Deaf-blind woman suing over student loan debt
A disabled woman is in an Ontario court this week seeking changes to Canada’s student loan program that she argues would level the playing field for people with disabilities.
Jasmin Simpson, who is deaf and legally blind, says the program’s current rules force students who take longer to complete their studies because of their disabilities to graduate with considerably more student debt than their able-bodied peers.
The program currently grants loans for every year a student is enrolled in their academic program, rather than the number of courses required to complete it.
While the program refuses to fund undergraduate studies for non-disabled students beyond five years, no such cap exists for disabled students.
Lawyers representing the federal and Ontario governments argue the current system is appropriate for disabled students and contains many other accommodations meant to smooth their academic paths.
But Simpson says the rules should be relaxed further for students whose studies take longer as a direct result of their disabilities, adding she and others in her position should graduate with the same debt levels as ablebodied classmates and not be financially penalized for factors beyond their control.
“I’m not just thinking about myself, I’m thinking about all the people with a disability,” Simpson said in an interview conducted through an American Sign Language interpreter.