French Cohort, Students

William Doulome: Emerging Educator and Advocate for the Visually Impaired

June 25, 2014

William Doulome is a leader.  As a mature student who hails from Togo, West Africa, Doulome came to SFU in 2010 after being admitted to the French Cohort Program (FCP) in Public Administration and Community Services. He presently makes his home in Langley, British Columbia with his wife and three children, and—in addition to attending SFU—he works as a receptionist and clerk for Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia (ISSBC).

Doloume’s educational and professional journey thus far has been broad: he earned a certificate in Law at the University of Lome in Togo in 1998, worked for Goodwill Industries as a sorter in Dallas, Texas from 2001-2004 while also taking courses towards a Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, and he was self-employed in Furniture Weaving and Repair while living in Winnipeg, Manitoba until 2007. Doulome also lives with vision impairment. In all these professional and educational activities, Doulome is a committed, articulate and enlightened advocate for progressive policy and teaching development concerning the needs of individuals with vision impairment. 

As a fluent speaker of French and English, Doulome’s work in the French Cohort Program—with the program’s triad focus on Political Science, History, and French—is giving him the tools he needs to be a key contributor to Canada’s development of special education policy.  As the FCP website explains, courses in the program are offered by the Department of Political Science and the Department of History, primarily taught in French, encompassing topics such as Canadian government, political economy, research methods, public administration, governance, and Canadian and Quebec History. The FCP French courses, offered by the Department of French, ensure students are trained in the study of French language, linguistics, francophone literatures and cultures.

Doulome says the way the program negotiates the dual language policy in Canada was a draw considering his own commitment to bilingualism.  He notes that the program “doesn’t neglect any of the official languages.  It promotes both French and English equally together in the program.”  He further explains, “The French Cohort Program is designed to give the students tools to work and build up multiculturalism politics in Canada.  There is much attention to Canada as a bilingual country and you see yourself as someone who contributes to that policy in Canada…that is the goal…I see myself as a player in that policy and I am so thrilled about it.” 

Helping create policy and helping foster the multicultural Canadian landscape is something that Doulome says nurtures Canada’s official bilingualism:  “To get your education in these two official languages—French and English—it means that you sustain that government policy.”

Aiming to finish his studies at SFU in Spring 2015, Doulome says his short-term goal after graduating is to work in the public school sector as an administrator, specifically working towards more inclusive and supportive policy for those students with special education needs. After gaining some experience as an administrator, Doulome hopes to complete a Master’s in Spatial Education:  “Spatial Education is about the various ways of educating people with disabilities. As a person with a disability I think I need to further my education in that area. I would like to pursue that further and within that I would specialize in Blind Education,” Doulome explains.   

Doulome’s deep commitment to improving special education has been largely informed by his own experiences as a student with special needs. He explains how SFU’s Centre for Students with Disabilities (CSD) has been able to assess and accommodate his needs:  “In my case, they work together with the French Cohort Program; the program advised me of the courses I should take every semester.  Once I pick up the course, we send everything to CSD and then they organize the accommodations and they contact the instructors to let them know my courses and ask the instructors to be in touch with the centre to organize the semester.” In short, CSD makes sure everyone is in conversation with one another in regards to the needs of a student with special needs.  In Doulome’s case, the French Cohort Program’s various professors and instructors are in communication with Doulome, assistants at CSD, the bookstore, and anyone else who needs to be involved in making resources available for his studies.

JAWS® screen reading software

Doulome says without these communication channels working in tandem, achieving his education would simply not be possible.  An example he gives involves a program he uses to be able to read text from his computer: “I use a special program on my computer called JAWS® screen reading software.”   JAWS® is an acronym for Job Access With Speech. Doulome explains that while the program is indispensible, it is quite dated: “Many established programs and applications on a typical computer are not accessible through JAWS:  for example, less than 15 websites in Canada are readable for JAWS. Also, the program “Adobe Acrobat” and the file format, “.pdf”— widely used in many universities across Canada, the US and Europe—is totally unreadable through JAWS.  Doulome explains how the CSD is able to help: “they contact the instructor who then has to send the materials to the Centre for students with disabilities and they transfer the files to Microsoft Word.”  Doulome explains that because JAWS is not a profit-driven program, it cannot be marketed to consumers and thus the program costs more than a computer itself: approximately $1400. 

The CSD support and accommodations, combined with the unique approach the French Cohort Program encourages, has allowed Doulome to establish a supportive community, and a network of educators, peers, and administrators. He explains that with his family life—Doulome and his wife have two young school-aged children and a toddler at home—the cohort program and its community is accommodating: “With their guidance, I manage to take the courses that fit easily into my schedule.”  Doulome describes the balance of work, life, and family that is crucial, and remarks, “The cohort program, they are a wonderful support to the students in the program.  They are organized and they lead you through so that when you finish you are certain you get everything you need.”