Accessibility Shmaccessibility

If you’re going to the University of Winnipeg, and you have a disability, things are about to get really hard really fast. Because they had a 20% increase in folks with disabilities enrolling, they decided to be boneheads and cut services with no regard for the students who need them. Services including notetaking and extra time for exams just went bye-bye.

I think this is disgusting. If students signed up with the understanding that those services were available, you can’t just rip them out from under them. People don’t get these services because they’re lazy or like having them, they get them because they *need* them. They level the playing field. Without them, the students aren’t getting a fair shot. You don’t know if the reason they failed the course is because they don’t have what it takes, or they didn’t have access to the same materials as their peers. Trust me, having access to disability services is not equivalent to having grades handed to you on a silver platter, and people need to stop thinking like that. I think part of the reason folks think the cuts are acceptable is because of this attitude.

Allow me to rant for a second. I used to always here things like “Gee, I wish I could sit back and listen to a textbook instead of reading it. You have it so good.” Oh yeah? Try spelling acetylcholine when you’ve never seen the damn word. Try understanding graphs when the person reading it doesn’t understand them, and is trying their level best to interpret them, but is failing. I used to always get the comment “I wish I could have longer to do my exams.” The reason I get longer is not so I can sit there and stare off into the sky and daydream. With highly visual material, I need every minute of that time to be able to process the data in the way that works for me. People say things like “How lucky you are, someone takes your notes for you.” For the people who need them, they aren’t lucky. If they get a sloppy notetaker, that’s all they get for their notes. I took notes myself because for the most part I could, but some people have poor dexterity in their hands and can’t keep up. So, they either try desperately just to write as fast as they can and lose the surrounding context of the notes they’re taking, the whole reason for being in lecture, or they get notetakers to get down the details, allowing them to be able to focus on what the professor is saying. These things aren’t luxuries, they are necessities, and to just flippantly cut them off speaks to a complete lack of understanding of what accessibility is.

I love how the vice-president says the cuts are only temporary. Tell that to the students who fail because they don’t have the supports they need. Are you going to pay for their second attempt at these courses? No? Didn’t think so. Temporary cuts can cause permanent consequences.

If this was an Ontario university, I would say take them to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. But I’m sure Manitoba has a similar commission. Also, I would network with NEADS (National Educational¬†
Association of Disabled Students) through their discussion list to see if you can get some ideas on how to deal with this. Two things you should not do are sit back and do nothing, and think you are alone. You are not. Make your voice heard and take control of your education. Let the university know this is not acceptable.

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