New centre to help disabled students

By Brian Arkinstall

The Nat Christie Foundation has pledged $200, 000 to the University of Calgary to make learning a little easier for over 300 students with disabilities.

Fri., Sept. 24 saw the official opening of the Nat Christie Adaptive Technology Centre in MacEwan Student Centre. The new centre is joining forces with the existing Disability Resource Centre to improve learning accessibility for students with disabilities.

Association for Accessibility and Awareness President Zubair Habib believes the centre’s technology has made the U of C an example for other post-secondary institutions.

"The Disability Resource Centre, staff and students, have greatly benefited from their [Nat Christie Foundation’s] continued advocacy," said Habib. "The technology in this lab is far better than I have seen at any other post-secondary institutions."

The technology in the centre includes audio systems and print
magnifiers that help hearing and visually-impaired students in classroom settings, and language software to aid physically impaired students.

Associate Vice-president Student Affairs Peggy Patterson feels that while the U of C has made a continuing effort to improve physical accessibility on campus, the Adaptive Technology Centre increases accessibility to the resources needed for learning.

"Many students don’t have access to the learning environment," said Patterson. "Not because they can’t get there physically, but because they don’t have ways of accessing the print material and other resources that make them effective learners."

U of C President Terry White said the process of adapting to learning in a university environment is a daunting task for all new students, but he believes it is particularly intimidating for students with disabilities.

"As I look at students adapting to the U of C in this large setting, I think the key to their success is learning how to learn in a new environment," said White. "The Disability Resource Centre works to help students with disabilities adjust to their new surroundings, and enables these very talented people to participate fully in all aspects of campus life."

Nat Christie Foundation President Peter Valentine said that
he looks forward to continuing the relationship that has been established with the U of C. Past contributions have funded a chair of obstetrics and gynecology, a project on reproductive medicine, and fellowships in Accounting, as well as other miscellaneous projects.

"All of that adds up to quite a few dollars, and I think we
have had huge returns from the U of C," said Valentine. "And
the Foundation and I look forward to a close relationship in the future."

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