CSU councillor surveyed students on experiences with Access Centre for Students with Disabilities
“If a student feels a faculty member is acting in a discriminatory way, they need to report the incident to the ombudsman office,” wrote Concordia spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr in an email to The Concordian following the publication of an article on March 27 about student concerns regarding the university’s Access Centre for Students with Disabilities (ACSD). “The role of the ACSD is to help secure access and provide academic accommodations to students with disabilities.”
During a Concordia Student Union (CSU) special council meeting on March 14, John Molson School of Business councillor Rory James announced his ongoing initiative to improve accommodations for students registered with the ACSD. During the meeting, James said he had spoken to “a couple” of students who felt the centre did not properly address their complaints about alleged discrimination by professors.
According to James, both students and faculty have reported a perceived lack of communication between the ACSD and professors. When a student registers with the centre, each of their professors receives a letter informing them that one of their students has a disability. However, these letters do not disclose the name of the student or the nature of their disability, which places the responsibility on the student to approach their professor about appropriate accommodations.
“The ACSD is bound by confidentiality and cannot discuss the nature of a student’s disability without the student’s consent,” Barr explained, noting that, “on occasion, the ACSD will coordinate [appropriate accommodation] directly with the professor (as long as permission is given to do so from students).”
James told The Concordian he wanted the university to include student-parents and pregnant students in its accessibility policy, since they have unique needs. According to Barr, these groups of students are not included in the policy because parenting and pregnancy are not disabilities. However, she said accommodations for pregnant students and student-parents are being discussed as part of an ongoing administrative review of the health and wellbeing of Concordia students.
Based on his discussions with students, James also claimed student requests for accommodation and specialized tutoring sometimes go unacknowledged for weeks. Although Barr admitted that delayed responses happen on occasion, she insisted “the ACSD is working to improve the system by acknowledging students’ requests quickly and informing them that someone will get back to them within a reasonable time period.” Barr also recommended students visit the university’s Student Success Centre for tutoring and learning support.
Finally, Barr said the ACSD is “not aware of exam rooms being uncomfortably hot,” another common complaint James found in his surveys. “However, the ACSD will contact facilities management and request to have room temperatures examined,” she added.
Photo by Alex Hutchins