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"Opening Doors to Success"

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Student Leadership in Accessibility
Toben McFarlane, Student, Okanagan University College

Toben McFarlane explained that she has a severe learning disability resulting from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and an auditory processing disorder. Although she quit school in Grade 10, she later upgraded and is attending university. Through the Adult Services Program, she acquired a computer system, a "woofer," and a tape recorder. She will also get a program that will allow her to electronically scan books-which includes a figure who will read the material aloud and a feature that enables her to highlight on-screen as she reads. In order to comprehend text, McFarlane explained, she needs to have a hard copy of the material, a taped version, a highlighter, and, ideally, a tutor to read the material aloud while she reads.

McFarlane described the great frustration that she used to experience as she tried to get the tapes for her textbooks. Instructors did not get their textbook lists into the bookstore on time, and the Disability Services co-ordinator had difficulty getting requests in on McFarlane's behalf. Often, the wrong editions of the tapes arrived, causing frustration for both student and professor.

Instead of giving up, McFarlane demanded that the system be changed because it was not working for her. She asserted her right to learn and as a result of her efforts, professors must now get their materials to the bookstore much earlier. People with learning disabilities register early, and get the texts and courses they need.

Small changes bring hope, said McFarlane, who is now in the third year of her fine arts program. The large number of students with learning disabilities on our campuses are not lazy, stupid or incompetent-they just learn differently. "Our voices need to be loud and assertive-there is power in numbers," she stressed. McFarlane advised conference delegates that they have to ask for things like Canada Study Grant funding, because the system will not always inform students of what is available. She concluded by urging people not to give up on their dreams and goals.

All contents copyright , 2002,
National Educational Association of Disabled Students. All rights reserved.