Experts are setting up shop at Queen’s this week to get student feedback on the University’s academic accommodations.
Student consultations are taking place across campus between Oct. 17 and 19 as part of Queen’s external review of its academic accommodations policies and procedures. The review is conducted by four accessibility and disability experts independent from the University.
“We’re very independent from Queen’s, the four of us are at arm’s length. We’re doing everything we can to make it possible for people to be open and honest with us,” reviewer Tanya Packer said in an interview with The Journal.
Packer is an occupational therapist and professor in the School of Health Administration at Dalhousie University. She’s working alongside Nora Farrell, Patrick Case, and Jeff Preston, who all have experience in accessibility work and are familiar with the education sector.
Consultations are being held in-person in buildings across campus during multiple times with sessions separated by faculty. Students who prefer not to provide in-person feedback can complete an online survey or organize an individual virtual meeting with a reviewer.
“We’re into that phase now of let’s try and open up as many ways for people to talk to us as possible, as many modes of communication as possible. The more we can get, the better our reports are going to be when it comes time to start putting pen to paper,” Preston said in an interview with The Journal.
Leading into the in-person consultations, Preston reported the survey has received approximately 80 responses so far.
The review defines disability broadly, addressing students with individual needs associated with physical and mental health. The review doesn’t include academic accommodations on religious grounds.
“There are more and more students in university with disabilities. As an academe, [we] have to respond, and make sure those students can succeed,” Packer said.
During their time in Kingston, the review team will tour Queen’s campus. True accessibility extends beyond brick-and-mortar buildings, Preston explained. Elevators and ramps are only a first step to ensuring everyone can access teaching and learning at Queen’s.
“Physical accessibility often goes much further than what your average person will consider when they think about physical accessibility,” Preston added.
Both Preston and Packer told The Journal feedback they’ve encountered in the review up until this point reflects deficits in the system across Canadian universities. Both reviewers agree the review at Queen’s has the potential to create new ideas which could improve academic accommodations beyond Queen’s.
“I can say that the four of us—the four reviewers—have a personal stake in this professional state, obviously,” Preston said. “But all of us are deeply committed to the mission of an inclusive academia.”
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