Each year, National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) is celebrated starting on the last Sunday in May. From May 30 to June 5 the University of Ottawa Library joins the rest of Canada in promoting accessibility and inclusion and removing barriers for people with disabilities, which represents over one-fifth of the Canadian population (Statistics Canada).
The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional barriers and inequalities for people with disabilities. These include higher risks of complications from COVID-19 for people with certain medical conditions (COVID-19 and people with disabilities in Canada), and in some cases, reduced access to health and other social services with periods of reduced access during pandemic closures.
We also recognize the additional challenges faced by students, especially those with disabilities, during the pandemic and in the move to online learning. A recent survey by Brock University, examining the impacts of COVID-19 on students with disabilities in higher education, confirmed the significant effects that the pandemic has had on the mental health of students, including reports of anxiety, stress, depression and isolation, among other challenges (The Impact Of COVID-19 On Students With Disabilities In Higher Education [PDF 610 KB]).
The pandemic has also created an accelerated shift towards accessibility in some areas. This has included online access to classes and events, widespread use of closed-captioned videos and live events and virtual medical appointments, among others. In March 2021, the CBC article titled, “COVID-19 has made education more accessible for university students with mobility disabilities” shared some of the stories of Canadian students with disabilities who have benefited from the flexibility, and increased accessibility with the move to widespread online learning.
Upgrading Library Accessibility Services
The uOttawa Library is committed to providing accessible and inclusive services. During the pandemic, we have made many adjustments to our accessible library services in response to the changing guidelines. We have increased access to accessible formats for students with perceptual disabilities by signing on with HathiTrust Accessible Text Request Service, as well as the Centre for Equitable Library Access, giving increased access to accessible books for students. We also made our assistive technology workstations available remotely via RemoteLabs, enabling students to have access to the many assistive software we offer from home as needed.
One of the Library’s core values is respect - we champion diversity, equity and inclusion. We seek out different perspectives to provide better experiences and services that are accessible to all. We also welcome feedback and ideas on improving the accessibility and inclusivity of our services, collections and spaces. Our Accessibility Services team can be reached at email@example.com.
Here is a list of non-exhaustive resources on topics of disability, accessibility and inclusion:
- University of Ottawa Accessibility Hub
- Academic Accommodations Service
- Accessibility and Accommodations (TLSS)
- University of Ottawa Students’ Union – Centre for Students with Disabilities
- Mental Health and Wellness
- Academic Ableism : Disability and Higher Education - J. Dolmage
- Disability and equity in higher education accessibility - H. Alphin, J. Lavine, and R. Chan
- Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation - E. Clare, A. Morales, D. Spade
- Web & Digital Accessibility: a collection of eBooks
Websites and online resources
- Academic Ableism: Fighting for Accommodation Access in Higher Education
- Good2Talk - mental health services for post-secondary students