Accommodating Students with Disabilities
What are Accommodations?
The principles of respect for dignity, individualization, and inclusion and full participation apply both to the substance of an accommodation and to the accommodation process at the University. Accommodations, such as arrangements for an accessible classroom, sign language interpreters, support services such as an assessment or assistance from a learning strategist, modification to evaluation methodologies such as extended time when taking tests and completing assignments, academic materials in alternative formats such as Braille or voice activated software, in-class supports such as tutors, readers or note takers, or a computer with adaptive software, are put into place in appropriate cases to give the student with a disability an opportunity to be successful in their studies.
Academic accommodations do not alter the essential program requirements or expectations, nor do they give the student an added advantage. Rather, accommodations are granted in order to mitigate the negative effects of a disability and allow the student to function optimally. With accommodations in place, they must fulfill the same duties and essential program requirements as every other student.
Many people are more familiar with persons with visible disabilities, such as a student with a mobility challenge or a student with a white cane or guide dog, than persons with invisible disabilities. A majority of students who register for accommodations have invisible disabilities, such as mental health difficulties, chronic health conditions (e.g. arthritis, bowel diseases, cystic fibrosis, MS, diabetes, and cancer), learning disabilities, or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Students, particularly with chronic health or mental health disabilities, may be subject to debilitating conditions that are episodic in nature and require the student to withdraw from their program for a period of time. Other students may find themselves devoid of energy or ineffective for certain parts of each day due to fatigue, pain, or powerful medication side effects. It is also important to note that some students have as many as two, three, and sometimes more diagnoses of a disability.
AccessAbility Advisors are the experts in their field. They work with the student to determine the impact of the disability and, in particular, the functional limitations the disability has on the student’s academic programs to determine appropriate accommodations. Advisors encourage students to advocate for themselves and to speak with their lecturers about their disability related accommodations, thereby promoting a three way partnership with students, AccessAbility staff and faculty.
There are well over 2,000 students with disabilities registered with the three campus offices for students with disabilities at the University of Toronto. While the majority of students are enrolled in undergraduate programs, hundreds attend the School of Graduate Studies in both the Masters and Doctoral streams. Further, students are registered in many of the Professional Faculty undergraduate and graduate programs.