Okanagan College's Accessibility Plan

Introduction

Since 1963, Okanagan College has provided post-secondary education and training to the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen regions. Our employees and students are privileged to live and work in the unceded territories of the Syilx Okanagan, Secwepemc, Ktunaxa and Sinixt and to have the opportunity to learn from the Indigenous peoples and communities throughout the regions.



Each year, approximately 16,000 individual students attend Okanagan College in programs spanning Arts, Science, Business Administration, Computer Information Systems, Health and Social Development, Adult Upgrading and in niche areas such as Viticulture, Animation, Sustainable Building Technology and vocational training. In addition, over 1000 employees provide direct and indirect education and services to support students in their education journey. In 2021 Okanagan College launched the Inspire Strategic Plan with the Mission to transform lives and communities. Embedded within the plan is the College’s commitment to reconciliation and to be a leader in Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice (EDISJ). Reconciliation includes deepening the understanding that Indigenous ways of knowing and being, and embraces diversity, equity and inclusion. It is therefore necessary for us to engage many Indigenous voices to guide the work to remove barriers and make our institution accessible.

Facing barriers to access is a reality for 1 in 5 Canadians and 24.7% of BC residents identify as having one or more disabilities. The Accessibility Plan challenges all members of the Okanagan College community to step into the work that is ahead. Implementing a plan for accessibility requires strong commitment and the bold enactment of our convictions to identify barriers and actively engage all members of the college in removing those barriers.

Our actions must be guided first by our responsibility to change ourselves, our systems and our structures to be inclusive and just, and second by the legislative requirements.

Prefer to view this as a PDF? Download Accessibility Plan [PDF]

Message from the President

In our mission to transform lives and communities we must first recognize that individuals’ lived experiences related to the accessibility of higher education is as unique as the individuals themselves. It is essential, therefore, that we recognize and address systemic barriers that may be impeding learners from achieving their learning goals or preventing college employees from participating in our community true to themselves. The College’s accessibility plan sets out goals and objectives that will involve all members of the College community in making accessibility a reality shared by everyone.

- Neil Fassina, President of Okanagan College

Message from the Accessibility Committee

The Accessibility Committee at Okanagan College wholeheartedly welcomes the Accessible BC legislation, recognizing the immense opportunity it brings to identify and eliminate barriers to access within our institution. We firmly believe in the power of collective learning, and thus, each member of our committee has actively contributed to the creation of a comprehensive accessibility plan. Through collaborative discussions, sharing expertise, listening to lived experiences, and embracing diverse perspectives, we have developed an inclusive approach that aims to enhance accessibility throughout our college. We aim to address both visible and invisible barriers that hinder the full participation and engagement of individuals with disabilities and ensure equal opportunities and are dedicated to creating an inclusive college environment where everyone can thrive academically, professionally, and personally. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration, we will persistently work towards removing barriers, enhancing accessibility, and ensuring equal opportunities for all members of our college community.

- Angela Checkley on behalf of the Accessibility Committee

The Okanagan College Accessibility Plan is a result of the work of many individuals and groups who comprise the Okanagan College Accessibility Committee. The Committee first met in August 2022 with employee and student representatives from Okanagan College, a local school district and community agencies. Representatives include persons with disabilities, Indigenous members, and members who support persons with disabilities in their academic and professional activities.



In the months that followed, Committee members took on small group projects on a variety of

topics to assist in identifying the current context of accessibility at Okanagan College and the

necessary components of a future Accessibility Plan. Projects included:



• Development of an Okanagan College statement of commitment to accessibility;

• Development of definitions for use in the Accessibility Plan and by Okanagan College;

• Information gathering from internal and external stakeholders, including students,

employees, public school educators, and Indigenous community members;

• Issuing a Request for Information for an accessibility audit of the College;

• Review of accessibility plans from multiple sources to make recommendations for the

Okanagan College Plan;

• Review of existing policies that directly support accessibility for students and employees; and

• Development of a survey that was issued to all students for input on their experience of

barriers to accessibility.

Okanagan College is committed to excellence in education and recognizes the value and inherent worth of every member of the college community. We are fully committed to identifying, removing, and preventing all barriers to full and equitable participation for all students, employees, and community members. This will be achieved through the ongoing development of genuinely accessible learning, working, and community spaces that support the adoption of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and that foster dignified accessibility in every aspect of Okanagan College. Join us on this journey as we embrace and continue to build an environment of inclusion and empowerment through the Okanagan College Accessibility Plan.

