The legal and moral duty of university administrations and faculty associations to disabled academic staff members was under the spotlight recently at CAUT's annual grievance arbitration conference.
"The professoriate is an increasingly diverse group," explained Michael Piva, chair of CAUT's Collective Bargaining and Economic Benefits Committee and one of the organizers of the February conference. "And faculty associations have to do a better job of understanding and addressing the needs of them all. This conference is part of that process."
York University Professor Gregory Guy set the tone for the event with a comprehensive and moving keynote address that wove his own experience into the broader social and legal struggle to confront the barriers to full access, inclusion and participation in the academic workplace.
Labour lawyer and University of Western Ontario faculty member Michael Lynk followed up with an explanation of the legal duty of employers to disabled employees. Ottawa lawyer Peter Engelmann lead a discussion of the same duty owed by faculty associations to members with disabilities.
Shaheen Hirani, legal counsel to the University of Toronto Faculty Association examined the best routes for litigating disability related grievances and Ottawa lawyer Judith Allen charted participants through the complex area of long term disability insurance. Labour activist Ken Clavette of Labour Community Services in Ottawa provided a critical overview of employee assistance programs and how they can help — or hinder — disabled employees.
"The conference was great," said one faculty association representative. "It provided a very focused look at an issue of critical importance to our membership. As the keynote speaker said — given age or injury, disability is a fact of almost everyone's life."