Montreal Job Search Strategies Forum Report
One participant asked Vanier whether any accommodations were made for her during her engineering studies, in the lab or elsewhere in the university.
Vanier replied that because she lacks dexterity in her arms, she writes very slowly. She therefore hired people to take notes for her, having received financial support from the Ministry of Education for the note-takers. Unfortunately this arrangement was difficult to manage because she had to wait for the money. Instead, she started taking photocopies of her friends’ notes, which worked well and was much easier.
She was also given more time to write exams. Pre-established regulations called for one-third extra time for anyone with manual dexterity problems. However, this was not sufficient time for Vanier, particularly toward the end of her studies. She managed to obtain a doctor’s note to ensure she was granted twice the time.
She also arranged with her professors to have a lab team of three people (instead of the standard team of two) because she had trouble performing hands-on experiments. The lab benches were too high, making it difficult for her to be seated. As she was unable to do an experiment on her own, she could not benefit from the hands-on experience. She concentrated instead on the theoretical, and asked her fellow students for help. She said these limitations prevented her from having as full an experience as her fellow students.
Vanier now believes she should have insisted on wheelchair accommodations, if only to benefit those who came after her. As a 19-year old it was already difficult enough to shoulder all of these new experiences without battling school authorities.
In the workplace, Vanier did not need many adjustments. Pratt & Whitney already had wheelchair accessibility and they were installing buttons on exterior doorknobs when she arrived. She said that during her telephone interview she sincerely forgot to mention that she was in a wheelchair. She did, however, include under hobbies that she enjoyed wheelchair sports. When Pratt & Whitney called to offer the job, they mentioned the accommodations they were making and said they were pleased to have even more reason to do so.