SBA is a non-profit, student group on campus that represents disabled students at University of Toronto. Our approach has been to establish a presence for disabled students, raise awareness, provide education, effectively lobby, and directly influence many of the systemic issues in all areas of student life. The accessibility and inclusiveness of university buildings, academic resources, student events, the lack of funding and provision for disability-related accommodations, and the lack of a social space or network of disabled students are some of the many barriers to inclusion experienced by disabled students. SBA provides a voice for a constituency that has been under-represented in the past.
SBA was founded in 2002. Its goal was to perform advocacy and outreach on behalf of disabled students. The SBA Access Centre was established in response to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (now Accessibility for Ontarian with Disabilities Act, AODA) planning documentation, which identified barriers experienced by disabled students that could be addressed through the creation of such a centre. The Centre’s governance model ensures that its board has majority student representation. The creation of the SBA Access Centre was a big step forward and a marker of the permanence of the movement.
In 2003, SAC (now UTSU) held a referendum, asking students if they would pay a $2 fee per year toward the creation of an Access Center for students with disabilities and ** their allies. This Access Center would act as a social and activist space in order to promote ideas of inclusion and accessibility. The referendum was successful and University of Toronto Access Centre (UTAC) opened in September 2004.
Over the last few years, SBA membership and space has grown. SBA and UTAC have since merged into the SBA Centre, where we now have accessible workstations, complete with large screen monitors for the visually impaired, as well as accessible software to meet the needs of students with a variety of disabilities. We have a study room, which can be booked for study groups or utilized on an individual basis. We also have a resource centre, which is growing steadily. Further, to meet the demand of both disabled undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Toronto, SBA also ran a successfully levy referendum with the University of Toronto Graduate Students Union in 2014.
SBA offers an array of workshops, events and socials throughout the year, such as American Sign Language (ASL) classes, Accessible Event Planning workshop, pub nights, holiday celebrations and much more.
SBA has been instrumental in advocating for improved services for students with disabilities. We have worked with the University of Toronto Libraries to expand access to print resources for students facing barriers to print access. We have consulted with the Testing Service to improve online registration for accessible exams and tests. We continue to advocate for students with disabilities in collaboration with, as well as independently, of Accessibility Services.
We welcome and encourage all students, faculty and allies to get involved with our organization, participate in our events and help us promote a barrier-free society.