AODA Alliance Finally Gets Virtual Meeting with Mohawk College President to Seek Restoration of the Accessible Media Production Program that Mohawk Axed

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

September 8, 2022

Summary

Last June, Mohawk College axed its one-of-a-kind Accessible Media Production (AMP) program. That program trains people how to create accessible documents, websites, videos and other media. Digital accessibility is an important part of the overall goal of accessibility for people with disabilities. Too few people know how to create accessible media. That makes the AMP program so vital.

Mohawk College’s cancellation of the AMP program triggered an outpouring of objections from disability organizations including the AODA Alliance, in addition to strong media coverage.

We have been trying for three months to get a virtual meeting with the president of Mohawk college. The College first delayed this meeting to mid-August, then cancelled it, uncancelled it and again cancelled it.

Finally, we got to have the meeting on September 8, 2022.

Below we set out the September 8, 2022 letter from the AODA Alliance to Mohawk College summarizing some of the meeting’s key points. We have asked the College to go back and reconsider restoring the program for the next academic year. The College also discussed with us the possibility of having another post-secondary institution take over the AMP program. We just want the program offered, whether it is provided by Mohawk College or another post-secondary institution.

Stay tuned for more news when we have it. Needless to say, it is disturbing that we have to fight such issues.

Send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

MORE DETAILS

Text of the September 8, 2022 Letter from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and Mohawk College President Ron McKerlie

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

September 8, 2022

To: Ron J. McKerlie, President Mohawk College

Via Email president@mohawkcollege.ca
135 Fennell Ave W
Hamilton, ON
L9C 7V7
Twitter: @ronmckerlie

CC: Jill Dunlop, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Email: jill.dunlop@ontario.ca

Paul Armstrong, Chief Operating Officer, Mohawk College paul.armstrong@mohawkcollege.ca
Jennifer Jahnke, Program Coordinator, Accessible Media Production Program, Mohawk College Jennifer.Jahnke@MohawkCollege.ca

Dear Sir,

Re: Mohawk College’s Cancellation of Its Accessible Media Production Graduate Certificate Program.

Thank you for meeting this afternoon with me on Zoom, along with Mohawk Chief Operating Officer Paul Armstrong, to discuss our strong objection to Mohawk College cancelling its one-of-a-kind Accessible Media Production (AMP) program. Let me summarize some key points from our perspective.

I strongly objected to your refusing to allow the AMP program’s coordinator, Jennifer Jahnke, to take part in the meeting. She was willing to do so, she is Mohawk College’s only full-time faculty member with subject matter expertise in the field of accessible media production. You have yourself publicly honoured her as Mohawk’s teacher of the year in 2021.

This was especially problematic since there were large factual conflicts between information she provided to us, and information you brought forward at the meeting. Ms. Jahnke was fully prepared to take part in the meeting to address factual issues. I explained during the meeting that your objection to her presence gave rise to a reasonable inference that Mohawk has something to hide.

Even with those disagreements, two critical facts emerged that I wish to highlight:

First, you stated that you were committed to the goal of delivering the AMP program’s content, in support of the broader agenda of accessibility for people with disabilities. To this end, you said that the micro-credential programs that Mohawk would roll out, hopefully over the next 10 school terms at a rate of two new ones per term, would cover 60% of the AMP program’s content leaving out the 40% that the AMP program delivered through students completing a hands-on Capstone project in the field with a real organization.

I explained that Mohawk’s teacher of the year, Jennifer Jahnke, had told me that these micro-credentials would cover far less of the AMP program’s content. By not allowing her at this meeting, there was no way to resolve this factual conflict. She had been involved in the development of all of the micro-credential programs. We see no reason why her version should not be believed.

However, even if we are to assume that she is wrong and you are right on this score, it nevertheless means that Mohawk College is gutting almost half of the program curriculum. I repeated to you that I have been told by two of the course faculty, Jennifer Jahnke and Karen McCall, that the Capstone project is a key place where the course curriculum comes together and is translated into front-line operational skills. If so, then even taking your version of the facts as correct, Mohawk is not living up to its stated goal here.

Second, you stated that the AMP program was not sustainable because of its low enrollment, despite Mohawk College’s past efforts to market it. I explained that Jennifer Jahnke reported to us that she was in the process of finalizing a new marketing campaign that was almost ready to deploy, to market the AMP program when Mohawk cancelled the AMP program last June. Mr. Armstrong confirmed that he was aware that she had been developing that new marketing program before Mohawk chose to cancel the AMP program. It is clear that there was more that could have been done, and that was about to be done, to market this program, when you decided instead to cancel it.

Where do we go from here? As we discussed, you and I first met over a decade ago, when you were Deputy Minister of Government Services in the Ontario Government. I came to you because your Ministry had cancelled a central fund that had existed for over two decades, that financed workplace accommodations for Ontario public servants like me. Cancelling this fund was a very poor policy decision. It undermined the goal of making Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025 as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Requires. It contravened to the then Ontarians with Disabilities Act which guaranteed that fund. I then asked you to reconsider that cancellation, and restore the fund.

Commendably, you heard us out and reflected on it. You let me know within a couple of days that you reversed that decision and restored the Ontario Public Service Employment Accommodation Fund.

In our meeting today, I asked you to do the same here, to go back and reflect on the decision to cancel the AMP program, and restore it, perhaps for next academic year.

I appreciate your agreeing to consider restoring the program, if you can secure external funding, e.g. from the Federal or Ontario Government. Mohawk will look for such funding. We in turn will applaud the program’s restoration, if that happens.

You also agreed that you would be open to another post-secondary institution taking over the program from Mohawk College. I asked if you could reach out to fellow colleges to encourage them to consider this. If there are any takers, I asked if you would advocate for measures to streamline any provincial or other approvals that would be needed to make this happen. You agreed to consider these options.

It is our hope that Mohawk College will agree to restore the AMP program in full. If not, we would appreciate any steps you could take to facilitate it being taken over by another post-secondary institution.

I would welcome a chance to reconnect after you have had a chance to reflect on our discussion today, and on the steps I asked you to consider.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Twitter: @davidlepofsky