Making Extra-Curricular Activities Inclusive
Final Project Report
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. To achieve this challenging goal, NEADS takes on many exciting projects, all of which provide students with disabilities the tools they need to succeed in their post-secondary studies. The “Inclusion Of Students With Disabilities In College And University-Sponsored Extracurricular Activities” project was undertaken in 2004/2005 with funding support from the Social Development Partnerships Program, Government of Canada.
The objective of this groundbreaking project is to examine the current state of the accessibility of on-campus extra-curricular activities for post-secondary students with disabilities and to generate best practices for student affairs practitioners, student-run clubs, and others to assure equal participation and involvement by such students.
A press release announcing the project was prepared in April 2004 and circulated as part of the organization’s spring newsletter. The announcement was also sent throughout the NEADS network of students with disabilities, disability service providers, and student associations and was featured on the organization’s website – www.neads.ca.
PHASE 1 RESEARCH
Focus Groups in Saskatchewan
As part of the first phase of the “Inclusion Of Students With Disabilities In College And University-Sponsored Extracurricular Activities” project, NEADS held a series of focus group-style meetings with individuals who organize extra-curricular activities on-campus. These meetings provided an opportunity for the Project Team to gain a better understanding of the current state of accessibility of extra-curricular activities and the planning for activities in general. As part of these meetings, pilot testing of the first questionnaire (targeted at campus programmers) was conducted.
Four meetings were held, all of which were in Saskatchewan. The first two took place in Saskatoon on Friday, May 7, 2004 at the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology – Kelsey Campus. The second two focus groups took place in Regina on Monday, May 10, 2004 at the University of Regina and the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology – Wascana Campus. Members of the Project Team and Advisory Committee were present at the meetings in order to gather qualitative data for the project from approximately 30 individuals responsible for planning extra-curricular activities on their campuses.
Development and Pilot Testing of Questionnaire
In late April 2004, members of the Project Team began work on a draft questionnaire to be distributed to campus programmers, student union representatives, student affairs staff, and campus clubs to determine a number of factors, including:
- The level of perceived accessibility of extra-curricular activities on campus;
- The most common activities being organized;
- The involvement, if any, of students with disabilities in the planning process;
- What resources currently exist to assist activity organizers in making activities more inclusive; and
- The learning needs of campus programmers as it relates to accessibility for students with disabilities.
The 18-question survey includes a mixture of closed and open-ended questions. Open-ended questions were favoured, as qualitative feedback was more useful in reaching the project objectives than quantitative. Questionnaires were developed in English and French.
Following the completion of pilot testing minor changes were made to the questionnaire before distribution began. The distribution of the survey began the last week of May and concluded the first week of July. For the purposes of this project, the Project Team used a convenient sampling. A database of Student Union Executives published by the Canadian Federation of Students, as well as the Canadian Organization of Campus Activities membership list were used to recruit participants for the survey. In addition, members of the Project Team were present at a booth at the 2004 COCA conference held in Fredericton from June 19 to 23.
As of June 30, 192 campus programmers had been contacted to participate in the project. Ninety-six of those contacts responded and agreed to complete the questionnaire.
In order to ensure the success of the project and the meeting of deadlines, the Project Team met bi-weekly to discuss progress. Daily communication between team members took place via telephone and email. The Advisory Committee was involved regularly via email and occasionally by tele-conference.
From June 12 to 13, the Project Advisory Committee met in Ottawa to review the work completed to date and guide the upcoming activities and research. The meeting also served as an opportunity to continue development on a workshop presentation to be held in conjunction the NEADS’ 2004 National Conference this coming November. A call for speakers for this workshop presentation went out in the spring.
Members of the project team met face-to-face twice in the second quarter. A strategic planning meeting took place in Ottawa on July 24, 2004 between the project managers of this project and another NEADS project with overlapping timelines. The meeting served as a means to develop alternative strategies to avoid collisions between the two projects.
