Academic Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Post-Secondary Students with and Without Disabilities

Handouts Media

Presented at 8:00am in Plaza Court 3 on Thursday, November 18, 2021.



  • Catherine Fichten, Dawson College, Adaptech Research Network
  • Jennison Asuncion, , Adaptech Research Network
  • Mary Jorgensen, , Adaptech Research Network
  • Alice Havel, Dr., Dawson College, Adaptech Research Network
  • Olivia Ruffolo, , Adaptech Research Network
  • Rosie Arcuri, , Adaptech Research Network
  • Maegan Harvison, , Adaptech Research Network
  • Francesco Salvo, , Adaptech Research Network
  • Christine Vo, , Adaptech Research Network
  • Susie Wileman, Research Associate, Scholar in Residence, Dawson College

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Panel
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


We surveyed post-secondary students with and without disabilities to find out how Covid-19 affected their academic lives. Results show that many students had difficulties learning and studying with remote learning and that students with disabilities experienced more challenges. Students, faculty and campus professionals will provide testimonials.


We surveyed 121 post-secondary students with and 51 without disabilities to find out how the Covid-19 pandemic affected their academic lives. Many students had difficulties learning and studying. The most common problems were concentration, motivation, and discipline. Students also noted that the pandemic took a toll on their physical and mental health. Students with disabilities experienced more challenges than peers without disabilities. Also, 21% of students without disabilities indicated that their grades got worse; none indicated dropping courses. As for students with disabilities, 45% reported concerns related to their grades: 36% indicated that their grades got worse and 9% stated that they dropped courses. The findings suggest that more attention should be paid to the impact of the pandemic – and of remote learning - on all students, with special attention given to students with disabilities. Students, faculty and campus professionals will provide testimonials.


  1. Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on students can inform necessary institutional change.
  2. Research about the impact of COVID-19 is imperative for informing practice.
  3. Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on students can inform future faculty training.

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas


Speaker Bio(s)

Catherine Fichten

Catherine holds a B.Sc. from McGill University, an M.A. from Concordia University, and a Ph.D. (Dean’s Honor List) in Clinical Psychology from McGill University.

Jennison Asuncion

Jennison Asuncion is a dynamic speaker intimately familiar with the Canadian and American postsecondary education ICT accessibility landscape. Now residing in the USA, he has lived in both Toronto and Montreal, where he worked on digital accessibility in the financial services industry and volunteered with several non-profit organizations. He is known for his scholarly, professional, and community efforts, including: having been a Board Member (later Senior Advisor) to the Canadian National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS). He is a co-director of the Canadian Adaptech Research Network and a member of the advisory council of CSUN (California State University Assistive Technology Conference). Recent achievements include: co-founder of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, keynote speaker at San Francisco Future of Web Design Conference, as well as founder of Accessibility Camp Toronto and Accessibility Camp Bay Area events. In 2012, he received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal recognizing his accessibility contributions in Canada.

Mary Jorgensen

Mary Jorgensen is currently enrolled in the Master’s for Counselling at Athabasca University. She received her BA degree in psychology from Bishop’s University. While at Bishop’s she was inducted as a Golden Key Scholar. Her experience includes working as a research and teaching assistant at Bishop’s University. She is currently a research associate at the Adaptech Research Network. Her research interests include self-efficacy and its effects on self-evaluations, the experiences of students with mental health related disabilities who pursue postsecondary education, as well as, the employment of students with disabilities.

Alice Havel

Alice Havel completed a Ph.D. in Counselling Psychology at McGill University. Before her retirement, she was the Coordinator of the Student AccessAbility Centre at Dawson College. In 2015 she was the recipient of the Gérald-Sigouin Award (AQPC) for the impression her work left on the college community. She has maintained her interest in learning disabilities as a board member of the Montreal Centre for Learning Disabilities. She is a research associate with the Adaptech Research Network and a Scholar in Residence at Dawson College. Her research focus is on the development of inclusive teaching practices through universal design and the use and accessibility of information and communication technologies in postsecondary education for students with disabilities.

Olivia Ruffolo

Social Work student interested in how to make online learning more accessible for students with or without disabilities, as well as the impacts of COVID-19 on academic performance.

Rosie Arcuri

Rosie has a BA in Psychology and Human Relations from Concordia university. She has experience working with people with disabilities in post-secondary education. She has been on the board of directors of the National Educational Association of Disabled Students and has been a service provider for students with disabilities at junior college.

Maegan Harvison

Maegan Harvison is studying Honours Psychology at Concordia University as of the Fall 2018. She has been involved in organizing an international research conference on disability, has participated in recruiting, interviewing, and note-taking of focus groups, as well as the gathering and coding of qualitative data. She offers a rich student perspective while providing exemplary research-assistant skills. She is interested in further using these skills to better inform pedagogical practices and research.

Francesco Salvo

Francesco is a student in the psychology profile at Dawson college. He is interested in all aspects of psychology. He wants to gain experience and knowledge in research while working at the Adaptech Research Network.

Christine Vo

Christine is a research assistant and a tech specialist for Adaptech.

Susie Wileman

Susie Wileman, M.Ed., OPQ, is a recently retired psychologist and service provider of the Student AccessAbility Centre at Dawson College, and a part-time faculty member at Concordia University, Department of Applied Human Sciences. She is a research associate of the Adaptech Research Network, and a Scholar-in-Residence at Dawson College. She is active on a number of committees focused on inclusion, accessibility and services to students with disabilities, currently as a member of Concordia University’s Accessibility Policy Advisory Group.