Skip to main content Skip to main menu

Part 2 of Accommodation in University and College

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed how an education standard could mandate a process for accommodation in university and college. We also explored how this process could be based on the AODA’s existing guidelines for accommodating workers with disabilities. In Part 2, we will outline how a standardized process for creating accommodation plans could help more students succeed in school.

Accommodation in University and College

Currently, there are no rules in the AODA outlining a single process for accommodation in university and college. Instead, according to a report by the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), each school must develop its own process. As a result, schools’ accommodation policies may differ widely.

For instance, schools may ask students to prove their need for accommodation in different ways. Some schools, as in the Employment Standards’ guidelines, may ask for proof of the tasks a student performs differently. For example, a student may submit a medical form stating that they have severe, moderate, mild, or no difficulty with tasks involving:

  • Attention or concentration
  • Fine motor or gross motor skills
  • Hearing
  • Managing distractions or stress
  • Physical stamina
  • Short-term or long-term memory
  • Sitting or standing
  • Social or emotional skills
  • Speech
  • Vision

Once a student hands in their form, they can talk to an accessibility counsellor about the accommodations the school can offer them.

Accommodation Based on Diagnosis

In contrast, other schools may tell students that they must disclose a medical diagnosis of disability before receiving accommodations. As a result, students waiting to see a doctor and be diagnosed may not receive the support they need. In addition, schools may require that students prove their disability through different assessments. For example, there are different assessments that people can take to diagnose a learning disability. A student may qualify for accommodations under one assessment, but not under a different assessment. Therefore, if a school only accepts one assessment, it denies accommodation to people who have proof of disability through another assessment.

Lack of Accommodation Policies

Furthermore, some schools do not have accommodation policies at all. In this case, a student must approach a school administrator, or arrange separate accommodations for every class with each of their professors. Staff with little training about students with disabilities may reject a student’s accommodation request because they do not understand it. For instance, a professor might not know about the need to accommodate students with invisible disabilities, such as mental health challenges.

A standard process for accommodation in university and college, similar to the Employment Standard’s process, would solve all these problems. Moreover, students could bring their accommodation plans with them from one school to another. For instance, a student in a program involving courses at college and university would not need two accommodation plans. Similarly, a student starting graduate school at a new university could bring their undergraduate accommodation plan with them. The new school could update the plan if needed, to address new tasks or contexts. However, they would not have to spend time rewriting a plan that has been written before.

Another way to make accommodation easier for everyone involved is universal design. Our next article will describe what universal design is and how it makes school more accessible.