A University of Guelph student says she is frustrated that it took a viral Twitter feed for the university to make accommodations for her to take classes remotely due to her disability.
Sophomore psychology/sociology student Brittany Hannah said she contacted the University of Guelph in July to request accommodation to attend classes virtually for the fall semester. A serious mountain biking incident in October 2021 had prevented her from commuting to school from her home in Waterloo.
In response, she said a Student Accessibility Services (SAS) counselor suggested she enroll in distance learning courses or take classes through an online institution like Athabasca University. .
Hannah said distance learning courses were not available in her specialization and enrolling in another institution would incur an additional cost.
When she emailed a faculty advisor with her problem, they reiterated the other options and added a third – she could drop the semester.
“A sense of normalcy is very important to me and to many other people who are going through difficult challenges in their lives,” she said.
“Just because you’re going through a tough time, dropping out of the semester?” This is not a solution.
When she contacted the professors individually, she said she had also been told that classes would not be offered remotely.
“I felt like a burden and kind of set aside,” Hannah said.
GO TO SOCIAL MEDIA
Eventually, feeling frustrated, she published his experience on Twitter.
“I was just looking for advice on where to go from here…I didn’t expect it to get this big,” Hannah said.
On Monday, the Twitter feed had more than 700 retweets with students from the University of Guelph and other institutions sharing similar experiences.
“After that I had a lot of students contacting me, that’s when I was like ‘this is a lot bigger than me,'” Hannah said, explaining that she now compiles the stories at share with the university and that she is working with the newly formed University of Guelph Disability Community.
Also in the wake of the tweet, several University of Guelph professors reached out and offered to defend her. Hannah said that with their help, the university granted her accommodation so she could continue classes remotely, including asking professors to post slides online and record lectures.
Although she is now able to continue her semester, Hannah worries that other students with disabilities will find themselves in similar positions.
“Advocacy is so exhausting…a lot of young students may not know where to look when this stuff happens – and it shouldn’t take a viral tweet to bring this to light,” he said. she declared.
She said she wants the university to look at its policies that “allow students to bridge the gaps” and wants to see faculty and SAS work together to ensure student needs are met.
“Someone shouldn’t have to fight for themselves to get what they medically need so they can get the education they pay for,” she said.
University of Guelph associate vice president (academic) Cate Dewey said the university cannot comment on individual student cases due to privacy concerns, but is committed to creating an environment of equitable learning for people with disabilities.
Dewey said one of SAS’ primary roles is to put in place individualized academic accommodations and these can include providing distance learning.
“If the student is working with Accessibility Services for Students and the counselor says, ‘these are the accommodations required for the student under the Ontario Human Rights Code, then the accommodation will be made ‘, she said.
Generally speaking, not about this particular case, Dewey said more could be done to encourage students to register with SAS early to ensure counselors have time to assess their needs and determine the accommodations before the start of the semester.
“We at the University of Guelph care deeply about our students and want each of them to succeed and we also recognize that each student has their own specific needs,” said Dewey.