Committee on Access and Disability

The Committee on Access and Disability (CAD) advises on matters related to access and disability and generates tangible, meaningful improvements to the experience of disabled undergraduate students at the University of Waterloo. We provide a welcoming community, a space for impactful advocacy, and education and support for disabled students at the University of Waterloo.

CAD's inaugural term is this Fall 2021! For more information, read below or email access@wusa.ca

Mission & Vision

Our mission is to identify, advocate for, improve, and evaluate the state of equitable access for disabled undergraduate students at the University of Waterloo, in coordination with relevant services and affiliated groups.

Our vision is an educational system wherein disabled students experience barrier-free access to their full and equitable participation in all aspects of academic and student life, are provided with meaningful supports for their wellbeing, and no longer require exemplary resilience or privilege to succeed.

Values

We seek to uphold the core values of disability justice organizers and movements globally. We reaffirm the central principles of intersectionality and “nothing about us without us,” that our work should be guided by the insights and lived experiences of those most impacted by ableism, barriers, and structures of oppression. We affirm the importance of collective access, collective liberation, and cross-disability and cross-movement solidarity – only by bringing together our shared and conflicting needs can we advocate for maximally accessible experiences and fuller disability justice. We believe in interdependence and the value of connections in uplifting all of us, rather than independent resilience that privileges only some of us. We continue to work against ableism and intersecting oppressions to ensure none of us is left behind.

Support

CAD does not offer formal peer support, but can support and share resources if you're facing issues around access and disability. Send us an email at access@wusa.ca and we'll get back to you as soon as we can!

If you've experienced or witnessed inaccessibility or ableism at UW, please use the Incident Reporting Form to let us know. You can remain anonymous or share your contact info if you'd like a follow-up.

Campus Wellness, AccessAbility Services, and the Equity Office may also be able to provide you with support.

You're Welcome Here!

In terms of membership, this committee prioritizes contributions from participants who self-identify as disabled. Participants don't have to declare specifics of their disability status, and abled participants are included. Members will be required to draw on their own lived experience and seek to represent the diversity of disabled student experiences at the University of Waterloo. While the membership of this Committee cannot be representative of all embodiments of disability at the University of Waterloo, it will continually seek to learn from and integrate the insights and experiences of disabled people outside and within the participants of the Committee.

Responsibilities

The responsibilities of the Committee on Access and Disability are as follows:

  1. To serve as the primary forum and focus group for WUSA and campus partners who wish to gather student feedback on issues of access and disability, and for the review of draft advocacy items, papers, and trainings presented by affiliates including, but not limited to, the Equity Office, OUSA, and UCRU.
  2. To identify barriers faced by disabled students at the University of Waterloo;
  3. To provide a central point of contact for disabled students who experience impacts of inequitable or discriminatory structures, policies, or conduct.
  4. To develop centralized resources and best practices regarding disability in post-secondary institutions.
  5. To propose policy stances, from time to time, to WUSA and Students' Council on issues of major and ongoing concern to students.
  6. To inform advocacy for policy changes at all levels, from classrooms and faculties, to University and community-wide services, and at all levels of government.
  7. To collaborate with individuals and groups doing allied disability-centred work across the post-secondary education space.

Our first projects will be implementing the recommendations of the 2021 Accessibility Report and working on a disability training with the Equity Office!

Policies

Our meetings run based on the following norms:

  1. Maximize access: we will aim to be maximally inclusive in our processes, practices, and outputs, even as some access needs may conflict or not be feasible within the capabilities of this Committee. We affirm the importance of flexibility and creativity as foundations of disability work.
  2. Assume good intent: we will seek to deliver and interpret contributions as charitable and constructive, rather than argumentative or dismissive.
  3. Capabilities vary: we recognize that disability is not necessarily stable or predictable; as such, we seek to make space for participants to show up and engage in whatever ways work for them.
  4. Trauma-informed: we recognize the often traumatic or otherwise distressing nature of experiences participants may bring to their work related to disability. We seek to cultivate a space that responds to the needs of members to promote full and equitable participation without limiting difficult topics off-limits for the Committee as a whole.
  5. Epistemic humility: we recognize that our own experiences and expertise are not all-encompassing or complete, nor can they be. We seek to embrace, rather than conceal, our fallibility and take up the good-faith constructive criticism of other participants.
  6. Action orientation: we will orient motions, discussions, and action items towards practical change, as problem definition, solution generation, implementation, or evaluation & review.
  7. Solidarity: The Committee focuses on improving conditions for disabled people in all their/our embodiments and experiences. We will not tolerate discussion on who “really counts” as disabled, attempt to group or delineate disabled people based on functioning or needs, and instead consider disabled students as “a group bound by common social and political experiences.”
  8. Respect: This is a space where forms of systemic oppression and privilege may be addressed. We align ourselves against together against these things. As we create a space that challenges us, we may make mistakes and cause harm. We all exist in a society that reifies historical forms of oppression, and we all have entrenched prejudices to unlearn and ignorances to correct. We will seek to address harms as soon as possible in a spirit of community and improvement. Ignorance is understandable and welcomed; intolerance will not be tolerated.