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Thursday, April 21, 2011

  • Working to meet accessibility standards
  • Fine arts grad students show their work
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Gathering in SLC courtyard]

That's what a 'vote mob' looks like, or part of one anyway. Between 100 and 200 people, depending who was counting, gathered for yesterday's event in the Student Life Centre courtyard, drumming up enthusiasm for young voters in the May 2 federal election. The resulting three-and-a-half-minute video is already online. (Photo by Reemah Khalid.)

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Working to meet accessibility standards

From web page design to “customer service training” for staff members, all kinds of things at Waterloo have been changing to respond to expectations about accessibility — and there’s more to come, says Rose Padacz, director of the office for persons with disabilities.

She says the university has a “longstanding commitment” to make its services accessible, but some of the specific moves are being driven by legal requirements, since the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed in 2005.

Regulations with the details of requirements for public and private sector organizations are still being issued by the provincial government. A new set of draft “accessibility standards” was published in February (and more revisions could still appear).

“Feedback received from the initial standards resulted in a couple of changes relevant to universities, which are classified as ‘large public sector organizations’ in the Act,” Padacz reports. For example, the new draft makes it clear that the “Built Environment Standard” applies only to new buildings. There will be no legally-mandated rush to update buildings that may be less than fully accessible because of how they were constructed decades ago. Similarly, the requirements for web accessibility will emphasize newly created sites and content.

A particularly complex area is course materials: it hadn’t been clear how much the university would have to do, and how fast, to provide them in “alternate formats”. Padacz now has some clarity on that issue: “Access to course materials and other information needs to be made available in alternate format (such as Braille, electronic, audio) upon request and at the same time as others receiving similar information. This clause replaced the initial statement that all materials were to be made available in many formats in the event that they were needed.”

She says: “Our current process at the University of Waterloo is to recommend that all students who require academic accommodations or who require materials in alternate formats, register with the Office for Persons prior to the start of the term to ensure that the staff at the OPD, their professors, publishers and others can collaborate to make arrangements for course materials to be made available in a format that takes into account their disability.”

In general, the government says, the latest draft revision “harmonizes and streamlines the requirements of the accessibility standards for Information and Communications, Employment, and Transportation. We have required accessibility plans to address both prevention and removal of barriers.”

The University of Waterloo “has a longstanding commitment to promote and support accessibility in our learning, teaching, research, employment and student life environments,” says Padacz, who has headed the disabilities office since 1996. “Many policies, practices and procedures have been developed, to remove barriers and to ensure access to programs, services and facilities for students, faculty, staff and campus visitors with disabilities.”

For example? “New buildings are accessible and existing facilities are being upgraded to meet accessibility standards with the installation of elevators, automated doors, ramps, and barrier-free washrooms. Increased access to funding, advancements in areas such as web design, adaptive software and access to technology, have helped to build a campus where over 1,600 students with visible and invisible disabilities have the opportunity to demonstrate their academic potential, participate in co-operative education, student life activities and live in accessible residence communities.”

The goal of the provincial accessibility act, she says, is to create a completely accessible province by 2025. “As benchmarks to support this goal, a series of five accessibility standards was developed to provide direction on what accessibility means for both the private and public sectors across the province.

“The first standard, the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service, applies to all people or organizations, both public and private that provide goods and services either directly to the public and includes all universities in the province of Ontario. The standard requires that we make public our policies and procedures to support persons with disabilities and to ensure that processes are established to ensure that all members of the university community participate in customer service training.

“Many other initiatives are underway, which include the creation of university accessibility committees. The new web redesign project and the search for a new Learning Management System have included accessibility as a key component. Many staff and faculty have participated in the pilot launch of the customer service training, which is now part of the new staff orientation. Similar to the Occupational Health & Safety training, all university employees, contracted employees and student leaders will be required to participate in training to ensure that everyone is aware of ways that they can contribute to supporting an inclusive and accessible university environment.

“The university will continue to identify barriers, enhance access, and develop procedures to ensure full participation by all students, faculty and staff. Please connect with the Office for Persons with Disabilities if you have questions or would like to contribute to the goal of enhancing accessibility at your Waterloo.”

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[Three works of art]
Fine arts grad students show their work

Work by two fine arts graduate students goes on display today in the university’s art gallery in East Campus Hall. An opening reception runs from 5 to 8 p.m. today, and the MFA thesis exhibition — the final requirement for students earning a Master of Fine Arts degree — will continue in the gallery through May 14.

A third MFA graduate is having her thesis exhibition at a gallery in Toronto, where it opened last week. Shown above are individual works by the three students: “Two-Headed Dog” (detail), 2011, oil and acrylic on canvas, by Heidi Jahnke; “Place 2”, 2011, single channel video, by Gary Carlson; “A strange loop PY6C-a” (detail), 2011, oil on canvas, by Alison Shields.

