Academic Accommodation for Students with Disabilities (PDAD&C #34)

From: Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students
Date: November 10, 2016
Re: Academic Accommodation for Students with Disabilities (PDAD&C #34)

Recently, the Ontario Human Rights Commission issued recommendations relating to academic accommodations for students with disabilities, and in particular, for students experiencing mental health disabilities.

I am writing to remind you of the University’s broader policies and obligations regarding the provision of academic accommodations for students with disabilities, and to share the University’s accommodation measures relating specifically to mental health disabilities.

University of Toronto Statement on Commitment Regarding Persons with Disabilities

The University is committed to developing an accessible learning environment that provides reasonable accommodations that enable students with disabilities to meet the essential academic requirements of the University’s courses and programs.

Academic accommodations for students with disabilities are provided in accordance with the statutory duty arising from the Ontario Human Rights Code. Some reasonable accommodations are outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Guidelines on Accessible Education.

The University’s Statement of Commitment Regarding Persons with Disabilities provides that “the University will strive to provide support for, and facilitate the accommodation of individuals with disabilities so that all may share the same level of access to opportunities, participate in the full range of activities that the University offers, and achieve their full potential as members of the University community.”

Tri-Campus Accessibility Offices

The University of Toronto has an accessibility services office on each campus to assist students and faculty with academic accommodations. The role of these offices is to:

  • Receive and review the student’s documentation on a confidential basis;
  • Verify the student’s disability on behalf of the University;
  • Based on the documentation provided, determine whether accommodations are required and, if so, what accommodations would be effective;
  • Adjust accommodations as needed; and
  • Act as a resource for faculty in assisting with the implementation of accommodations in the classroom, for practicums, labs, graduate programs, and with respect to multiple forms of assessment.

If applicable, the accessibility office will typically provide the student with a Letter of Academic Accommodation, to be presented to the faculty member or, the faculty member will be contacted directly by the accessibility office. This letter verifies that the accessibility office has received and reviewed documentation confirming a disability and provides details on the proposed accommodation. Letters of Academic Accommodation may be issued at any time during the year.

If a faculty member has a concern regarding the proposed accommodation, the instructor should contact the student’s disability counselor/advisor listed on the Letter of Academic Accommodation.

Mental Health Disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code

Recently, the Ontario Human Rights Code communicated specific measures with respect to academic accommodations due to mental health needs. The University’s current practices are compliant with these measures.

The measures include provisions that students are not required to disclose their mental health disability diagnosis in order to register with the appropriate Accessibility Office or to receive accommodations or supports. Students are required to provide documentation that confirms a disability and provides information on the functional limitations related to their disability. Similarly, accommodation measures should not require students to reveal their private medical information directly to, or seek accommodation directly from their professors, instructors, and/or teaching assistants.

Students may request interim accommodations for mental health disabilities pending receipt of medical documentation, and students with both temporary and permanent mental health disabilities will be accommodated. Communications should not state or imply that requests for accommodation after a deadline, test, or course completion (i.e. retroactive accommodation) will not be considered. Such requests will continue to be considered through the University’s petitions/appeals committees.

If you have any questions relating to these measures, please contact the appropriate campus office, as listed below.

Verification of Absence for Disability-Related reasons versus Verification of Student Illness or Injury Form

If a student is absent for disability-related reasons or if a disability compounds the impact of an illness or life circumstance, the disability counselor/advisor will assess the impact on the student’s inability to complete assignments and will provide written recommendations.

Please note the distinction between such written recommendations and the Verification of Student Illness or Injury form which is presented to faculty when a student is seeking an exception due to a short-term illness or injury, not a disability. This form replaced the previous “Student Medical Certificate” in 2013.

Students who present the Verification of Illness form and are seeking long-term or permanent accommodation should be directed to their accessibility services office.

For assistance in implementing reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities, please contact the relevant accessibility office on your campus:

Tina Doyle, Director
AccessAbility Services Scarborough
Tanya Lewis, Director
Accessibility Services St. George
Elizabeth Martin, Director
AccessAbility Resource Centre Mississauga