York faculty, staff honoured at Student Accessibility Services celebration

People walk through Vari Hall, which is located on York U's Keele campus
People walk through Vari Hall, which is located on York U’s Keele campus

Thirty-one York faculty and staff members, plus two staff teams, were honoured for their support of students with disabilities during the Student Accessibility Services’ Virtual End-of-Year Celebration on April 29.

Students and staff nominated the award recipients based on four pillars: collaboration, student-centricity, care and innovation.

“The thing that is so special about this event is that in recognizing staff and faculty who are supportive of students registered with our services, we know that these individuals are likely accommodating all kinds of students through their inclusive practices. It really is about celebrating how we can foster inclusion,” said Maureen Barnes, director of Student Accessibility Services.

The event’s master of ceremonies, Faculty of Education student Hazel Yllana Quemi, introduced the theme of this year’s event: resilience in the face of uncertainty and how we emerge as a stronger and better community coming out of the global pandemic.

In her opening remarks, Barnes noted students’ dedication to recognizing the nominees, despite it being a busy time. “The nomination process happened at a very busy point in the student life cycle,” she said. “Yet students felt passionately enough about those that they nominated that they took the time – time out of a semester that was extra challenging – to make sure that all those receiving recognition today have made a difference.”

Guest speaker Lucy Fromowitz, vice-provost, students, then spoke about the challenges of the past year due to the pandemic, and the resilience students, staff and faculty have shown.

“We’ve experienced some anxieties – over our health, over our safety and over the world news that we face every day. And yet here we are today, in a celebration. Celebrating … the care and compassion, celebrating the innovation of our faculty and of our staff, and the agility of all of us to make that shift and to make that shift successfully,” said Fromowitz.

The event’s keynote speaker was Marian MacGregor, executive director of Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion, who gave a moving speech about her sister’s journey of resilience with multiple sclerosis and the lessons she applied to her own life.

One of the event’s highlights was a video titled “Celebrating Resilience,” which featured word clouds and students talking about resilience, the challenges faced over the past year and their support systems.

A speech from Kaleb Dahlgren, York student and author of the book Crossroads, was another highlight. Dahlgren told his story as a survivor of the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash, his journey at York University as a student with a disability and the challenges of learning remotely over the past year. He paid tribute to his professors who supported his accommodations and supported him while he was writing his book.

“In these times, professors have no idea of the impact they would have on a student,” said Dahlgren in his remarks. “I know that many teachers are here who have been able to support us in our journeys and that actually means the world.”

Pam Smith, manager of Student Accessibility Services, then acknowledged the recipients of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 Student Accessibility Services Award. The celebration included recognition of the 2019-20 award winners, who were recognized this year due to the postponement of last year’s ceremony.

The 2019-20 recipients are:

  • Student Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Assessment Team;
  • Amber Holliday, Student Systems Renewal Program;
  • Claudio Iacoe, Library Accessibility Services;
  • Liz McMahan, Advancement Services & Operations;
  • Shanthini Allagaratn Jeyakumar, Career Education & Development;
  • Chris Robinson, faculty member, School of Administrative Studies;
  • Diane Vetter, faculty member, Faculty of Education;
  • Eric Mykhalovskiy, faculty member, Department of Sociology;
  • Iris Epstein, faculty member, Department of Nursing and Faculty of Education;
  • Janessa Drake, faculty member, School of Kinesiology & Health Sciences;
  • Michol Hoffman, faculty member, Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics;
  • Mike Cado, faculty member, Department of Music, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design;
  • Pierre Potvin, faculty member, Department of Chemistry;
  • Taslima Nasreen, faculty member, School of Administrative Studies; and
  • Vlad Paskaljevic, faculty member, Department of Cinema & Media Arts, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design.

The 2020-21 recipients are:

  • Learning Technology Services Team;
  • Leonard Chow, Client Services (UIT);
  • Luba Pan, Student Services & International Relations, Schulich School of Business;
  • Nadia Forzley-Saad, Office of the Dean, School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design;
  • Abigail Shabtay, faculty member, Department of Humanities;
  • Alexandra Rutherford, faculty member, Department of Psychology;
  • Brenda Blondeau, faculty member, Writing Centre and School of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies;
  • Chandra Kumar, faculty member, Department of Philosophy;
  • Chris Chapman, faculty member, School of Social Work;
  • Joseph FX DeSouza, faculty member, Department of Psychology;
  • Julie Conder, faculty member, Department of Psychology;
  • Kym Bird, faculty member, Department of Humanities;
  • Lorin Schwarz, faculty member, Faculty of Education;
  • Loriann Hynes, faculty member, School of Kinesiology & Health Sciences;
  • Robert McKeown, faculty member, Department of Economics;
  • Sean Rehaag, faculty member, Osgoode Hall Law School;
  • Sharon Armstrong, faculty member, Department of Psychology; and
  • Tanya Da Sylva, faculty member, Department of Biology.

Karen Swartz, associate director of Student Accessibility Services, then delivered closing remarks. In congratulating the award recipients, she said, “Your continued support advances the work we do, removing barriers for students with disabilities. We appreciate all that you do.”