Fredericton Faculty of Arts

The Ability to Give Back Memories of First Year Part 3

Author: Fredericton Arts

Posted on Aug 21, 2015

Category: Opinion , Student , Spotlight , Arts , Other

And the countdown continues...

…less than three weeks until the start of Fall term! Time flies when you're having so much summer fun. This week we will be chatting with Andrew Daley, an Assistive Technologist working with UNB Libraries and a graduate from the Arts faculty (Economics). Andrew generously shared his experiences navigating university as a mature student with a visual disability. Reflect back on a time when students carried around bookbags full of textbooks, access to computers (let alone iPhones) was limited, and accessibility on campus was becoming an important priority for UNB.

Andrew Daley
Assistive Technologist /Learning Strategist
Coordinator, Disability Support Services
University of New Brunswick Libraries
UNB Bachelor of Arts - Economics


What song sends you back to your first experiences at university or reminds you of that time?

Andrew: “There was always good music in the Cellar that’s for sure. Lunchtime at the Cellar was always fun with my friends. There was a song from first year that just came to mind, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ [by Survivor] I don’t know where I heard it but I have a memory of it during my first couple days here…I think I was at the SUB signing in.”

How about smells?

Andrew: “The library. The library smell of books. It’s great and I still get it everyday.”

Any foods that you really liked during that first term?

Andrew: “The first year I was here there was a Harvey’s in the cafeteria and I always loved going down there and getting a hamburger…Bacon double cheeseburger. Every once in awhile, not everyday.”

Are there any particular emotions you remember feeling during the first few weeks?

Andrew: “Anxiety. I was coming back as a mature student so I wasn’t sure what to expect not only for going to university but coming to a university where I knew I was going to be ten years [older] than my contemporaries. It was a lot of anxiety.”

How did you handle obstacles or difficulties during that first year?

Andrew: “I have a visual impairment so reading at length is difficult. My CNIB coordinator was the one who directed me to come to university, as an option. I was working retail and I needed more. So they suggested university and this program…I consider myself lucky and unlucky at the same time. Unlucky to have a disability but lucky to have the support. When I came to university the CNIB set me up with the technology I needed to read. Up to that point because I have difficulty with reading, I had never read anything of length myself. Like a book for instance. So having the technology to read electronic material out-loud to me was an eye-opener. If I hadn’t had that for my first year I would have been sunk. There was so much reading in that first year of Arts that I would have been buried. The software really made the difference. So as for a hurdle overcome, that’s one for sure. If it hadn’t been there I wouldn’t have been here. I would have failed out. It was a lot harder back then to get material electronically because publishers didn’t do that at all so you had to scan page by page almost like photocopying an entire textbook. You would scan it in as a JPEG and then there was software that read it back to you. Back then in the late 90s, the technology was quite archaic compared to what it is today. It was a lot of work. They helped me a lot at the Student Accessibility Centre. They provided me the space so I could scan. It was progressive like everything else but it was a hurdle. The university helped through the SAC in that they made the space available that I needed to conduct that activity. Without that activity I wouldn’t have been able to come to UNB.”

What were some positive experiences you had?

Andrew: Well I came to university as a mature student with a few advantages because I’m a client of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. [Having their support] was a huge advantage to me and I felt that there had to be a way that I could sort of give back to that, pay it forward kind of situation. So I met Sandra Latchford at the Student Accessibility Centre because I was a student with a disability. Sandra said "You’ve got technology that you’re using to overcome your visual impairment, why don’t you show it to other students? Maybe they can benefit from it as well." From that, I came to be where I am here today, doing what I do today [assistive technologist], which is still working with students with disabilities. I started that back in 1999 with Sandra and then I [continued doing that] all the way through university. I volunteered the first two years of my undergrad and then it became even more [time]. I was working 30 hours a week so my degree got stretched out but I knew in the end what I was doing.

It [Assistive Technology Support] has grown. We started with only a few computers now there are 10 or 15 and a computer lab on the 3rd floor. There’s construction going on now for an accessible lounge space like our Commons down here [1st floor of HIL] – the furniture is designed for accessibility. So we’ve grown, we’ve brought a lot of students to UNB through our work because it’s not something you can find at some other universities. There aren’t necessarily the types of programs like there are here. So we’ve come a long way.... As all things at university, things move cosmically. I think it’s very good. If I hadn’t been given the opportunity early by Sandra to sort of, in my view, repay a debt, this wouldn’t be here today. It would be in some capacity but not to the current capacity we have now. So my first positive experience was the ability to give back. It worked out very well for me, I’ve done very well here. They are very supportive of my activities, they support me in my disabilities and I couldn’t say anything negative about UNB in anyway. It’s been a very positive experience for me from the get go.”

