After having spent the greater part of his life within the confines of Concordia University, Leo Bissonnette will retire at the end of this month.
Bissonnette attended Loyola High School and then completed his graduate and post-graduate degrees at Loyola/Concordia before teaching sociology here.
Best known for his work at the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities (ACSD), Bissonnette has seen a lot of change since his early days at the university.
“In the early 80s, Concordia University was at the forefront of providing services to students with disabilities. It was led by Ann Kerby, assistant to the dean of students. Ann was committed to improving the educational lives of these students. She and I collaborated on improving computer access to the visually impaired,” says Bissonnette, who lost his own sight at an early age.
In 1986, he was hired by Kerby as her assistant at Advocacy and Support Services and five years later, was promoted to the role of coordinator of the Office for Students with Disabilities, the position he still holds.
“At that time, we provided assistance to students who were mainly physically, visually or hearing impaired. Today, we also provide support to students with learning disabilities and developmental and psychological disorders,” Bissonnette said.
Demand for this type of support has increased over the years. In the 2011-2012 school year alone, the ACSD provided more than 4,000 accommodated exams, ranging in support from transcription services and adaptive technology to a simple extension of exam time.
Faculty members are a major focus of the ACSD. Bissonnette attempts to assist professors in recognizing varied learning styles so all students can benefit from a fulfilling university experience.
Bissonnette leverages his PhD in Educational Technology, completed at Concordia in 2006, in guiding faculty members with students with disabilities.
Brigitte St-Laurent, the current director of Advocacy and Support Services feels privileged to have been able to work with Bissonnette for the past seven years. “A person of unqualified integrity, a consummate professional, Leo has been both a ground breaker in the field of access to higher education for students with disabilities and an inspiration to us all. Thanks to Leo and to those with whom he worked so hard, Concordia has played a leadership role in this area,” says St-Laurent. “Leo leaves Concordia University with a wonderful legacy. Our challenge is to make sure it not only survives, but thrives in moving forward. He will be missed.”
A family man, Bissonnette, sparkles when talking about his wife of 28 years, Coralie, and his daughter, Alison, who will be wed next summer. “They provide me with a fresh perspective daily during dinnertime conversation,” he declares.
What’s next for Leo Bissonnette? “Well, I want to enjoy a quiet winter, take one step at a time and appreciate all I have,” he says. “Then I plan to open my consulting business, where I will leverage my skills supporting people with disabilities.”
• Access Centre for Students with Disabilities (ACSD)