Academic Accommodation for Students with Disabilities (Guidelines, Procedures)

Academic Accommodation for Students with Disabilities (Guidelines, Procedures)

Legislative History:

Revised and approved by Senate Executive June 11, 2019

1. Purpose

  1. These guidelines and procedures are intended to assist students, faculty and staff in implementing the Senate Policy on Academic Accommodation for Students with Disabilities. They provide guidance on the process to be undertaken to ensure that students with disabilities receive reasonable accommodation necessary to participate in and complete academic activity.
  2. The guidelines are not intended to address all matters that may affect students with disabilities in their university life and is not an exhaustive description of guidance available for faculty and staff. Other relevant resources include:

For Students:

Student Accessibility Services –

Accommodating Disability: A Guide for Students, Faculty and Staff – and-staff/

For Faculty and Staff:

Teaching Commons resources: teaching/

2. Definitions

Academic Integrity: Academic integrity refers to the upholding of essential requirements of courses and programs: All courses and programs have core or essential requirements against which students are evaluated as to whether they are demonstrating the skills, knowledge or attributes at the designated level of the course.  Learning outcomes involve learning tasks and objectives that must be undertaken successfully without compromising the standard required for success in a course or program.

Course: Includes all elements of a given course of study, including standalone courses, and other non-course degree requirements such as comprehensive exams, practica, field placements and thesis and dissertation exams.

Course Director: Includes Instructor and Supervisor.

Disability: For the purpose of this policy, disabilities may be permanent or recurrent, past or present, mental and/or physical conditions. They are defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code as follows:

  1. any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device;
  2. a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability;
  3. a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language;
  4. a mental disorder; or
  5. an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act,

Reasonable Academic Accommodations: These are planned and agreed-upon variations in the manner in which students may receive course instruction, participate in course activities, or be evaluated. Accommodations are designed to eliminate or reduce barriers to participation in academic life and to ensure students are treated with dignity and respect. The University has a duty to provide accommodations up to the point of undue hardship, which may be related to the following factors identified in the Ontario Human Rights Code:

  1. Cost;
  2. Availability of outside sources of funding; and/or
  3. Health and safety requirements

Students: For the purposes of this Policy, “students” are those individuals who have been admitted to the University, including the School of Continuing Studies, and are eligible to enroll in courses.

Support Office: Refers to the Student Accessibility Services Office on the Keele Campus and The Accessibility, Well-being and Counselling Centre on the Glendon Campus.

Universal Design for Learning – UDL: The principles of UDL (sometimes referred to as Universal Instructional Design or Inclusive Curriculum Design) emphasize:

  1. multiple means of representation, to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge;
  2. multiple means of expression, to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know; and
  3. multiple means of engagement, to tap into learners' interests, offer appropriate challenges, and increase

3. Accessibility, Accommodation and Course Design

  1. York University supports the development and implementation of fully accessible and inclusive curriculum for all students. Universal or inclusive course design helps prevent and eliminate barriers for students with disabilities by ensuring that they can participate fully and equitably in all aspects of academic life.
  2. In the context of disability, inclusivity is achieved by the elimination of barriers. Development and implementation of a fully accessible and inclusive curriculum for all students in all programs is the ultimate goal. Recognizing the wide range of disabilities and accommodation needs students may have, course curriculum, delivery and evaluation methods should be designed as inclusively as possible from the outset to reduce the need for students to request individual accommodation.Examples of inclusive learning design include offering different options for students to demonstrate their knowledge of material (for example, preparing a paper instead of a presentation) and providing material in multiple formats (such as a digital version as well as a hard copy).
  3. Even when the principles of inclusivity (or Universal Design for Learning – UDL) have been applied, accommodations may be required and requested.
  4. Providing appropriate accommodation for students with disabilities is a legal requirement, not a favour. It is a means by which students with disabilities can complete their academic endeavours without being disadvantaged.
  5. Not every type of accommodation will be appropriate for every student, even those with the same or similar disabilities. It is recognized that different forms of accommodation may be needed at different times and/or by different students.

