Access4All - Make Education Accessible at Post-Secondary Institutions
Endorsed by the Alma Mater Society (AMS), the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), the Disabilities United Collective (DUC), the Post-Secondary Disability Alliance (PSDA), Disability Affinity Group (DAG) and more.
1. Accessible Course Formats
Promoting online, hybrid and multi-access course options
Integrating UDL into faculty curricula
Increasing technological and TA support for professors
Hosting faculty training opportunities for accessible learning formats
2. Disability-Friendly Policy
Creation of a Disability Task Force
Allowing flexible attendance
Improving the disability accommodation process for students, staff, and faculty
The 2022 CUSC-CCREU reports that 31% of Canadian first-year university students self-identified as having a disability. This figure is likely underestimated as it doesn't account for those who chose not to disclose their disability status. Despite this, many Canadian-based colleges and universities have not yet initiated concrete steps to address the barriers faced by disabled students. The Access4All campaign aims to mitigate these barriers, promote genuine equity and inclusivity, and bridge the accessibility gap in post-secondary education.
Accessible learning formats benefit a wide variety of students. For example, lecture recordings are shown to support disabled students’ learning and help to “attenuate the challenging aspects of lecture environments” (Hall & Ivaldi, 2017). Students with disabilities report preferring the greater control granted by online lectures. A systematic literature review of 71 journal articles found that students, regardless of disability status, “almost unanimously voice their support in favour of lecture capture” (Banerjee, 2021). In particular, students with English as an additional language are likely to find recorded lectures extremely valuable. Students currently struggling through the provincial housing crises would likely benefit from these accessible learning formats as well. The implementation of hybrid, mixed and online courses benefit not only disabled students, but other subpopulations such as international students and students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
In order to ensure true accessibility in classrooms, lecture recordings should be implemented in combination with Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a widely-accepted and empirically-backed approach to education, emphasising the importance of fostering multiple forms of engagement and facilitating learning on an individual level. This approach has been shown to aid in the education of students while also demonstrating long-term positive outcomes for educators. Despite this, the full implementation of UDL at Canadian post-secondary institutions is few and far between.
Yet despite these prevalent concerns among Canadian students and faculty alike, our schools have rarely responded to feedback from the disabled community members. We call on Canadian post-secondary institutions to prioritize accessible learning formats: it is a necessary step towards inclusivity and equitable access to higher education.