Although the program has been out of operation since the pandemic began, the return to classroom teaching makes note-taking services even more necessary for students with disabilities.
As students attend Concordia’s first graduation event since returning to campus, many students with disabilities face an uphill battle. The university has not resumed its peer-run note-taking program, leaving those who have relied on Zoom transcripts for a year have been left in the dark.
University spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci explained the Access center for students with disabilities‘(ACSD) Decision to terminate the program. “In the winter of 2020, the ACSD completed a review of its service offerings and the peer note taking program was terminated for a number of reasons, mainly related to the difficulty of finding reliable peer (or volunteer) note-takers as matches.”
Kaity Brady, a fourth year student studying cystic fibrosis and registered with the ACSD, is not impressed with the way the university handles her health and safety requirements.
“Due to my illness, I have to miss a lot of classes because of chronic pain. It wasn’t an issue last year because I was already home, ”she said. When asked about safety concerns, Brady had a few words for the school.
“Do you really think the Hall building is the safest place for me if the school doesn’t even enforce a vaccination mandate? I would feel more secure in my journalism classes in the CJ building, but something as big as Hall? I feel a lot less safe. I would also like to point out that it has been very beneficial for some disabled students to return in person. But because my problem is really physical, it was a challenge. I didn’t think they’d make it, but Concordia found another way to disappoint me. “
Maestracci confirmed that students enrolled with the ACSD were informed of this change last year. However, the situation with face-to-face teaching in summer 2020 was radically different than in autumn 2021. In September 2021, Concordia introduced a hybrid teaching method that combines online and face-to-face teaching. Students who have relied on lecture transcripts automatically generated by programs like Zoom only have this luxury if their lessons happen to be virtual. All faculties within Concordia have adhered to the university’s general health and safety guidelines, but some have been more cautious than others.
Brady can testify that the quality was not that good before the note service was discontinued. “It was really not fantastic, but better than nothing. Now the school has never been so inaccessible to me. ”One of Concordia’s main reasons for suspending the program, as Maestracci pointed out, was the number of volunteers, the quality of their work and a general lack of concrete reliability. Even before the pandemic, there were major cracks in the system that only deepened over time.
Maestracci added, “Students enrolled with the ACSD can still request professional notes at the beginning of the semester if, for example, they encounter barriers to writing or accessing printed or visual information. Each student’s request will be considered on a case-by-case basis and if this is deemed reasonable accommodation the ACSD will hire and pay a professional note-taker for that student. “
In the coming weeks, thousands of students will enter exam times to complete their fall semester 2021. The community of disabled students who rely on note-taking may encounter additional obstacles on the final spurt to the academic finish line.
Graphic by Madeline Schmidt