Are there other significant people who stick out from that time? And what makes them memorable?

Andrew: “A professor in the Economics faculty. I ended up finishing with an Economics degree in the Arts faculty and the prof that stuck with me the most was Yuri Yevdokimov."

Why does he stick out?

Andrew: Well of all the profs I had – the ones that stand out the most to me are like Yuri. Where some of the concepts we were discussing in microeconomic theory were quite complex and Yuri would start out with four wide chalkboards. He would start at one corner at the top and he would fill it with mathematical equations and he’d stop and go back and erase and then fill it again. It was hard because I am visually impaired so keeping up with what he was saying as well as what was being written on the chalkboard was really hard. He knew that though, he knew it was tough because of the speed he was going, let alone me having visual impairments. So he would often offer to go over the entire lesson again in his office to anybody that wanted it. So I would go quite often and I would actually pick up extra bits that I wouldn’t get in the classroom by having him take the time. Nobody asked him to do that, he offered and I took him up on that. Before I would pass in an assignment I would go in and see him and we would work through the assignment together. He didn’t give me the answers of course, that wasn’t what his job was, but he would say did you look at this principle or you’re missing this principle and he would go to his whiteboard in his office and start scratching it out on the whiteboard. So that had a real impact on me because my vision of university was independent study. You know you’re really on your own. It’s not like high school where they are pushing you along, so it was quite pleasant to see someone take a real interest in students above and beyond teaching in the classroom, especially in a program where it’s very mathematically intense and sometimes it takes a few tries at it to get it... Him and Deb Johnston were two of my biggest influences. Deb Johnston for sure because I had a lot of that anxiety that I spoke of earlier and Deborah helped to quell a lot of it by directing me to the right places."

What was your favourite subject that first year?

Andrew: “I would have to say first year philosophy with Keith Culver, I think it was ‘Contemporary Moral Issues’…There were a lot of people in the classroom. He stood up and said, ‘This class is going to be very hard. I intend to slaughter a few lambs today.’ So I laughed because I’m a little bit older and I have a bit more life experience. I laughed and he saw me laughing and he said ‘It’s not funny.’ And I just kept laughing. So after class he came to me and we got together and in the end he was one of my favourite profs. He and Yuri were the most impactful profs that I had. I think the take away from that is that most bark is only that, it’s bark not bite. So that’s where the weeding happens, the ones that realize it’s just bark not bite are the ones that make it through. And I had thought, well I’m going to have a really hard time with this class. But if you do the work and present your arguments to faculty, you’ll do great.”

What has changed since then?


Andrew: “Since I started there was a push from day 1, for me, to bring in technology, there’s been a push to bring technology on campus. It’s not just for assistive technology, you can go anywhere now and log onto a computer, there’s scanning stations, and so on… everything has become digital, that’s a big change from when I started to where things are now. We’ve gone from just a digital age to a digital mobile age where everything is available at your fingertips. Back in the late 90s early 2000s you had to sit at a computer and use it, you couldn’t just get on your phone and look something up, download a pdf and manipulate it, and do everything that you can do now. So that would be a major change, the form of communication has changed, the form of interactions with technology has changed, for the better, especially for people with disabilities because the more mobile technology is, the easier it is to carry, the easier it is to integrate into your life. So things like a smart watch for instance, never would have been on my wrist in 1998 but today I can see emails coming in and find out what the weather is outside and find my latitude and longitude, all things that wouldn’t have been available back in 2000. 

Computers on campus at that time – were they quite common? Were students using them to do their studies? 

Andrew: “Well students with disabilities certainly were because there’s a grant system that affords them up to $10,000 if they have a student loan and have a disability. It’s been around for a very long time. So students with disabilities definitely had their own technology. As far as what was available on campus... there were some terminals here in the library for instance but I can’t remember there being more than a dozen. And there was only one accessibility workstation and it wasn’t set up [well] at all, it had CCTV for magnifying printed books on the screen. They had one of those way back in the corner, collecting dust. So as far as technology goes it hasn’t just come a long way insofar as its own development goes, it’s facetime in the library is more predominant and more predominant across campus. There’s computer terminals everywhere even in the cafeteria where you go to get lunch.”

"A course can be delivered entirely online with a classroom component, there’s no books, no textbooks. Even if you carry an iPad, iPhone, or laptop you’ve got as much as I did back in the 90s with a bookbag full of books.  What I do here at the library is take printed material and make sure it’s available electronically. So we are working to coincide with that digitization of course material here in the library.”



versus Now...