By: Jessie Archambault

Faith Girvan, 26, has Cerebral Palsy which requires her to be in a wheelchair.

The Centre for Students with Disabilities is trying to eliminate the boundary between abled and disabled students in regards to academic success.

“We don’t focus on the disabilities,” said Toni Connolly, the centre’s manager. “We support students that happen to have a disability.”

Serina L. Masood has Cerebral Palsy, which reduces her mobility and motor skills, such as coordination. According to the Kids Health Organization, the disease is more likely to occur in premature babies. Masood, 19, was born 10 weeks earlier than expected.

Masood, a journalism student, requires extra time on her tests because handwriting is difficult, she said. But, she does not use the new test room of the centre.

“I don’t want to be singled out,” she said. “I’m actually normal.”

That’s exactly how the centre wants their registered students to feel. “You want to be with your classmates like everybody else,” said Connolly.

The centre’s goal is to ensure that students graduate, Connolly said. “We can only support those that come here.”

Faith Girvan also has Cerebral Palsy as well as optic nerve hypoplasia, a condition that blurs her vision in both her eyes, she said. Girvan, a recreational and leisure services student, requires preferential seating at the front of her classrooms in order to see the projector screen. But sometimes the front of the class is not wheelchair accessible, said Girvan, 26.

“I prefer bonding with a person for who they are,” she said. “Not because they have the same disability [as me].”

In some cases disable students want to bond with other disable students. The centre’s manager recalls a deaf student asking help to communicate with other deaf students on campus. Connolly, then a hearing loss counsellor, sent an email to other deaf students explaining how one of them wanted to meet other students in the same situation. However, Connolly said this does not happen often.

According to the centre’s website, 10 per cent of the student body of Algonquin uses its services. Masood said she doesn’t know anyone else in the college with Cerebral Palsy. But, there is a sense of camaraderie between people with disabilities that does not exist with other students, she said.

On the other hand, Girvan said she doesn’t like how people separate the able from the disable. “We’re just like everyone else with a few limitations,” she said.