Accessibility, when defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, can be described as “the capability of being understood or appreciated.” American businesswoman and advocate for persons with disabilities Debra Ruh once said that “accessibility allows us to tap into everyone’s potential.” Putting both of those statements together, relative to being a university student, reveals that when someone is being understood and appreciated for what they can contribute, they can tap into their full potential.
That’s why, for my maiden blog post of 2017-2018, I am proud to shine the spotlight on the Student Accessibility Services (SAS), a part of the university's Office of Student Life. I got the chance to interview and speak with the very passionate and inspired Tina Murray (pictured below), Manager of SAS, to discuss the many great strides and positive impacts she and her team make each and every day when helping all UOIT students tap into their full potential.
I asked Tina about the uniqueness of her department’s approach to serving students as it relates to disclosure, both at the university and beyond in the workplace and world of employment. She commented:
"That’s one of the reasons why I love working here—we don’t treat students as just students, we view them as whole people, and we appreciate everything they bring to the table. In Student Life, we get to know our students. Because we are such a big unit, the students cross-pollinate between our units, which is wonderful and I don’t think that happens at larger educational institutions. Our team really does get the chance to see them in every part of their life, as we seek to know them at a personal, cross-service use level through the other services that they use.
So in terms of disclosure, it is that we have the relationship with the student that we're not just helping them to choose and implement their accommodations, we’re looking beyond. What students will need outside of the classroom, not just the basic needs; we want to know what is going to make them successful here and when they leave. How is this going to translate in employment? Whether it is disclosure [as advertised in poster photo from last year below] to an employer in the workplace, or even requesting accommodations for an interview, we’ve definitely worked with students really closely, who without accommodations for an interview, would never have an equitable opportunity for that employment."
I had then asked Tina: What is your greatest accomplishment each and every day when arriving and leaving from work? She answered:
“This job and field is so rewarding, in and of itself. I don’t what to say other than [that] I get to meet some really extraordinary people. It’s a very prospective-creating job, and that’s why I feel so very privileged to know what these young people are going through, and still manage to get a 4.0 GPA and be on the President’s List or the Dean’s List. Sometimes I think to myself, how students manage day-to-day, with the functional limitations of their disability and still perform better than most people do with no functional impairments. To see their perseverance, and resiliency, to feel and be a part of that, to watch students learn about themselves and grow, is truly the most rewarding and humbling experience.”
(Tina, pictured left front row, with fellow SAS team members Jill Wantola and Tara Bailey-Taylor, and fellow Student Life Services Staff members celebrating World Autism Awareness Day in 2015)
It was an absolute pleasure to speak with Tina and share the wonderful mission of SAS! She and her highly qualified team of counselors, program co-ordinators and advisers are to help support you, discover strategies with and for you, and encourage you to seek and identify the resources you need to help reach your full potential, at the university and beyond!
Be sure to drop by the Student Life Building to meet Tina and the SAS team. You can also visit the SAS website to learn and discover how the SAS’s committed and friendly staff can help you discover and create more equal opportunities for your academic success.
You can also access many great and helpful student services such as the Student Learning Centre, Student Mental Health Services, Career Services and the Student Equity and Engagement Centre. If you're studying at the downtown location, be sure to check out such great services on the second floor of the 61 Charles Street Building. Book your one-on-one appointment with the services you need through the Student Life Portal today!