NEADS Conference 2004 - Right On!


Gladys Loewen

Gladys Loewen Photo


Gladys Loewen has worked as a disability service coordinator at a community college for 10 years and has served on the NEADS, CADSPPE and Associaion on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) Boards of Directors. Currently, she is a CADSPPE representative to the NEADS project “Access to Academic Materials” and has organized and facilitated a focus group to get a current post-secondary students’ perspective on the issues that face service providers in providing alternate format materials. At the present time, Gladys is the manager of Assistive Technology-BC, a provincial program that provides assistive technology support services to adults with disabilities in BC through contracts within the Ministries of Human Resources and Advanced Education.




The Service Providers’ Perspective on Serving Print Disabled Canadians

Disability service providers in higher education face unique challenges in the provision of academic materials to their students with print disabilities. While they have a duty to accommodate students who face educational barriers caused by print disabilities, they are affected by copyright laws, limitations of technology, funding shortages, time pressures and the complex design of textbooks. This session will summarize the results of a CADSPPE sponsored focus group of post-secondary disability service providers who support print disabled students on their campuses. This presentation will also include strategies, issues and recommendations for action to facilitate the provision of academic materials in alternate formats in efficient and effective manners.


Gladys Loewen, Manager, Assistive Technology–BC, presented the outcome of the previous day’s focus-group meeting at the University of Ottawa of the Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers in Post-Secondary Education (CADSPPE). The goals were to establish a clear picture of the issues involved in supporting print-disabled students and to identify tasks for a five-year plan. Gladys is a member of the NEADS Access to Academic Materials Project Steering Committee.

The group wrote this vision statement during the meeting: “To ensure equal and timely access to academic information in post-secondary educational environments.”

Focus-group participants identified these signs as indications that the group’s vision of success would have been achieved:

  • Students have the information that they need at the right time, in the right place, and in the right format.
  • Disability service centres and self-identification are no longer necessary.
  • Courses are not offered unless universal design (UD) is practiced.
  • UD principles perfuse post-secondary environments.
  • Student satisfaction is evident by the smiles on faces.

Barriers to achieving those identified signs of success include attitudes of faculty, administration, and publishers; legal, institutional, and federal regulations and procedures; and students being required to produce their own materials, thereby losing critical study time.

The group also identified some of the goals and recommendations:

  • Use existing networks and services such as national databases and interlibrary loans.
  • Improve existing networks such as AMICUS and CWIP (Canadian Works in Progress).
  • Require publishers to provide an accessible electronic file for all textbooks sold in post-secondary bookstores.
  • Develop national “best practices” guidelines.
  • Establish an e-mail list in order to share ideas.
  • Develop and promote a universal standard for production so that material can be shared across institutions.
  • Shift to the paradigm of UD as a philosophical framework.

Key recommendations included establishing a five-year plan, and focusing on changes to the environment, rather than on individual accommodations. The players responsible to achieve those goals are CADSPPE, NEADS, disability service providers, students, institutional administrators and faculty, publishers, the legal environment, and the federal government, specifically Library and Archives Canada and the Council on Access to Information for Print Disabled Canadians.

These next steps were identified:

  • Circulate the proceedings of the focus group.
  • Provide NEADS with a copy of the proceedings for its Access to Academic Materials Project.
  • Have CADSPPE’s board and members discuss and establish future actions.

At the end of her presentation, Loewen said, “We are embracing a systemic change and plan to continue promoting universal access.”