Student advocates call for change at Centre for Accessibility

This past August, the Disabilities United Collective (DUC) at UBC met with representatives of the Centre for Accessibility (CFA) to present a series of recommendations to improve students’ experiences with the Centre.

Since March, DUC has been working on these proposed changes and began collecting anonymous testimonials from students about their experiences with the CFA.

DUC’s presentation focused on four areas for improvement: CFA training, interim accommodations, accessible information and the CFA's phone line.

Members of DUC said there was a need for revised training for CFA advisors and exam invigilators, as students who spoke to DUC often felt negatively after meeting with representatives of the CFA.

According to testimonials DUC received, students felt information about interim accommodations was limited and vague. DUC is asking the CFA to standardize the requirements and advertise them better.

DUC also said there was a need for a phone queue, as students calling about general inquiries were often hung up on and would have to continuously call back.

DUC added the CFA website could be improved by “changing the wording to make the procedures and accommodations available clearer” and making the layout easier to navigate.

These four concerns were selected based on what seemed to be within DUC’s and the CFA’s immediate capacity to change.

Progress has been slow so far as these initiatives have yet to be fully implemented, according to Nathalie Adriana Funes Serna, a third-year student in gender, race and social justice studies and member of DUC.

“We were hoping that we will be able to get really fast results and get all the projects for this fall, but then just timeline-wise, it didn't work.”

However, Kuan Foo, the interim co-director of the CFA, expressed appreciation for DUC’s insights.

“Their observations align well with areas we have identified for improvement at the Centre for Accessibility from our interactions with students registered with our office, instructors and faculty representatives as well as surveys conducted by the university and the AMS,” wrote Foo in a statement to The Ubyssey.

Outside of DUC’s suggestions, Foo wrote the CFA is also focusing on “bolstering [their] exam invigilation team and services … and more comprehensive training and professional development.”

Moving forward, DUC is hoping to bring further change to the experiences of people with disabilities at UBC.

“The CFA and other accessibility programs at UBC are supporting a lot of students but they're also failing a lot of students,” said Funes Serna. “[Our work is] about a wider… cultural change or societal change, about the way that we perceive disability.”

Farah Sadek, a member of DUC and third-year student in chemical and biological engineering, added “... disability justice literacy was very important to… retain disabled students within the post secondary environment. And we're hoping through our work that… we're able to provide more access and opportunities for people of all abilities.”