Students new to the School of Graduate Studies are now required to take an online course on accessibility.
Developed and launched at Queen’s in 2009, the course was first made a mandatory course at McMaster University last year.
AODA 800, a non-credit course, was created after a 2008 provincial act stipulated that individuals who work in the public domain undergo mandatory accessibility training.
It’s already a mandatory requirement for all members of Queen’s that interact with the public on behalf of the university. The School of Graduate Studies asked Queen’s Senate in March to approve the course as an academic requirement for graduate students.
The Senate Committee on Academic Procedures rejected the proposal but decided that the course become a non-academic requirement instead.
“We felt that this is something that would really be valuable for our graduate students,” said Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Brenda Brouwer.
Brouwer said the School of Graduate Studies hoped making the course a requirement to graduate would ensure that students understood the barriers disabled people face.
“Queen’s certainly recognizes the values of equity and diversity,” Brouwer said.
The online course can be completed in less than two hours and there is no fee associated with it.
While Brouwer said Queen’s is committed to achieving a fully-accessible university, she added that “it would be naïve” to think that this course is enough.
“It is an important step in the right direction,” she said.
There are no plans to expand the course at this point, she said, adding that the course is online to engage the user better.
“Alternate modes of delivery would be extremely resource intensive, not to mention challenging to coordinate and schedule,” Brouwer told the Journal via email.
“Once you’ve completed according to the equity database, we’ll be able to indicate it as ‘pass’ on the transcript,” she said. “It’s meant to be an educational tool,” she said.
For graduate students who enrolled at Queen’s prior to September 2011, the course won’t be a mandatory requirement to graduate, but will be “strongly recommended.”
Brouwer said it wouldn’t be fair to add additional graduation requirements to students who are already part way through their programs.
Jeanette Parsons, disability services advisor with Health, Counseling and Disability Services was involved with the initial design of the course.
“[Queen’s] took the lead on putting in a proposal to the [the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario],” Parsons said. “We had an extraordinary group of people at Queen’s.” Parsons said the course takes what was provincially legislated to cover and puts it in a university context.
“The examples and scenarios are all based on someone being in a university environment,” Parsons said.
For many people, attitude can be the biggest hurdle when dealing with issues of accessibility, Parsons said.
The course points to things like teaching methods for students who need alternate learning formats.
“Students with disabilities were involved in advising on the creation of the content and certainly the testing,” she said.
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