For the purposes of this Plan the following definitions will be used.

Ableism – A belief system, analogous to racism, sexism or ageism that sees persons with accessibility needs as being less worthy of respect and consideration, less able to contribute and participate, or of less inherent value than others. Ableism may be conscious or unconscious and may be embedded in institutions, systems or the broader culture of a society.



Accessibility – The degree of ease that something (for example, device, service, physical environment, and information) can be accessed, used, and enjoyed by persons with specific needs due to physical or mental requirements. The term implies conscious planning, design

and/or effort to make sure something is barrier-free.

Barrier – Anything that hinders the full and equal participation of a person with an impairment.



Disability – Disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person's body and mind and features of the society in which they live. A disability can occur at any time in a person's life; some people are born with a disability, while others develop a disability later in life. It can be permanent, temporary or episodic. Disability can steadily worsen,

remain the same, or improve. It can be very mild to very severe. It can be the cause, as well as the result, of disease, illness, injury, or substance abuse.



Duty to Accommodate - The duty to accommodate refers to steps Okanagan College must take to treat all people equally in regard to their accessibility needs. It requires Okanagan College to take all reasonable steps, to the point of undue hardship, to ensure that its spaces and services are accessible to all.



Inclusive Design – Concepts which underlie and support a mindset and practice of “design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference.”

Intersectionality – The complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism and classism combine, overlap or intersect, especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.

Systemic Barriers – Organizational or systemic barriers are policies, procedures, or practices that unfairly discriminate against individuals and can prevent them from participating fully in an environment.

Social Model – a view of disability as a difference. It considers ableism and a general lack of accessibility as the cause of disability. In other words, the social model views disability as a "condition created by bad design.'

Undue Hardship – A point in providing an accessible environment where the requirements to provide that environment are too difficult or expensive to reasonably meet.

The Accessible BC Act Accessible British Columbia Act (gov.bc.ca) sets three requirements for post-secondary institutions:

  • To develop a plan to identify, remove and prevent barriers to individuals in or interacting with the organization;
  • To establish an Accessibility Committee (implemented August 2022); and
  • To establish a mechanism for public feedback on the plan and for input on barriers to access to their organization. (Implemented April 2023)

In addition, the Act names eight standards and six principles to guide actions to remove or prevent barriers:

  • Employment
  • Delivery of Services
  • Built Environment
  • Information and Communication
  • Transportation
  • Health
  • Education
  • Procurement

Inclusion

Inclusion is an organizational effort and practice ensuring different groups and/or individuals having different backgrounds are culturally and socially accepted and welcomed.

Adaptability

Adaptability often refers to design, which will accommodate changes, including reduced ability, without the need to substantially modify the existing structure. This means that the space is readily adjustable and easily retrofitted. In terms of service, adaptability means that the service provided can be adjusted to meet the needs of someone requiring some additional support or alternate format.

Diversity

Diversity acknowledges that each person is unique and their individual differences are respected.

Collaboration

Persons with disabilities must be involved in the development and design of laws, policies, programs, services, and structures.

Self-determination

All persons must have meaningful options and be free to make their own choices, with support if they desire, regardless of their disabilities.

Universal design

Universal design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.

Seven principles of universal design are:

  • Principle I: Equitable use

    The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  • Principle II: Flexibility in use

    The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  • Principle III: Simple and intuitive use

    Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  • Principle IV: Perceptible information

    The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
  • Principle V: Tolerance for error

    The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  • Principle VI: Low physical effort

    The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  • Principle VII: Size and space for approach and use

    Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

Universal Design for Learning

UDL is an educational framework and set of principles that maximizes learning opportunities for all learners. It is based on three main principles aimed at helping educators improve how we present information, engage students, and create inclusive assessments and evaluations:

  • Principle I: Provide multiple means of representation.

    Present information and content in different ways.
  • Principle II: Provide multiple means of action and expression.

    Differentiate the ways that students can express what they know.
  • Principle III: Provide multiple means of engagement.

    Stimulate interest and motivation for learning.

