Jake Bloomfield: Mentoring students with disabilities


Jake Bloomfield is the head mentor at Access TMP, a program that pairs first-year students with disabilities with upper-year mentors. (Tristan Simpson/Ryersonian)

Jake Bloomfield wasn’t thinking of getting a job during his fourth year at Ryerson, but when he heard a new branch of the Tri-Mentoring Program was looking for a head mentor this fall, he immediately knew he wanted the job.

The catch was that there was only 48 hours left to apply.

“I’m trying to fill out the application, get all these documents in and email it,” the accounting student said.

He missed a call while in his strategic management class, but after a few rounds of phone tag, he was told he landed the job.

Access TMP is a branch of the Tri-Mentoring Program that focuses on those with disabilities. It pairs first-year students with disabilities with upper-year student mentors, with the goal of opening support for such students.

Bloomfield has a brain tumour that causes learning and physical disabilities. He has mentored in the Tri-Mentoring Program for three years, but said he has more to offer to students in Access TMP.

“I wanted more,” he said. “I wanted to use my experience of being at university with a disability.”

Bloomfield said he can relate to the experience that many students with disabilities may have.

“It’s a different lifestyle because you have to adapt to things that people may not notice.”

He added: “You don’t just have school issues. You may have communication issues with teachers, you may need more funding and you don’t know about the different services.”

As head mentor, Bloomfield’s job is to give advice to fellow mentors and mentees. He said the program helps spread awareness.

“Every disability impacts everyone in different ways,” he said. “I may have to study longer. I’m only taking two courses because I have to put double the time to study.

“These things make university different for students with disabilities,” Bloomfield said.

Access TMP facilitator Mariam Hashemi developed the program as a pilot project in 2013. She said that, along with peer mentoring, the program offers different workshops for students with disabilities.

“The sessions tell (students) what their rights are, what you have to or don’t have to disclose as a student if you’re asking for accommodations,” Hashemi said. She added that the workshops also help students with career building.

These workshops also give students the opportunity to share their experiences, she said.

“Students really enjoy coming into a room and feeling safe. Everyone in that room is somebody who has a disability.”

The program also hosts ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions, which are open to all students and are used to address stereotypes.

Hashemi said that the goal now is to incorporate Access TMP into the entire Tri-Mentoring program. She added that all tri-mentors are now required to take disability training.

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