NEADS' developing a National Directory of Financial Assistance Programs for Students with Disabilities

In order to fully participate in college and university study, disabled persons must have access to funding which recognizes that there are often extra costs involved when pursuing higher education. It can also take longer for a disabled student to complete an academic program because of disability. These issues have been a primary focus of the Association's work for many years. In the 1993 NEADS report Study of Financial Assistance Available to Post-Secondary Students With Disabilities: Accommodating Individual Needs For the Future, 44% of the 384 respondents indicated that their total income from all sources (including financial assistance programs) was not sufficient to cover their education-related services and/or equipment costs considering their disability. In the 1996 NEADS study Employment Opportunities For Post-Secondary Students and Graduates With Disabilities, 59% of 424 respondents indicated that their student aid was not sufficient to cover the costs of their education.

During the NEADS conference Commitment to Excellence: Building Leaders For The Future (Ottawa, November, 1998), 115 delegates from across Canada addressed this subject as a central aspect of the conference agenda. A workshop called "Accessing Funding to Support Post-Secondary Study" explored the funding issue by focusing on familiar programs such as: Canada Student Loans and Special Opportunity Grants (Canada Study Grants), provincial grants and loans, Employability Assistance for Persons With Disabilities (EAPD) and the Quebec Loans and Bursaries Program. Scholarships, awards and bursaries were also discussed, including the new Millenneum Fund Scholarship.

In discussions during the session, students identified a number of key areas of concern:

  • Financial assistance programs are often not adequate to meet educational costs, including disability-related costs of pursuing higher education.
  • There is a lack of portability of funding from one part of the country to another, which limits academic options.
  • There is confusion about how to obtain information on funding programs and which programs students are eligible to access.
  • Application forms, information guides (i.e. Canada Student Loans Program: Full-time and Part-time Students Information Guide) and other promotional literature are not readily available to students, and what is available is found in many sources, from different offices.

With funding support from the Social Development Partnerships Program of Human Resources Development Canada, NEADS is now developing a reference source on available funding to disabled students for post-secondary study. The NEADS National Directory of Financial Assistance Programs will address many of these issues by providing a comprehensive source of information on financial assistance in one handy document, written in plain language. The directory will include not only descriptions of funding programs, but also addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of contacts for further information. Relevant websites will be listed. Topics to be covered in different sections of the directory will include:

  • The Canada Student Loans Program.
  • Employability Assistance for Persons With Disabilities.
  • National Scholarships, Awards and Bursaries (including, but not limited to: the Student Access Awards Program, Imasco and Mattinson Scholarships, National Bank of Canada Bursary and Summer Employment Program For Students With Disabilities, Millennium Scholarship Fund).
  • Campus-based scholarships, awards and bursaries.
  • Provincial student assistance programs.

If you would like to contribute material to the directory, or would like additional information on the project, please contact the NEADS office.