 

Okanagan College provides support to students end employees through a collection of policies and practices that support the removal of barriers or addition of accommodations to navigate barriers more effectively. These include:

The Okanagan College vision is rooted in the belief that empowerment can be achieved through strong partnerships with individuals and communities. We strive to inspire and foster social, economic, environmental and cultural resiliency of the region for current and future generations through the creation and sharing of knowledge. At the heart of the plan is a deep commitment to a student-centered system, where we recognize the transformative power of education and the importance of fostering an inclusive and equitable learning environment.

Through partnerships and connections, we support and empower individuals to overcome barriers that limit their full access to the College. We firmly believe that empowerment is a collective endeavor, requiring the engagement of the entire community to dismantle barriers to access. Our plan affirms the dignity of every human being and cultivates a culture of courage when we actively address the systems, structures and policies that impede equal opportunities. By doing the necessary work together, we dismantle these barriers and create pathways for students, employees and community members to thrive. Success in learning and employment outcomes becomes achievable when all community members engage, recognizing and understanding the barriers that interfere with progress.

The Research Task Group considered legislation and plans from a variety of government and post-secondary sources in Canada and throughout the world to make recommendations for the structure of the Okanagan College Plan.

Key amongst the recommendations were:

  • Keep the Plan short, easy to read and fully accessible.
  • Link the Accessibility Plan to Inspire and the Roadmap.
  • Include definitions and, links to policies and legislation.
  • Include a statement of commitment to Accessibility.

We are grateful for the input received from the engagement of many employees, students, educators and Indigenous partners.

Over the course of six months, meetings were conducted with over 400 people who provided their observations and insights on:

  • Their experience supporting students and/or employees of different abilities;
  • The barriers that they have witnessed for students or employees in accessing our campuses;
  • Trends they have noticed in the number of people who request accommodations or the types of accommodations requested;
  • Personal experiences of barriers to accessibility; and
  • Any other comments or observations.

 

School District

Three consultation sessions were conducted in School District 23 by Michelle Kaupp, the District Principal, Inclusive Education and Randy Horne, Director of Instruction. Participants included Secondary Learning Assistance Teachers, Secondary Resource teachers and with the Career Programs/Dual Credit educators who interact with all of the Okanagan College campuses.

These input sessions highlighted the importance of:

  • transition programs for students with disabilities;
  • each student connecting directly with someone at the college to navigate accommodations and program information;
  • connecting to the College in advance of attending;
  • making a connection to learning supports and Indigenous services while attending the College.
  • Barriers identified included:
  • difficulty finding information about accommodations and services;
  • difficulty finding general information on the website; and
  • navigating learning modules related to enrolment and transportation.

 

Okanagan College Faculty and Instructors

Over 200 faculty and instructors in 20 different programs participated in group discussions with faculty member and Accessibility Committee member, Jillian Garrett.

Themes from these meetings include:

  • need for institutional support for resources to support faculty and instructors in the design and delivery of accessible curriculum; use of accessible technology; and how to provide required accommodations;
  • need to redefine how students access support services and the partnerships that are essential amongst faculty, instructors, Accessibility Services and students;
  • barriers to access in the built environment, communications and technology;
  • the increasing number of students with mental health concerns, ADHD and ASD, many of whom do not register with Accessibility Services; and
  • the need for clear training for all employees on UDL, sensitivity; trauma-informed practice, EDISJ and other topics.

 

Okanagan College Administrators and Service Professionals

Over 80 participants in 11 administrative and service departments participated in team meetings with the Vice President, Students.

Themes from these meetings include:

  • significant barriers for employees and students in the built environment, specifically related to barriers to washroom access, elevators, automatic door openers, signage, furnishings and need for scent free environments;
  • difficulty finding information on the website or internally when trying to refer students or fellow employees for supports;
  • need for education for all employees on how to support students and fellow employees;
  • outdated technology, policies and forms that create barriers for students with disabilities, students whose first language is not English, families trying to assist students, and others;
  • cultural and language barriers that intersect with barriers to accessibility as well as inequity in service and support options for online learners and on-site learners; and
  • need for accommodations for students in service areas outside of classroom that are not addressed in the current policies and practices.

 

Student Consultations

Student input was gathered via four distinct channels:

  • Student to student meetings;
  • Student government contributions;
  • Student survey; and
  • Student class project.

