Whether a student has a learning disability, mental health disorder or a physical, hearing or vision disability, Brock University offers supports and accommodations that remove barriers and promote a culture of inclusivity.
National AccessAbility Week, from Sunday, May 30 to Saturday, June 5, celebrates the valuable contributions of Canadians with disabilities and recognizes the efforts of individuals, communities and organizations to eliminate barriers to accessibility and inclusion.
One way in which Brock University is eliminating barriers is through the many support services offered through Student Accessibility Services (SAS). The department works in collaboration with campus stakeholders, such as Human Rights and Equity, the Brock Library and the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI), to ensure Brock continues to offer a welcoming and inclusive environment that fosters independence in students with accessibility needs.
SAS services and resources include:
- Scheduled and drop-in online and phone appointments with case managers, learning strategists and assistive technologists (with plans to offer both in-person and online support in the fall).
- Classroom accommodations, such as providing sign language interpreters and helping students access lecture information and materials.
- An exam centre and quiet room.
- Computer labs with workstations equipped with accessibility features and specialized software.
- Alternative texts in digital format, large print and braille.
At Brock, the most common functional impact on students’ learning is mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression. Students experiencing mental health concerns may require more time to complete their work, alternative assignments or assistance with the steps in completing tasks.
Over the past year, students have also had to become accustomed to a form of learning that was new to many of them when they transitioned to an online learning environment due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
To help students adjust, SAS created an askSAS podcast and offered several workshops led by learning strategists.
In a recent survey of students who accessed SAS services during 2020-21, students reported they felt SAS virtual services were as good as or better than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The feedback validated that we continued to deliver high-quality support while ensuring our services were easy to access in an online context,” said Sarah Pennisi, Director of Brock’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre.
The University is also sharing this expertise with the local community and partners further afield.
Last month, Brock hosted its second Ability Empowerment Days, which introduced more than 50 high school students with disabilities from across Ontario to the support services available to them. Sessions also helped them develop advocacy skills related to post-secondary education. Presenters incorporated universal design for learning (UDL) principles into their sessions, which meant offering presentation materials to learners in a variety of formats.
Pennisi said SAS is leading collaboration with instructors, students and CPI to be transparent about the connections between UDL approaches and accessible learning for all students, not only those with disabilities. Examples of UDL strategies include offering shorter tests in longer time periods, delivering material online to allow students to answer questions with word processors or digital recording devices, and providing students with the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in several different ways.
“Access to education is an important social determinant of health. We take very seriously Brock’s commitment to demonstrating a caring student-centred campus,” Pennisi said.
Students who have questions or require accommodation are encouraged to visit the SAS website or call 905-688-5550 x3240 Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Students who are not yet registered with SAS can email the transitions co-ordinator at email@example.com
Additional information on Brock University’s accessibility and inclusion initiatives, including accessibility plans and policies, is available on the Human Rights and Equity website.