When it comes to finding the best ways to accommodate marginalized students, students with special needs can often be left out of the conversation.
This past month, the Ontario government announced major changes to the education budget, improving tuition funding for mature students, and students from low-income families. But while the change also offers financial help for students with special needs, it doesn’t take their unique abilities into account.
“In college and university you have to advocate for yourself to ensure you get the supports you need,” the Ontario government website currently reads. Students are required to disclose their disability when applying for post-secondary education, putting the responsibility to receive accommodation on the student when it should be the opposite.
Further, the Ontario government website currently outlines that students with special needs are responsible for looking at the graduation requirements for the program they’re interested in and making sure they’re “able to complete these requirements.”
The onus is on the student to fit into the university’s expectations, but this should be the other way around. It shouldn’t be a matter of students coming to universities only when they can, but any student getting the education they want. Our priority should be searching for ways to accommodate each student in their own unique way according to their unique abilities.
Doing so begins with universities being held more responsible to their students with special needs and recognizing their individuality.
Once inside the classroom, the accommodations for students with special needs are often easily ignored by professors. Although accommodations do exist — like a request for note-takers — professors aren’t affected and don’t need to change the way they teach. A student may require technology to learn in the classroom, but a professor still has the right to impose a technology ban, which can alienate the only student in a classroom who needs a laptop for accommodation.
Students with special needs require more than the introduction of note takers in their lectures, or specially-formatted textbooks. University-level education should be made available for everyone, regardless of their differing abilities.
It’s time that these students are brought into the conversation and are embraced by post-secondary institutions.
Kayla is a fifth-year Computing and Creative Arts major. She is The Journal’s Production Manager.
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