Okanagan College student, Destiny McNish conducted meetings with a total of 12 students, resulting in the following themes:

  • Students report experiencing varying levels of support depending on which Accessibility Services (AS) coordinator they contact;
  • Students described challenges receiving accommodations based on their ability to advocate for themselves;
  • Support from faculty varies from helpful to ableist;
  • Requirements for recent medical assessments pose a barrier to accommodations for some students, and the restrictions placed on Accessibility Services hinders the department’s ability to assist students.
  • Some students note they would benefit from access to hybrid delivery of classes, as well as from clearer communication about Accessibility Services and the accommodations they are able to provide.

The Vernon Student Association (VSAOC) provided group input when their representative could no longer participate in the Accessibility Committee:

  • Barriers in the built environment in design, size of elevators, door access and others;
  • Challenges finding information on the website;
  • The greater normalization of absences related to mental health;
  • Intersectional barriers related to being an international student; and
  • The need to allow students with language barriers to be able to ask for clarifications during exams and throughout the semester.

Student Survey

In fall 2022, 1032 students completed a survey to convey their experiences of EDISJ and Accessibility at Okanagan College. Approximately 20% of the respondents identified as having a disability, of whom only 44% are registered with Accessibility Services.

Recommendations from the survey include:

  • Improving supports for applications and access to information about services;
  • Need for removal of barriers in the built environment including door openers, elevator access, accessible washrooms, accessible parking and classroom furnishings;
  • Lack of space for regeneration, mental health breaks, separation from over-stimulation; and
  • Technology barriers – software, hardware, internet and power supplies.

 

Student Project

Three students at the Vernon campus, Jamey Brew, Kaija Hartwig, and Madison Wagner-Michaud completed a service project for the BUAD 209/SOCI 202 course.

The students used their lived experiences and research to identify barriers to accessibility at the Vernon campus and to identify accommodations and supports that are in place to benefit students. Identified barriers included:

  • Elevators, emergency exits, furnishings, washrooms and hallways all create barriers to access for individuals with mobility challenges;
  • Space in classrooms limits access to persons with disabilities and for those who require space to stand or walk to manage health challenges;
  • Parking is a challenge for space and for safety in winter; and
  • The campus lacks space for reduced distractions or stimuli.

 

Indigenous Partners

The response to a call for Indigenous partners to be part of the Accessibility Committee was limited due to availability although interest and commitment to the topic was significant. As a result, three consultation sessions were held with members of communities from throughout the Okanagan valley to gather input on the distinct barriers encountered by Indigenous students who require accommodations.

Input from education coordinators, employment support personnel, and schools identified the following barriers:

  • Need for more support in the transition from high school to post-secondary;
  • Need for more dual credit programs to assist in the transition;
  • Need to ensure that forms and processes are available in multiple formats including print for those who struggle with technology or do not have access;
  • Need for Indigenous cultural and trauma informed service/education training of employees;
  • Space for elders, healing and traditional medicine on campuses is lacking;
  • Structural barriers such as door openers, elevators exist in multiple locations;
  • Transportation to campuses must be more affordable and accessible;
  • Alternative testing systems are required;
  • Medical documentation of a disability is a barrier and access to assessments is hindered by the policies and backlog in public school system;
  • Need for plain language;
  • Visibility of Indigenous students must be improved in the post-secondary experience; and
  • Orientation needed for families as well as students.

The input from nearly 1400 students, employees, local educators and Indigenous partners along with the research and project work of the Accessibility Committee informs the priorities for the first Accessibility Plan for Okanagan College. It was evident throughout this information gathering process and the Plan development that many people are highly invested in creating an inclusive, barrier-free College for students, employees, and guests to our campuses. It was also apparent that there is much work ahead.

The Accessibility Action Items in the following chart focus on themes that evolved from the consultations as they apply to the individual Standards. Input on additional barriers will inform future Accessibility Plans as well as Strategic Plan projects that will lead Okanagan College into the future.

Share your feedback

To share your feedback on the Okanagan College Accessibility Plan, please contact People Services at peopleservices@okanagan.bc.ca, or fill out the relevant webform linked below.

