Know Your Rights: accessibility and accommodations at Trent

Bridging the gap between Trent’s Peterborough and Durham campuses, CHREA (the Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility) and SAS (Student Accessibility Services) put on an event on November 9th for Trent students to learn about their rights and how to support a person with a disability on campus. TCSA Students with Disabilities Commissioner Andrew Clark was also present at the event. Streaming live from the Collaborative Space in Bata Library Room 201, students in Durham were able to listen in to the presentation so that they could be informed on the resources Trent University provides for its students.

Speaking to his goals as an equity commissioner this year, Andrew Clark highlighted some of the inaccessible spaces on campus such as the Champlain residences. While also trying to combat the issues with accessibility on campus Clark also highlighted the nuances of visible and invisible disabilities, and discussed starting a poster campaign to de-stigmatize disabilities.

Presenters Daniel Shaw and Andrea Walsh from CHREA began took a look at the legislation that protects students’ rights. Reviewed was the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), established in 2005 with a goal of making Ontario completely accessible by 2025. The Ontario Human Rights Code was also examined to explain the responsibilities of institutions to provide students with disabilities things like “accommodations to the point of undue hardship.”

The Student Wellness Centre, which houses the Student Accessibility services, provided information for Trent students on both the Peterborough and Durham campuses. They informed those present at the event that new and first year students can register prior to starting their classes and that they will be paired with an advisor to help them navigate the resources available to them. Statistics were provided as well to show why students at Trent were seeking help from the Trent Counseling Centre. Conducted during the academic school year of 2010-2011, research showed 27% of students seeking help for “anxiety and stress,” with 18% suffering “depression/grief.” Other health services were also highlighted in the presentation such as birth control and emergency contraception, STI testing, information, treatment, and follow-up, as well as HIV/AIDS counseling and testing. Ensuring that students were aware of all the supports available to them, the presenters also discussed Academic Skills and provided a list of services that department provides.

A Trent student by the name of Adam Grearson presented the study he conducted through the Trent Community Research Centre which focused on mental health at Trent. Surveying 208 students online, Grearson was able to cover various questions such as “demographics, transitioning, stigma and help-seeking, emotional states and mental health services.” The majority of the students responding to the survey were “younger than 25 years of age, female, Caucasian and did not have a disability.” The study found that nearly half of the students participating experienced stigma, an astounding 56% of those who responded needed help at some point in their studies but did not access it. Only 17% of students shared their mental health issues with a professor while 19% shared an issue with some administrative staff. The statistic that appeared to be the most troubling, and the one that CHREA wanted highlighted, was the fact that a disheartening 11% of students were unaware that there were any on-campus mental health services available to them.

The final slide of the presentation read:

  • Students with Disabilities can achieve academic and social success with the right supports put in place.
  • The supports offered by Trent University such as Student Accessibility Services, Counseling Services, Health

Services, and Academic Skill Centre, create an inclusive environment for Students with Disabilities to succeed.

  • These services assist students with disabilities with transitioning from high school to post-secondary education.

One could argue that student accessibility is one of the most important issues Trent is facing. Unfortunately, the turnout on both the Peterborough and Durham Trent campuses was small. This could be a result of students just not knowing that resources are available to them, or the feeling that it does not apply to them. CHREA, SAS and the Student Wellness Centre hope that events like these will raise awareness for Trent students. With Initiatives like the Friendship Bench, planned by the TCSA President Alaine Spiwak, and the efforts of TCSA Students with Disabilities Commissioner Andrew Clark, awareness will hopefully increase.