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.
Note: Ontario colleges and universities use different names for their office which provides services to students with disabilities. Many of the names of these offices use the word 'disability' or 'accessibility', 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.
For the purpose of this guide, we have chosen to refer to the disability/accessibility centres as the “Services for Accessibility” Office. We’ve chosen this name as it is clear and descriptive of the purpose and role of this office. The specific name and location of the centre at each college or university can be found on the school’s website in the Colleges and Universities sections.
What is the role of the Services for Accessibility Office?
Staff at Services for Accessibility 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.
In order to receive academic accommodations at the post-secondary level, students must register with the Accessibility Office. To find the name and contact information of the offices for each school in Ontario, go to the Colleges or Universities section, and view detailed information for each institution.
What are the responsibilities of the Accessibility Office?
- 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
What documents will the Services for Accessibility Office require?
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 Accessibility 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
What is the registration process at the Services for Accessibility Office?
New students must arrange and attend an intake appointment with the Accessibility 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 Accessibility 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 – students should register early with the Accessibility Office in order to have accommodations arranged.
- Students with learning and attentional disabilities, or mental health conditions 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.
- Most schools offer summer intake meetings for new students with disabilities to register ahead of the start of first semester.
- 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 Accessibilities Office