Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Mohawk College President’s Office Schedules, Cancels, Uncancels and Then Again Cancels Last Week’s Meeting with AODA Alliance Chair to Discuss Major Objections to Mohawk Killing Its One-of-a-Kind Accessible Media Production Program – When If Ever Will We Get to Meet?
August 23, 2022
The cloud over Mohawk College for cancelling its Accessible Media Production (AMP) program earlier this year has gotten even darker.
Last spring, Mohawk College, a community college operating under the Ontario Government, took the harmful step of cancelling Canada’s only post-secondary program that trains students on how to create accessible media such as documents, websites and videos. This triggered a strong negative response from the disability community and negative media coverage for Mohawk College.
We want to get Mohawk College to reverse this harmful decision, and restore its AMP program, one of a kind in Canada. Over two months ago, the AODA Alliance asked for a virtual meeting with Mohawk College President Ron McKerlie to discuss this issue. His office booked a meeting for August 16, 2022. The day before this meeting, Mohawk College cancelled the meeting, uncancelled it and then re-cancelled it, all within one day. Making this worse, Mohawk College’s President refused at the last minute to allow the coordinator of the AMP program to be invited by the AODA Alliance to this meeting. Mohawk gave no reasons for this, even though we pressed for reasons and objected to this.
Below we set out the letter which the AODA Alliance sent to Mohawk College’s President in response to this bizarre series of events. None of this is good for Mohawk students, for Ontarians with disabilities or for the reputation of Mohawk College.
Perhaps the senior management at Mohawk College had hoped that this issue would simply go away, if they dodged this meeting. However, we are certainly not going away!
Text of the August 23, 2022 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Mohawk College’s President
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
August 23, 2022
To: Ron J. McKerlie, President Mohawk College
Via Email email@example.com
135 Fennell Ave W
CC: Jill Dunlop, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities
Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
Nancy Matthews, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
Paul Armstrong, Chief Operating Officer, Mohawk College
Jennifer Jahnke, Coordinator, Mohawk College Accessible Media Production Program
Dear President McKerlie,
Re: Mohawk College’s Cancellation of Its Accessible Media Production Graduate Certificate Program.
Last spring, in the wake of National Accessibility Week, Mohawk College decided to cancel its unique Accessible Media Production AMP program. Within days, you received feedback from former students and many important voices from the disability community that this was a bad decision, one that is very harmful for Ontarians with disabilities and the effort to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities. Mohawk College received significant negative coverage in the media for this decision.
On June 9, 2022, I wrote to ask you for a virtual meeting to discuss this decision. In that correspondence, we explained why this decision should be reversed, and refuted Mohawk College’s public statements to justify its decision.
We appreciate that you quickly wrote back to me on June 13, 2022 agreeing to have a virtual meeting. Over two months later, that meeting has still not taken place.
Earlier this summer, your office said you would not be available for this meeting until mid-August. It was scheduled with your and my agreement for August 16, 2022.
I expressed a serious concern at the time that this meeting not be delayed until mid-August. We were worried that such a delay would make it harder for Mohawk College to reverse the AMP program’s cancellation in time. I was told that you and your COO Paul Armstrong could not be available any earlier.
Last week, at the last minute, your office cancelled the meeting under troubling circumstances described below. Since then, Mohawk College has done nothing to reschedule the meeting.
We ask that you now reschedule this virtual meeting. Your office’s once again delaying this meeting creates further hardships for the program, its students who are partway through the program, and the needs of people with disabilities.
We also ask that you withdraw your last-minute unexplained objection to the AMP program’s coordinator, Jennifer Jahnke’s being invited by me to our virtual meeting. When I first arranged this meeting some two months ago, I made it clear that we were inviting Ms. Jahnke to log into the meeting to participate. It is very important for her to do so. She has the fullest knowledge of the program’s history, students, contents and operations.
This is especially important since we respectfully take issue with the accuracy of some statements that Mohawk College has made when defending its decision to cancel this program. We hope and trust that you agree that it is important for such a decision to be based on accurate facts.
The circumstances surrounding your last-minute cancellation of the August 16, 2022 meeting and your objection to our inviting Ms. Jahnke to this meeting are, respectfully, troubling. On August 15, the day before this meeting, your office first tried to cancel it, stating that you and Mr. Armstrong were no longer available. Shortly after this, I was told that you were able to hold the meeting. It was then that for the first time, you refused to allow Jennifer Jahnke to be invited as a participant in the meeting. You gave no reasons for this, despite my asking, and despite her writing that she wanted to take part.
