NEADS Co-hosts Third Student Leadership Forum in Calgary
Written by Steven Estey
On Thursday, March 25, 1999, NEADS and the University of Calgary Organization, Triple A (Association for Accessibility and Awareness), co-sponsored the third in a series of countrywide NEADS Student Leadership Forums.
Approximately 30 students with disabilities came together at the University of Calgary to discuss issues of student organizing, and how to improve communication between NEADS and campus-based groups of students with disabilities.
The Forum began with a panel discussion, chaired by NEADS vice-president external, Chris Rebus. Panel members included Kent Hehr, NEADS' past president, Rick Goodfellow, executive director of the local Independent Living Centre, Barry Lindemann, a recent University of Calgary graduate and current Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA) community affairs consultant, and myself, Steve Estey. I am the project consultant to NEADS' Student Leadership Initiative.
Panelists shared their experience of working with organizations that are active at both the local and national levels; this is the case for the Canadian Association for Independent Living (CAILC) and CPA. In addition, past-president Kent Hehr discussed what NEADS does, and how that relates to the activities of the Triple A group.
One of the main themes of the panel discussion was that improving communication links between Canada's disability organizations can increase the ease by which these organizations work together. Speakers gave examples of how new technology, like Internet chat facilities and listservs, are being used to improve ease of communication and at the same time reduce costs. They noted the multiple benefits of increased communication, in terms of improved job performance and more democratic decision-making processes.
With the panel discussion as an introduction to the issues at hand, participants moved into smaller groups. From there, delegates talked about their concerns at the U of C campus, what sorts of things they want to see NEADS involved with in the future, and how the two organizations could work together more effectively.
Many good ideas were brought up over the course of this discussion. They have all been recorded and will be included in the final report on all the leadership forums held, to be completed in early 2000 and presented to the NEADS Board of Directors. In the meantime, a few highlights of the discussion are presented below for your information.
Five main areas of concern for students with disabilities were identified:
The discussions covered three different topic areas: things the Triple A group could be doing on campus; what other local groups the organization should be working with; and how to improve the relationship with NEADS.
In terms of things the Triple A group should consider, the following items were key suggestions:
When the discussion moved to linking with other local groups, participants identified the following areas for future work on the University of Calgary's campus:
Finally there were some interesting ideas on how the relationship between the University of Calgary and NEADS could be improved. Among the suggestions were the following:
As you can see, there were plenty of good ideas and interesting discussions in Calgary that day. This sort of dialogue is part of NEADS' ongoing effort to support work at the campus level in Canadian schools. The final report on the Association's leadership forums will outline ways in which the NEADS can continue to support campus organizations and strengthen these organizations' ties to students with disabilities across Canada.
If your organization is interested in co-sponsoring a Student Leadership Forum with NEADS, please contact the national office in Ottawa.
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