Pilot initiative involves students of all abilities

Thu, Jun 9, 2016

Langley, B.C. – One of the first fully inclusive courses in North American recently finished its pilot run at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) Langley campus, and to “outstanding” success.

Launched in January, ‘Including All Citizens’ enrolled five graduates of KPU’s Access Programs for People with Disabilities (APPD) in a first-year sociology course, for credit. Using the principles of universal design for learning, the course material for Introduction to Society: Processes and Structures was not adapted and all students were graded using the same rubric.

“The five students were research collaborators in my research project, the Bodies of Film Club. They shared their frustrations over the lack of opportunities available to them, including occupation and education. This reinforced our eagerness to open access to post-secondary opportunities,” said Dr. Fiona Whittington-Walsh, chair of KPU's Department of Sociology.

Dr. Whittington-Walsh has been working in collaboration with Teresa Morishita, chair of APPD, to facilitate opening access for all learners since 2014. “The classroom experience was outstanding. Right from the beginning, all the students in the course were accepted and everyone’s input was valued," said Morishita.

Including All Citizens offered full university credits to all five students, who are each pursuing 30-credit Faculty of Arts certificates. Their tuition was funded by Inclusion BC – of which Dr. Whittington-Walsh is vice-president – and the Langley Association for Community Living.

“I am delighted that we are Inclusion BC’s first affiliate member,” said Patrick Donahoe, dean of KPU’s Faculty of Academic and Career Advancement.

“At KPU we are all about acknowledging the many gifts all our learners bring with them and then playing a strong supportive role in helping them get from where they are to where they want to go,” he added.

The pilot will follow the five students over the next five years as they pursue their arts certificates. Both Whittington-Walsh and Morishita are also developing a teaching tool to allow other instructors to open the doors of their courses to all learners.

"My experience taking the introduction to sociology university course for credit was nerve-wracking at first because I have a disability. I didn't know how the other students would treat me and I didn't know how well I would do in class,” said Langley resident Kya Bezanson, one of the APPD graduates and now a proud Faculty of Arts student pursuing her certificate.

“As class got rolling I felt more comfortable since I love learning and found out that I was going to be fine. I made lots of friends that accepted me. Plus once I figured out that the class was fully inclusive I was thrilled because everyone felt the way I did. I'm glad I took Fiona's class because she made us feel like we were like everyone else. Nothing was adapted, I didn't get help in class and we were all graded the same way. I felt like a normal person.”

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has served the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 200,000 learners. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs in business, liberal arts, design, health, science and horticulture, trades and technology, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 120 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at kpu.ca.    

class photo is available on Flickr.

Media contact:
Hayley Woodin
Media Specialist
t: 604.599.2883
c: 604.364.1288

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