning to be a better ally and advocate for persons with disabilities.
Mary Ann: A day to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities and recognize and acknowledge the challenges they face, realizing that these disabilities may not be visible, and realizing also that we all have disabilities of one kind or another. This day should remind us that the things highlighted on this day in particular are ongoing every day.
Kathy: A great chance to destigmatize and raise awareness, as well as advertise supports.
How does your role offer support persons with disabilities?
Jodie: I am the CICE team lead for the Brockville campus, Learning Specialists as well as the Placement Liaison. I am responsible for coordination of the CICE program, managing program documents, shared files, communication with staff, students, families/ community agencies, triage and troubleshoot whenever needed.
Karen: As a teacher, one way that I offer support for students with disabilities is to use principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that provide me with the framework to focus on my instructional strategies and course design to ensure that I am creating an inclusive learning experience. As a coordinator, my goal is to foster positive and equitable student experiences in the program that are supportive, inclusive, and sustainable.
Mary Ann: In CICE, our students all have disabilities. We offer support by advocating for their inclusion in the College; creating pathways for recognition and achievement for them; helping them navigate through their classes by taking notes, conducting tutorials, and assisting with the completion of assignments; and encouraging and facilitating empowerment, self-advocacy, and independence.
Michael: My portfolio includes the College's SWA team as well as many other roles that define and support the student experience. I have a huge responsibility to ensure that the College has a vision and a commitment to include all and has the right polices and provides the appropriate resources to make good on that vision and commitment.
Kathy: My role can offer support and encouragement for any students navigating challenges relating to a disability.
How does your work support the College’s values?
Jodie: I do my best to provide a welcoming inclusive environment for all students especially individuals who have been marginalized in the past to have the opportunity for post-secondary education and to develop vocational skills for the workforce. I have a "Students First" philosophy with a collaborative team approach in order to meet the needs of our students.
Karen: I believe my role as a teacher is to create a learning experience where all students feel supported. One way this can be done is by providing students with choice in learning: multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression, and multiple means of engagement. These Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles not only provide several pathways for students to feel empowered, but also foster a sense of belonging.
When UDL is implemented through a lens of equity, gaps that may have the potential to exclude some learners are eliminated. When thinking about how to deliver content, how to interact with my students, and how I will create an assessment, I need to constantly be aware and mindful of any barriers that my approach may present and strategically work to eliminate them.
Mary Ann: The work of CICE supports belonging by hosting student-run activities for all College people to participate in and by running activities for the CICE students that create and maintain relationships and a sense of belonging within the CICE group. The staff encourages students to participate in all activities, often supporting them by attending these activities with them. (I am not a huge supporter of "Students First". I much prefer "People First". Staff and faculty are just as important as students.)
Michael: Making the college's programs, services, and environments accessible to all is at the heart of our commitment to Belonging and Students First. To the degree that I am able to advocate for and support services and programs that make accessibility real, comfortable, and equitable, I am playing a key role in advancing our commitment to these values.
Kathy: It was really the value of Belonging that drove the creation of this role. My passion and purpose is to help every single student feel seen and valued, and help them find their place, both within our school and outside of it! That journey looks different for each one of us, but the goal is for every one of our students to thrive. Students are people first, and student needs drive this role and everything I do.
What is something you wish the SLC community knew about offering support to persons with disabilities?
Jodie: CICE students are individuals with disabilities and learning challenges who require curriculum modification. They want to develop skills for the workplace, experience college life, want to be treated just like any other student, want to be accepted for who they are, have historically not been able to access post-secondary education. “A CICE Student will exceed expectations when given the opportunity.” - CICE Team
Mary Ann: More understanding of invisible disabilities such as ADHD, developmental disabilities, ABI, etc.
Kathy: My role helps every single student discern where they fit and helps them find their place in the SLC family.
Michael: For those of us who have no or minimal limitations to our participation, we need opportunities to learn from and share the experiences of those who face barriers of many different kinds.
Tell us about a simple way you work to create a more inclusive, accessible campus community.
Jodie: Spreading the word and building awareness about the opportunity of the CICE program for students who have disabilities.
Karen: I work at trying to contribute to a more inclusive and accessible campus community by
- fully engaging in learning more about disabilities
- creating a safe and welcoming space
- being aware of how barriers impact students in the classroom and actively working towards removing those barriers
- engaging in active listening with my students
- advocating for students
Mary Ann: In the classes I teach, I always do a presentation on diversity (using the diversity iceberg as a visual representation) early in the semester, and give examples of marginalized groups and the challenges they might experience, as well as their potential for accomplishment and contribution. I always start the semester by highlighting the services we have for those needing support for any challenges whatsoever. I include mention of all kinds of disabilities and situations where people might benefit by accessing our services, as well as groups such as Indigenous people, recent immigrants etc. who might benefit from our understanding of their history and current situation. I try very hard to demonstrate the "normality" of disabilities (and disabling situations) and to emphasize that attitude toward disabilities (and toward anything else) makes a huge difference in fostering inclusivity and simply creating a better College community for everyone.