February 1999 Office Report
An Introduction to the Association
The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) is a consumer organization with a mandate to encourage the self-empowerment of post-secondary students with disabilities. NEADS advocates for increased accessibility at all levels so that students with disabilities may gain equal access to a college or university education, which is the right of everyone. The Association provides extensive information on services for students with a disability nationwide, publishes a newsletter, and conducts research on issues of importance to its membership.
What follows is an overview of our accomplishments and activities:
The Association's national office is located at: Rm. 426 Unicentre, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6, tel. (613) 526-8008 (Voice and TTY), fax. (613) 520-3704, e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Activities and Achievements 1997/1998 - 1998/1999
In 1997/98, the Association began a significant program to address school to work transition. A key aspect of our success has been the piloting of "Investing In The Future: A Mentorship Program For Post-Secondary Students With Disabilities." This project is a partnership with the Employer Advisory Council to NEADS. At the end of January, 1998 the Council announced that it would continue its involvement in the program for year two. In the pilot phase, we involved 14 students in the program from Montreal, Quebec to Surrey, British Columbia. Participating employers and organizations include: Scotiabank, Royal Bank, Rogers Cable, Bank of Montreal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work and the Canadian Paraplegic Association. The program is designed to provide an opportunity for students to apply academic knowledge and experience in an employment environment. Students are paired-up with mentors in participating companies/organizations. In 1997/98 participants were involved in a range of experiences including: branch banking, broadcast journalism (radio and television), community outreach in the non-profit sector, drafting, engineering, and website design.
This project is an excellent example of a commitment to social policy development as we are endeavouring to assist students with disabilities to make the transition from school to work. The program benefits people with disabilities and employers. It serves as a model to address inequities in the workplace and proves that people with disabilities, if given an opportunity, can participate in post-secondary education and the competitive labour market.
With the Mentorship Project the Association developed -- in consultation with the Board and EAC representatives -- an application process and form, selection procedures and a handbook for the program.
Another important project of the Association is the Developing a National Approach to Services Project. This research project, which began in January, 1997 with funding support from Human Resources Development Canada and the Trillium Foundation, is an effort to ascertain and implement national standards for service provision across the country. The project is a partnership between students and service providers. It involves work with a number of key players on the national scene: Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers in Post-Secondary Education, Association québécoise des étudiants(es) handicapés au post-secondaire, Canadian Federation of Students, Association of Canadian Community Colleges, and HRDC. The project's researchers are reviewing policies, programs and practices with respect to accommodations for students with disabilities at Canadian universities and colleges in order to develop a "best practices" model for service provision. The goal is to ensure that in the future students with disabilities will have equal access to higher education and career training options throughout Canada.
For the Developing a National Approach to Services Project two questionnaires were produced, one for students and one for service providers. These surveys have been distributed across Canada (beginning in January, 1998) to individual students and through some 160 colleges and universities. The final report, which will be released in the winter of 1999, will include findings from 419 completed surveys. Approximately 80% of the respondents are students with disabilities.
Clearly, this project is seeking broad-based participation to address a very important issue for Canadian society: accessible post-secondary education for its citizens with disabilities. This project demonstrates that we are "committed to reducing social and economic inequities and promoting the well-being of individuals, communities and society as a whole" through inclusive higher education. With this activity we are also involved in advocacy, organizational capacity-building and research and development.
Also in 1997/98 we began work on the Organization of Students With Disabilities Guidebook with support from the Social Development Partnerships Program. This guide is an invaluable resource for students, providing them with the tools that they need to make the right contacts on a college or university campus. The Organizations of Students With Disabilities Guidebook has the following components: an introduction on objectives, goals and work of NEADS and the purpose of the guidebook, a discussion of leadership in the disability movement, description of university and college organizations of students with disabilities representing all regions of Canada (including a description of key contacts, activities, services and structure; benefits to student membership and involvement; keys to success of the group in working with all players on campus.)