Accessibility Plan Goals, 2023-2026

Appendix A: Goals and Deliverables

Build environment

Date Deliverable Responsibility
2023 Submit proposal to Integrated Resource Planning to fund Accessibility Audit in 2024 Facilities, People Services
2023 Continue work with EDISJ Ambassador Group to establish OC Standard for washroom facilities to meet EDISJ and Accessibility principles. Establish budget, timeline and priority for upgrades Facilities, EDISJ Project group
2023 Establish process and practice for weekly checks of automatic door openers and prioritization for repair Facilities
2024 Conduct an Accessibility Audit at the four Okanagan College campuses and develop plan for facilities' future updates Facilities, People Services, Accessibility Committee
2025 Ensure the new Food and Tourism building is built to the highest accessibility standards Facilities
2025 Implement first year of Facilities Accessibility Plan based on Audit Facilities

 

Delivery of services

Date Deliverable Responsibility
2024 Conduct review of Accessibility Services procedures and practices based on input gathered from Accessibility Plan consultations, Council for the Advancement of Standards and the Social Model of Accessibility. Explore options to change practices for medical documentation, support of students, collaboration with faculty and instructors. Student Services
2024-2026 Implement Transitions Program for students and families on transitions for students with disabilities to Okanagan College Student Services

 

Education

Date Deliverable Responsibility
2023 Compile resource library for instructors and faculty on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Learning and Applied Research (LAR)
2023

Using resources from BC Campus Okanagan College, myPD and elsewhere, promote training options for faculty and instructors on UDL and OER and removing learning barriers; Indigenous cultural awareness; trauma-informed practices.

Goal: 25% completion rate in Year 1.

Program Deans
2024

Using resources from BC Campus Okanagan College, myPD and elsewhere, promote training options for faculty and instructors on UDL and OER and removing learning barriers; Indigenous cultural awareness; trauma-informed practices.

Goal: 50% completion rate by Year 2.

Program Deans
2025

Using resources from BC Campus Okanagan College, myPD and elsewhere, promote training options for faculty and instructors on UDL and OER and removing learning barriers; Indigenous cultural awareness; trauma-informed practices.

Goal: 80% completion rate by Year 3.

Program Deans
2023-2025

Promote completion of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for instructors and faculty.

25% completion rate by 2023

50% completion rate by 2024

80% completion rate by 2025

Program Deans, MHFA trainers

 

Employment

Date Deliverable Responsibility
2023 Employee Engagement future activities engaged to promote employee learning, inclusion and wellness All
2023 Implement new role of Workplace Health Specialist to provide more support to employees and managers relating to disability management People Services
2024 Audit the College's employee accommodation practices and identify potential accessibility barriers, and recommend solutions People Services
2024 Audit recruitment practices to identify potential accessibility barriers. Recommend solutions to ensure inclusive and accessible practices and processes for applicants. People Services
2024-2026

Promote employee training in Working Minds.

Goal: 75% completion rate by 2026

People Services, Student Services

 

Health

Date Deliverable Responsibility
2023 Complete Wellness Strategy for employees and students, for approval by Leadership Council. People Services, Student Services
2024-2026 Implement Strategies for promotion of employee and student wellness People Services, Student Services

 

Information and communication

Date Deliverable Responsibility
2023 Establish Accessibility Website with information about the Accessibility Plan, Committee, resources and activities People Services, Accessibility Committee, College Relations
2023 Ensure that all forms and documents are available in multiple formats, including print, for prospective students, current students and employees All
2024 Review and update website for maximum accessibility for prospective students, families and support personnel to navigate applications, financial aid and admissions; and for current students to easily access program information College Relations

 

Policy

Date Deliverable Responsibility
2024 Complete update of accommodation policies for employees and students, including approach to interim accommodations, accommodation for temporary mental health disabilities, retroactive accommodations, training on implementation of policies Accessibility Services, People Services
2024 Review and update of Education Policies, with a lens to remove barriers to accessibility Special Advisor to the Provost

 

Procurement

Date Deliverable Responsibility
2024 Review and update Purchasing Policy and Procedure to include framework to ensure purchased products and services, including, but not limited to, furnishings and technology, are fully accessible. Finance

 

Transportation

Date Deliverable Responsibility
2023-2026 Continue work with City of Kelowna on redesign of Kelowna campus bus loop for safety and accessibility Facilities
2024 Inclusion of accessible parking for new student housing sties in Kelowna, Vernon and Salmon Arm Facilities