This is a collection of frequently asked questions and answers related to students entering post-secondary education in Ontario. In addition to the questions below, check out the Plan Your Journey section for general information and the Learn About Accessibility section for disability-specific information about transitioning to post-secondary learning. See the Specific Disability Information section for more detailed information for students with specific disorders and disabilities. For information specific to each Ontario institution, visit the Colleges and Universities sections.
Accommodations & Support Services
What are accommodations?
Accommodations are the services and supports required for students to have an equal opportunity to access educational programming. Accommodation can be academic, environmental, or personal. Examples of possible accommodations in an academic setting are provided below (this list is for reference only; it is not comprehensive).
- Extra time on tests and exams
- Stop-the-clock breaks for tests and exams
- Note-taking support
- Access to Adaptive Technology
- Access to a Learning Strategist
- Alternate format for learning or assessment materials
- Reduced course load
- Single room in residence
- Access ramps in buildings and entrances
- Braille signage
- Private or quiet room for studying and/or testing
- Walking aids
- Hearing aids
How are accommodations and supports different in post-secondary?
Accommodations in post-secondary are unique to each individual’s needs and are directly related to functional impairments identified in documentation from a qualified professional. It is important to know that accommodations in high school may not transfer directly to post-secondary. For example: A student may have received as much time as needed to complete a test in high school, whereas in post-secondary the typical amount received is 25% additional time.
Please visit our Rights & Responsibilities page for other differences between high school and post-secondary education.
How do I obtain accommodations?
Students are required to register with their Accessibility Services office in order to receive accommodations. Once students have registered, they are given instructions on how to notify their professors/instructors and begin utilizing their accommodations. Visit our page on Accessibility Services for more information.
How are accommodations determined?
Accommodations are determined based on the provided documentation (e.g., psychoeducational assessment) of the disability, the functional limitations identified, and the demands of the student’s program on a case-by-case basis. You will have a chance to sit down with an advisor to determine what accommodations will best suit your situation.
Can a course be modified as an accommodation?
No, courses cannot be modified. Students, regardless of their disability status, must complete all course requirements. Accommodations are available to support the student to have equal access to educational programming but cannot undermine the integrity off the course.
If you require a program or course to be modified, it is highly recommended that you consider the Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE) program. Please see Ontario College's CICE program to learn more.
How much extra time can I get on a test or exam?
It is important to remember that accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis. Extra time allowances will be determined when you meet with an advisor at Accessibility Services at your chosen college or university at the beginning of the year. They base their determination of extra time on the nature of the disability, the functional limitations identified in documentation, and personal circumstances of the student. If an extra time accommodation for tests and exams is required, students may start with 15% or 25% additional time. It is extremely uncommon for post-secondary students to receive access to more than 50% additional time for tests and exams.
What are some ways that I can effectively advocate for my accommodations?
It is beneficial for you to:
- Understand your own disability and your strengths and challenges;
- Understand your legal Rights & Responsibilities regarding accommodations; and
- Consult with Accessibility Services to determine accommodations that provide you with an equal opportunity to access your educational program.
Are people with disabilities able to get the help they need to succeed at college or university?
Post-secondary education providers have a duty to accommodate students with disabilities that cause functional impairment in the academic setting up to the point of undue hardship. Universities and colleges meet these rights by providing accommodations and other services to students with disabilities. These regulations mean that students have the right to equal access to education at post-secondary institutions, but the accommodations and services do not guarantee success. Please see the Rights & Responsibilities and Accessibility Services sections for more details.
How do I apply for post-secondary education?
To apply to an Ontario college, you must create an account at www.ontariocolleges.ca. You will need to complete the on-line form with your program choices and personal information, and pay the application fee. Detailed information can be found at www.ontariocolleges.ca/apply.
To apply to an Ontario university, you must submit an online application through the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) at www.ouac.on.ca. There are 3 different undergraduate applications: 101 Application, 105D Application and 105F Application. Use the application selection tool at www.ouac.on.ca/application-selection-tool/ to ensure you complete the correct application. You must submit your application with program choices, personal information, and the applicable fees. You may also need to request that transcripts be sent to your university choices and complete university-specific supplementary documentation, if applicable.
Please keep in mind that programs have different application deadlines, so make sure you research the programs you are interested in and apply prior to the deadline.
How are applications to post-secondary education evaluated?
Post-secondary institutions use a variety of methods to evaluate applications. For students applying directly out of high school, the primary method is by evaluating the courses and grades received in grade 11 and 12 courses. Mature students (over 19 years of age) may be accepted without a high school diploma but need to have completed the admission requirements (prerequisites) for the program. Depending on the program, applicants may also be required to provide a Personal Statement of Experience, submit a portfolio of work, audition, and/or attend an interview. The Personal Statement of Experience allows applicants to discuss relevant experience and outline why they would be a good fit for a particular program.
What are the program requirements to get into a school?
Admission requirements for each institution vary depending on the program and the department or faculty. Links to programs and requirements can be found in the Academic Programs section at the individual website of your chosen college or university.
Is there a standard practice for admissions to post-secondary institutions that is legislated by Ontario?
Each post-secondary institution is responsible for its own admissions procedures and practices, including setting policy regarding special admissions processes.
What are modified admissions?
A modified admission is a process in which the university or college will consider an application from a prospective student even if the admission requirements are not met, such as for some mature students or those with exceptional circumstances. Information on applications for modified admissions can be found in the Admissions page on individual college and university websites.
What is the standard policy for repeating high school courses to improve a student’s opportunity to gain entrance into college or university?
There is no standard policy. Some institutions require full transcript disclosure meaning that the grades obtained in all third and fourth level courses (grades 11 and 12) in high school must be declared and would include courses which have been repeated. Consult the Admissions department of your chosen college or university for complete details.
When will I find out if I am accepted?
Letters of acceptance are generally sent out from January (early acceptance) to June of each year.
How do I accept an offer?
I have been accepted to more than one school or program? What do I do?
First of all, congratulations! Next, you will need to decide (before the deadline) which school/program best suits your strengths and needs. To help with your decision, you may wish to complete the final checklist from the Plan Your Journey section. You may also wish to visit the campuses and talk to key faculty about the schools and programs. Then, before the deadline, login to the application site (OUAC or OCAS) and accept the offer for your school or program of choice.
I was put on a waiting list. What does that mean?
If you have been put on a waiting list it means that you have met the minimum requirements of the program, but there are more applicants than spaces available. If you have been accepted into another program or institution, you will need to decide (before the deadline) if you wish to wait for possible acceptance into your chosen program, or accept the program that is guaranteed. To help with your decision, you may wish to complete the final checklist found in the Plan Your Journey section.
What documentation is required to receive accommodations at post-secondary?
Documentation requirements vary depending on the school and the disability. Most institutions require an assessment of functional limitations completed by qualified practitioners. Possible requirements for particular disabilities include:
- Psychoeducational assessment (Learning Disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder)
- Medical Documentation (mental health, physical disability, or medical conditions)
- CNIB registration number (vision impairment)
- Audiologist Report (hearing impairment)
Each institution has requirements as to how recent the documents must be. Refer to Accessibility Services at your college or university for their specific requirements.
How do I obtain documentation?
Documentation requirements vary from school to school. Contact the Accessibility Services office at your chosen college or university to determine what you require and to discuss whether there is an option to have at least part of the cost of obtaining the appropriate documentation covered. Then, make an appointment with the qualified practitioner (medical doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.) to obtain the documentation. It is advised that you start this process two to three months before starting your program to ensure that your documentation can be reviewed and your accommodations put in place before the start of classes. If this has not been completed before school begins, some schools will provide initial or interim accommodations while awaiting the updated documentation.
What is a Psychoeducational Assessment? Do I need one?
A Psychoeducational Assessment is a comprehensive evaluation conducted by a Clinical Psychologist to determine areas of academic strength and weakness. A typical evaluation includes a clinical interview, a review of relevant academic and clinical records, and assessment of your cognitive, academic, psychological, and behavioural functioning. Psychoeducational Assessments are often required for students with Learning Disabilities, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Your college or university Accessibility Services office can tell you if you are required to have a Psychoeducational Assessment in order to be eligible for accommodations.
How do I obtain an updated Psychoeducational Assessment?
Psychoeducational assessments can be obtained through a number of different practitioners. The Regional Assessment and Resource Centre (RARC), the Northern Ontario Assessment and Resource Centre (NOARC), and the Centre francophone d’évaluation et de ressources de l’Ontario (CFERO) offer comprehensive assessments to students attending post-secondary school. Before obtaining an updated psychoeducational assessment, please consult with the institution you plan to attend to see if a referral to RARC, NOARC, or CFERO is an option for you.
How do I pay for a Psychoeducational Assessment?
Students who are eligible for the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) may be eligible to receive funding for an updated assessment through the Bursary for Students with Disabilities (BSWD). BSWD funds are administered by Accessibility Services at each school and the expenses need to be approved before purchases are made. The Regional Assessment and Resource Centre (RARC), the Northern Ontario Assessment and Resource Centre (NOARC), and the Centre francophone d’évaluation et de ressources de l’Ontario (CFERO) offer comprehensive assessments to students attending post-secondary school. When funding is not available, RARC, NOARC, and CFERO offer a sliding fee scale (according to income) to help in covering the costs of an assessment. Before obtaining an updated psychoeducational assessment, please consult with the institution you plan to attend to see if a referral to RARC, NOARC, or CFERO is an option for you.
I have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) from high school. Can I use this for my documentation?
To access permanent accommodations in post-secondary education an IEP is not sufficient documentation. Most institutions require an assessment of functional limitations completed by a qualified practitioner. For more information about common documentation requirements visit the Accessibility Services page or read through the related FAQ. If you know which school you will be attending, contact Accessibility Services at your chosen college or university to determine what you require.
I have old documentation. Am I still eligible for accommodations?
If your school determines that your documentation is outdated, you will be required to obtain updated documentation from a qualified practitioner. At some schools, students may be provided with initial or interim accommodations while awaiting updated documentation. Check with Accessibility Services at your chosen school to determine what documentation is required and how recent it must be. For some disorders, documentation can be no more than three to five years old.
What is OSAP?
The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) is a financial aid program to assist students with the costs associated with attending college or university. The program offers funding for school through grants (which do not need to be paid back) and loans (which are required to be paid back). Funding is available for both full and part-time post-secondary students, and is based on a number of factors. For more information, visit the Financial Aid page.
Should I apply for OSAP?
It is recommended that all students apply for OSAP - there is no cost for the application and no risk if you are not eligible. If you are eligible for OSAP, you can borrow money to pay for school-related expenses, and you also become eligible for grants (which do not need to be paid back). Also, if you are a student with a permanent disability, you are required to apply for OSAP in order to be eligible for the Bursary for Students with Disabilities (BSWD).
What are the BSWD and CSG-PDSE?
The BSWD is the Bursary for Students with Disabilities and the CSG-PDSE is the Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Persons with Permanent Disabilities. The BSWD and CSG-PDSE are available as grants (no repayment required) to students with permanent disabilities who have disability-related educational costs for services or equipment (such as software, accessibility tools, and disability-related assessments) that are required for post-secondary participation. Students must qualify for student loans (e.g., OSAP) to be eligible.
Eligibility for the BSWD and CSG-PDSE will be automatically assessed if verification of permanent disability is included when applying for a student loan (e.g., OSAP). Disability-related educational expenses must be approved by students' Accessibility Services office to qualify for the grants.
Will the BSWD cover a new assessment?
Yes, in many cases if you qualify for the BSWD it will cover the expense of assessments (or a portion of the cost). Check with Accessibility Services at your chosen college or university, as they must approve all BSWD expenses and there are some policies in place for the administration of funds (such as when the assessment can take place).
What happens if I don't qualify for OSAP, but need financial help?
If you do not qualify for OSAP, there are many other options to help with paying for school. You can apply to external awards and scholarships offered through your post-secondary institution or other community organizations, utilize personal savings or family RESP contributions, or inquire about a student line of credit through a financial institution. Once accepted to a post-secondary school, you will have access to their Financial Aid office and can speak to an advisor to explore all of your options. For further information, please see the Financial Aid section and contact the Financial Aid office at your chosen college or university.
Parents & Guardians
How does the role of the parent change from high school to post-secondary?
In high school, parents are often responsible for advocating for the supports and accommodations that their child might need. They often connect with classroom teachers, resource teachers, guidance counsellors, and administrative staff to gain information about their child’s progress and to discuss their child’s challenges. In post-secondary, it is up to the student to advocate for their needs and arrange for accommodations. Professors/instructors are not allowed to disclose information regarding a student to their parents, so parents will not be able to call the professor/instructor to notify them of issues or to check on progress. In addition, unless a student has signed consent allowing them to do so, Accessibility Services staff are unable to discuss the student’s specific accommodations and supports with parents.
Will parents be notified of the student’s progress or any issues in post-secondary?