A meeting of the full project team took place in Montreal on September 19, 2004 to begin development of training material specific to the training workshop component of the project. The training session took place on November 12, 2004 at the Radisson Hotel in Ottawa, Ontario. The meeting also served as an opportunity to continue development on a workshop presentation to be held in conjunction the NEADS’ 2004 National Conference. The following speakers were selected to make presentations along with members of the project team on the panel:
- Jennifer Gillies, Master of Arts student, Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo
- Heidi Keller, Director, Adapted Recreational Sports Program, Ohio State University
- Mahadeo Sukhai, President, Graduate Students' Union, University of Toronto
Members of the project team met face-to-face twice in the third quarter. A meeting of the full project team took place in Ottawa on October 30, 2004 in Ottawa. The meeting served as an opportunity to finalize planning for the NEADS National Conference. The team also reviewed materials for the day-long training session for campus programmers. A strategic planning meeting took place in Ottawa on December 4, 2004 to discuss work for the final quarter of the project.
PHASE 2 RESEARCH
Development and Pilot Testing of Questionnaire
In late August, members of the Project Team began work on a draft questionnaire to be distributed to students with disabilities across Canada to determine a number of factors, including:
- The level of accessibility of extra-curricular activities on campus;
- The most common activities students participate in;
- The involvement, if any, of students with disabilities in the planning process;
- The involvement, if any, of students with disabilities in extra-curricular activities; and
- Barriers to participation.
The 15-question survey includes a mixture of closed and open-ended questions. Open-ended questions were favoured, as qualitative feedback was more useful in reaching the project objectives than quantitative. The English and French questionnaires are attached. Distribution of the questionnaire took place throughout October and November with the assistance of our partner, the Canadian Federation of Students. A total of 190 students from across Canada responded to the survey, which was available online and in a variety of alternate formats.
Focus Groups in St. John’s
In the first quarter of the project NEADS held a series of focus group-style meetings with individuals who organize extra-curricular activities on-campus. These meetings provided an opportunity for the Project Team to gain a better understanding of the current state of accessibility of extra-curricular activities and the planning for activities in general. As part of these meetings, pilot testing of the first questionnaire (targeted at campus programmers) was conducted.
As part of the second phase of the “Inclusion Of Students With Disabilities In College And University-Sponsored Extracurricular Activities” project, NEADS committed to holding a focus-group style meeting with students with disabilities in another province. This meeting, held in St. John’s, provided an opportunity for the Project Team to gain a better understanding of the current state of accessibility of extra-curricular activities and the barriers encountered by students with disabilities. Due to a late course start date at the selected post-secondary institution (Memorial University of Newfoundland), the focus group was postponed to the third quarter.
The focus group took place on October 1, 2004 with a group of approximately 10 students with various disabilities from Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). The meeting started off with introductions and a general discussion of accessibility at Memorial University. The participants were then asked to complete the student survey for the project. Some of the students opted to take the survey home to fill it out. Members of the project team then described the project in full detail.
When the students were asked about their participation in extra-curricular activities, they stated that the majority of them did not have time to get involved. They have to spend more time on their schoolwork than their non-disabled peers, and therefore have less free time. They believed that they would be more involved in extra-curricular activities if schoolwork was not so time consuming. As well, they stated that accessibility to meeting rooms can be a problem.
When asked about campus elections, the majority of the group stated that they voted. The campus elections followed the same standards as the provincial elections, and therefore were quite accessible. There were templates for the ballots, online voting, and computer stations. The group also stated that there was no representative for students with disabilities on the student union.
When asked about orientation/frosh week, the participants stated that most activities were only for residence students. Only one residence building is accessible, and the first two floors are designated “disability floors”. Orientation does take place for all new students, and it consists of a tour, a speech by the university president, and a barbeque.
