September 28, 2020

BY DEVON HAYES
A whole new name means a whole new look for Conestoga College’s Accessibility Services. Formerly called Disability Services, it still allows the same accommodations to students, but with a much more welcoming title. Charlie Matjanec, an employment adviser at Accessibility Services, said the overall response from students and faculty has been extremely positive.
“A lot of students, and a lot of faculty said that it seems like a negative connotation to be called Disability Services,” Matjanec said. “Accessibility Services is a much more inclusive and welcoming setting, and that’s what we want.”
Matjanec also said much of the stigma around physical and learning disabilities not only comes from assumptions made by others, but also how one might see him or herself as an individual.
“The way they feel about themselves can be flagged by the way others treat them,” he said. “There are going to be challenges for each and every one of us, it’s just how we deal with them that differentiates us from the other person.”
That being said, Accessibility Services not only accommodates individual learning disabilities, but the individual as well.
“Those things that individuals need to have, in terms of counselling support and adaptive technology, or other situations where an accommodation might be required because of documented academic need, we would try to provide that to the student based on individual need. The key theme there is going to be, ‘what are the student’s specific issues related to what their needs are, and how can we address them,’” Matjanec said. “We are personalizing the service to the student’s needs.”
There are also facilities for all students that have stemmed from Accessibility Services. The Learning Commons, located on the second floor of the A-wing, is available to all students who can either make an appointment or drop-in. Additionally, welcoming programs for new students are available, such as Discovery Day, which allows prospective students and their families to learn what opportunities may be available for them as a student with a disability or not. Also available is the PASS program – or Post-Secondary Accommodations Support Strategies – which allows registered full-time students to experience college life before the semester begins. Bridges is another service available to students with disabilities that provides student volunteers to assist them with any needs they may have.
Ultimately, Accessibility Services aims to treat all students at the college as though they are just like everyone else – because they are.
“What we help them to see is how they can be good, functioning students here at the college, regardless of what conditions they might be presented with,” Matjanec said.