Student spokesperson opens new alternate exam testing facility

Above: (front row, from left) Sherry Lewkowicz, associate registrar academic scheduling; Lorna R. Marsden, York president & vice-chancellor; Annette Symanzik, case counsellor, Office for Persons with Disabilities; Tamara Gordon, spokesperson for York’s students with disabilities; Vim Kochhar, Chair of the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons; Marcia Gordon, Tamara’s mother; and Rob Tiffin, vice-president students, at the official ribbon cutting for the Alternate Testing Facility on March 7

York students with disabilities who need accommodation to write exams have a new place to write them in comfort after the opening of the University’s new Alternate Testing Facility in Room N148 of the Ross Building, Keele campus.

The new facility, which includes three individual cubicles and additional computer workstations equipped with special software for persons with disabilities, was officially opened Wednesday, March 7, bringing the total number of testing rooms on campus to 37. Students, who previously had to write exams in less than ideal conditions in various locations on the Keele campus, can write their exams in comfort while they are monitored by invigilators in a control room located in the centre of the facility. The brightly lit rooms, which include numerous design features to accommodate students’ needs such as adjustable tables, adaptive software, a choice between fluorescent or natural light, audio head-sets, are also wheelchair accessible. The existing Ross Building alternate exam testing centres in S176 and N109, will also continue to serve students’ needs.

Joanne Duklas, Rob Tiffin and Lorna R. Marsden“This was a pan-University initiative involving such departments as the counselling centres, facilities services, CNS, Student Community Development & Leadership, the Registrar’s Office and numerous other people,” said Joanne Duklas, University registrar, in her remarks made during the opening. Duklas thanked everyone involved with the classroom for their efforts.

Right: From left, Duklas, Tiffin and Marsden speak at the opening of the facility

York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden congratulated Duklas, as well as Rob Tiffin, vice-president students, on the completion of the project, which involved extensive consultation with numerous stakeholders, including all York’s disability services offices, Access York and the students with disabilities at the University. “York has a great reputation as a leader in serving students with disabilities,” said Marsden, adding “that spirit is not just theoretical, York lives its reputation and you all proved that.”

Over a twelve month period in 2006, the Registrar’s Office booked over 6100 exams, demonstrating the need for these services.

In his remarks thanking staff in York’s Student Community & Leadership Development office, Tiffin noted that the University of Western Ontario had recently visited York’s Office for Persons with Disabilities, located across the hall in the Ross Building, and planned to use it as a template for a new facility they are developing.

Tamara Gordon, a fourth-year student in the Atkinson School of Administrative Studies, spoke on behalf of all students with disabilities. “Cutting this ribbon today is also cutting away barriers for students with disabilities,” she said, adding that all those she represented were encouraged by the “relief this intervention has brought us.”

Following her remarks, Gordon cut the ribbon to open the alternate testing facility, flanked by fellow students and guests, who then toured the facility.

Special guests at the opening included two friends of York who have helped fund projects and awards for students with special needs. Vim Kochhar, Chair of the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons, and Joseph Bobyk were both recognized during the opening remarks for their support.

For more information on services for persons with disabilities at York, visit the Disabilities Services Web page.