On campuses where there are no consumer organizations of this nature, the Guidebook will profile Caucuses, Accessibility Committees, Educational Equity Committees etc. which have, as part of their mandate, issues affecting students with disabilities at colleges and universities.
This Guidebook, which will be available from the NEADS office in early February, 1999 in print and alternate formats, will be publicized throughout our network including offices of Human Resources Development Canada, Independent Living Centres, Council of Canadians with Disabilities and its member organizations, Canadian Federation of Students and Constituency offices of Members of Parliament.
The Guidebook project is another excellent example of the Association working to inform students and graduates with disabilities and the public at large about essential organizations in the post-secondary community.
NEADS has also been very active over the past four years in Official Languages activities and promotion within the Association and to its partners in the francophone community. With support from Heritage Canada in 1997/98 we worked in the Integration Stage of the Official Languages Program. This enabled NEADS to hold two meetings of its Official Languages Committee, to further our partnership work with AQEHPS, to conduct language training for staff and a member of the Board, to present most of our information in a French/English format. In order to strengthen our network to serve both official language groups we have developed two main strategies: inclusion of a representative from AQEHPS in the membership of the Official Languages Committee, and attendance of a representative from AQEHPS in meetings of the NEADS Board of Directors. This partnership has also ensured strong participation of francophone students in all of our projects.
It is a priority of NEADS to serve students and graduates with disabilities in both Official Languages and to ensure that the issues of francophone students receive equal attention within all of our activities. This priority is in keeping with the objectives of the federal government with respect to serving the citizens of Canada and is a key element of our commitment as an Association to fully recognize the citizenship rights of Canadians with disabilities to post-secondary education. 1998/99 was the final year -- or Evaluation Stage -- of the program.
Also in 1997/98, NEADS published Transition From School to Work: Career Choices For Youth With Disabilities. This publication is an essential resource package, designed to assist youth with a disability in making the transition from high school to post-secondary education or from post-secondary to the world of work. The book was developed as a partnership with: Canadian Guidance and Counselling Association, Canadian School Boards Association, Canadian Association of Principals, Canadian Council For Exceptional Children, Canadian Teachers Federation, DiscoverAbility, and the EAC to NEADS. For the 1998/99 fiscal year we continued to promote the Transition From School to Work publication.
A Plan of Action For 1998/99 - Outcomes
The following activities were identified as a priority for 1998/99 for the Association (not listed in order of importance) and were reviewed and approved by the NEADS Board of Directors:
Completion of the Guidebook Project. This project, which was described earlier in the report in some detail, has now been completed. The final version of the book will soon be available from the office in regular print and alternate formats and will be posted on our website. The text includes information on over 120 organizations, committees and clubs at 60 universities and colleges. The result of the research for this publication has been significant outreach to campus organizations of students with disabilities and the development of an important resource.
We intend to publish the Guidebook once a year, making regular contact with campus organizations to ensure the most current information is available. The book, which is subtitled Leadership in Our Community, clearly demonstrates leadership in the post-secondary community in addressing issues of accessibility.
Implementation of the second year of Investing In The Future: A Mentorship Program For Post-Secondary Students With Disabilities. The second year of the Mentorship Program has been a qualified success. While the number of students participating in this year's program has decreased to seven students from the fourteen who were involved last year, the quality of the experiences has been maintained. Participating employers include the Canadian Bankers Association, Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank, Burnaby Skills Centre -- Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work. Experiences are taking place in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. For 1999-2000 we plan to promote the program more broadly and encourage the participation of a greater number of employers from different sectors of the Canadian economy. Considering the employment partnership announcement made by Minister Pettigrew on November 21st during the NEADS conference, it will be an objective of the program to include Human Resources Development Canada as a site of mentorship experiences.
Commencement of the Student Leadership Initiative Project -- The objective of this activity was to hold a series of 8 forums on student leadership and the advocacy work of the association over an 18 month period. This will ensure that NEADS is communicating with students at a grassroots level. The forums will shape our work as an association and will provide excellent input for the government on issues of post-secondary education and public policy.