4. Privacy and Confidentiality

  1.  All documents and communications concerning accommodations must be kept confidential and may not be disclosed without consent except to the extent that disclosure is necessary for the implementation of accommodations, resolution of a disagreement, or as required by law. Community members with records containing personal information must take reasonable steps to ensure the information is securely stored, that only those individuals needing the information have access to it and that access is provided only to the extent necessary to implement accommodation, resolve a disagreement or comply with the law.
  2. The fact that a student has a disability and the nature of the disability constitute highly sensitive personal information. The information can be particularly sensitive in the case with mental health diagnoses. It is not necessary for a course director to know the precise nature of a student’s disability in order to provide appropriate accommodation. Course directors should not ask students to disclose details regarding their disability when requesting accommodation. What is most important is the nature and scope of the limitations requiring accommodation (for example, knowledge that a student is unable to sit for an extended period instead of knowledge of the disability that prevents the student from sitting for an extended period).
  3. We respect a student’s right to self-disclose a disability. However, students are not required to disclose the nature or diagnosis of their disability. They are required to obtain medical documentation confirming that there is a disability with related functional limitations and to provide that to the appropriate support office (see 5.1).

5. Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Support Offices: Student Accessibility Services (Keele Campus) and the Accessibility, Well-Being and Counselling Centre (Glendon Campus) are the primary offices for processing requests, working with students and faculty members to develop accommodation plans, and providing appropriate resources for the community. In particular, these offices assist with obtaining necessary documentation from healthcare practitioners to support a request for accommodation and to recommend options for appropriate accommodation. They are responsible for informing students about the Senate Policy on Academic Accommodation and these guidelines and procedures.
  2. Students are responsible for communicating their needs for accommodation, assisting with obtaining documentation necessary to develop an accommodation plan, and for fulfilling the role assigned to them in their accommodation plan. Requests for accommodation should be made through the appropriate support office noted in 5.1. The information provided must be sufficient for the specialized staff in the support office to determine the appropriate accommodations. Students are expected to communicate their accommodation needs and changes in those needs in a timely manner although it is recognized that occasionally this is not possible.
  3. Instructors are responsible for advising students seeking accommodation to contact the support office to help coordinate appropriate accommodation. They should not ask students for any details regarding their disability. Instructors must take reasonable steps to accommodate in a manner consistent with these Guidelines and the information provided through the support office. Reasonable accommodation options identified by the support office should be implemented except where the instructor reasonably believes that doing so would have a substantial adverse effect on the student’s learning outcomes or the academic integrity of the course.

6. Instruction-Related Accommodations

  1. The range of instruction-related accommodations includes, but is not limited to:
    • timely provision of reading lists and other course materials to allow for alternate format transcription / conversion;
    • alternate format transcription / conversion;
    • alternate scheduling for the completion of course, project, thesis work or competency examinations;
    • reasonable, proportionate extensions to program completion time limits including to graduate program deliverables;
    • use of assistive devices or auxiliary aids in the classroom/laboratory/field (e.g., sound amplification systems worn by course instructors; computerized note takers in the classroom);
    • use of oral and visual language interpreters and/or notetakers in the classroom;
    • permission to audio-record or video-record instruction for accommodation purposes only;
    • special accessible seating, wheelchair accessible tables; and
    • adjustments to lighting.

7. Accommodation in Examinations and Evaluations

  1.  Whenever possible, the usual procedures for writing tests and examinations shall be followed.
  2. Test and examination accommodations include, but are not limited to:
    • alternate scheduling of examinations and essays;
    • alternate forms of assessment (for example, oral assessments instead of written or vice versa);
    • extended time to complete tests/examinations;
    • use of special equipment (computer, assistive technology, etc.);
    • use of special facilities (alternate test/exam room and proctor) and/or examinations in alternate formats (e.g. Braille, audio-files, etc.).

8. Requesting Accommodations

  1.  Students with disabilities who require accommodations should contact the support office at the first available opportunity, ideally before or in the first week of classes and, once the office has determined the documentation necessary in the circumstances, provide all necessary documentation in a timely manner.
  2. Support offices will help students to identify particular aspects of courses that might present barriers to them and will work with them to identify the appropriate accommodations, to obtain or provide supportive documentation, and to assist the students and instructors in developing accommodation plans.
  3. From time to time, a student with a disability may choose to speak directly with an academic advisor or course director to request accommodation without first contacting the support office. In many instances, the academic advisor or course director will be unable to address the request without the assistance of the support office. For this reason, it is advised that students arrange their accommodation needs through the support office.
  4. In some instances, more than one accommodation option may be available. In such cases, course directors may elect the accommodation option that best fits with the learning outcomes and requirements of the course.

9. Accommodation Agreements and Dispute Resolution

  1.  In rare cases where the instructor and the student cannot agree about the provision of accommodations, the instructor will first discuss the recommended accommodations with the specialized staff in the support office. If the disagreement cannot be resolved at that level, the student may pursue normal dispute resolution processes. Where possible, the program, department or Associate Dean/Associate Principal will seek to resolve the disagreement and will act as quickly as possible to do so. Other dispute resolution processes include faculty petitions processes and filing a complaint with the Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion (REI).