The Learning Specialists Association of Canada is disappointed and concerned about the University of Calgary’s recent decision to make its professional learning specialist staff in the Student Accessibility Services Office redundant.
The Academic Strategists within this office are professionals with specific education, skill-sets, and experience working with, and accommodating students with disabilities. Furthermore, students with disabilities often have higher-rates of mental health concerns that require an ongoing professional relationship with their Academic Strategist.
According to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, the University of Calgary has a duty to accommodate its students with disabilities, including, when necessary, custom individual student support . This level of support requires specific knowledge and understanding of learning disabilities in order to apply and customize learning strategies solutions for this particular student cohort. It also requires resources in the form of trained staff members and time. According to Ontario’s Learning Opportunities Task Force, research has shown that “students cited assistive technology and learning and metacognitive strategies as the most useful program components provided to them [...]” and that staff required specific expertise in learning disabilities .
We are also concerned that this decision will result in the under-resourcing of the University of Calgary’s Student Success Centre. It is our understanding that students with disabilities requiring on-going learning strategies support will be referred to our Academic Development Specialists colleagues within this Centre. Without dedicated learning specialist support for students with disabilities, programming and services within the Student Success Centre may suffer as the reality of taking on the full case loads of two full-time Academic Strategists become apparent.
The Learning Specialists Association of Canada and its members are dedicated to supporting all students in reaching their full academic potential. It is our opinion that the changes being enacted at the University of Calgary will have a detrimental effect on both its students with disabilities and its student population as a whole. For these reasons, we request that the University of Calgary reconsider their decision and restore dedicated learning strategies support for student with disabilities and fulfil its requirement to accommodate these students.
The Learning Specialists Association of Canada (LSAC) is a voluntary, national association for professionals who focus on the application of learning theory in higher education. By offering instruction in learning strategies and study skills, LSAC members support and further the educational goals of students, faculty, staff and school administrations. LSAC's purpose is to develop, encourage, and model sound professional and ethical standards among its members while facilitating the dissemination of current and emerging trends and research in learning. More information about LSAC can be found online at www.learningspecialists.ca.
 Duty to Accommodate Students. (September, 2010). Retrieved April 21, 2017, from https://www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca/publications/bulletins_sheets_booklets/bulletins/Pages/duty_to_accommodate_students.aspx#What is accommodation
 Nichols, E., Harrison, A., McCloskey, L., & Weintraub, L. (2002). Learning Opportunities Task Force 1997–2002: Final report. Richmond Hill, ON: Learning Opportunities Task Force. Retrieved April 21, 2017, from https://carleton.ca/fita/wp-content/uploads/Final-report-1997-2000.pdf
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