Event encourages students with disabilities to explore post-secondary options

A recent Brock event aimed to help high school students with disabilities from across Ontario build confidence in choosing their future path.

On Tuesday, May 11 and Wednesday, May 12, more than 50 students were virtually welcomed to Brock’s second Ability Empowerment Days. The event introduced students to a range of opportunities in Brock’s academic programs and services, and equipped them with transferable skills they can use regardless of their future direction.

Founded in 2019 by students in Brock’s Master of Arts in Social Justice and Equity Studies (SJES) program, Ability Empowerment Days is now run by a committee of representatives from throughout the University.

Activities over the two-day initiative showcased many different aspects of life at the University and beyond, said Holly Bihun, the event’s co-lead.

“Ability Empowerment Days gave students a chance to learn about Brock’s many post-secondary programs, as well as the University’s commitment to experiential learning,” said the third-year Medical Sciences student. “There were sessions focused on services available to support students, and sessions that helped them to develop advocacy skills related to post-secondary education.”

With more than a dozen Brock units facilitating programming at the event, students were able to zero in on areas that interested them most, Bihun said.

“I think it’s important that high school students with disabilities discover early what works for them in terms of post-secondary studies,” she said. “We want them to know they will not be limited at Brock and that they have choices and opportunities as well as access to services that can be used effectively.”

In addition to giving students an idea of what it would be like to take part in classes at Brock, the event helped faculty members and other presenters to incorporate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles into their sessions. This meant offering presentation materials to learners in a variety of formats as well as providing the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in several different ways.

“I think the community as a whole can learn more effectively through prioritizing inclusive and flexible teaching,” Bihun said. “We better all learners’ experiences and understanding when every individual can access the material in a way that is best suited for them.”

Ability Empowerment Days, she said, serve as an annual reminder of Brock’s commitment to being a welcoming and inclusive place.

“The Brock community came together to create an event that promotes the University and the values it stands for, while welcoming students from throughout the province,” she said. “It’s one more way to show where we are heading and how we strive to be inclusive in everything we do here.”

Along with organization from the planning committee and facilitation from partners across campus, the event was sponsored by Student Accessibility Services, Human Rights and Equity, the Social Justice Research Institute, Anti-Ableism and Mental Health Working Group, the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation and Faculty of Graduate Studies.

To learn more about all of the activities that took place, visit the Ability Empowerment Days web page.

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