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UWindsor President Hopes Pandemic Experience Leads to Better Accessibility for Learners

Advocate says university can take action to make life easier for students with disabilities CBC News, Posted: Jan 26, 2022

During the annual state of the university address, University of Windsor president Robert Gordon touched on how learning could develop after the pandemic, saying the institution should listen to student concerns regarding increasing accessibility to learning.

“I’m truly hoping that the positive lessons that we’ve learned, how we’ve been able to kind of work through these really daunting challenges over the past 20 months, will build into how we as a university become a true leader in supporting student experience and allowing all of our students to thrive within their academic programs as well,” he said on Wednesday.

Gordon’s speech covered a number of topics, including the university’s plan to develop a strategy to attract international students, and the summer opening of the Lancer Centre, which will host athletic events and future convocations.

With most University of Windsor courses returning to face-to-face learning next week, Gordon said the school is prepared to welcome students, staff and faculty back.

Gordon said the university has “developed a robust set of health and safety protocols aimed at ensuring the safest return possible.”

Harry Meiteen, a law student and president of the university’s Disability Student Law Society, said it’s important for university administration to “take a step back and to listen, not to co-ordinate policy without input.”

“We want the lived experience of students with disability to really be at the forefront,” he told CBC News. “I think it’s really about listening, and looking at the issues as a whole.”

Meiteen said some existing policies need to be updated. For example, he said, there’s currently a policy allowing students who lack fine motor skills, or have a visual impairment, to get help from scribes who can assist with tasks like typing.

“In the normal course, you would be able to go to accessibility services and have a scribe to write out what you’re saying during your exams,” Meiteen said. “Because of COVID, that policy doesn’t really exist, according to student accessibility services, because how can you get a scribe there?”

“We live in a society where dictation software exists,” Meiteen said, adding it’s also “very possible” to set up a scribe in a video call.

“It’s just taking a step back and examining policies that were slightly old, and maybe tweaking them for 21st century adjustments.”

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