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Cross-campus team launches online orientation resource for students with disabilities

A cross-functional team has released a web resource that introduces new and prospective students with disabilities to the array of services available to them across Keele campus.

The Virtual Orientation to Support Services for Students with Disabilities is the result of a successful Academic Innovation Fund proposal submitted in 2012 by co-leads Catherine Davidson, associate university librarian, collections & research, and Maureen Haig, manager, Learning Disability Services. The cross-campus team comprised of faculty and staff from York University Libraries, Counselling & Disability Services and Learning & Technology Services, developed a series of instructional clips and videos that are now available on their blog and will also be linked to from multiple webpages across York’s website.

Catherine_bestCatherine Davidson

“We wanted these resources for students with disabilities to be ubiquitously available on York’s website so the instructional clips and videos can be accessed anytime and anywhere by students who need them,” explains Davidson.

At York, Counselling & Disability Services is divided into three services each with its own separate location on campus. In addition, students can use the Assistive Technology Lab in the Technology and Enhanced Learning (TEL) building, Library Accessibility Services in Scott Library or take advantage of the Learning Commons’ research, writing and learning skills services, also in Scott Library.

The intent of the web-based orientation is to help demystify these resources and processes for students. “It’s our hope that the videos will minimize the anxiety students feel both in getting acquainted with a confusing campus and understanding where and how to ask for the support and services they need,” says Haig. “The Virtual Orientation to Support Services for Students with Disabilities is an introduction for students who might need to get in touch with our offices. It also provides them with a visual of what to expect when they arrive.”

The Virtual Orientation to Support Services for Students with Disabilities consists of a three and a half minute video Welcome Tour that provides students with the location of, and the services available through, the Learning, Mental Health, and Physical, Sensory and Medical Counselling & Disability Services offices. The video demonstrates how students can register with the various services and highlights some way-finding benefits of using York’s Safety app. The Welcome Tour also illustrates the services available through Library Accessibility Services, the Learning Commons, and an Assistive Technology Lab.

In the Virtual Orientation, students will also find instructional clips of how to use two assistive technologies, Kurzweil screen reader and Papyrus, York’s own secure web-based alternate format text delivery system.

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Maureen Haig

Made in compliance with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) guidelines, the videos are closed captioned and were created with accessibility standards in mind.

Davidson and Haig solicited feedback from student focus groups to ensure the team was meeting project goals.

“This was a collaborative effort between York University Libraries, Counselling & Disability Services and Learning Technology Services and each of the partners provided essential expertise to the project,” explains Davidson. “We’d now like to partner with members from faculties and departments across campus to integrate these resources into course offerings, websites and eLearning tools.”

The Virtual Orientation to Support Services for Students with Disabilities team welcomes feedback and all opportunities to work with those interested in creating awareness for these valuable student services.