Accessibility on the College of Ottawa is a 12 months-round Expertise | Gazette

On the occasion of National Accessibility Week, the Gazette spoke with Marie-Claude Gagnon, Senior Director of Accessibility Policy at the Office of Human Rights. We took the opportunity to demystify the concept of accessibility and learn more about the standards that are being adopted at the higher level.

The Office of Human Rights ensures that persons with disabilities truly enjoy free and unrestricted access to the University’s goods, services, facilities, accommodation, communications, events, jobs and public spaces. The Office develops policies, practices and procedures to ensure compliance with the AODA, provides information and advice to prevent incidents, and manages the uOAccessible Advisory Committee.

What is accessibility for people with disabilities?

Accessibility is a human right, which allows all people with disabilities to have access to the same rights, goods, services, facilities, housing, communications, events, jobs, public spaces and information as others. , regardless of their shortcomings.

For the University, it is about contributing to the creation of a learning, living and working environment where everyone can find their place, feel included and flourish.

What influence can the University have on the accessibility of our society?

Unrestricted access to bilingual post-secondary education offers a range of economic, cultural and social opportunities for people with disabilities and their families. This access also makes it possible to increase the pool of candidates and the diversity of talent available to industries here and abroad. An accessible university promotes openness, knowledge enrichment and representativeness in research, which contributes to the development of innovative ideas and the adoption of inclusive practices almost everywhere.

What are the accessibility challenges in universities?

Due to their complex funding structure, the plurality of learning options and locations and the specificity of their educational mission, universities sometimes have difficulties in interpreting and applying accessibility standards.

What are the next paths to be observed?

New accessibility standards for post-secondary education are in the process of being adopted in Ontario. These standards will clarify the interpretation and application of existing standards in an educational context. They will allow to cultivate interdepartmental synergy and promote collaboration between departments and educational institutions. Better synergy will make it easier for members of the student population with disabilities to find the services they need along their learning journey, decompartmentalizing services to avoid disruptions. The proposed recommendations also include measures to encourage post-secondary institutions to adopt proactive and transparent working methods and to make informed decisions about accessibility and accommodation measures.

Can you give us examples of these new patterns?
  • Essential academic requirements for all programs and courses are published and all assessments are made against these requirements.
  • The tools used for assessments are in the lesson plans.
  • Students have time to familiarize themselves with digital accessibility tools before using them in their learning.
  • During the seminars, symposia, colloquiums and congresses that form part of the study programmes, adaptation measures are implemented.
  • Funding programs include provisions for graduate students with disabilities.
  • A common fund for conference accessibility
  • Funding accessibility support measures (interpretation service, assistants, etc.) allows students with disabilities to invest in leadership positions in governing bodies and in extracurricular activities on campus.
Who can help make our university more accessible?

All of our actions, choices and behaviors have a direct impact on accessibility at the University of Ottawa. As Joe Gerstandt says, “If you don’t intentionally, deliberately and proactively include, you will unintentionally exclude.”

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What percentage of your budget is set aside for accessibility?
  • Do you consider accessibility in your purchases? Your communications?
  • How do you assess the impact of your decisions on people with disabilities?
  • How are people with disabilities included in your consultations? Your research? Your courses? Your procedures? Your project plans?
  • Are your employees and volunteers aware of their legal responsibilities regarding accessibility? Do you know how to identify, prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities in your programs and services?

If you don’t have the answer, the Human Rights Office can guide you in your thinking.

In addition, the Bureau is seeking a new staff representative (ideally a faculty member) living with a disability to join the uOaccessible Advisory Committee. Does that interest you? Send us your CV and cover letter.

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