As the Brock community continues to celebrate Pride Month, the University’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre (SWAC) is taking steps to make its services more inclusive.
Thanks to participation from Brock students over the past 18 months in a survey and focus groups led by counsellor Dawn Shickluna, the SWAC team is aiming to better serve members of the University’s two-spirit, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (2S&LGBTQ+) communities.
While the majority of the 71 2S&LGBTQ+ participants surveyed said their health-care needs were taken care of and respected, and that they felt at least somewhat comfortable disclosing and discussing sexual orientation and gender identity, obstacles were still identified.
Shickluna said a main focus since reviewing the results of the survey has been ensuring members of the SWAC team receive appropriate training that encompassed understanding of lived experiences and unique medical and other needs.
“Students expressed feeling unsure if SWAC was a place where providers would be knowledgeable and non-judgmental, and if it would be safe,” she said. “Our team has engaged in additional training on cultural humility as well as LGBTQ+ primary health care.”
While Shickluna said SWAC has always strived to be a welcoming place for everyone, she learned from the survey that additional efforts could go a long way in sharing that message.
“We want to communicate that our spaces are safe and have added additional signage and messaging in physical spaces and through social media,” she said. “We have committed to a demonstration and awareness of the needs of all of our students, including students from the 2S&LGBTQ+ communities.”
Shickluna said many Brock students assisted with various portions of the project, including Jessica Liem and Harroop Ahuja from Brock’s Interprofessional Education for Quality Improvement Program (I-EQUIP), who worked on the project from beginning to end, and Sociology student Kelyn Best, who contributed to revisions of the survey questions.
Working alongside and receiving feedback from the students they serve is something Shickluna said is at the centre of the way SWAC aims to care for anyone they interact with.
“We have a diverse population with diverse and unique needs, and the students can best tell us what those needs are,” she said.
Along with making changes, Shickluna said the SWAC team was also excited to hear about the areas where they had already been succeeding.
“We received a lot of great anecdotal responses where students felt very supported by our staff,” she said. “We are excited to work to continue that support and increase our resources internally while also connecting students to appropriate external resources.”
The SWAC team continues to examine and implement the survey’s findings and are committed to seeking input from those it impacts most.
“We have created a working group, which includes student representation,” said Shickluna. “It’s important to have further student representation as we implement more suggestions from the survey’s findings.”
SWAC welcomes ongoing feedback and dialogue. Any students who would like to contribute their thoughts on how to make SWAC more inclusive are invited to use the feedback forms on the SWAC websites for Personal Counselling, Student Health Services and the Student Accessibility Centre.