8 Student Support and Service Delivery Upgrades
First Year Support Through the Archway Program
Piloted in May 2020, Archway is a first-year support and community-building program that recognizes the importance of providing programming and content in an accessible way for new students. Archway includes more than 150 student community leaders and navigators for first-year students. All student staff receive training related to accessibility standards, tools, and resources, administered in partnership with the Equity and Inclusion Office.
As a primarily virtual program, Archway ensures students can receive information in accessible, user-friendly ways using both asynchronous and synchronous strategies. Student staff use the various accessibility tools integrated with Microsoft Teams, Archway’s primary platform. By using newly available meeting transcriptions and recordings, students have more opportunities to access information. When developing curricular strategies, Archway staff use McMaster’s Accessible Event Planning Checklist to meet accessibility needs.
In an effort to engage and support an even greater number of first-year students in the 2021–2022 academic year, the Archway program has joined the Student Success Centre (SSC). Additionally, Archway has strengthened connections with the Student Accessibility Services office, regularly promoting and showcasing the services and resources they offer.
Contributors: Sean Beaudette (Manager), Katie Fitzgerald, Adam Moniz (Archway Program)
New SAS Roles and Spaces to Support Students with Disabilities
Student Accessibility Services (SAS) has recently added a Peer Support Specialist to our complement of support services. The Peer-to-Peer Wellbeing Learning Hub co-designs workshops and programs with students, including ‘Skills for Daily Living’, ‘Community Connect’, and ‘Reclaiming Your Power’ workshops in which any student can participate. We also added a new Program Coordinator role to our team of staff who supports the coordination of academic accommodations for students. This new Program Coordinator role supports students experiencing a temporary / interim disability with academic accommodations to meet their needs. We have an Assistive Technologist and Learning Strategist to support students with integrating technology to support their unique learning needs. We also opened our new Testing Centre in MUSC B101 to support students with disabilities who may need an accommodation for writing tests and exams.
Contributors: Student Accessibility Services (Staff and student staff)
Beyond AODA Compliance: A Full Redesign of SAS Web Accessibility
Student Accessibility Services (SAS) is currently undergoing a full website redesign with a goal to increase accessibility beyond compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The project, which began in May 2021, is a shared effort between Student Accessibility Services, the Student Success Centre (SSC), and the Student Affairs (SA) Tech Team, with a working group that includes communications, web, and accessibility experts. A major component of this process includes the creation of five to six web accessibility personas that can eventually be adapted by other units at McMaster. Developed in consultation with students, faculty, and staff, the personas will cover major areas of access needs to strengthen web accessibility testing in combination with end-user evaluation. These will also be a tool that can bring an accessibility lens to all stages of digital design at McMaster University.
Contributors: Allison Drew-Hassling (SAS), Michelle Barr (SAS), Mei-Ju Shih (SAS), Elizabeth DiEmanuele (SSC), Jacquie Hampshire (SSC), Jeffrey Low (SSC), Hussein Mukri (SA), Michael Sowerby (SA), Serge Venier (SA)
Collaborations of Career Access Professional Services
In 2020–2021, Career Access Professional Services (CAPS) collaborated with various employer partners, campus departments, and government representatives to raise awareness, and increase opportunities for equity-deserving students by accessing CAPS services.
Some initiatives included:
- A workshop on ‘Accommodation and Disclosure in the Workplace’ hosted in collaboration with Student Accessibility Services (SAS), employer partners, and an Ontario Public Service representative;
- Career Fair Prep, a diversity-focused session to help students prepare for success at the Fall Career Fair;
- A panel event with grad school representatives and current grad students that addressed equity, diversity, and disclosure in the education application process, part of Further Education Month; and
- Career Ready Fund, a funding opportunity in partnership with Engineering Co-op and Career Services that supported students and recent grads in the Automotive and Advanced Manufacturing Industry.
Additionally, through a partnership with Engineering Career and Co-op Services, CAPS more than doubled the number of Engineering students who accessed inclusive employment support.
Contributors: Student Success Centre (Anna Magnotta, Manager of Employment and Experiential Learning, and Katherine Hesson-Bolton, Diversity Employment Coordinator)
McMaster Exchange Program Moving Forward
In Summer 2021, the McMaster Exchange Program distributed targeted surveys to more than 70 exchange partners to raise awareness, and learn how partner institutions plan to support incoming exchange students from equity-deserving groups. The department received positive responses from more than 30 institutions from 15 countries around the world.
Additionally, McMaster Exchange Program developed a fact sheet on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) services, and information focused on the McMaster and Canadian context for inbound exchange students.
The McMaster Exchange Program would like to sincerely thank Reeham Saddique (Faculty of Science) for her tireless work and ongoing dedication to this project, and the Student Affairs partners for their generous time and assistance in providing information and content on services and support.
Contributors: Jenna Levi (Education Abroad Coordinator in Student Success Centre Staff), Katherine Hesson-Bolton (Diversity Employment Coordinator in Student Success Centre Staff), and Reeham Saddique (SSC Student Staff)
Going Virtual: Global Experience Program
In 2021, the Global Experience Program made global experiential learning more accessible for students by connecting them with safe and rewarding virtual opportunities when travel was not possible or advisable. The department worked with students to overcome barriers like travel restrictions to meet their goals related to global experiential learning. A new version of the Global Experience Award was introduced in November 2020 to assist students in participating in virtual global conferences and volunteer and internship opportunities. In addition, students also had the chance to engage with peers across the world to address specific challenges faced by Canadian and international companies.
