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Accessibility Services

Educational institutions have a legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations that promote equity for people who have disabilities. To adhere to their legal obligation, provincial/territorial governments provide publicly funded colleges and universities with operating funds to set up special services for students with disabilities.

Publicly funded colleges and universities operate an Accessibility Services (AS) office to coordinate and provide accommodations and services to students with disabilities. Different institutions have different names for this office.  Many schools use the word 'disability' or 'accessibility' in their office name, such as Disability Services Office or Accessibility Centre.  The word ‘accessibility’ is becoming more commonly used, as it reflects that the emphasis should be on the environment rather than the individual to adapt and become accessible.  The specific name and location of the office at each college or university can be found under Accessibility Services on each school’s page in the Colleges and Universities sections.

Accessibility Services Office

Staff at AS offices assist students in a variety of ways. Given that each student’s needs are unique, services and accommodations are established on an individual basis and based on the documentation of the student’s disability. A complete list of services and required documentation will either be available on the website of each post-secondary institution or by contacting them directly.

The Accessibility Services office has several responsibilities in supporting students:

  • Assess requests for accommodations, on the basis of each student’s submitted documentation
  • Recommend and provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or support services for students with disabilities
  • Provide information regarding policies, procedures, rights and responsibilities to students with disabilities in accessible formats upon request
  • Assist students in communicating with faculty (when needed) about their disability and required accommodations
  • Maintain confidentiality of all information pertaining to a student’s disability

Registering with the ACCESSIBILITY SERVICES OFFICE

In order to arrange for accommodations, incoming students with disabilities must arrange and attend an intake appointment with the AS office (returning students will need to re-register with the office each year, but they will not need an intake appointment). Students will be required to complete forms and submit documentation, often in advance of the meeting.  During the intake meeting students will meet with their advisor/counsellor and determine which accommodations and resources they will use.  Often, students will be given a letter of accommodation to share with professors in order to receive their in class and exam accommodations.

Please keep in mind:

  • It is the responsibility of the student to self-identify as a student with a disability and to register with the AS office in order to receive accommodations.  For more information about disclosing your disability, visit Advocacy & Disclosure.
  • It can take several weeks for accommodations to be arranged, and longer if documentation is not up-to-date, therefore students should register early with the AS Office in order to have accommodations arranged.
  • Most schools offer summer intake meetings for new students with disabilities to register ahead of the start of first semester.
  • Students with learning and attentional disabilities or mental health disorders may need to obtain re-assessments in order to provide up-to-date documentation.  This process can take several months, which may delay the arrangement of formal accommodations.  If there is a delay in obtaining current documentation, temporary accommodations may be available for a short time.
  • Each school has their own guidelines for appropriate and up-to-date documentation. Staff can assist in obtaining proper documentation and arranging re-assessments when necessary.
  • Some schools are able to offer phone intake meetings for students who are unable to visit campus in person.

Tips for your intake meeting at the Accessibility Services Office

Documentation Requirements

Each institution will have its own policies and procedures regarding the required documentation to show proof of a disability. An IEP (Individualized Education Plan) from secondary school provides background information, but it is not enough for post-secondary supports.  Students are required to provide documentation from a qualified practitioner that confirms a diagnosis or permanent disability. Staff at the AS office can assist students in obtaining up-to-date documentation or assessments as needed.

Be sure to check with the office at each institution to determine specifically what documentation requirements that they have.

Some common requirements are:

  • Learning disabilities: a recent psychoeducational assessment (conducted within the last 3-5 years)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): a diagnosis by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or physician with appropriate training in neuropsychological disorders
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): a medical form or letter from a qualified specialist or a psycho-educational assessment
  • Physical and medical disabilities, and mental health disorders: a medical form or letter from a qualified specialist indicating the student’s diagnosis, limitations, and recommendations for academic accommodations
  • Deaf or hard-of-hearing: an audiologist report
  • Blind or low vision: CNIB registration number

Academic Accommodations

Accommodations can address barriers related to: vision, hearing, mobility, processing speed, executive functioning, written expression and any other disability-related challenge.  Accommodations do not give students an unfair advantage in their course work; they are desgined to address specific barriers and are determined for each student on a case-by-case basis.  

Accessibility Advisors at each school review the documentation of students with disabilities and determine which accommodations each student needs. Types of accommodations may include:

  • Extended time on exams
  • No more than one exam per day
  • Access to a computer or spell check on exams
  • Note-taker in class
  • Sign language interpreter
  • Alternate format material (ex. Braille)

It is important to remember that the laws that regulate accommodations at college and university are different than those for high school. Many post-secondary institutions require more specific and comprehensive documentation to show proof of a disability than is required in high school (especially for ADHD and learning disabilities). Incoming students will not automatically receive the same accommodations at college or university that they received at high school. To discuss available accommodations, students should contact their post-secondary school directly.