Organization changes will better support students’ learning, mental health and wellness needs

A counsellor with a student

Lucy Fromowitz, vice-provost students, and Marc Wilchesky, executive director, Counselling & Disability Services, jointly announce the following organization changes to better serve the needs of York University students.

An international student sits with a counsellor

Effective immediately, Learning Disability Services (LDS), Mental Health Disability Services (MHDS) and Physical, Sensory & Medical Disability Services (PSMDS) will be collectively renamed Student Accessibility Services (SAS), and Personal Counselling Services will now be called Student Counselling & Development (SCD). These changes will help students and the University community more easily identify the appropriate support provider. Note that Glendon will continue to provide health, wellness and accessibility services on its campus under the current name of the Accessibility, Well-Being & Counselling (AWC) Centre.

Considering these departmental changes, Maureen Barnes, currently manager of Learning Disability Services, will assume the role of director of Student Accessibility Services to ensure an efficient and effective transition of York’s three separate accessibility service units into one department delivering consistent and transparent services to students. Karen Swartz and Mark Mingail will continue in their current leadership roles in SAS. Polly MacFarlane, currently director of Personal Counselling Services, assumes the role of director of Student Counselling & Development.

The realignment of SAS includes developing a new communications plan to help all members of the York University community differentiate between accessibility services (learning; mental health; and physical, sensory and medical) and counselling services. Although SAS will no longer use the various unit names (Learning Disability Services, Mental Health Disability Services and Physical, Sensory & Medical Disability Services), each of those teams will remain intact and will continue to support students as they do currently.

The University’s decision to position the two support pillars – Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and Student Counselling & Development (SCD) – is in keeping with an ongoing transition throughout the postsecondary education sector in both Canada and the United States. In addition, current scholarship and industry practice points to a shift away from the use of the term “disability” when describing services and resources toward the more inclusive term “accessibility.” The name change to Student Accessibility Services emphasizes the significant role of the accessibility unit in helping to make the campus more accessible for learning. The name change to Student Counselling & Development better reflects its mandate to help York students realize, develop and fulfill their personal potential in order to maximally benefit from their university experience and manage the challenges of university life.

These organization changes, in turn, support and align with the Division of Students’ vision: to be partners in student success.

Changes will roll out gradually in digital and print communications over the next month and will be completed by the new year.

For more information about Student Accessibility Services visit:

For more information about Student Counselling & Development visit: