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Accommodation denied: U of G student raises concern over accessibility

Student says school's promises of accessibility more performative than practical
20160202 University of Guelph 04 KA
FILE PHOTO: University of Guelph. Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday

A little over one week since the start of classes at the University of Guelph and one student is still unsure if she'll be able to see the semester through.

Among a number of other issues, Brittney Hannah said she's been dealing with a nagging broken ankle which has been keeping her from attending class in-person. She said the school's accommodation policy at present seems to simply require students reach out to professors directly, and hope for the best.

"Your advisor would reach out to them but the professor could still say 'no' as to whether they wanted to accommodate you with whatever they were reaching out about," Hannah told The Mike Farwell Show on CityNews 570.

With a surgery date on her calendar in September, Hannah said she reached out in July asking for accommodation and was essentially presented two options: load-up on distance education courses or drop the semester.

"There's not a lot of distance ed. courses for my program so it would be very difficult for me to do that, so then for the second accommodation to be to drop the semester -- it's just very ableist to be honest," Hannah said.

She said throughout the process she's felt less a student and more a burden.

"What they keep saying is that there's collective agreements [...] that professors can say no to accommodation," said Hannah. "And I don't think it should be up to one individual within a university to say no to someone's medical needs."

In the meantime, Hannah said she felt she was being juggled back-and-forth between departments, all while never actually making any forward momentum - so she decided to tweet about her experience, not expecting a somewhat overwhelming response from others who claim to have similar experiences with the school.

"I expected people to have been through similar circumstances but my situation is not even close to being the worst situation of what people have gone through," she said.

That said, Hannah did note several professors have since taken it upon themselves to reach out to her and also effort to advocate on her behalf.

"But even right now, nothing has been set to accommodate me yet and today is the last day to pick-up classes so... I'm a little worried."

As for claims of accessibility and accommodation by the school, Hannah said those now seem more performative than anything else.

"Even the page of the [university's] president says 'our commitment to improve life is also apparent on our campuses' but this has done nothing to improve my life so far," she said. "Not even being able to get the education I pay for has been quite frustrating."

Also frustrating, Hannah said, is the accommodations she's been asking for are essentially the same as were pandemic standard as recently as last term.

"It's hard knowing we were online and able to accommodate as recently as the summer semester and the previous winter semester," she said. "It doesn't seem like it's a super hard thing that I'm asking for."

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