National Inclusive Education Month Commentary #6
By Dr. Vianne Timmons, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Regina
For so many parents, having a child with special needs results in the need to reformulate dreams and expectations. All of us think about our child’s future and know that a good education is crucial to success in life, but when we have a child with unique learning needs, we often change or even abandon the dreams we have had for our child’s future.
More than ever, however, programs at postsecondary institutions for young people with unique learning needs are providing a way to reignite those dreams.
In Canada there are a number of very successful university programs that welcome young people with intellectual disabilities. The University of Alberta and the University of Calgary have operated inclusive post-secondary education (IPSE) programs for many years, for example. In this commentary I will highlight the University of Regina’s Campus For All IPSE program, as it is the one with which I am most familiar.
Our Campus For All program welcomes young men and women with intellectual disabilities to the University of Regina. It is a four-year program that is situated in our Centre for Student Accessibility, under the umbrella of our Student Affairs area. The cost is 50% of tuition, and students are responsible for buying their own books and course materials. Some scholarships and bursaries are available to help with the cost.
Participating students (intake averages about four new Campus For All students per year) are able to audit courses in all faculties at the University. Participants must audit at least one course each term, and the professors, with support from the staff of Campus For All, provide a differentiated curriculum for the students. Campus For All students are supported and mentored throughout by their classmates, and have the opportunity to improve their literacy skills, make new friends, participate in campus activities, prepare for the work world, and enjoy the same opportunities as all University of Regina students.
After four years in the program, Campus For All students receive a university leaving certificate and graduate at University Convocation. Seeing them cross the Convocation stage with their peers is very moving for the thousands of people who attend the ceremony.
But things don’t end for our Campus For All students once they graduate and become alumni of our University. Career-readiness is an essential aspect of the program, and our students, many of whom work part-time during the program, have a great deal of success in the workforce once they graduate. They are also some of our University’s best ambassadors in the larger community.
A unique part of Campus For All is that it is centrally funded by the University of Regina because it is considered one of the many essential components that contribute to our inclusive institution. The program has been expanded considerably over the past decade, and has been enthusiastically accepted by faculty, staff and students. The degree to which it is a source of pride for everyone involved can be seen in an inspiring video entitled “RespectAbility”. I encourage everyone to watch it.
I often say that universities should not reflect the world in which we live, but should instead reflect the world in which we WANT to live. Campus For All does exactly that for everyone at the University of Regina – and most importantly, for our students and their families who continue to dream big dreams.
Vianne Timmons is President of the University of Regina and an Inclusive Education Canada Associate.