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Encouraging inclusive education key to new advisor’s role

Encouraging inclusive education key to new advisor’s role

Thu, Sep 22, 2022
Dr. Fiona Whittington-Walsh

Encouraging more faculty across KPU to become involved with teaching designed to include students with intellectual, developmental and/or learning disabilities is the goal of Dr. Fiona Whittington-Walsh.

Whittington-Walsh, a member of the Department of Sociology, has been named KPU’s Lead Advisor for Disability, Accessibility and Inclusion. In this role she will serve as KPU’s leading academic voice on disability, accessibility and inclusion.

Much of her work will centre around the Including All Citizens Pathway (IACP) – a student-centred learning environment where everyone is included and valued equally. IACP offers for-credit fully inclusive academic courses that include students with intellectual, developmental and learning disabilities on par with their peers. It does not adapt or modify courses but transforms teaching using Universal Design for Learning principles to make each course fully accessible and inclusive.

“This position will allow me that opportunity to build capacity for Including All Citizens Pathway, with mentoring more faculty and providing more courses so students can choose what courses they’d like to take.”

Whittington-Walsh began working on IACP in 2015 with a goal to create an inclusive course. She quickly realized a course couldn’t be designed by being inclusive – it was about transforming teaching.

“I sat down and thought, ‘What do I need to do as an instructor to teach to a wide range of learners?’ That was the beginning.”

Students in the IACP work toward a Faculty of Arts Certificate, a credential consisting of 10 courses that pre-exists the pathway. It’s designed to provide an educational experience that prepares students for work, citizenship and critical engagement with their communities.

Part of Whittington-Walsh’s work will be finding instructors to participate, for which they’ll be granted faculty release time.

“It’s a recognition that initially it is more work to transform your teaching, possibly even change the way you teach a course, which is definitely what happened with me.”

Whittington-Walsh’s goal is for the pathway to be widely embedded in the university and opening up access outside the Faculty of Arts.

“This position is really about advancing inclusive post-secondary at all levels,” she says. “We open up the access for students so they can take their rightful place as citizens.”

Further building community connections will also be part of her work. Whittington-Walsh is past-president and director of Inclusion BC and is a member of two national boards: Inclusion Canada, and the Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society (IRIS). She also works collaboratively with the National Educational Association for Disabled Students (NEADS) and the BC Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS).

“It’s these kinds of connections that are really key,” she says. “Now we are finally ready for everybody to know what we’re doing and how we are advancing full inclusion.”