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Disabled-services flip-flop

Axworthy says decision to cut had not been formally approved

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The University of Winnipeg announced Saturday it will not go ahead with cutbacks to services for disabled students, and will instead hire additional staff to accommodate students with special needs.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/09/2010 (4454 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The University of Winnipeg announced Saturday it will not go ahead with cutbacks to services for disabled students, and will instead hire additional staff to accommodate students with special needs.

The about-face came one day after an internal U of W memo was leaked to media and revealed a number of university programs to help disabled students were on the chopping block. The decision outraged students and raised eyebrows since it comes just weeks after the U of W launched a new disability degree program devoted to the “critical analysis of disability in society.”

Disabled students claimed they were being denied access to the same education as other students, and could be forced to drop some courses.

MIKE DEAL / Winnipeg Free Press Archives Lloyd Axworthy, president and vice-chancellor of the U of W, says the province's decade-long tuition freeze has left the university having to tighten its belt budget-wise.

U of W president and vice-chancellor Lloyd Axworthy said the university’s senior executives held an emergency meeting on Saturday, and decided to give disability services additional resources. The disability-services program will now be able to hire someone to co-ordinate the note-taking program, hire an additional adviser and initiate a peer-training program for adaptive technology — services that were previously slated to be cut.

Axworthy said the internal memo alerting staff of cuts to services was sent prematurely and the university’s senior executives had not approved the decision to reduce help for disabled students. He said due to the university’s “tight budget,” senior executives must approve every request for additional resources.

“I’m really sorry the memo went out prematurely,” Axworthy said.

The U of W saw a 20 per cent increase in the number of students who registered for disability services this fall and its current staff has been unable to meet the current demand. There are 450 students registered with U of W disability services.

Part of the problem, Axworthy said, is the U of W is still trying to catch up with lost revenue from the decade-long tuition freeze. He said the U of W has to keep $500,000 worth of staff positions vacant this year and increase enrollment by two per cent in order to balance its budget.

“There’s 10 years to make up where there was no increased revenue coming in from student tuitions,” Axworthy said. “It was just a bad public policy and now we’re having to compensate for it.”

The decision to expand services for disabled students was welcome news to university staff, who say the programs are particularly important in light of the new disability studies degree program.

“We’re hoping to attract a lot of students with disabilities and we want them to feel really welcome at the U of W,” said Michelle Owen, an associate sociology professor and leading disability researcher. “All of these programs are really important for students.”

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

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