Making this all worse, the next morning, Mohawk again cancelled this meeting. No explanation was given for this, despite my asking.
A reasonable onlooker, reading the exchanges between us, set out below, would wonder why it was that your office was so reluctant to meet, so evasive about its reasons, and so unwilling to allow the AMP program coordinator to be invited to this meeting. This all leaves a larger cloud over your decision to cancel the AMP program. It is certainly not good for the reputation of Mohawk College.
Could you please arrange for this meeting to be promptly re-scheduled. Please withdraw your unexplained and troubling objection to allow the AMP program coordinator to be invited to the meeting.
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
Summary of August 15-16, 2022 Email Exchange
On the morning of August 15, 2022, your office notified me that you and Mr. Armstrong were no longer available to meet on August 16, and that your office thought I had not confirmed the meeting date. I swiftly wrote expressing concern about the cancellation of the meeting. I said that I thought I had confirmed the date, and in any event wanted the meeting to take place as scheduled, since it had already been substantially delayed.
Within an hour of your cancelling this meeting, your office emailed, reversing its earlier cancellation, and saying you were in fact available to meet on August 16, 2022 as originally scheduled. Further showing that this meeting would go ahead as planned, your office also then sent me an email meeting invitation.
For our part, I responded, again confirming my availability for the meeting as scheduled. I noted for you, however, that your office had not copied Ms. Jahnke on the meeting invitation. I wrote:
“I had requested that she (Ms. Jahnke) attend this meeting as well, and emphasize that it is very important for her to be there. I had earlier requested that she attend the meeting, copied to you, and no one took issue with that.
I have sent the link to Jennifer Jahnke for the meeting, and look forward to speaking with all of you tomorrow at 4 PM”.
You responded on August 15, 2022:
“Thanks David. Jennifer is not invited to this meeting. I am sorry if that was not made clear earlier. David and I are both happy to meet with you tomorrow.”
I replied by email to you that I was surprised and troubled by your response, explaining:
“As you know, I invited her (Ms. Jahnke) to this meeting, and did so some weeks ago, without any objection on your part.
Why is it that you do not want her on the Zoom call? She is the coordinator of the Accessible Media Production Program, which is the subject of our call. She is also the lead person on the development of micro-credential programs at your college. She has the fullest knowledge of the subject we are to discuss.”
I asked in writing if you are refusing to meet with me if she logs into the Zoom meeting. Mohawk College COO Paul Armstrong responded for you, stating:
“As per the invite sent this morning, we remain committed to the three of us meeting tomorrow. If you want to proceed, please confirm.”
On August 15, 2022, Ms. Jahnke wrote Paul Armstrong, copied to you and me, stating that she would like to be included in this meeting. She wrote:
I received your voice message this morning that indicated you thought me attending the meeting “would put [me] in a very awkward situation”. While I appreciate your concern, I am comfortable with David’s request to have me attend.
I would appreciate participating in the meeting given the breadth and depth of knowledge and effort I have put into the Accessible Media Production program and micro-credentials. My intent would be to provide only factual information as per David’s request.”
The next morning, August 16, 2022, I responded to you and Mr. Armstrong:
“I very much regret that you are evidently refusing to meet with me if Jennifer Jahnke logs into the Zoom link. I do not understand your refusal. You have not, I regret, answered my request that you explain your reason for this.
I will log into the meeting at 4 today, but must express a serious and strong objection to your unexplained position.”
Mr. Armstrong responded your behalf on the morning of August 16, 2022. He cancelled that day’s meeting, giving no reason for doing so. He wrote:
“Good morning David,
I am sorry but we are going to have to cancel the meeting this afternoon. I apologize for that.”
I wrote to ask why you were cancelling the meeting. Mr. Armstrong merely responded:
“We are no longer able to meet today.”
I wrote to ask if you are willing to reschedule the meeting. Mr. Armstrong responded on August 16, 2022 that you were willing to meet, emphasizing that it would be you, Mr. Armstrong and me, and that your office would reach out to schedule it. In the week since then, I have heard nothing further.