The regulations governing special education and accommodations for students with disabilities are different in high school than they are in post-secondary. Because access to education is regulated in different ways – future post-secondary students need to be aware that the process of accessing accommodations will be different.
As a part of the protection for equal treatment in services, students in Ontario are guaranteed the right to equal treatment in post-secondary education, without discrimination on the grounds of disability. These duties are outlined in several pieces of Ontario and Canadian legislation. While many services and accommodations at post-secondary will be comparable to those offered in high school - because the legislation is different, and the process to determine and arrange services and accommodations will be different for post-secondary students.
Post-secondary education providers have a duty to accommodate students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. These regulations mean that students have the right to equal access to education at post-secondary institutions. Universities and colleges meet these rights by providing accommodations and other services to students with disabilities. Publicly funded colleges and universities operate an Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) as a centre to coordinate and provide accommodations and services to students with disabilities. More information on OSDs can be found in the section Office for Students with Disabilities.
For more detailed information about the legislation that outlines the rights for individuals with disabilities, please refer to the following:
The regulations outlined above mean that students have the right to equal access to education at post-secondary institutions. Universities and colleges meet these rights, by providing accommodations and other services to students with disabilities through their Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). While students have the right to equal treatment, they also have responsibilities.
For example, a common accommodation is for students to write exams in a special room – however it is often the responsibility of the student to book a place in the testing room in advance of each exam. If a student were to arrive 10 minutes before the exam without booking ahead, the institution may not be able to accommodate the student on such short notice.
Students in post-secondary school must take a larger role in arranging and implementing their own accommodations than they did in high school. It can sometimes be difficult for incoming students to take on this challenge of becoming more independent and advocating for themselves.
What Will be Different in Post-Secondary?
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. Research indicates that 25% extra time allows students with disabilities to access and understand test materials without creating an advantage to them or a disadvantage to others. Currently, 25% to 50% extra time may be allotted to students who require additional time to process materials, although it is highly unusual for post-secondary institutions to grant double time, even if this was an accommodation that a student recieved in high school. To discuss available accommodations, students should contact the OSD at their post-secondary school directly.