In 1998/99 we held two forums in November -- one in Montreal on November 7th as a partnership with AQEHPS and a second forum two weeks later in Ottawa as a workshop during the national conference. Each forum included a panel of speakers, the majority of whom were consumers involved in running student organizations. Panelists for the conference workshop on leadership included: Phillip Strong, President, Memorial's Organization of Students With Disabilities; Chris Green, Chair, Students With Disabilities Constituency Group, Canadian Federation of Students; and Raymond Berger, Executive Member, Quebec Association of Post-Secondary Disabled Students (AQEHPS). Both forums were well attended with 40 participants in Montreal and 115 in Ottawa (divided between two sessions).
An article on the Montreal forum will appear in the January, 1999 issue of the NEADS Newsletter. Reports are now being written on both the Montreal meeting and the Ottawa workshop. These reports will be ready by the end of the March.
A third forum will be held in Calgary at the University of Calgary near the end of March. This meeting will be hosted by Board members Kent Hehr, Past-President and Chris Rebus, Alberta Representative.
This activity has been quite a success. We have managed to engage a large number of students -- and others -- in the discussion of leadership and advocacy issues with a very limited budget. The Association was not supported to do this work through project funding from the Social Development Partnerships Program and this may influence the number of forums that can be held and the degree to which we can involve students from outside the meeting sites. A meeting schedule for further forums, keeping funding restrictions in mind, will be determined when the new NEADS Board of Directors meets in Ottawa in March.
Hosting of the NEADS conference on accessible post-secondary education: Commitment to Excellence: Building Leaders for the Future. The association held an extremely successful national conference -- Commitment to Excellence Building Leaders For the Future -- at the Delta Ottawa Hotel and Suites from November 20-22, 1998. One hundred and fifteen delegates participated in a lively two days of discussions on the issues that were addressed under the conference theme: developing a national approach to disability services on our campuses; accessing funding to support post-secondary study; student leadership; and making the transition from school to work. Over 30 colleges and universities from across Canada were represented, along with service providers, employers and disabled persons' organizations.
The conference featured an excellent speech on Saturday evening from the Honourable Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Human Resources Development. Mr. Pettigrew announced a new initiative to hire more students with disabilities in his department and pledged a commitment to work with NEADS in the future.
"A few weeks ago, we released In Unison: A Canadian Approach to Disability Issues." said Mr. Pettigrew. "This is our consensus of a common vision and long-term policy directions for disability issues. It drew on consultations with the disability community...That level of collaboration is taking place across disability issues. Partnerships are at the centre of much of the work on these issues now. Partnerships with provinces and territories. Partnerships with people with disabilities and their organizations. Our partnership with NEADS."
In his introductory remarks to the delegates on Friday, November 20th, Kent Hehr, NEADS' President welcomed delegates to the conference and reflected on our achievements. "Over the past few years, NEADS has taken on a number of projects designed to improve communication between the various levels of government, service providers and disabled students," said Mr. Hehr. "We have worked very hard to make strides to ensure that post-secondary education in Canada is more accessible to persons with disabilities. I believe now more than ever our voice is being heard." In outlining the subjects to be addressed during the conference, Mr. Hehr called upon the delegates to work to improve the organization and address the issues of students with disabilities as leaders: "Remember that it is you who are our leaders today. Further, it is you who must ensure that our leaders of tomorrow will be able to build on the solid foundation you have provided."
