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National AccessAbility Week Feature: Student Accommodations Test Centre set to meet students’ needs

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: June 1, 2021 3:00 p.m.

Jeffery Raymond, Manager of the Centre for Student Accessibility and Stephanie Smith, Manager of the Accommodations Test Centre outside the newly constructed Test Centre.
Jeffery Raymond, Manager of the Centre for Student Accessibility and Stephanie Smith, Manager of the Accommodations Test Centre outside the newly constructed Test Centre. Photos: U of R Photography

This feature is being run as part of the University of Regina’s participation in National AccessAbility Week from May 30 to June 5, 2021. 

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Jeffery and Stephanie at the Test Centre

National AccessAbility Week in Saskatchewan is a time to celebrate and promote inclusion and accessibility in communities and workplaces.  It is also a time to recognize the efforts of individuals, communities and workplaces that are actively removing barriers to give Saskatchewan people with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in their communities.  

When Kelsi-Lee Davison starts classes with the University of Regina’s Faculty of Nursing in the fall, she will be entering as her best and most confident self. 

One reason is because of the support she received from the Centre for Student Accessibility in the lead up to entering Nursing and another is because of what support will be available to her following the opening of the newly constructed Student Accommodations Testing Centre. 

“Not knowing where my exams were set used to send me into a panic because of my bad anxiety,” said Davison, who has also used the centre for help with notetaking, math formulas and grammar. “Just now knowing everyday when I have a final, I know where its going to be, I know the people who will be with me, I know where the washrooms are – having that access shows that the University cares about the students that do have disabilities and diverse needs who need those extra supports.” 

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Nursing student Kelsi-Lee Davison will be
accessing the Test Centre’s services
when in-person classes resume.

According to Stephanie Smith, Manager of the Accommodations Test Centre, the hope was to have the new space opened via soft launch in May 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put that on hold. The centre is now slated to be opened when in-person classes resume. 

“It’s a quiet space, it’s accessible and we’re all looking forward to the day we can launch, and we will have one heck of a party when we do launch,” she said. 

The test centre will house up-to-date assistive technologies, 60 workstations, 22 exam rooms, 11 shared and 11 private rooms equipped with dual monitors, 60 lockers for students’ belongings and one of the most advanced and accessible washrooms in the province. It is built to serve over 1,000 students with over 25,000 accommodation needs. 

Another key element is the software that has already been installed to streamline the booking process for all students and faculties. 

“We will have a student portal and an instructor portal, so the students will be able to request their exams and set up their space through the software, and the instructors will get an indication of it, accept the booking and upload the exam,” Smith said. “The software will make the process much easier for the instructors and students.” 

That element resonated with Emilia Wolfmueller, an alum who accessed services from the centre and now serves as an academic advisor with the Student Success Centre’s Advising and Career Education. 

“Some of the professors I worked with were really, really caring, and wanted to be supportive but they aren’t professionals in helping people with disabilities so they might not know how best to set up an exam situation for you,” she said. “Having the centre take over that responsibility will be beneficial for staff and not just students. I’m looking forward to having that community and that situation for other students – I’m a little jealous I don’t get to use it.” 

The centre is in place to provide support to students, but it found a supporter of its own in SaskPower, which donated $180,000 to the project and will be recognized through signage in the main hallway of the centre. 

“I know that SaskPower gets a lot of asks and I think it’s to their credit that they understand that this will have an impact on Saskatchewan’s future because it will ensure that very, very talented people are able to obtain a degree and go out there and make a contribution to society,” said Jeffery Raymond, Manager of the Centre for Student Accessibility. “That really speaks to how well they choose to spend their money and they couldn’t have picked a better place to put it.” 

Having a supporter like SaskPower enables the centre and the U of R to achieve their mission of providing accessible education to students in their pursuit of knowledge and understanding. 

“What it does is provide an even playing field,” Raymond said. “It mitigates that and gives them all a chance to explore the subject matter, get a degree and contribute to society. We’re making sure no one is lost in the cracks as best we can as an institution or system and we’re very proud of that.” 

“There is definitely some situations where I probably would have failed certain classes had I not just had an extra half hour to lay my head down and have a quick nap or something whereas if I wasn’t given the opportunity to use the centre’s resource, it would have been very different,” Wolfmueller added. “If I hadn’t had the accommodations, I wouldn’t have had been able to get the scholarships I was able to get because of my grades and I wouldn’t have been able to show my true potential.”