The Story of the Fred Smithers Centre
For over forty years Saint Mary's has played a leadership role in ensuring that higher education is accessible. In 1968, the university constructed a residence with accommodations specifically designed for students with mobility impairments. In 1975, a tape library was established to serve students with visual impairments at the post-secondary level. Initiatives to accommodate students who are deaf or hard of hearing began in 1980. In 1985 the Atlantic Centre, under the directorship of Dr. David Leitch, became a reality.
In January 2015, the Atlantic Centre was renamed the Fred Smithers Centre of Support for Students with Disabilities (now the Fred Smithers Centre for Student Accessibility) in recognition of Dr. Fred Smithers, O.C., a former member of the University’s Board of Governors, and a generous benefactor, particularly for the programs, services and infrastructure that support Saint Mary’s students with disabilities. At the same time, Dr. Smithers introduced several awards: an entrance scholarship, an undergraduate scholarship (both named for Dr. Smithers) and the David Leitch Bursary.
The centre has developed an international reputation as a leader in providing support services for students with disabilities at the post-secondary level, and was one of three centres of specialization in Canada supported by the Federal Government to enhance the full participation of citizens with disabilities in higher education.