By pursuing virtual global opportunities, some students were able to fulfill their experiential program requirements, while others used this as a co-curricular opportunity to gain global awareness, establish industry connections, and attain work experience when in-person options were limited. More than 50 students participated in virtual global opportunities through the Global Experience program between November 2020 and the summer of 2021.
Contributors: Gisela Oliveira (Associate Director of Skill Development and International Student Support in the Student Success Centre) and Francesca Hernandez Weinerth (Global Experience Coordinator in the Student Success Centre)
Virtual Supports for McMaster Students Developed by the SSC
Between 2020-2021, SSC staff developed a number of online supports and engaged in professional development to enhance overall accessibility in support of McMaster students accessing SSC services. Below are some examples:
- Learning Support: In 2020, the Online Learning Support web page created by the Student Success Centre became the go-to place to find supports for success with online learning. It includes tip sheets, and links to appointment bookings, and campus partners.
- Virtual events and appointments: The Academic Skills Prep Series (launched in February 2021) provided a needed alternative to text-based tip sheets and website content on basic academic concepts students need to know to succeed in university. There was also the Summer Writing Program which had synchronous, and asynchronous activities to support the transition of first-year students into university. Echo360 was used to house recordings. All appointment types had options for in-person, or virtual sessions.
- Resources: Online service delivery included academic skills development tip sheets that followed accessibility standards. The team created a video series that highlighted specific skills topics: note-taking, writing, procrastination, and online learning.
- Professional Development: All writing advisors completed asynchronous professional development modules that cover pedagogy (teaching and learning practice), with a focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion.
The team also created stronger connections with Student Accessibility Services to provide referrals for individual appointments.
Contributors: Jenna Storey, Gisela Oliveira, and Holly Corbett (Student Success Centre)
Chat Live: Student Success Centre
The Student Success Centre implemented a live chat feature in November 2020 with a customer service model based on Appreciative Advising practices and peer-to-peer support. In addition to helping students find the information they need, the live chat provided students with a warm welcome, similar to the front desk experience on campus, to increase a sense of familiarity, and ease feelings of anxiety or discomfort in virtual environments.
Contributors: Jacqueline Hampshire (Associate Director for Communications, Marketing, and Events in Student Success Centre), Elizabeth DiEmanuele (Digital Media Specialist in Student Success Centre), and Christian Braun (Multimedia Designer in Student Success Centre)
Chat Live: Registrar’s Office and the Inclusive Service Agreement
During the rapid shift to an online environment since the start of the pandemic, we evolved our services to continue providing students with support while remote. Through our live chat we managed large volumes of inquiries and offered students the option to have video or audio calls, as well as scheduled online appointments. As in-person services began again, we provided express pick-up services and in-person appointments for complex student inquires.
We are committed to providing inclusive and exemplary service to all students and stakeholders using a variety of communication platforms. As a commitment to this we are developing an Inclusive Service Agreement which promises dedication to equity-seeking student populations and helps contribute to building an inclusive and supportive work ethic. The Agreement sets out the standards of service that can be expected by our stakeholders as well as resources in place for additional support.
Contributors: Leanne Ruiz, Matt Horner, and Natasha Mehta (Registrar’s Office)
Health Sciences Library Services: Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Updates
Education and Research:
The Health Sciences Library is actively reviewing its education and research activities to incorporate strategies to help learners and researchers identify and use culturally appropriate information sources and terminology and navigate outdated language and methodologies described in the literature.
The Health Sciences Library provides a wealth of health information resources tailored to specific topics and McMaster programs through its website. The pages are rich resources full of links and images to assist the McMaster community in their research. The library uses the Wave WebAim checker on all its web pages regularly and corrects errors (missing alt tags, contrast errors, etc.) as necessary.
The Health Sciences Library ensures the inclusion of accessibility language in all product licenses. Some of these licenses are held at the national and provincial levels. Where possible, we have appointed representatives to the committees responsible for revising provincial licenses.
This year, the Health Sciences Library established the Indigenous Health book collection. Materials were selected in partnership with Indigenous health leadership from the Faculty of Health Sciences and the community more broadly.
The Health Sciences Library ran an Indigenous Topics Book Club designed to embrace the tenets of self-directed-learning and adult learning theory, create a safe space to explore equity, diversity, and inclusion topics, identify and address knowledge gaps, and enjoy learning within the work environment. Upon request, staff were provided with copies of book titles and were permitted to attend book club discussions during the workday.
Contributors: Health Sciences Library
Accessibility in Intramural Sports
The Department of Athletics and Recreation is committed to working proactively to ensure members of all abilities can access recreation, and sports programs, facilities, and events. Accessible sports leagues include Sitting Volleyball, and Parasport Tournament including Wheelchair Basketball, and Wheelchair European Handball. Contact Peter McComie for more information.
Contributors: The Department of Athletics and Recreation
Department of Athletics and Recreation Disability Assistance
For students with accessibility needs, the Department of Athletics and Recreation can provide physical assistance or accommodation to enable the completion of a workout, or activity. For students requiring an accommodation, please contact Lee-Anne Wilson for more information.
Contributors: The Department of Athletics and Recreation
The Department of Athletics and Recreation has three specialized wheelchairs available for sign-out (to students and McMaster employees). Two chairs are sports chairs and can be signed out at the Joan Buddle Service Desk in the David Braley Athletic Centre. The third chair, the Hippocampe all-terrain wheelchair, can be used on trails, grass, and beaches. To access this service, connect with Wayne Terryberry.
Contributors: The Department of Athletics and Recreation