Equitable Access for All
Published9 March, 2023
Photo credit Patrick Leung
CapU’s Accessibility Services offers practical and personalized support to elevate the educational experience for those with unique needs.
After years of struggling to pay attention and focus in class, Elissa Burns eventually learned what caused her challenges.
Finally, when she was in her 20s, Burns was diagnosed with ADHD. The diagnosis brought clarity, but it also meant a new reality. She worried about returning to school because of how hard it had been growing up.
“Education, in general, is intimidating for me because I don’t learn well in big classes, and I get easily distracted, but I knew criminal psychology was what I wanted to do, so I decided to go for it,” says Burns, a first-year psychology student at CapU.
At CapU, students, like Burns, with additional challenges – physical, learning or mental health – have the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as all students.
When those who have unique needs accept their admission offer to CapU, they can register for Accessibility Services, which allows students access to academic accommodations that can best support them.
Academic accommodations have a history rooted in human rights and equitable access to remove a barrier to full participation and learning.
Burns used CapU’s Accessibility Services to address her specific learning needs, including the opportunity to take her exams somewhere private and distraction-free.
“I was especially nervous about taking exams in a room full of other people, but Accessibility Services were so understanding and told me about the potential to have extra time in my exams,” she says.
Burns struggled to see herself as someone who genuinely needed accommodation, but the team at Accessibility Services, including advisor Heather Mitchell, helped her to realize that she did.
“There is a stigma surrounding accommodations, but education is hard, and nobody should be struggling more than they need to be,” Burns says. “I want to shout about these services so more people can benefit.”
Get in touch to discuss academic accommodations, ways to apply for disability-related funding or to connect with other supports and services.Connect with Accessibility Services
Students are encouraged to get in touch with Mitchell and the Accessibility Services team to set up academic accommodations and apply for disability-related funding.
For the 2021-2022 academic year, 840 students made use of the services, and Mitchell predicts an even larger number this year.
“We are trying to raise the profile of our services and increase understanding with students and instructors alike,” Mitchell says. “We don’t want anyone thinking their disability will affect their success at university.”
To begin the process, students can connect with an advisor who will ask about their education history, previous academic accommodations and barriers in the academic environment. Students will then set up a Notification of Accommodation letter to communicate their academic accommodations to instructors.
Burns describes her experience with academic accommodations at CapU as “re-learning” learning.
Since starting at CapU, Burns received a grant, helping her to buy an iPad to support her education.
“I assumed the grant was for people with a disability, and I never thought of myself as disabled,” she says, adding that software on the iPad allows her to record lectures and timestamp sections to come back and listen to later.
“This is a far cry from sitting in lectures stressed about taking notes and realizing I hadn’t listened to the instructor because I couldn’t figure out how to spell a word,” Burns adds.
Academic accommodations have also allowed Burns to dedicate more time to her studies and worry less about money.
With the aid of the grant to cover her tutoring, Burns was able to go from working three to four days a week, in addition to full-time school, to just two days.
“I’m not drowning anymore,” she says. “I believe the extra tutoring is the difference between passing and failing my course, so I’m extremely thankful.”
Her younger brother is also neurodivergent and struggles at school due to lack of support. Her CapU experience has made Burns optimistic about his future.
“We never thought he’d even be able to go to school, let alone university, but after my positive experiences with Accessibility Services at CapU, I am encouraging him to pursue university after high school, as the family now sees hope for him,” she says.
First-year Bachelor of Motion Picture Arts (MOPA) student Katayoun Kamdar always knew she wanted to be a film editor, but when she read the word “competitive” related to the film program at CapU, she feared she wouldn’t be accepted.
She worried over how she would cope academically due a diagnosis of pseudo seizures caused by intense emotions including stress, sadness or anger.
“I never thought I would get in (to CapU), but my teachers and parents encouraged me to apply, and I’m so glad I did,” says Kamdar, a born and raised North Vancouver resident who learned about CapU’s academic accommodations through her high school counsellor.
Fearing that she would have a seizure in class was affecting her studies, so Kamdar approached Accessibility Services.
One of the solutions they determined was that Kamdar should wear headphones to help her block out distractions. Another service that helped Kamdar deal with her anxiety was to have deadline extensions. Mitchell also encouraged her to speak with her instructors one-on-one, which Kamdar says she wouldn’t have had the courage to do otherwise.
Current and future CapU students experiencing disability-related barriers can reach out to Accessibility Services to discuss academic accommodations and ways to apply for disability-related funding or to connect with other supports and services.
With Accessibility Services breaking down barriers, CapU is opening the doors to a new era of inclusive learning where every student has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.
Experiencing barriers? Get in touch.
If you are a CapU student experiencing disability-related barriers, please contact Accessibility Services to discuss academic accommodations, ways to apply for disability-related funding or to connect with other supports and services.
Counselling appointments are available and can be booked through our online self-service system on the Counselling & Mental Health page.
There are also several services available to help you thrive in the classroom, including our Academic Advisors, Learning Support and the Writing Centre.