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Dalhousie cuts accessibility services

University plans for campus-wide budget reductions.

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Dalhousie University is slashing some of its accessibility services, as the administration faces a budget shortfall of $14.6 million in 2011-12. This July, Dalhousie plans to stop funding the position of Neera Datta, a learning disabilities specialist who serves students at Dalhousie, the University of King’s College and NSCAD.

“This decision was made in the larger context of the university’s budget situation this year,” explains Bonnie Neuman, Dalhousie’s vice president of student services. “This area of learning support is a very valuable service to our students, and we are reluctant to make this reduction.”

For Grant Pardy, a Dalhousie student with reading comprehension difficulties, the move is symptomatic of an administration only “committed to providing the bare minimum of services” and “reaffirms that accessibility isn’t a top priority.” Being able to access the support of a learning disabilities specialist is “not a luxury. It’s something that levels the playing field,” says Pardy.

The administration suggests students in need of similar services to those Datta provided hire private practitioners. But seeking off campus support comes with a hefty price tag: a single session with a private learning disabilities specialist costs around $150.

This may just be the tip of the iceberg. Dalhousie budget planning documents reveal that even as tuition mounts, university budgets could be cut up to 6.5 percent across the board.

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