The format of the meeting was a unique one for our association. The conference functioned on a "single track" format, with delegates divided into two large rooms exploring all four workshop subjects in roundtable discussion groups. Each workshop began with a panel presentation to put the issues into context. There were two workshops each day and the sessions came to the delegates in their rooms. Presenters at the conference included all the key players in our network. Of course, the majority of speakers were students and consumers, but we also invited service providers, employers and government representatives. For example, Lucie Lemieux-Brassard and Christian Généreux, representing the Quebec Association of Post-Secondary Disabled Students, participated as panelists in the workshop on student financial assistance. They were assisted by Eva Berringer, Manager, Policies and Research, Office for Disability Issues, and Lee Windsor of the Canada Student Loans Program. Ray McIsaac, Representative, Canadian Labour Force Development Board, National Reference Group of Persons With Disabilities and Hetty O'Donnell, Senior Manager, Workforce Diversity, Bank of Montreal addressed the subject of the transition from school to work.
The conference was made possible with the organizational support of the Social Development Partnerships Program, Human Resources Development Canada. Interpretation and technical services were covered in part through funding from the Official Languages Program, Heritage Canada. We also acknowledge sponsorship from the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work through a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Special thanks go to members of the NEADS Board of Directors who assisted in the planning of this event: Laurie Alphonse, Jennison Asuncion, Kent Hehr, Heidi MacDonald and Brenda Whaley. We would also like to acknowledge the tremendous support of the team from Golden Planners -- most particularly Jules Parnell -- who handled all aspects of conference registration.
The conference proved to be an energizing and educational experience for everyone involved! Considering the school they were attending, the part of the country that they came from, and unique disability perspectives, delegates shared experiences and discussed solutions to issues of accessibility. We would like to thank the delegates who took the time from their busy schedules -- school and work -- to contribute to the discussions. A report is now being written on the conference. This report will be available in April. It will provide a description of the workshop presentations and offer the recommendations of the delegates in each subject area. We expect the conference report will act as a blueprint for action for NEADS in the future. A conference program -- in both official languages -- was produced for delegates to the meeting.
A new Board of Directors was elected at the conference to govern the Association for the next two years. The Board will hold its first meeting in Ottawa in March.
Implementing the recommendations of the National Approach to Services Project Advisory Group in consultation with HRDC. The final report for this project will be available in three to four weeks (end of February, 1999). It is our intention to utilize the recommendations from the report to shape our public education efforts with respect to developing national standards and "best practices" in the delivery of post-secondary services and accommodations. We will also be continuing to foster a collaborative relationship with post-secondary service providers through CADSPPE. Please refer to the section earlier in this report which describes the National Approach initiative in more detail. CADSPPE members have been working in an advisory capacity on this project for the past two years. They also participated in our national conference and in meetings of the Board of Directors.
Continuing Official Languages work with our Official Languages Committee. In 1998/99 there was one meeting of our Official Languages Committee, held in the Spring of 1998. In addition, we continued to work closely with AQEHPS on many initiatives, published bilingual newsletters and provided simultaneous interpretation in all sessions at our national conference. There was good delegate participation from the francophone community during our conference.
Publishing four issues of the Association's newsletter. Three issues of the Association's newsletter were published in 1998/99. By the end of March, 1999, work will be underway for the production of a fourth, the Spring issue. The final issue, January, 1999, features a strong transition from school to work focus, with recruitment advertisements/articles submitted by Royal Bank, Bank of Montreal, Public Service Commission of Canada (Federal Student Work Experience Program), and Career Edge (the National Youth Internship Program). We also re-printed the press release of November 21 from HRDC announcing the department's commitment to work in partnership with NEADS to ensure that more students with disabilities are hired within the department. The January issue features a story on the national conference and an article profiling the newly elected Board of Directors (list attached).
The April, 1998 and September, 1998 issues of the publication concentrated on issues that are typically addressed in our newsletter: student financial assistance, accessible post-secondary programs, project activities, our networking with other organizations, activities of our board members.
Continuing to respond to numerous requests for information from students and the general public. Clearly, students and graduates with disabilities are interested in the work of the Association and find our resources and advice valuable. We receive hundreds of requests (by phone, mail and e-mail) for information about funding programs, college and university services, general material on NEADS, employment opportunities after graduation, upcoming conferences and events, and so on. Information packages are regularly mailed to meet inquiries. Referrals to other organizations are often provided, where appropriate. This referral can involve different types of organizations from the Council of Canadians With Disabilities to the federal government's Canada Student Loans Program.
