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By Russ Cooper
Concordia has a long history of being an accessible environment. If anyone knows it how to make it more so, it’s Leo Bissonnette.
Bissonnette, who’s been at Concordia since the 1974 merger alternating between student, staff and part-time teacher, is currently the Coordinator for the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities. His knowledge of how to make the university accessible is his contribution to Congress this spring as Local Arrangement Coordinator for Canadian Disabilities Studies Association (CDSA).
Even though he’s not a formal member of the association (a group that looks at disability issues, trends and topics in Canada from an academic perspective), he’s helping accommodate the more than 50 people who may need special arrangements to appreciate the conference to its fullest.
“For example, take the Presidential Reception on June 3 at the Grey Nuns Motherhouse,” he says. “If there are speeches, we want sign language interpreters there to make sure those who are hearing-impaired have full access to everything Congress has to offer.”
While all the final details are still being ironed out, he’s already made arrangements for a number of services to make sure the university is accessible and enjoyable for all CDSA members.
For members with limited mobility, Bissonnette has arranged with Facilities Management Transportation Supervisor Des O’Neill for an accessible van to shuttle association members, as well as other delegates from other societies who may benefit from such a service, between the Hall Building and the Motherhouse.
As well, the choice of the MB Building to host the CDSA’s three days at Congress was “very intentional,” says Bissonnette. The state-of-the-art facility is wheelchair accessible, as well as well-equipped with technology that will enable the use of CART, a remote captioning system that can instantly translate spoken word into print.
But before Congress, he is still responsible for delivering exams to the 740 students “who have self-identified as requiring our services,” he says. This means delivering some exams in alternative formats, or in wheelchair-accessible locations.
Bissonnette was part of the first class after the merger of Loyola and SGW in 1974, completing a BA in sociology that same year. Since then, he’s completed a master’s degree in sociology and PhD in educational technology (see Journal, June 1, 2006).