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KPU announces first students to graduate in ground-breaking fully inclusive program

KPU announces first students to graduate in ground-breaking fully inclusive program

Thu, Feb 4, 2021
The first three students of the ground-breaking Including All Citizens program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University have graduated.

The first three students of the ground-breaking Including All Citizens program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University will be graduating soon. The program involves the full inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities into Faculty of Arts courses.

“All students benefit from inclusive education and, in this case, inclusive post-secondary education,” says Dr. Fiona Whittington-Walsh, a sociology instructor at KPU and president of Inclusion B.C.

“Over the past five years, I have gotten to know these students and can say that I have seen their confidence level increase enormously as they take courses for credit alongside their non-disabled peers. This is the power of inclusion at work here.”  

The three students graduating will be receiving a Faculty of Arts Certificate, a credential consisting of 10 courses that are fully transferable through the BC Council on Admissions and Transfer. The certificate pre-exists the program and is designed to provide an educational experience that prepares students for work, citizenship, and critical engagement with their communities.

“This is a student-centred learning environment where everyone is included and valued on an equal basis, thereby making it an exemplary learning experience for all and is one of the first fully inclusive, for-credit university certificate programs,” adds Whittington-Walsh.

For students like Kya Bezanson and Anju Miller, the Including All Citizens (IAC) program has given them the confidence they need to pursue their education without barriers.

“For me, personally, the IAC has given me pride to graduate with credit and to know I helped the future generations of people with disabilities to be able to take courses and learn like everyone else. I will be taking more courses in art and sociology after the pandemic is over,” says Bezanson.

“I was given the opportunity to take creative writing before English and because of that I gained the confidence to walk into English feeling I could do anything,” says Miller, who wants to become a writer. “This experience has allowed me to pursue creative writing courses and hopefully be able to obtain my creative writing bachelor, which will help me become a much stronger writer.”

The Including All Citizens program was spearheaded by Whittington-Walsh working with partners Inclusion BC and Inclusion Langley Society. The project started in 2016 and has received financial support from the Vancouver Foundation, and Irving K. Barber Endowment for Educational Opportunities, administered by the KPU Foundation.

Other instructors are now joining her in using principles of universal design for learning to transform the way they teach.

“Young people with intellectual disabilities share the same hopes and aspirations for their future as their siblings, friends and peers,” says Dan Collins, chief executive of Inclusion Langley Society. “Fully inclusive post-secondary education is an important step in the journey to independence and a good life and should be available to every young person in our province.”

Karla Verschoor, executive director of Inclusion BC, says the hurdles faced by the students with intellectual disabilities is the same as every other post-secondary student, but with Including All Citizens they are able to have these experiences alongside their peers.

“Our vision for the future is that every young adult has an opportunity to attend post-secondary, including young adults with intellectual disabilities. Including All Citizens planted a seed, but we all need to help it grow,” adds Verschoor.

Currently, there are two students continuing to work towards their certificate and Whittington-Walsh says there will be a new cohort of students starting in spring 2022.