Small Group Discussions
Workshop participants then broke into small discussion groups. Each group was assigned a specific question to consider.
Should NEADS be playing a role(s) in high schools, and if so, what should this be? If not, why not?
Participants agreed that NEADS definitely has a role to play in high school and highlighted some activities and goals:
- Distribute information, including Moving On, to high school students and guidance counsellors early.
- Help high school students learn to advocate on their own behalf.
- Market extensively to high school students through the Internet, education fairs, transition workshops, and through information packages to guidance counsellors and university/college student recruitment offices.
- Focus on making the transition easier.
- Provide funding support for learning disabilities testing.
- Provide resources to offer training on technology and devices.
- Establish a mentoring program, emphasizing teamwork, with post-secondary students mentoring high school students and high school students mentoring elementary school students.
Thinking back to when you were in high school, what tools/resources did you use in order to learn about the transition into post-secondary education?
In general, delegates said that the tools/resources available were very inadequate, and they had very little knowledge of the services and equipment offered by different post-secondary institutions. High school students must have tools and resources in order to make informed choices and have an easier transition, they stressed.
Thinking back to when you were in high school, what tools/resources do you wish you had access to, to learn about the transition into post-secondary education as a student with a disability?
- More knowledge of the Internet tools/resources available
- Information on the programs and services provided by accessibility service providers at different post-secondary institutions
- Information on scholarships and other financial support from different sources
- Campus and building accessibility guide
- Information on transportation services around the area
- Mentoring programs with peers who have gone through the transition
- Knowledge of one's rights
- Advocacy skills, on not being afraid to stand up for one's rights
- Knowledge of when, what, and how to disclose information and how to deal with non-believers
- Skills on approaching faculty
- Support from parents and family
- Life skills as an important course in high school
- Organization and time management skills
What advice would you give to high school seniors planning to make the transition into post-secondary education?
- Plan ahead and start investigating early.
- Look carefully at course requirements and syllabus outlines, and do research on class size.
- Be a student for a day. Visit campuses and their disability services offices to learn about their hours, accommodations and accessibility services, policy for meeting with staff, etc.
- Investigate what accommodations exist to support students with disabilities in their studies, including interpretation, exam flexibility, tutoring, technology and equipment, etc.
- Research what scholarships and other funding sources are available early, to have a better chance of receiving them, as some have long waiting lists.
- Investigate early the availability of reasonably priced accessible housing. Check the availability of equipment at the residences.
- If mobility is an issue, investigate physical accessibility and transportation such as para-transpo early in order to learn orientation and plan routes.
- Consider the surrounding environment in terms of transportation, shopping, and community resources for people with disabilities.
- Arrange a meeting with the disability office over the summer, before university starts. It is not too early to contact them during the high school years. If you have needs outside their mandate, talk to the service provider and the administration to try to have your needs included before you start.
- Ask questions of the university/college administration.
- Talk to professors early on, before issues of concern occur. Find out whether your courses will be staffed by full-time or part-time professors.
- Have enough copies of all necessary documents so you don't run out, including medical certificates, evaluations, etc.
- Make full use of the Moving On guidebook.
Thinking back to your first month/year of college/university, what one thing surprised you most?
- Realization of personal weaknesses such as time management
- Adjustment to campus life, life away from home, and new surroundings, schedules, and routines
- The self-discipline required to get up, eat properly, go to class, etc.
- Heavy course loads and large class sizes
- Cost of books, supplies, and other needs
- Importance of knowing how to budget for books, socializing, special needs, etc.
- Importance of knowing how to schedule time and to maintain a balance between studies, rest, and socializing
- Importance of knowing what financial support and resources are available
- Change in teaching styles and in assignment marking and grading
- Stricter deadlines than in high school
- Much greater freedom to choose courses and schedule
- Much greater responsibility
- The strength, assertiveness, and self-advocacy skills needed to deal with professors and counsellors to ask for accommodations
- Importance of knowing how to get around campus if mobility is an issue
- Need for belonging
How do you pay for your post-secondary education? Is this method of payment (e.g., government financial aid, scholarship, etc.) meeting your needs as a student with a disability? If not, please explain.
Participants described a variety and different combinations of methods to pay for their post-secondary education, including scholarships; student loans; student grants; part-time jobs; help from parents and relatives; and social assistance, some with disability supplements. One participant noted that some students are eligible for funding from Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS), towards equipment and testing, etc. A caution was raised that some funding sources may come with restrictions. For example, summer employment earnings may be directly taken off the student loan and social assistance amounts a student would otherwise receive. The consensus was that even with all the available funding resources, it was not quite enough to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Participants noted the following challenges:
- There needs to be a part-time non-repayable grant for high-need students with disabilities, especially those deemed "unemployable" by the federal government.
- There is a lack of programs in place.
- There is general dissatisfaction that students have to pay taxes on grants.
- Loan amounts are too small to cover the cost of living.
- Many barriers still exist to carrying out diagnostic testing, depending on the province.
- Accessible housing is often a lot more expensive than regular housing.
- Students with disabilities have less access to scholarships, such as those related to sports.
- Students with invisible disabilities may have more difficulty obtaining grants because such disabilities are harder to prove.
- Students with disabilities have more difficulty finding part-time work.
- Students with disabilities are more likely to take a reduced course load, which is usually more expensive.
In conclusion, the participants acknowledged that while insufficient to meet the needs of students of disabilities, if not for the existing programs, they would not be involved in the workshop.