The National Educational Association of Disabled Studentsí (NEADS) Position on Return-To-Campus Plans of Canadian Colleges and Universities
As the Fall 2021 Semester approaches, NEADS is concerned by the lack of clarity and accessibility in return-to-campus plans at post-secondary institutions across Canada. As in-person learning resumes, many online learning options are being phased out – much to many students with disabilities’, and NEADS’, dismay. During the pandemic, we learned that while online learning poses additional barriers to some, it has become an invaluable accommodation for others. As schools return to campus, they must not reverse the critical progress made towards accessible education.
To have truly equitable and accessible Fall and Winter 2021/2021 semesters, NEADS believes all post-secondary institutions must clarify their return-to-campus plans immediately, mandate vaccinations on-campus for staff, faculty and students (except for those who are unable to take any of the approved vaccines for reasons protected under the Charter), and maintain online learning options. With the Fall semester merely weeks away, unclear plans for the upcoming term have left many students with disabilities anxious and unable to adequately prepare for return to school. This lack of clarity can prevent students with disabilities from finding housing, accessibility support including attendant services in residence, and community resources in time for their return to campus.
The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) applauds the post-secondary institutions that have announced mandatory vaccines for on-campus classes and activities, and implores the remaining institutions to follow suit. Without mandatory vaccinations, except for those students with valid medical exemptions, students with and without disabilities are forced into unsafe environments. This is even more concerning when considering the number of students with disabilities at higher risk of severe COVID-19 infections, and/or those relying on herd immunity.
The risk of not mandating vaccines on campus is compounded by post-secondary institutions that are phasing out their online learning options. Without these options, students with disabilities will be forced into unaccommodating and inaccessible environments. NEADS has heard from many students with disabilities unable to return to campus alongside their non-disabled peers, and many of which find their education jeopardized due to no online learning options. On-campus disabled-students’ organizations, supported by their students’ unions, across Canada are raising alarms, creating petitions, and hosting campaigns opposing full in-class, on-campus returns to post-secondary educational institutions.
As campuses across Canada return to in-person learning, NEADS will be monitoring the situation and providing resources and supports for students with disabilities. NEADS is in complete solidarity with the student-led accessibility initiatives fighting for a safe and equitable return to campus, and extend their support and gratitude. A list of supports and resources for post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities will be included at the end of this release.
Carly Fox (she/her/elle), Researcher and Communications Officer, National Educational Association of Disabled Students, firstname.lastname@example.org