Blind law student takes McGill to Quebec Human Rights Commission
Last year was so stressful for second-year McGill University law student Didier Chelin, that he contemplated suicide. As he struggled with his mental health, he says the university did not accommodate his needs and he is now filing a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
“My family doctor sent a letter to both the law faculty and the OSD saying this ‘person needs service, needs therapy and quickly,'” he says.
But he says the OSD, McGill’s Office for Students with Disabilities, never referred him for therapy.
On top of that, he says he experienced more stress last December which again led to thoughts of suicide. Because he’s blind, he needed help to complete an important exam, but he says he never got the support he needed from the OSD. That led to the anxiety and he had to be hospitalized.
“I almost failed that exam,” he says angrily. He says he only recently began getting therapy.
“I started my first real therapy session this May,” he explains. “That means a year later.
Chelin says these are just two examples of how the OSD systemically discriminates against students with disabilities.
“The OSD, in general, has ignored my mental-health needs. The OSD has ignored all the governmental programs that are supposed to benefit me and other disabled students. The OSD has, in fact, increased my anxiety.”
On top of that, he alleges that the faculty of law doesn’t do enough to accommodate his needs. So he’s filing a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
“The most important thing is to seek remedies,” explains Fo Niemi who heads the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations who is helping Chelin. He says it’s about “changing the conditions of systemic discrimination that he faced.”
They’re also seeking financial compensation for “both material and moral as well as punitive damages,” Niemi says.
Martine Gauthier, the executive director for McGill University’s services for students, said in a statement she could not comment on specific student cases.
“This being said, the university is committed to accommodating its students with disabilities and helping break down the barriers they face,” she said.
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