CRISPESH and the Profweb Personal Space
The Research Centre for the Educational and Professional Integration of Students with Disabilities (CRISPESH) is a new College Technology Transfer Centre in Innovative Social Practices (CCTT-PSN) born out of a partnership between the Cégep du Vieux Montréal and Dawson College. The centre was recognized by the Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sports (MELS) in October 2010.
The mission of CRISPESH is to contribute to the development and adoption of social practices that target the optimal inclusion of persons living with disabilities, be it in specific educational milieu or in workplaces where they will ultimately practice their trades or professions.
A Website to Further the CRISPESH Mission
We see the website as a way to make change happen in terms of inclusion. The website is the window to the activities and forums that we are organizing to sensitize the general public to the perspectives and realities of people with disabilities. Examples include an upcoming film festival, public conferences and presentations of research projects.
We also see our site as an example for web accessibility. Accessible web site text is readable for software such as Jaws to enable access to the blind. Columns are separated. We were inspired by the standards for web accessibility developed by WAI, The Web Accessibility Initiative.
Many of the features that make the Profweb Personal Space attractive to teachers also make it an effective choice for non-teaching projects within the Quebec College Network. For us, the choice of the Profweb Personal Space was simple. CRISPESH is a joint project between two colleges. Rather that have to choose which school would host the site, the Profweb Personal Space offered a neutral address within the college system that enables Web2 features. These are the same qualities that attract teachers who work at more than one college and need a sophisticated server to run Web2 applications such as blogs and wikis for their students. Furthermore, the Profweb Personal Space allows users to install a WordPress blog using a convenient dropdown menu.
Designing the Website
Because my office is currently at Cégep du Vieux Montréal, I was able to work with their graphic department to develop our site. Andée-Anne Cardinal and Pascal St-Gelais of the graphics team at the Vieux recommended using WordPress because it offers a number of accessible templates. As well, within the center, we hope to be able to update the site regularly, and the simplicity of WordPress offered this option.
We will be reviewing the site for accessibility on an ongoing basis. Features to come on the site include translation of content into LSQ and ASL for the deaf and hearing impaired.
Information Technology and Disability
Information technology is transforming the lives of many people with disabilities. Our website is really only an example of how profound this transformation has become. We look at the website as an opportunity to not only introduce the general public to our activities but to function as a portal to the services that we offer to our clients.
Inclusion is the breaking down of barriers to allow equality of access for everyone to all aspects of community life. It results in a sharing of perspectives that leads to innovation and growth. Inclusive communities are accessible communities that welcome diversity and empower everyone. Information technology is an invaluable tool in accomplishing this goal.
Have you used Profweb’s personal space? What’s been your experience? What tools or resources do your students with disabilities use?