When the students require accommodations for activities, it was primarily up to them to make that clear to the event planners and ensure that their needs were going to be met. The individual student must contact event organizers directly and tell them exactly what they need and where it can be found. There is on-campus transportation available at no charge. The service provider helps with some official activities as well. Costs for interpretation would be covered by the university or the disability centre. The group briefly discussed the possibility of cutting student fees for students with disabilities, since they are often unable to participate for financial reasons.
The most popular activities on campus included Breezeway (on campus club), the International Student Centre, Women’s Centre, and Student Parents. MUNDISC, the university’s club for students with disabilities, has the largest club space. The other club spaces are small and can be hard to get into and out of for students with disabilities. There is a meeting room that would be big enough to accommodate the students better, but the clubs aren’t allowed to use it. The clubs do their best to be accommodating however.
The students told our project team that there is no campus support system except themselves. They said it would be helpful to inform people that students with disabilities do have limitations, and that modifications can be made, often without too much cost. The students stated that it is often assumed that if the building is accessible, the activity is accessible as well.
The group suggested that the training material should include information regarding specific disabilities, as well as information about accommodations that can be made for all events. When asked what the best way to let students with disabilities know that an activity was accessible, the group suggested sending out an email or calling, as well as checking in with the students afterwards to see if anything could have been done differently. According to students at Memorial, it is also helpful to let the service provider know that the activities will be accessible.
TRAINING SESSION IN OTTAWA
On November 12, 2004 the project team hosted a training session in Ottawa for campus activity programmers. The focus of the session was on planning extra-curricular activities that are inclusive of students with disabilities. Approximately 25 representatives from the following post-secondary institutions attended: York University, Cambrian College, Brock University, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. Lawrence College, Simon Fraser University, Dawson College, Centennial College, University of Toronto.
The session began at 10:00 AM and ran through into the afternoon. The session, facilitated by Jennison Asuncion, walked participants through the barriers experienced by students with disabilities in accessing extra-curricular activities. Best practices were presented to participants just before lunch, and excellent discussion took place over the lunch hour. Checklists prepared by the project team were handed out to participants to take back to their institutions.
NEADS 2004 NATIONAL CONFERENCE – “RIGHT ON”
The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), with support from the Government of Canada and a number of corporate partners including Lead Sponsor - BMO Financial Group, held its tenth national conference in Ottawa from November 12 to 14, 2004. The conference, entitled “Right On!” was an exciting meeting of: students, consumers, advocates, educators, service providers, employers and others interested in exploring key issues of concern to our members.
As part of the event, the conference planning committee organized a workshop on inclusive student life comprised of a panel of three speakers who shared their personal and professional experience and expertise in this area. One speaker, Heidi Keller of Ohio State University, had confirmed her participation but was unable to attend the conference. The following key questions were addressed in the Inclusion in Campus Life workshop:
- What are the current barriers to the participation of students with disabilities in campus activities?
- What steps can campus programmers and student unions take to reduce or eliminate barriers?
- What can students with disabilities do to ensure their place in the out-of-classroom experiences on their campuses?
- What are some examples of model inclusion of students with disabilities in campus activities?
- What are some examples of model students who have participated in campus activities?
A summary of the presentations and discussion that followed is attached as Appendix I and is posted on the NEADS website on the project page and on the Conference 2004 site: www.neads.ca/conference2004 Workshop presentations are also available in PowerPoint and audio formats. The Winter 2005 issue of Jobpostings magazine has a feature story on the conference, with a focus on the Inclusion in Campus Life workshop.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEMBERS
We would like to thank the following individuals on our Advisory Committee for their support and advice throughout the project:
- Alison Beattie, NEADS Board of Directors:
- Lena Cook, NEADS Board of Directors:
- Jennifer Finlay, NEADS Board of Directors:
- George Soule, Canadian Federation of Students (CFS):
- Linda Wright, Canadian Organization of Campus Activities (COCA):
March 2005 – end of April, 2005