The Disability Resource Centre (DRC) is the place where students can turn to if they require assistance to make their university experience more accessible. According to the DRC, their role is to “facilitate disability-related accommodations and programming initiatives to remove barriers for students with disabilities and ongoing medical conditions.” Two major ways that the DRC helps students is by requesting and assigning notetakers for lectures, and by allowing extensions for examinations. However, has this centre and the accommodations it provides been as helpful and run as smoothly as you would hope? It appears that this is not the case. The following is a summary of an account an anonymous UBCO student has given The Phoenix on their experience with the DRC.
The student learnt about the DRC upon admission and made contact. Though their initial interactions were positive, the student claims that their later meetings have been continually problematic. The initial expectations were that the DRC would offer support, advocacy and accommodation services so that they would be on a level playing field with the rest of UBCO’s students. There was also the expectation of a cordial working relationship with few errors on their part and a genuine care for their education. This, to the student, appears not to be the case.
The student stated, “My experience with the DRC has been absolutely awful. I have never experienced such an inept and uncaring department before, and also a level of bureaucracy that exceeds anything I have ever seen.” Not only has their continued delayed and sometimes non-existent responses to emails cost them money, it has also impacted their grades. They have done the opposite of their intended purpose as previously stated and created more barriers for a student that required their services in a timely fashion.
It is one thing to continually make costly errors, but it is another to react poorly and treat students badly. The student notes they have been continually interrupted when speaking to those at the DRC. Additionally, the student was told that they were the one who had misconceptions about the errors that the DRC made, even though they had a paper trail which proved that the DRC messed up. There was no accountability and no follow-ups to ensure good service. They also claimed that an individual within the centre called them something extremely dismissive and condescending to their face. The environment has been brutal and has made obtaining an education for disabled students harder than ever.
According to this student, the DRC requires new management and training to increase the quality of work and service for UBCO students. Additionally, the centre needs to move away from the crutch of being attached to the Vancouver campus, which appears to be their excuse for their poor functionality. The student asserts, “They do the absolute bare minimum when the rules state that institution services must provide accommodations up to the point of undue hardship. None of which the DRC at UBCO even comes close to.” The only thing keeping this student from abandoning their degree because of the DRC at this point is the fact that they have progressed so far. Regardless, they still contemplate that option.
Though the DRC has definitely helped students get through university by the very important services they provide, there is clearly a lot of work to be done to ensure that disabled students are treated equitably, humanely, and have all of their needs met. When I asked, we got both positive and negative responses as students reflected on their interactions with the DRC. The student that was the focus of the article today was far from being the only one with negative experiences. If a student is contemplating dropping out because the resource centre is so poor at its job, then there are many things that need to be reconsidered, restructured, and reorganised. Disabled students at UBCO deserve services that adequately advocate and support them efficiently and kindly throughout their studies, and it appears that the current DRC, based on these claims, may not be up to that task.