The gallery in ECH is generally open Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 5 p.m., but will be closed tomorrow, Good Friday. Here’s more about the artists and the art, from a gallery news release:

“Heidi Jahnke, Weird Fiction:A salon-style grouping of paintings, Weird Fiction captures the artist's idiosyncratic view of the world at large. Figurative elements collide with vernacular subject matter and aspects of the irrational to suggest unlikely narratives, juxtapositions and tensions. Heidi Jahnke received her BFA from NSCAD University in 2005. She is the recent recipient of the Sylvia Knight Award for Graduate Studio Excellence and will be participating in an upcoming group exhibition at Art Mûr in Montréal.”

“Gary Carlson, Place 2: Place 2 depicts a typical outlet mall viewed through the ruins of an older building in the process of deconstruction. Through representations of the built environment the video montage suggests the increasingly convoluted relationship between the mediated environment and its viewers. Gary Carlson is a media artist who received his BFA from Thompson Rivers University. In the summer of 2010, he interned with video artist Jennifer Steinkamp as part of the Keith and Win Shantz Summer internship.”

“Alison Shields, A Strange Loop: Tracing forms the basis of A Strange Loop, a series of abstractions that begin as process drawings. Singular elements are obsessively redrawn and remapped over multiple canvases to suggest an inventory of self-perpetuating forms. This off-site exhibition takes place at Studio 301-300 Campbell Street, Toronto, from April 15 to May 1. Alison Shields is an abstract painter originally from Vancouver. She Received a BFA from the University of British Columbia. She holds a SSHRC grant for graduate research and will be participating in an upcoming group exhibition at Art Mûr in Montréal.”


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Easter long weekend

Tomorrow, April 22, is the Good Friday holiday in Ontario, and thus the university will be closed. Winter term exams end today, residences are closing, and almost no services will operate over the Easter weekend.

The Physical Activities Complex and Columbia Icefield will be closed all weekend. The Dana Porter and Davis Centre libraries will be closed Friday, open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

As always, even on holidays, the university police (519-888-4911) will be at work, the Student Life Centre (519–888-4434) will be open, and the central plant will monitor campus buildings (maintenance emergencies, ext. 33793).

Link of the day


When and where

Education Credit Union lunch-and-learn session: “Purchasing a Vehicle” 12:10, Davis Centre room 1302, RSVP deadline is past.

QPR suicide prevention training session 1 p.m., information ext. 32797, cancelled.

Stratford campus lecture series: Michael Ross, department of psychology, “The Art and Science of Apology” 7:00, Stratford Public Library.

‘Facts of Fishing Live’ starring Dave Mercer, 7:00, Humanities Theatre. Details.

Graduate Student Research Conference April 25-28; keynote speaker, cartoonist Jorge Cham, Monday 3:00, Davis Centre. Details.

‘Picnic the Polls’ pre-election gathering Monday 2:00, Student Life Centre courtyard.

UW Place hot water and heating shutdown to all buildings, Tuesday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fire drills in most main campus buildings, Tuesday morning; all occupants expected to evacuate building when the fire alarm sounds.

Franco-fête for high school French students, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m., Humanities Theatre.

Opportunities and New Directions teaching and learning conference sponsored by Teaching Based Research Group, keynote addresses and workshop sessions, Tuesday-Wednesday, Hagey Hall. Details.

Federal election debate for local candidates, hosted by Federation of Students, Wednesday 10:30, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

Engineering alumni affairs reception, “Designing the Future”, guest speaker John Baker of Desire2Learn, Wednesday 5:30, Engineering 5, tickets $10. Details.

Spring term fees due April 25 (certified cheque, money order, promissory note), April 28 (bank transfer).

Retail services locations, including bookstore and Media.doc copy centres, closed for inventory, Friday, April 29.

Math/Business Double Degree Gala celebrating 10th anniversary, April 30, 6:00, Pavilion Royale, Mississauga. Details.

Spring term classes begin Monday, May 2.

Canada 3.0, “Canada’s premier digital media forum” May 2-4, Stratford campus. Details.

PhD oral defences

Earth and environmental sciences. Steven J. Berg, “Hydraulic Tomography: Field and Laboratory Studies.” Supervisor, Walter A. Illman. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Thursday, May 5, 10:00 a.m., CEIT building room 2053.

Psychology. Graham Gaine, “The Implications of Relational Activity Motivations for Relationship Well-Being and  Daily Relational Functioning in Marriage.” Supervisor, John Holmes. On display in the faculty of arts, PAS 2434. Oral defence Friday, May 6, 10:00 a.m., PAS (Psychology) building room 3026.

Electrical and computer engineering. Javad Khajehpour, “High Resolution/Wideband On-Chip Phase Shifting.” Supervisor, Safieddin Safavi-Naeini. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Monday, May 9, 8:00 a.m., CEIT building room 3142.

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