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Disabled Students Gain Some Ground

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the Toronto Star, June 1, 2006.

John Rubino is thankful for the note-taking service, digital recorder, portable desk and voice-recognition computer software he's been using over the past couple of years.

While the equipment and other things he got through the office of accessibility services at the University of Toronto certainly made Rubino's life on campus that much easier, he said it's also served another intangible but equally important purpose.

"They've put me on par with other students," said Rubino, 44, who uses a scooter and two canes to get around after a bacterial infection damaged his spine about 12 years ago. "Having a disability tends to isolate you," he said. "But this allowed me to do the work the others were doing and at the same time.

"It connected me with the academic community," said Rubino, who will be receiving his Honours Bachelor of Arts in drama, English and visual studies later this month.

Chris Bentley, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, announced this week that the provincial government put an additional $2.6 million into services for disabled students at post-secondary institutions across Ontario in the fiscal year that ended March 31. That brought the total to $28.2 million, a 10 percent increase from the previous year, he said.

About 5 percent or more than 30,000 students at Ontario colleges and universities identify themselves as having a disability. Education barriers they face range from financial ones to a lack of awareness on the part of staff or fellow students to their challenges.

The funding detailed by Bentley is part of a pledge by Queen's Park to help post-secondary schools deliver programs to improve access to four groups who are either under-represented or typically struggle when they get there--the disabled, francophones, aboriginals, and those who are the first in their family to go to college or university.

Reprinted with permission: Torstar Syndication Services.