Once students attend post-secondary education, the institution views them as an adult and will not disclose personal information relevant to the student (grades, accommodation changes, etc.) without consent. Colleges and universities are bound by confidentiality laws and can only disclose if there is a risk of harm to the student or others.
Am I required to live in residence in first year?
No, students are not required to live in residence. Schools have various options for housing, both on-campus and off-campus. In addition to housing information on your institution’s website, schools often have message boards and recommend specific private websites that you can use to locate a variety of housing options (such as sharing an apartment, living in a house with multiple students, or renting a room in a family home). For more information on housing options, including accessibility, visit Residence & Campus Accessibility.
How do I apply to live in residence?
If you want to live in residence, you will be required to complete a residence application after you have accepted your offer of admission from the college or university. The application will allow you to outline your wants and needs (including single or shared room, noise levels, co-ed or single gender, by faculty, etc.). You may be required to provide documentation to confirm the need for accommodations in residence. Please be aware that there are strict deadlines for applying for residence and requesting accommodations. For specific information about residence application procedures, contact the housing department at your college or university.
How much does residence cost?
The cost will depend on whether you are in a single or double room, the room style (apartment style, individual or shared bathroom, etc.), room size, building, geographical location of the school, and whether a meal plan is included. Detailed information can be found in the Residence section for each school in the colleges and university sections, or by contacting the school directly.
What are some accommodations I might be able to receive in residence?
Accommodations vary by school and residence building, but generally the following are possible accommodations at most schools:
- braille signage and room numbers
- auditory or visual alarms (such as fire alarms)
- wheelchair accessible rooms and bathrooms
- extra-long beds
- preference for single rooms for students with noise concerns or mental health requirements
- preference for double rooms for students who may need someone in an emergency
Universities and colleges will generally do their best to accommodate students with disabilities or other special needs. However, it is important to note that residences are high-density living environments, and it can be difficult to accommodate all special needs, particularly for students with environmental health concerns. For specific information about accommodations in residence, students should contact the housing department at their college or university.
If I want to live off-campus, how do I find a place?
Many schools have offices that specifically help students find off-campus housing. These are listed in the residence section of each school in the colleges and university sections. If a school does not have an office to help with this, their residence or student life office may be able to offer other resources or recommendations (such as information on message boards, websites, etc.).
Services for Students with Disabilities
What is the Accessibility Services office?
Publicly funded colleges and universities are required to operate an Accessibility Services (AS) office to coordinate and provide accommodations and services to students with disabilities. AS offices can 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 documentation of the student’s disability. A complete list of services and required documentation will either be available on the website of each college or university or by contacting them directly. For more information on the AS office, please visit the Accessibility Services section.
Do I need to register with Accessibility Services or will it be done automatically?
Students with disabilities are not automatically registered with Accessibility Services, even if they had an IEP in high school. All students who wish to access accommodations must individually register with the Accessibility Services office at their college or university.
How do I register with Accessibility Services?
New students must arrange and attend (in-person or virtually) an intake appointment with Accessibility Services. 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 or counsellor and determine which accommodations and resources they require. Often, students will be given a letter of accommodation to share with professors/instructors in order to receive their in-class and exam accommodations. Returning students will need to re-register with the office each year, but they will not need to attend a subsequent intake appointment.
For more information, please visit the Accessibility Services page.
If I choose to disclose my disability, how do I know my information will be kept private?
Accessibility Services are required by law to keep your information confidential. Information obtained will not be released without consent, with the exception of cases where there is a concern of potential harm to self or others. Information provided to Accessibility Services will remain between the student and the office. Professors and instructors will only be informed of the required accommodations.
What happens if I choose not to register with Accessibility Services?
If you do not register with Accessibility Services, you will not be able to receive formal accommodations. It is recommended that you register with Accessibility Services once accepted to a school to allow you an equal opportunity to access the course material. If you find that your accommodations are not necessary or need to be adjusted once school begins, you can discuss changes with your advisor.
What if I didn’t register before, but want to now?
It is never too late to register with Accessibility Services or to disclose one’s disability. The office is open year-round to support students and arrange accommodations. If a student registers with Accessibility Services midway through their post-secondary schooling, the office can help set up accommodations and services to assist students in their current or future courses. However, keep in mind – it does take several weeks to arrange accommodations. In addition, post-secondary schools have deadlines for making exam accommodations and it is the student’s responsibility to be aware of those deadlines.