How We Champion Accessibility: Spotlight on Christine Logel

As we celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day at Renison with the launch of Accessibility Matters @ Renison we are excited to feature our first accessibility champion at Renison, faculty member Professor Christine Logel. Here is what Professor Logel had to say about accessiblilty (Q & A style).

Question (Q): How long have you been teaching at Renison? What are the courses you teach?

Professor Logel (CL): I started in 2011. I volunteered to teach Introductory Psychology, even though it is a lot of work to prepare that class for the first time. I wanted to catch all the students when they first arrive at Renison so that I can teach them not only the course content, but also how things work in university classes.

Q: What are your favourite areas to research?

CL: I am passionate about my research! I seek to understand, and then address, the social psychological factors that affect people's well-being and success and health - using rigorous scientific methods.

Q: When did you first start paying close attention to accessibility issues?

CL: Over the years, students with disabilities came to my office hours to talk about class, but they ended up having a real influence on my work as they told me about their experiences in university.

Then I developed a chronic health problem. If I were a student, I would be registered at Accessibility Services. I learned how to live a full life and do well at work, but I also discovered what it is like when almost every activity you do requires either accommodation, or careful planning, or extra time.

Q: What do you do to make your classes as accessible as possible?

CL: I am making changes as I learn.

I got a scale model of a brain for my low-vision students to feel as I described brain structures in class.

I stopped waiting for students to ask for notetakers - I "hire" two notetakers in each class and "pay" them in bonus marks. This lets me choose highly conscientious notetakers who will provide high-quality notes.

I openly explain my own accommodations - for example how I have to sit while I give lectures or sometimes hold office hours by phone so I can be at home - and then I invite the class to share their situations,  either with me privately or with the whole class, if that would be helpful for them. One year a student stood up and explained that he was deaf in one ear so he would need to sit on the left side of the classroom. Another year a student taught the class how to respond to her service dog.

These are such basic actions, and I am frustrated that I did not know that I could do them until students started teaching me.

Q: What advice/suggestions do you have for your colleagues?

Some students don't feel comfortable approaching professors to request accommodations.  So we need to try to be proactive. There is a huge variety of disabilities and we can't plan ahead for all of them. But we can make it clear to students that their success matters to us, and when they come to us, we will listen and we will accommodate everything we reasonably can.

Given that money is most certainly an object, what advice do you have for administrators?

Educate the professors about these issues. They have the biggest effect on students' success and well-being.

Q: Anything else you would like to say?

I have a message for students with disabilities: Every time you talk to a professor or an administrator or a peer about your life and the accommodations you need, you are educating them and paving the way for next year's students. Being a trailblazer is not always easy. But you will graduate with not just a degree, but with the knowledge that you have changed your university for the better. You've certainly changed me.

Accessibility Matters at Renison seeks to identify real and potential barriers to accessibility and promote universal design principles across the college. We welcome your suggestions and your participation in this important endeavour.