Ontario to invest $6 million in accessibility programs: Ontario colleges and universities to receive additional investment

by Amanda Watkins • June 23, 2015, Hamilton, Ontario -

Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Reza Moridi, came to McMaster this afternoon to announce an additional $6-million investment in accessibility programs at Ontario Universities.

“McMaster University is a fitting place for today’s announcement. This is an institution committed to creating and supporting a learning environment, and has put a lot of thought and planning into ensuring that students with disabilities have access to the services and support they need to thrive and prosper,” said Moridi.

The province will be investing $4.5 million to help students with disabilities through an Accessibility Fund for Students with Disabilities, and a Summer Transitions Program. Similar to McMaster’s Shifting Gears program, the Transitions Program will offer workshops and courses for high school students with disabilities coming into postsecondary education.

“It’s very hard for students sometimes to transfer from high school to university without this kind of support, because often, students with disabilities are not taught to self-advocate and speak up for themselves. Programs like this, and funding like this, will teach students that they matter, that they belong here, and that there is a space for them and a voice for them at McMaster,” said Sarah Jama, McMaster student and Ontario Director of the National Educational Association of Disabled Students.

This announcement comes on the heel of Jama’s recent presentation to the Student Representative Assembly’s June 21 meeting, on a proposed increase to the services provided for students with both visible and invisible disabilities. Jama, also a member of the SRA’s Social Sciences Caucus and Abilities Ad Hoc Committee, addressed the need for a peer-based program that will allow students with disabilities to help one another, at this past Sunday’s meeting. Today’s announcement will hopefully lead to meeting the clear need and demand for increased accessibility services on campus.

The remaining $1.5 million of the investment will be going towards a variety of programs including: note-taking services for students with visual impairments; interpreter services for deaf, deafened and hard of hearing students; learning assessment services; and computer and tablet applications that change text-to-speech and vice versa.

Previous investments in accessibility on campus have lead to the creation of the Accessible Campus website, the Innovative Design for Accessibility, or IDeA, competition for students, among other campus-based initiatives across the province.

Moridi explained that Ontario universities and colleges have seen close to a doubling of students with disabilities since the first implementations of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2003, thus making accessibility on campus an even more pressing issue.

“Your success matters to all of us. Together we can build a more accessible, more enlightened, more inclusive, and more economically prosperous Ontario.”

(This article used by permission of the author and The Silhouette,  McMaster University's Student Newspaper)