Connecting With Your University’s Disability Resource Center: Why It Is Important
Attending post-secondary school is a great opportunity and can be a challenge, with and without hearing loss. Fortunately, these possible concerns related to hearing loss can be ameliorated as universities and colleges are required to provide accommodations and support through their disability resource center (DRC). Depending on the institution, the DRC will go by different names, for example at the University of British Columbia there is ‘Access & Diversity’, ‘Accessibility Services’ at the University of Toronto, and the ’Office for Students with Disabilities’ at McGill University; however, they all provide similar range of resources.
So what makes the DRC beneficial, and why should it be a priority to connect with them? Well firstly, it is important to inform the university that you may need accommodations, as they can’t assist you if they don’t know what you require. If you are just starting university, it is best to get in touch before classes start, perhaps at least a week or two before so they have time to arrange accommodations if required.
So what sort of services can the DRC offer? Depending on your needs, requirements and types of classes you are taking, there are many services they may be able to provide. One of the most valuable things is that the DRC can facilitate a meeting with the instructor at the start of the term to discuss what would help you and any accommodations required. As many instructors may have not had students with hearing loss, meeting them can provide an opportunity discuss informal accommodations (e.g. such as facing you when speaking and avoid walking around large lecture halls); this is also a good chance to explain and demonstrate the use of technology (e.g. FM system). The vast majority of instructors are extremely open and receptive to helping if you discuss what your needs are.
The DRC can arrange a variety of accommodations. Preferred seating, which will be helpful for those big first year classes in the lecture halls so you don’t have to fight the crowd to get a seat near the front. Arranging note taker or arrange to have the professor to provide access to their lecture notes so that you can focus on the lecture without worry about missing important points. For technological related accommodations, the DRC can provide captioning and FM systems, the latter can be borrowed or purchased through the DRC for your use depending on your university. If you use American Sign Language, they can arrange sign language interpretation. Finally, the DRC can deal with unhelpful instructors in the rare event you encounter one.
In addition to access to accommodations, registering with the DRC often allows you to take advantage of other resources such as equipment loan programs through provincial government agencies, scholarships specifically for students with disabilities, the DRC can also arrange accommodations with student housing (e.g. install visual fire alarms if unequipped). Furthermore, being registered is necessary to receive the ‘Canada Student Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities’ as if you qualify for Canada Student Loans, which could provide up to $2000 per school year that does not need to be re-paid. Along with this is the ‘Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities’ which can provide up to $8000 per school year that could be used to purchase your own FM/Roger system. Finally, they may provide or faciliate social events allowing people with similar needs and experiences to meet.
In summary, the DRC offers a range of resources that can be used to enhance your post-secondary experience. Even if your needs are minimal, it is still valuable to be aware of the services they offer as they may positively contribute to your educational experience.