By Dave Weatherall
When uOttawa alumnus Ian Charlebois was a high school student, he discovered he had an innate desire to succeed, but like many entrepreneurs and business owners in academic learning environments, he also discovered that he was going to have to overcome some incredible obstacles on his road to success.
“That kind of realization can either totally overwhelm you or provide the right motivation to do amazing things,” says Charlebois, who recently donated $10,000 to uOttawa’s Student Academic Success Service's Access Service, which provides support to students with learning disabilities.
“In my case, I was able to stand up and ask for more time to complete exams—but I know that because most learning disabilities are invisible and carry a social stigma, there are many people who suffer in silence.”
Now a well-established real estate broker and property developer, Charlebois is aiming to remove that stigma by making 10 donations of $10,000 where he thinks they will have the biggest impact in the education sector—starting at uOttawa, his alma mater.
“Services like the Access Service and the Academic Writing Help Centre helped me so much while I was a student here,” says Charlebois. “Investments in services like these really help level the playing field for students with a learning disability, and I’m trying to make sure that as many students as possible have access to these resources.”
With the increase in student population over the last decade, demand for resources on campus, especially computers equipped with text reader software like Kurzweil, has increased dramatically over the past ten years.
“About 10 per cent of the population have some form of disability, so with all of these new students, it can be a challenge to keep up with demand,” says Murray Sang, director of SASS, which manages the Access Service. “Just to give you an idea, we now provide accommodation for over 7,000 exams a year for students with a learning disability, which is up about 30 per cent over the last four years.”
While government funding does help cover expenses for additional staff, funding for hardware and technology often doesn’t keep pace with demand, making Charlebois’ donation that much more valuable.
“This donation will likely mean students with a learning disability will have access to an extra 400 hours a year on more workstations once Access completes its move to the Desmarais Building,” says Sang. “It will have a huge impact.”
For Charlebois, it’s crucial to have sufficient resources for those who have come forward and disclosed their learning disability.
“The support you receive at the university level can mean the difference between success and failure,” says Charlebois. “I wanted to do my part to make sure as many succeed as possible.”
To learn more about SASS’ services, visit the SASS website. To learn more about how you can donate to the University of Ottawa visit the Giving to uOttawa website.