Written by: Srijani Datta, Assistant News Editor
Effective November 2018, the Centre for Students with Disabilities (CSD) at SFU has changed its name to the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL).
The centre works on a diverse range of issues aimed to make the campus more accessible. For example, the CAL website mentions that the centre works to ensure “physical access to the campus (including learning spaces)” and helps “adapt curriculum and delivery systems to meet the learning needs of people with disabilities and the community at large.” The Centre is also at the forefront when it comes to the University’s policy consultation work on diversity and inclusion.
CAL Director Mitchell Stoddard explained to The Peak why this change was made and what it entails over an email interview.
According to Stoddard, the name of the centre was changed for a number of reasons, including the “significant paradigm shift in the way disabilities are conceptualized.”
“The focus has moved away from the individual and onto the design of systems which play a significant role in the production of barriers for persons with disabilities.” – Mitchell Stoddard, Director, Centre for Accessible Learning
Stoddard continued that barriers for persons with disabilities are reflected most in the physical environment surrounding us, which can cause accessibility challenges for individuals. According to Stoddard, SFU’s current building codes reflect a limited view of who makes up the community using the building, and the university’s policies and procedures can create and perpetuate such physical barriers.
“In considering the name change, we were also aware that some students who were affected directly by the systems in play at the institution did not relate to, or identify with, the term ‘disability,’” added Stoddard.
“As such, they were not coming to the Centre and we were not in a position to address the barriers that were impacting on their ability to engage fully in what the university offers.”
Stoddard noted that the name change was part of a continued effort made by the CAL to implement systemic changes which would arrange individual accommodations for persons with different accessibility needs.
Stoddard stated that all members of the University community have a role in supporting accessible and inclusive learning, and mentioned efforts such as the SFU’s Equity and Diversity Initiative, and the commitment, intention, and resources of the broader community as bringers of positive change.
The CAL also collaborates on programming and research projects with several other SFU divisions like the various faculties, the Teaching and Learning Centre, and the Student Learning Centre, among others. Outside the university community, the centre also engages with the Ministry of Advanced Education and the Rick Hansen Foundation, which bank on the CAL’s knowledge on the diverse needs of different kinds of learners.