Accessibility Stories

Camosun is proud to showcase examples of accessibility throughout our college community

Heart-berry: decolonizing how we support disability

Heart-berry was a student led research project that looked at methodologies to decolonize college supports for students with disabilities. Alisha Parks, a student in Indigenous Studies, collaborated with the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) and the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL) in her research. With the support of Sue Doner (CETL faculty), she presented her findings and recommendations to the 2022 Walls Optional faculty conference.

Alisha developed a model for accessibility and expressed this model in a painting. The painting was gifted to the college as part of her project and now resides near the entrance to CAL in the Lansdowne Library. The painting serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of approaching accessibility from a place that considers the whole person—culture, experience and disability.

Alisha and Sue are committed to sharing this work with the wider community. Visit the project site to learn more.

Inclusion is not a checklist

With funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education, CETL in partnership with CAL, led a three-year initiative to raise awareness about universal design for learning (UDL) and to implement tools and resources to support college-wide adoption of UDL principles.

Sue Doner, CETL faculty, was the project lead and was supported by two student research assistants Shane Baker and Melissa Lyon. Shane and Melissa shared their experiences as students with disabilities and hosted talking circles for other students to share their stories. The stories help to inform the college's approach to accessibility in curriculum design and teaching practice.

The project’s website is a repository for the resources developed including twenty persona cards, featuring real-life stories of Camosun students. The cards are used to develop awareness around the challenges students face. Another important resource is Making your print documents accessible for all learners. This brochure serves quick guide for instructors and was distributed widely across the college in print and electronic formats.

The project’s success is seen in the ongoing commitment to UDL among Camosun faculty. CETL hosts regular workshops on accessibility topics and facilitates an Accessible Education Community of Practice that explores the intersectionality of accommodations, accessibility and Universal Design for Learning.

Building capacity of the Centre for Accessible Learning

The college has seen consistent growth in students with disabilities seeking accommodations. In response, the college made investments in the Centre for Accessible Learning, building capacity to meet the needs of students.

In 2017 expanded space for the centre was opened within the Lansdowne Library and Learning Commons. At the same time, the Disability Resource Centre was renamed the Centre for Accessible Learning. The new space positioned the centre at the heart of student activity on campus, and the new name shifted focus to accessibility, away from disability.

In 2021, a new testing centre for accommodated exams was opened at the Interurban campus. The testing centre has capacity for 25 students, in a technology enabled, sensory and distraction free environment.

Personalized support is a key feature of the centre’s mandate, and investments in additional staff have been made to meet demand. Darryl Gorrie, the centre’s first manager was hired in 2019, and additional advisors, instructors and invigilators have been added to provide front-line services and supports.

Investments have also been made in technology to increase self-serve options for students. Clockwork, an administrative tool to coordinate and communicate academic accommodations was implemented in 2023. This self-serve platform gives students greater independence and at the same time makes services more efficient and responsive.

Technology enables accessibility

Technology can enable and enhance accessibility. The Library, CETL and Information Technology Services (ITS) have been instrumental in providing and supporting the college community with digital tools to make learning and working accessible.

ITS deployed Kurzweil 3000 across the college. The site-wide license allows anyone who needs to use this text-to-voice tool on and off campus. ITS also supports the use of Zoom Text and Jaws. All employees and students have access to Office365 and its embedded text to speech and other accessibility tools. Print and Graphic services produces high-quality scans using optical character recognition (OCR) for anyone needing a text in an accessible format.

Library services bridge the digital divide that many students face. The library loans laptops and noise-cancelling headphones, and seeks to provide resources in alternate formats. The library has translated the APA citation guide into a format accessible for users of text to voice tools.

The use of educational technology is ubiquitous at the college. A number of tools are integrated with the D2L to make the online learning environment as accessible as possible. Blackboard Ally guides instructors in creating accessible course content and allows students to choose their preferred format. Readspeaker is enabled across the platform, providing responsive text to speech.

Mental health & well-being at Camosun

Enhancing well-being at college is influenced by a number of factors. It involves mental health literacy, engaging in health promotion and resiliency strategies, creating health promoting policies, responsive mental health services and designing spaces that encourage connection and positive student engagement. Accessibility, from a mental well-being perspective, means all community members are welcomed in our community.

Camosun’s Student Mental Health and Well-being Strategy recognizes the importance that mental well-being plays in students’ college experience. The strategy provides a comprehensive plan to create the awareness, conditions and actions required to support the mental health and well-being of students at Camosun.

For employees with mental health concerns, an Abilities Management Specialist is available to assist in obtaining supports. Supports can include accessing external services or facilitating wage replacement if the employee requires a leave to address an illness.

In 2018, a cross-institutional committee came together to focus on building positive mental well-being for the College community. Student Affairs, Human Resources, and the Camosun College Student Society collaborated to present Thrive Week. This event takes place in the fall, winter, and summer terms to promote mental health literacy. Thrive Week reduces stigma and creates a healthy campus for employees and students. Everyone is invited to participate in workshops presented by community mental health providers and college employees, on topics such as resilience, mindfulness and coping with change. Fitness, yoga and meditation sessions are hosted during the week by various college departments.