by Jane Shulman
Jennison Asuncion spent most of his time at Concordia working on advancements
for other people with disabilities through his extra-curricular volunteering
and his studies in educational technology.
Asuncion has all but finished the course work for his degree. All that
remains is a report about his internship experience. His MA in educational
technology represents years of work on his own, but also within the Concordia
I got involved because I have been given a lot of opportunities,
and I have to give back. If youre in a position to, you really should,
Asuncion was already involved in the National Education Association of
Disabled Students, which is particularly focused on access to education,
when he started his undergraduate degree in political science in 1994.
Working with Leo Bissonnette, coordinator of Services for Disabled Students
at Concordia, he helped bring NEADS to Concordia and encourage students
to speak out on the national level at NEADS conferences. Asuncion has
served on the NEADS Board of Directors since 1996, and will be an advisor
Having been through the grind, he said, he enjoyed speaking
to new students at orientation sessions, discussing strategies for dealing
with professors, and ways of articulating their needs.
Bissonnette said, Jennison helped make the Concordia community aware
in a positive way of issues of disabled students. He has really been a
credit to this institution, and certainly deserves recognition.
When he returned to Concordia to work on his Masters degree in education
technology in 1997, Asuncion became a student representative for that
unit and won a Concordia Council on Student Life Award for his outstanding
contributions to student life.
He also worked on the Adaptech research project, looking into university
and college technology for people with disabilities, collaborating with
a professor at Dawson College and several others on the local part of
this national project.
Through surveys of disabled students and service providers on campuses
across the country, the team garnered valuable information about students
needs in terms of keeping up with technology, and whether or not they
are being met. The team co-authored research papers on accessibility and
Six months ago, Asuncion began an internship as the final requirement
for his degree. He works at IBM in Toronto in the area of instruction
design, which involves setting up e-learning programs.
Part of his job involves going through sample e-learning sites to detect
accessibility problems in the programs, which would render them useless
for people using adapted software or hardware. He also researches specialized
software that reads text back to you as you type it, foot-controlled mice
and systems that re-produce text in braille.
Asuncion said its a coincidence that hes in this field. He
was not setting out to work on projects that affect him personally, but
hes thrilled to be doing the job.
None of the stuff I am doing now is related to my disability,
I was actually the first student from my program to do an internship
with IBM in Toronto, and I am proud to have paved the way for future interns
The internship was set to end on May 31, by which time Asuncion hoped
to have been hired full time.
The internet is not going away, he said, so we have
to deal with these issues right now, and make sure that we deal with these
problems before people are alienated.
Hes proud of Concordia. Its so open, and everyone is
counted equally. The university encourages people to get involved, whether
they have a disability or not.
My only regret is that I wish I had gotten involved more in non-disabled
activities as an undergrad because people probably would have been very
open, but I was too shy, he said, so I made up for it with
all my activities as a grad student.