December 3, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, is an opportunity to celebrate the one billion individuals worldwide living with disabilities, many of whom have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. As Canada and the rest of the world continue to grapple with an ever-changing virus, our global transition to recovery is slowed by inequitable access to mass testing, vaccination, and treatment. This year’s theme for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.” The University of Toronto embraces this theme in our own transition to recovery.
As we have learned firsthand at U of T, the pandemic has accelerated innovation that can improve access. As you will see in the 2020-21 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Office Report, our tri-campus community has shown a commitment to making our virtual environments more accessible since the pandemic began. Much of this knowledge has come from consulting with our students, faculty, librarians, and staff with disabilities to inclusively design University activities and ensure everyone’s full participation. From U of T Libraries to the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation, UTM’s Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre to UTSC’s Centre for Teaching and Learning, services and offices across the tri-campus have provided learning opportunities for the U of T community to understand best practices for creating and hosting accessible classes, videos, meetings, and events; how to create accessible documents and web resources; how to integrate Universal Design Learning principles into teaching methodologies; and how to provide accessible exams and assessments. The AODA Office and Accessibility Services on all three campuses continue to partner with students, staff, faculty, and librarians to provide accessible solutions for our virtual and built environments.
At the University of Toronto, our way to a more inclusive recovery from the pandemic is clear. It involves recognizing the importance of the leadership and participation of community members with lived experience of disability. It requires remembering and retaining the barrier-removing innovations that have happened during the pandemic. And it requires our mutual understanding that excellence at U of T is achieved only when all members of our community can participate equally in the activities and aspirations that define our institution.
I encourage all students, staff, faculty, and librarians to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in ways that help make U of T more accessible: whether that means continuing to share feedback about how the University is addressing barriers, exploring the resources below, building your understanding of accessibility principles through professional development, or reflecting on how to incorporate accessibility into your daily work.
Suggested Services & Resources
Tri-campus Accessibility Offices:
- Accessibility Services, UTSG
- Accessibility Services, UTM
- AccessAbility Services, UTSC
- Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, UTSG
- Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, UTM
- Centre for Teaching and Learning, UTSC
- Returning to Campus During COVID-19: Keeping Accessibility in Mind
- Commitments and Accessibility Standards
- Training & Materials for Accessible Communications