There's a community at the U of C that--while sometimes forgotten--deserves both attention and recognition.
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities awarded University of Calgary Electrical Engineering graduate student Sanjeet Singh with the ccd Award in Ottawa in July. The award recognizes members of the National Educational Association of Disabled Students executive board whose work benefits the disabled community. Singh has been involved with the organization since 2000, and currently holds the post of Vice-President Internal.
"It's really exciting. It's just an honour to receive an award from the ccd," he said. "It recognizes members who have made significant contributions to the community."
Singh also served on the executive on other campus-based groups like the Triple A (Association for Accessibility and Awareness) and the Electrical Student Council. He also won the Gold Award from the Students' Union for positive contributions on campus. More recently, he is the conference chair of neads' National Conference Opening Doors, taking place this November in Ottawa.
Singh was the first visually impaired student to attend the University of South Pacific in Fiji and moved to Canada to pursue an MSc in Geomatics Engineering. Although his disability isn't as severe as what some students face, his life is not without difficulty.
"First and foremost, the most difficult part is seeing what people are saying, who they are," said Singh, noting that at times he does not recognize people he's speaking with. "Apart from that, I seem to cope pretty well in my day to day life."
As a U of C student, Singh sought help from the U of C Disability Resource Centre--which helps students with disabilities carry out their studies. In Singh's case, this meant providing him with a monocular to see the blackboardand a 36 inch television and ZoomText software so he could take part in computer-driven labs. While this helped Singh tremendously, he added that some students are not easy to accomodate.
"It depends on the disability you have," he explained. "I took a full course load, so it wasn't a problem for me. But for some people with learning disabilities, for example, three courses might be a full course-load."
Also confronting disabled students is advancing technology which sometimes hinders their abilities to succeed. For example, said Singh, the use of Flash presentations instead of traditional PowerPoint slideshows makes it difficult for some students to follow along.
"Technology is advancing so fast that disabled students are left behind," he said, adding that the only solution would be to limit the amount of technology used in classrooms.
Singh credits much of his success to the Disability Resource Centre and support from campus organizations. He encourages other disabled students to seek assistance.
"People with disabilities can get involved with these campus-based groups."