Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario


University of Windsor To Offer First Disabilities Studies Program In Ontario

Monica Wolfson, Windsor Star
Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In September, the University of Windsor will launch Ontario's only full time undergraduate program in disabilities studies.

It will be only the second program in Canada after the University of Calgary. Most disabilities studies programs are graduate degrees or part time, like the undergraduate program offered at Ryerson.

Disabilities studies is an emerging discipline and will be a collaborative program between social work and psychology.

With the passage in June 2005 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, government agencies and organizations will have to become more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities. People educated in disability issues will be needed to work in health, education and social services to design and implement policies and laws associated with disability issues.

"This program fills a gap in the province," said Prof. Don Leslie, who teaches social work. "It's a good fit with the U of W because it draws on students we aren't currently capturing."

Leslie said the new program will draw community college graduates in fields such as child and youth worker, early childhood education and developmental services worker who need a bachelor degree to advance in their careers.

The goal is to start with about 20 students in first year and advance to 150 over four years.

The U of W Senate approved the program Wednesday after lengthy discussion about how to start a new program in an era of budget cuts and declining enrolment. Senate members applauded the program's originality but questioned whether the university had the resources to hire the two faculty members and a handful of sessional instructors needed. The program will cost more than $200,000 per year once it's fully operational.

"It's such an excellent idea that goes with our pillar of social justice," said Prof. Beth Daly. "If we pass because of budget concerns, I'm not sure we are doing our job."

Passage of the program also caused Senate members to consider the irony that while U of W would champion disability studies, its campus had serious accessibility issues.

Dean Valihora, 22, has been disabled since birth and bound to a wheelchair since he was five years old. The second-year psychology student gives the U of W high marks for accessibility compared to older buildings in the city.

"The biggest thing is the buttons for the (automatic doors for wheelchairs) don't always work," said Valihora, who plans to go into human resources when he graduates. "My main concern is washrooms. The only one with an automatic door is the one on the second floor of the CAW Centre."

The worst bathroom, ironically, is the one located next to the Special Needs Centre in Dillon Hall, he said.

© The Windsor Star 2008

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