Ongoing efforts to maintain and enhance our website on INDIE. We have been working to improve the content and the format of our website through close consultation with Board members. An encouraging development is that we now have a website manager, Victor Marques. A member at large, Victor will be devoting time each week to maintaining and enhancing the site. In future, all NEADS Newsletters and publications will be posted on the site. The use of Indie proved quite valuable in promoting the 1998 national conference. In addition, a new NEADS list serve for students has been established since the November conference.
We also intend to provide more consistent hot links between Indie and other sites that address subjects of interest to students and graduates with disabilities (for example, the Canada Student Loans Program). From January - September, 1999 we will be developing a national Accessibility Guide for HRDC's learning initiatives site -- CanLearn Interactive. We hope to be able to effectively link our site to the CanLearn Interactive site.
Continued partnership work with organizations in our network, including the Council of Canadians With Disabilities. Objectives were met in 1998/99 with respect to our partnerships. The detailed descriptions of our activities earlier in the report demonstrate this quite clearly. Corinne Gough -- past Newfoundland Representative -- continues to be our representative to the CCD and sits on the Council's Executive. Jennison Asuncion, NEADS' Vice-President Internal, attended the January, 1999 CCD meeting in Winnipeg as an observer.
Working with Human Resources Development Canada to improve the communication with students concerning the Canada Student Loans Program, Employability Assistance For Persons With Disabilities and Opportunities Fund programs. It is a priority of the organization to make the most current and accurate information on funding programs available to students and graduates with disabilities. This was a major topic of discussion during our national conference: Commitment to Excellence: Building Leaders For The Future. Based on discussions at this forum and student information needs, it will be vitally important in the future to produce a single publication that clearly articulates the type and level of support offered by individual funding programs -- federal and provincial. NEADS produces a regularly updated list of national scholarships, awards and bursaries, and distributes the HRDC publication Canada Student Loans Program: Full-time and Part-time Students Guide. However, most information on this subject is available from numerous departments and programs and is incomplete.
Our participation in the National Stakeholders Working Session on Student Financial Assistance (Ottawa, November, 1998) provided an opportunity to voice these concerns. But there is much work that needs to be done in the future in partnership with Human Resources Development Canada and provincial financial aid authorities.
Holding three meetings of the Association's Board of Directors to implement and coordinate all activities and projects. Three Board meetings were held in 1998/99: two full Board and one Executive meeting. The meetings took place in June, 1998, November, 1998 and March 1999 (to be held at the Delta Ottawa Hotel and Suites, March 12-14, 1999). These meetings were vital to provide direction and support to the ongoing activities of the Association. At the November conference, a new Board of Directors was elected to serve the Association for the next two years.
Continued representation of the Association to important advisory bodies including: National Advisory Group on Student Financial Assistance; Canadian Labour Force Development Board, Reference Group for People With Disabilities; National Council of the Council of Canadians With Disabilities; Employer Advisory Council to NEADS (EAC). NEADS -- primarily represented by its very active Board of Directors -- attended all meetings of the above organizations. For example, Kent Hehr was our representation to the HRDC National Advisory Group on Student Financial Assistance. Laurie Alphonse, Ontario Representative, attended meetings of the CLFDB Reference Group and the Opportunities Fund. Laurie also attended the National Stakeholders Working Session on Student Financial Assistance in Ottawa in November, 1998. Brenda Whaley, Vice-President External, participated in the community consultation to discuss the In Unison report last July in Halifax. These are but a few of the many meetings that we were involved in throughout the year.
A Plan of Action For 1999/2000
The following activities are a priority for 1999/2000 for the Association (not listed in order of importance). These activities will be implemented under the direction of the NEADS Board of Directors.
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