What does accessibility look like in the classroom? When this question was posed to Course Director Lorin Schwarz, in the Faculty of Education, he answered “inclusion plus access.”
Schwarz, along with Mary Desrocher – associate professor of clinical developmental psychology – were among the many University community members nominated for Student Accessibility Services Awards ahead of its end-of-year celebration on April 6.
Since 2018, students have been encouraged to nominate members of the York community they feel have exceeded the standard expectations of their role for the sake of expanding access to learning opportunities and services on campus. Repeat-nominee Schwarz was most recently among the award winners for the 2020-21 academic year, while first-time-nominee Desrocher received one of the 18 awards handed out at this year’s ceremony.
Desrocher described a “lightbulb” moment that first alerted her to the importance of an accessible learning experience. Over 20 years ago, when she was a newly inducted lecturer at York, a student approached Desrocher after class and disclosed a learning disability to her with some trepidation.
“At that time, we didn’t have Moodle, we didn’t have eClass, we might not even have had Student Accessibility Services,” she said.
Inspired by the exchange, Desrocher decided to pre-emptively provide notes to all of her students, regardless of whether or not they had disclosed disabilities to her or other professors, in order to alleviate the additional pressure of having to do so for those who may have been struggling with ADHD, anxiety or other disorders that could make note-taking difficult. Ever since, Desrocher has reaffirmed that decision time and time again. That first student to privately ask her for assistance eventually graduated from York and followed a career in psychology, a fact which continues to motive Desrocher to help students reach their fullest potentials.
Simple changes can make a profound difference, according to Desrocher. In practice, those changes can look like note sharing; using classroom time to discuss, rather than lecture; and believing her students when they ask to be accommodated. She encourages everyone to remember the ethos of accessibility and reminds her peers that “you are not the expert in someone else’s lived experience.”
Schwarz shared a similar guiding philosophy, explaining that “we’re so afraid of making things personal now… but let yourself care about the students.
“We’re here to increase the joy in the world, not decrease it,” he added. “See people as complicated human beings and not something that you can simplify.”
A full list of 2022-23 Student Accessibility Services Award winners is included below.
- Ahmad Firas Khalid, sessional assistant professor, Faculty of Health
- Amila Butorovic, associate professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
- Devin Phillips, assistant professor, Faculty of Health
- Ivona Hideg, associate professor, Schulich School of Business
- Jeanine Tuitt, supports and services coordinator, Office of Student Community Relations
- Jennifer Spinney, assistant professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
- Katherine Di Lorenzo, student support advisor, Student Support Advising
- Lindsay LaMorre, associate director, Experiential Education, Faculty of Education
- Lois King, contract faculty, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
- Makini McGuire-Brown, course instructor, PhD candidate, Schulich School of Business
- Mark Thomas, professor and Chair of Sociology Department, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
- Mary Desrocher, associate professor, Faculty of Health
- Matthew Keough, assistant professor, Faculty of Health
- Matthias Hoben, associate professor, Faculty of Health
- Ruodan Shao, associate professor, Schulich School of Business
- Stephanie Pugliese Domenikos, assistant professor, Faculty of Science
- Taylor Cleworth, assistant professor, Faculty of Health
- Theodore Noseworthy, associate professor and research Chair, Schulich School of Business
- Yueting Chen, PhD candidate, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
For more ways to promote and demonstrate a commitment to an accessible University, see the resources provided on the Student Accessibility Services website.