How accessible are those crash course programs?

These days they are being called boot camps and in reality they probably are based on the requirements.  You see, the mode of education has now changed to include many colleges and schools offering crash courses to post high school students.

These courses require students to pay a lot of money in return for diplomas and certificates and the students are being required to study for very long hours daily in order to complete their programs.  Additionally, these institutions are promising high paying jobs to successful applicants upon completion of these diploma programs.

I’ll make it very clear that I am not hear to criticize this concept in any way shape or form but I am wondering out loud if the creators of this concept have included accommodations for students with  disabilities?

Maybe someone out there could answer this for me or if any of these colleges or schools see my editorial they are welcomed to contact me to discuss further.  It would thrill me so much if their responses were in the positive but I have a somewhat sneaking suspicion that maybe and just maybe they probably have not based on the fact that their end product is to turn out students in as a quick turn around time as possible to go after those promised jobs and may not be geared to an inclusive environment.

Now, if I am wrong then I would be more than happy to admit it but if I am correct then we may have a huge problem on our hands here; this being yet another barrier to education for students with disabilities.

Several years ago my attention was drawn to an ad on TV being sponsored by the CSSD, the Canadian Society for Social Development.  In this ad, the CSSD announced that they were seeking disabled students for enrolment in a course sponsored by them called Internet Business Development for Entrepreneurs (IBDE) Web Design Training.

Now, I am going to reproduce for you an extract from an editorial that I wrote in September of 2008 and hopefully at the end of it all you’ll see why I am again raising similar concerns.

Extract begins here:

I was quite interested in this ad and as a visually impaired systems engineer with an extensive background in programming, I wanted to know more so I visited the website and followed the trail to the website to learn more.  At the website I learned that the program in question was indeed opened to disabled entrepreneurs of Canada but curiosity got the better of me and I decided to contact them to find out if they accepted blind and visually impaired applicants.  Lo and behold!  I was in for the surprise of my life!

Before taking any further action I checked and rechecked the CSSD’s mission statement which is as follows:

Mission Statement

To ensure equal opportunities for all Canadians, the CSSD, using internet based technologies, will provide entrepreneurial training and will enhance employability for persons experiencing barriers to employment.

I wrote to Mary Alton, the student coordinator and she confirmed the following:

(Extract from her note to me)

Hi Donna,

Thank you for your inquiry.

CSSD offers the IBDE Web Design Program, a 6 month online program that teaches individuals the skills necessary to build web sites.  Our next intake for the program is November 1, 2008-May 1, 2009.  This program is designed for individuals who want to start their own small business designing web sites or those wishing to build their own website to sell products or services via the internet.

Go to our website at for details about our program.

We determine suitability for the program on an individual basis during a one-on-one telephone interview.  We do accept students that are visually impaired however it can be no greater than a 30% vision loss.

(End of extract)

Imagine my surprise when I read these very blunt and cutting words.  Here in Canada?  Was I really reading this correctly?  Was someone really daring to tell me that despite their mission statement, I was being deliberately excluded because I had vision loss of more than 30%?  I was determined to get more out of this lady and decided to follow up with a phone call and true to form she echoed the sentiments of her note and added a few additional zingers.

Ms. Alton informed me that their instructors had determined that it was not feasible for access technology such as Jaws to work with their software.  She added that it was too costly to change the structure of the course in order to accommodate a person with greater than 30% loss of vision.  She affirmed that the program had no plans to change this policy in the near future and when I asked her if her instructors had consulted anyone with accessibility expertise, the answer was a firm no.

This phone call greatly disturbed me for the following reasons.

Ms. Alton was very blunt and definite with her remarks.  She seemed completely oblivious to the fact that her statements were discriminatory and it is not that she did not care or that she was heartless!  No, quite the opposite.   She just did not believe that her message was in any way offensive or out of line.  This lady was extremely friendly in her manner, very courteous, and this scared me because I was hearing from someone that what the CSSD was doing was completely acceptable despite the fact that it was outright discriminatory!

When I pointed out to her that under the charter of rights, all Canadians had to be accommodated equally, she simply swept my statement aside without seeming to understand why I was so surprised.  When I told her that if the Federal government was funding them, it meant that they had to accommodate all Canadians with disabilities, she simply ignored me.

When I told her that whenever the Federal government got involved in the funding of any project, they had an obligation to make it accessible to all Canadians, her reaction was that in this case they did not.

When I suggested that they should change their mission statement to say that their course was opened to Canadians with disabilities except those with greater than 30% vision loss, she simply dismissed my suggestion like someone swatting a fly.

Here is a list of the funders of this course:

  • Human Resources Development Canada
  • Government of Canada
  • Vancouver Foundation
  • Selkirk College
  • CFDA

Here is a list of the partners to this course:

  • CCRW
  • Neil Squire
  • eBC
  • Microsoft
  • ReBOOT Canada

This whole affair has the smattering of once again, blind and visually impaired Canadians are being deliberately ignored and if we allow this kind of thing to continue then we’ll have no one else to blame but ourselves when we are left behind.  It amazes me that such impressive lists of funders and partners are not aware that blind and visually  impaired Canadians are being treated like this or is it that they don’t really care either?  Some thing is terribly wrong with this picture and we need to do something about it now!

My two cents worth for today.

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