Students at the University of Victoria have been back in class for a week and while some students thrive on learning face-to-face, others are struggling.
‘Access4All’ is a group of UVic students who are asking the school to implement accommodations for those who cannot physically attend class.
“Our short-term goal is for students, who otherwise are unable to attend classes in person, be able to attend and participate live online,” says Sophie Papp, UVic student and Term Work with the Society for Students with Disabilities.
The campaign was originally started by disabled students in the spring term of 2021.
They believe reverting solely to in-person classes is an active dismantling of equitable education, and without recorded lectures, online course options, and other similar access points for at-home learning, disabled students are severely affected.
“Students with mobility issues, chronic pain is a big one, but we also have students with mental health disorders,” says Papp.
The campaign is also aimed at ensuring international students facing travel barriers can participate in courses.
“We’ve had online technology for the last year and a half, almost two years now, this is definitely possible,” adds Papp.
Access4All believes the pandemic has shown adaptations to the delivery of education can be achieved when it is deemed necessary. They understand this was felt prior to the pandemic when classes first went online in March of 2019, but, they feel it’s felt even more so now.
“We would like to see sort of the university administration step up to the plate and making this a priority. We want to work with them and have equitable access to higher education,” says Papp.
In response to the campaign, UVic said in a written statement, “A working group is currently consulting with members of the UVic community about course delivery modes post-pandemic. Changes to course delivery are most likely to be based on individual course and program requirements.”
Adding, they have recently invested in three learning experience designers to support instructors helping students with accessibility and student accommodation requirements. With the support of the three designers, instructors are encouraged to adopt principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to create more flexibility in their courses in order to support the needs of UVic’s increasingly diverse complement of students.
Access4All hopes UVic makes this a priority in order to reduce learning barriers and provide students with opportunities to best demonstrate their knowledge.