Disabled access, funding currently unacceptable: report
By Anton Vidgen
A recently released report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission has found that many students with disabilities pursuing post-secondary education are not enjoying the same level of accessibility other students experience.
Atop the OHRC's complaint list is the complex, inadequate funding process in place within the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, said Afroze Edwards, senior communications officer in the policy and education branch of the OHRC.
"One of the main problems would be the complex process for students with disabilities to get funding," Edwards said.
Applying for additional funding, especially through the Ontario Student Assistance Program, continues to be unnecessarily difficult for students relying on such funds to continue their education, Edwards said. He added the commission was determined to look at various education providers and get a commitment from them to adequately support the needs of disabled students and inform them how to comply with the rights those with disabilities have under the human rights code.
Other issues hampering students with disabilities include a lack of affordable, accessible housing at university; physical building access and academic supports such as Braille tests and exam time extensions, Edwards noted.
Jeff Preston, Students With Disabilities commissioner for the University Students' Council, said as a disabled student, he has first-hand experience with inadequacies in the post-secondary system, especially the funding process.
"It doesn't take into consideration the extreme cost the students with disabilities experience," Preston said. "I know some individuals who are not here today because of the massive expense."
But Preston said he is pleased with how Western has addressed his needs as a disabled student. "They've really taken access as a major issue with the new buildings," he said
Third-year psychology student Christina Roest said the Student Development Centre has typically dealt with her needs promptly and in an up front way.
Preston however, said Western does not always get it right. "Western's unique problem is the current bus company," he said. "I've been left sitting at the curb, waiting for the bus, not knowing where they are."