Recent Accessibility Accomplishments

Over the past few years, Waterloo has made dedicated efforts to review our established programs, practices, policies and services to promote equitable opportunities for persons with disabilities. While some initiatives were undertaken to include recent updates and changes to the AODA, many campus departments inherently determined the need to address barriers and implement change or modifications to be inclusive and enhance offerings. Some of our more recent initiatives are summarized in the following sections.

Two women in a meeting roomAdministration and Governance

As an initial step in centralizing accessibility efforts within Waterloo, an Accessibility Committee was formed with individuals who influence or experience campus-wide accessibility issues. Reporting to the Associate Provost, Human Resources, the members of this committee act as problem solvers for current and future barrier identification and remedies.

Student Experience

Student EngagementTwo images are combined. The first photos shows students in the Student Success Office. The second photo shows a student using an assistive device.

AccessAbility Services, Waterloo’s centralized office for the management of student academic accommodations, established a Student Advisory Committee that offers input regarding the offices’ programs and services. The committee has also been leveraged to provide feedback to the broader University community on matters related to accessibility.

Assistive Software for Students

Waterloo has procured a site license for Kurzweil software, providing this assistive technology on any computer at Waterloo. This will allow students to access digital material in a format that is most conducive to their needs anywhere on campus – not limited by one particular computer lab or area of campus.

An adaptive technology loan cabinet has also been created through AccessAbility Services, enabling students to trial or borrow technology without the financial burden of purchasing it, allowing for greater access to student accommodations.

Diversity in Study Spaces for Students

Recognizing the different needs and study preferences of students, our main libraries, Dana Porter and Davis Centre Libraries, have created different zones for silent, quiet and group study.

Academic Accommodations

Student working on computerWaterloo is committed to creating an environment that promotes students’ well-being in every way possible. The Graduate Student Medical Leave Award has been created for eligible research-based graduate students who must go inactive for medical reasons (e.g., physical or mental health) and, as a result, may have their current university funding discontinued. Effective January 1, 2018, eligible students may receive a one time award valued at a maximum of $5,000. This new medical leave award will provide support to eligible inactive students as they return to health, allowing them a timely return to their studies and Waterloo’s community.

Waterloo also offers a 10 per cent tuition discount for undergraduate students who require a reduced course load as part of their accommodation plan.

In response to recent recommendations made by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, AccessAbility Services developed a new protocol that ensure students with disabilities receive interim accommodations pending formal documentation.

Furthermore, AccessAbility Services launched a new online system which promotes greater independence, autonomy, and streamlined processes for facilitating academic accommodation. This has allowed students to obtain the required accommodations sooner, minimizing disruption to their studies.Two images are shown. The first image shows two students working together. The second photo shows one person pushing a student in a wheelchair into the Student Access Van.

Employment Skills for Co-op Students

Co-operative and Experiential Education office and AccessAbility Services collaborated to enhance students with disabilities to meaningfully participate in Waterloo’s robust co-operative education program. This new collaboration received support from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario’s EnAbling Change Program grant to further its work.

Student Access Van

The Student Access Van is a shuttle service offered through AccessAbility Services that is supported through University funding and student auxiliary fees. The service is for students with a temporary or permanent disability requiring transportation support between main campus buildings.

Employee Experience

Recruitment and Onboarding Practices

Waterloo is an equal opportunity employer in recruitment and retention of employees. In 2016, Waterloo implemented a new talent acquisition system and process, and took this opportunity to ensure communication of Waterloo’s commitment and ability to accommodate were included at every stage of the recruitment process. Waterloo extended its commitment beyond the candidate process, and offered accommodation and alternative communication formats during reference checks as well.

Orientation for new staff and faculty incorporates a component on the diverse workplace and the support services available on campus and in the community to address the needs of faculty or staff with suspected or identified disabilities.

The Academic Leadership Program for newly appointed faculty members with administrative duties (including Associate Deans, Chairs, Associate Chairs and directors) has a dedicated portion on AODA requirements, accessibility and inclusion as an employer and educator.

Professional Development for Employees

Waterloo endeavors to create a climate that is respectful of diversity in its policies, practices and procedures and outreach to the community. Instilling a culture of inclusion and empathy within the Waterloo community is critical to success. To that end, Waterloo offers training and professional development opportunities to all our employees to increase their knowledge on accessibility and inclusion.

In 2011, the Inclusivity Series, a multi-series professional development program including seven half-day workshops, was developed to promote and embed inclusion principles in the campus culture. The introductory half-day workshop entitled Principles of Inclusivity is one of four core development workshops that all staff are encouraged to take during their first year of employment at Waterloo.

Speaker at Staff ConferenceWaterloo’s internal Information Systems and Technology department regularly offers software accessibility workshops to all employees through their Skills for the Electronic Workplace courses. Standard workshop offerings include: Introduction to Web Accessibility, Accessible Word and PDF Files, Accessible Digital Design, and Creating Accessible Tables.

Scheduling of Classes

As of Fall 2016, Waterloo instructors (faculty and staff who teach) are asked to select a teaching window within which they will be scheduled to teach. Within this new system, there is a priority level given to accommodate verified disabilities. In practice, this allows faculty and staff and their departments a confidential and standardized management of accommodation requests related to teaching schedules.

Accessible Parking Spaces

Accessible parking passWaterloo’s Community is vibrant and engaging, with its members mobilizing between various buildings for gatherings, meetings, and services offerings. While Waterloo strives to provide adequate, accessible parking on campus for students, staff, faculty, and community visitors with permanent disabilities, Waterloo understands the increased need for accessible parking for individuals with limited mobility for temporary periods. A cross-department group worked together to create a new process to meet short-term needs, including assigned permit spaces to accommodate individuals with temporarily reduced mobility, who may not have a Ministry of Transportation issued accessible parking permit.