Blind McGill Law student says school failed to accommodate disability
A blind McGill Law School student is filing a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission, alleging the school denied him the support needed to pass his classes.
Didier Chelin was born blind and said he hoped to become a lawyer to help defend others like him.
“I see myself as someone who has a responsibility. I’ve been incredibly lucky, until McGill,” he said. “When you’re a person with a disability, with a lot of luck… you need to advocate for your community.”
Last month, Chelin found out he had failed six of his law classes. He alleges that over the last two years, the school has failed to accommodate his disability.
“What other message does it send?” he said. “If you want to have a degree, maybe it’s better for you to go to a different university because where we want to keep our ranking and our reputation. Maybe students like you, who need additional needs, are not welcome.”
Chelin said the Office of Students with Disabilities never told his professors to prepare course materials at the beginning of the semester and never contacted his rehabilitation centre about his needs or to find out about available government funding. He also said they ignored his mental health issues.
He’s filing the complaint with the help of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, hoping his complaint will end what he called the systemic flaws within McGill’s OSD.
“The OSD has a clear mandate, it just needs to look at all the other institutions in Quebec and what OSDs at other institutions are doing,” said Chelin. “It’s going to see there are a lot of things that are routine that it’s failing to do.”
CRARR director Fo Niemi said the case will have ramifications far beyond a single student.
“I think the legal profession in Canada wants to open up, to be more inclusive, to allow people with disabilities to become lawyers and judges, so this is an example of where we need to do everything possible to help Didier succeed.”
If successful, Chelin could receive up to $40,000 in material, moral and punitive damages.