Accessibility for deaf students questioned
By Sabrina Carinci
Deaf students are worried about their accessibility to post secondary education, as the province will no longer completely fund those students who wish to attend American institutions for the deaf.
An annual $4.9 million budget, presently managed by the Vocational Rehabilitative Services, a service under the Ministry of Community and Social Services, will be transferred to the Ministry of Education and Training next month, said Daniele Gauvin, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Training.
Deaf students are presently funded by the VRS budget for costs incurred while attending American institutions such as tuition, travelling fees, accommodation and meals, said Chris Kenopic, president of the Ontario Association of the Deaf.
Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y. are the only two centres in North America which offer all their educational programs in sign language but efforts are being made to build a school in Canada, Kenopic said. He added it could easily take a deaf student six years to complete a three-year bachelor's degree now simply because of the lack of interpreters in Ontario.
"Deaf people should be provided with funding because we are confronted with many boundaries while attending [regular] universities," he said.
Eleven million dollars in funds are placed in Ontario universities and colleges every year to help make programs and services accessible to students with disabilities, Gauvin said, adding the $4.9 million will just be added to this.
Kenopic believes the transfer is unfair because not enough time has been given for students to prepare for it. "The impact of the fund transfer is complicated students who are already enrolled [in American institutions] may not be able to continue their studies because of the changes." He added deaf students will have to apply for a loan from the Ontario Student Assistance Program.
Judith Linton, manager of deaf services at George Brown College, said the college is designated as a centre of services for the whole Toronto area. The college provides translators, note takers and courses for the deaf as well as translator training programs.