By: Keely Grossman- The Brock Press
There are many things I had to consider before I made my decision to attend Brock University. For me it wasn’t just about the academics and different extracurricular activities, it was also about what the university had to offer to me in terms of accessibility and accommodation for my visual impairment. For those who don’t know, located on the 4th floor of the Schmon Tower is the Services for Students with Disabilities Department or SSWD. I first discovered Brock’s accessibility department at the open house in March where I got information and learned of the resources that were provided to me. Then, before accepting my offer, I met, one on one, with someone at the department who later became my “case manager”. At that first meeting, I learned that they would help me get my text books in the appropriate formatting i.e. electronically; they would accommodate me with digital exams as well as in braille. I also learned that if there were issues, they would help me work things out and, if needed, advocate on my behalf. After this first meeting I felt confident that all my requirements would be met so I accepted the offer to Brock.
The next big step was choosing courses, so I submitted my schedule to the accessibility department. They then contacted the various professors associated with my courses of choice. They informed them of things like a guide dog being in their lectures, that I would need my exams brailled and that I required the names of textbooks as soon as possible so that they could be translated into an electronic copy for September.
Until then, everything had gone smoothly. Once the textbook information was submitted by the professors, I first had to purchase the books, which was a slow process because some of the books had not been received by the campus bookstore from the publishers. Unfortunately, the university could not deal directly with the book publishers. My requirements had to be submitted to a central agency and this is where the process slowed. Although the accessibility department tried their best to get me my textbooks in the required format, I did not have all of my books in September for the start of classes. This resulted in the department having to take my books apart and scan them page by page. Luckily they did this quickly and in the end I did not fall behind in any course material. I do feel, however, the schools and/or the book order agency should push the publishers to have all text books in the alternative formats available at the same time as the printed text books.
Not only did my visual impairment need to be addressed but my guide dog had to be accommodated as well. Onyx is trained to be able to live in many different environments and to work in many different situations. However, at the university fair I met the residence co-ordinator and she took immediate interest in making sure I was comfortable in residence as well as my guide dog. I was able to pick the room and residence building that best suited my needs as well as the needs of Onyx. We met several times before I accepted my offer to look at those various residence buildings and rooms. Onyx and I eventually settled on Vallee Residence. Vallee had bright enough lighting so that I could see a little bit, wide enough hallways so that Onyx could guide me if needed and fast access to grassy areas just in case of puppy emergencies, making the residence best fit for the two of us. This meant that Onyx wasn’t going to be made to live in a small room because she’s a “guide dog,” and is trained to be able to adapt to different environments. This also meant that because of the residence co-ordinator I had more of a choice in the environment and conditions my dog would be living in come September, making me feel a lot more comfortable.
Although I’ve only been at Brock for two months, I have realized that there are so many people who want to, and are willing to help me in any way they can. I couldn’t be more grateful to all of those amazing people I have met so far, and I only hope that as the years go by, my experience with Brock will just be good as it is now, if not even better.
To ALL my fellow Badgers, if you require help in any way shape or form, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. Brock University is always there for you!