IGNITE calls for action on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

by | Dec 12, 2018 | News

Galvin Zaldivar
News Reporter

Humber celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3 with a call for able-bodied people to be more considerate of those around them.

IGNITE and Humber’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Committee launched two PSA videos highlighting attitudinal barriers students and staff with disabilities face on campus.

“It’s not a wrong way of thinking to say that everyone needs to have access to education,” said IGNITE President Monica Khosla.

IGNITE President Monica Khosla speaks at Humber North’s International Day for Persons with Disabilities celebration on Dec. 3. (Galvin Zaldivar)

The first video, featuring Khosla, asks Humber students and faculty to be considerate of persons with disabilities when using the elevators. The second video reminds the community to be more aware of the spaces they use and occupy around the college. It features an able-bodied student entering a washroom clearly marked for persons with disabilities.

Each video asks, “What will you do?”

Khosla said that talking to students has made her aware of barriers that she herself would not encounter. These weren’t limited to physical barriers, such as the furniture and layout of a classroom, but in how classroom materials are presented and made available.

“[There are] some things professors can do to make their students feel more included in their classroom and in the conversation,” she said.

The United Nations established the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 1992. Every year they promote a theme to help spread understanding and awareness of the issues faced by persons with disabilities. This year’s theme was “Empowering Persons with Disabilities and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality.”

Sonia Thakur, an Accessibility Consultant, was a key speaker at the Humber North campus event.

“Something to strive for in terms of inclusiveness…is to think [about] approaches to learning and services in a universally designed way,” Thakur said.

For example, Thakur recommends offering recorded lectures directly to students with accommodations instead of them having to record it themselves. She also said instructors could offer alt-text, which means verbal descriptions of visual elements to add context for people with visual impairments.

Zahra Brown, an Equity Generalist with Human Resources and emcee of the Humber celebration, said  students shouldn’t be afraid to advocate for their needs. Brown said staff should also be aware that every student has different needs.

“If students are not speaking up, then we can’t allow staff to do the work. It’s collaborative, student and staff working together,” Brown said.