Canadian Hard of Hearing Association – NL Launches Formal Letter of Complaint Against University About Hearing Accessibility Issue

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The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association – Newfoundland and Labrador has always worked diligently to serve and advocate on behalf of hard of hearing individuals in the province. We’re deeply outraged by the unfolding human rights, hearing accessibility issue at the university. The following letter from our Executive Director, Leon Mills  has been sent to the President and Vice-Chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Dr. Gary Kachanoski. We’re waiting for a response from the university and will monitor and respond to the situation where necessary.

Dr. Gary Kachanoski
President and Vice-Chancellor

Office of the President

Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador

St. John’s, NL   A1C 5S7

Dear Dr. Kachanoski:

On behalf of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association-Newfoundland and Labrador (CHHA-NL), I am writing to you to make a complaint regarding the issue that occurred last week between Professor Ranee Panjabi and student William Sears, and her refusal to wear the microphone that would transmit her voice to an FM System worn by Mr. Sears, who has a hearing disability.

CHHA-NL is a registered charitable agency that provides programs and services to persons with hearing loss and represents their interests, regardless of whether they are members of the association or not. In this particular instance, we have been formally requested by Mr. Sears to intervene with Memorial University however, as MUN is a public funded institution, and this issue could affect others with hearing loss, we are also representing all persons with hearing loss with this advocacy effort.

Our association is truly appalled with the position taken by Dr. Panjabi, and the lack of a formal response by MUN, which has cited its privacy policy. It is our position that this issue goes beyond personal privacy and is an institution wide issue about failing to meet the university’s own Policy for Accommodations for Students with Disabilities. Indeed, it is ironic that, in the section titled, Examples of Accommodations for Students with Disabilities (#3), the first example cited is the following:

“ assistive devices/technology, or auxiliary aids (e.g., FM assistive listening device)”.

It is clear that the university’s policy is not being followed by Dr. Panjabi, and it is extremely disappointing that the university is being silent on this issue to date, nor has it given any indication what, if any action, has or will be taken. It is the position of this association that the university should take the following steps immediately:

  • not engage in any discussions regarding any sort of accommodation (such as Mr. Sears taking another class), so that Dr. Panjabi doesn’t have to wear any portion of the FM Listening System;
  • that Mr. Sears be given an immediate apology by Dr. Panjabi and Memorial University;
  • that Mr. Sears remain in the course if he so chooses, and that Dr. Panjabi be directed to wear the microphone from FM Listening System as needed or face disciplinary action;
  • that regardless of Mr. Sears return or not Dr. Panjabi’s classroom (as is his right), that Dr. Panjabi be officially disciplined for failing to adhere to the university’s official Accommodations Policy;
  • that Dr. Panjabi be required to participate in sensitivity and awareness training regarding the accommodation of students with disabilities (both the St. John’s Independent Living Resource Centre (ILRC), and the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (COD) can provide such training);
  • that Dr. Panjabi be informed that she is failing to follow the university’s  Accommodations Policy for Students with Disabilities; that she must, in future, follow this policy, or be dismissed from her teaching position and any other employment with the university;
  • that all university professors, and others who interact with students with disabilities, receive the same sensitivity and awareness training as recommended for Dr. Panjabi;
  • that Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador issue a public statement on this matter that reinforces the university’s policy for accommodating students with disabilities and its willingness to ensure it is followed by all staff teaching or otherwise.

This issue has happened previously with Dr. Panjabi and it doesn’t reflect well on her professionalism as an educator, nor that of the university as an educational institution. Memorial has an excellent Policy for the Accommodation of Students with Disabilities, and this policy when followed, and when combined with the excellent work of the Glenn Roy Blundon Centre for Students with Disabilities will ensure that Memorial University is and is seen as an accessible institution for students for disabilities.

Thus, CHHA-NL formally requests that the university uphold its accommodations policy and respond positively to the action items requested in this letter. As well, the association is willing to meet with the university to discuss means of ensuring a repeat of the incident outlined in this letter is never repeated.

Thanks for your time with this important matter, and I look forward to your reply.


Leon A. Mills, CAE, M.Ed.

Executive Director

  1. Dr. Cecilia Reynolds, Deputy Provost (Students) and Associate Vice President

 (Academic) Undergraduate Studies

Ms. Ruth North, Glenn Roy Blundon Centre, MUN

Mr. Bob Young, CHHA-NL President

Ms. Kelly White, Executive Director, COD

Mr. William Sears, MUN Student

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