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Identifying Essential Requirements in College and University Courses

Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In this article, we outline the Postsecondary Committee’s recommendations for identifying essential requirements in college and university courses.

The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on publicly-funded colleges and universities. However, students and educators with disabilities also face barriers in other education settings, including:

  • Privately-funded colleges and universities
  • Transitional job training programs

Therefore, all these settings should comply with the forthcoming postsecondary education standards.

Identifying Essential Requirements in College and University Courses

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), colleges and universities must implement accommodations for essential requirements of courses. Accommodating essential requirements means distinguishing the most vital elements of a course, and ensuring that students receive accommodations to perform those essential requirements. Therefore, the Committee recommends that colleges and universities should identify all the essential requirements of programs and courses. Then, colleges and universities must make these requirements available to the public. For example, colleges and universities could post lists of all essential requirements on:

  • Program websites and manuals
  • Course outlines or syllabi
  • Teaching and learning plans

In this way, students hoping to enroll in a course or program can easily find out what the essential requirements are. As a result, they can begin the process of requesting accommodations to meet these essential requirements in accessible ways.

Moreover, colleges and universities should also identify how assessments in each course or program connect to these essential requirements. Each course’s outline, syllabus, or teaching and learning plan should include a list of assessments, including:

  • Diagnostic
  • Formative
  • Summative

This list should identify the essential requirements that apply to each assessment.

In addition, faculty and teaching staff should inform all students about any digital tools they will need to use when meeting essential requirements. Furthermore, teaching staff should alert students in advance about all the accessibility features of these required digital components. This advance knowledge will allow students and staff to identify and remove any accessibility barriers of required digital tools. Similarly, if digital tools change in the middle of a course, staff should work with students to quickly remove any accessibility barriers. For instance, staff should request student feedback about the accessibility of new technologies, including anonymous feedback. Staff should focus on the accessibility of new technologies as a priority.