Site Accessibility Statement
Wilfrid Laurier University University Secretariat
December 21, 2014

Canadian Excellence

2.3 Academic Accommodation of Graduate Students with Disabilities



Approved By:
Senate
Original Approval Date:
October 19, 2004
Date of Most Recent Review/Revision:
October 19, 2004
Office of Accountability:
Vice-President: Academic
Administrative Responsibility:
Accessible Learning Office

I. PRINCIPLES REGARDING ACCOMMODATION OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

A. Application of the Ontario Human Rights Code
The preamble to the Ontario Human Rights Code states that ďit is public policy in Ontario to recognize the dignity and worth of every person and to provide for equal rights and opportunities without discriminationĒ(2004 Annotated Ontario Human Rights Code, p. 1). Furthermore, the code states "Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods, and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, same-sex partnership status, family status or disability" (2004 Annotated Ontario Human Rights Code, p. 14). Wilfrid Laurier University is committed to upholding these principles as they apply to the provision of academic services.

B. Definition of Disability

According to the Code, disability means:
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 coordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog 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, 1997 (2004 Annotated Ontario Human Rights Code, p. 340).

The Code states that the protection against discrimination because of disability applies not only to persons who currently have a disability, but also to persons who have had a disability and to persons who are believed to have or to have had a disability.

C. Duty to Provide Evidence of Disability

It is recognized that there is a duty on the student seeking accommodation to provide relevant and recent psychological or medical documentation that substantiates his/her disability and the need for accommodation. The student must also demonstrate that the disability impacts his/her ability to benefit equally from the University's educational services. The student is required to disclose only such information as pertains to the need for accommodation and any restrictions or limitations. Documentation supporting the need for a particular accommodation should be provided only to those who need to be aware of the information (see Part IV for specifics in this regard).
D. Duty to Accommodate

It is recognized that there is an obligation on the University to make its services available in a manner that does not discriminate. This duty involves accommodating students with disabilities in accordance with the terms of The Ontario Human Rights Code. Accommodation involves treating students with disabilities in a way that respects their dignity and provides them with equality of opportunity. Once accommodated, and hence provided with an equal opportunity, it is the student's responsibility to meet the essential requirements of a course/program.

Section 17 of the Code sets out the duty to accommodate and the limitations on this duty: ďA right is not infringed if the person with a disability is incapable of performing or fulfilling the essential duties or requirements attending the exercise of the right because of disabilityĒ. However, this defence is not available unless it can be shown that ďthe needs of the person cannot be accommodated without undue hardship on the person responsible for accommodating those needs, considering the cost, outside source of funding, if any, and health and safety requirements, if anyĒ.

E. Limitations on the Duty to Accommodate

1. Undue Hardship
The University is required to accommodate students with disabilities to the point of "undue hardship". The Ontario Human Rights Code prescribes three factors that are to be considered in assessing whether a requested accommodation would cause undue hardship. As noted above, these are: (1) cost, (2) availability of outside sources of funding, and (3) health and safety requirements. There may be other factors that are relevant, including, but not limited to, the degree that an accommodation negatively impacts other students, staff, faculty, and/or the academic integrity of the program. Costs are considered in the context of the University as a whole, not on the basis of a program, department, or Faculty.

2. Essential Requirements
The University is required to make efforts to reasonably accommodate a student with a disability when the disability impairs the studentís ability to fulfil the essential requirements of a course/program. In some circumstances, the nature and degree of a disability may mean that no reasonable accommodation would enable an individual to perform the essential requirements of a course/program. Where no reasonable accommodation can be provided, the University may refuse accommodations in order to preserve the academic integrity (meaning the essential requirements) of a course/program. A person cannot be presumed incapable of performing the essential requirements of a course/program unless an effort has been made to canvass all reasonable options for accommodation. In a university setting, the essential requirements of a course/program may include, but are not limited to, the knowledge and skills which must be acquired or demonstrated in order for a student to successfully meet the learning objectives of the course/program.
F. Accommodation Specific to the Individual

In fulfilling its obligation to accommodate students with disabilities, the University recognizes that the needs of each student with a disability must be individually assessed to determine the appropriate accommodations. Not all students with the same disability will have the same needs.

G. Confidentiality

The University is concerned with protecting the privacy and confidentiality of students with disabilities. At the same time, the University needs sufficient information to reasonably evaluate and respond to a student's requests for accommodation. For this reason, students who request accommodation are required to provide information concerning the nature of their disability, their needs and restrictions.

At times, the provision of appropriate accommodations may require that the student disclose and/or permit the Centre for Accessible Learning to disclose pertinent information to faculty and staff to enable them to perform their duties under the terms of this policy. All information regarding a studentís disability will be governed by the Wilfrid Laurier University Policy on Information Availability and Privacy Protection (1996).

H. Flexibility

The provision of accommodations for students with disabilities will require that students, instructors and administrative staff all exercise creativity and flexibility in crafting solutions that both meet the needs of the students, and preserve the essential academic requirements of the University's courses/programs.

II. PROCEDURES FOR UNIVERSITY APPLICANTS AND TIMING OF ACCOMMODATION REQUESTS

Laurier encourages applications from students with disabilities. Students with disabilities have successfully completed a wide variety of programmes at Laurier and have made significant academic contributions to this University. Laurier will, upon request, provide admission information to applicants in alternate forms (Braille, audio tapes, etc.) within a reasonable time frame. In accordance with general admission procedures, Laurier will accept academically qualified candidates for admission to graduate programs by examining each applicant's academic record and the impact of any extenuating circumstances. Applicants are expected, where possible, to disclose their disability and any need for accommodation in the application process, and to seek assistance in selecting their courses/programmes from The Centre for Accessible Learning and their prospective department or Faculty.

As with all applicants, those with disabilities are encouraged to select programmes that are appropriate for their skills, abilities, and career goals. In the event that any questions arise during the application process pertaining to the applicant's ability, even if reasonably accommodated, to fulfill the essential requirements of a programme, the issue will be discussed with the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies (or designate) and the Centre for Accessible Learning. The Dean (or designate) shall review the essential requirements of the programme and work with the applicant, the graduate officer/program director, and the Centre for Accessible Learning to determine what, if any, accommodations might be reasonable to enable the applicant to meet the requirements. In the event that the Dean determines that accommodation cannot be provided without causing undue hardship the applicant shall be so informed and other options shall be discussed. Failure of the Dean to raise any objections, should not be interpreted as a guarantee of any sort, that the applicant will, in fact, be able to meet the essential requirements of the programme or any specific course at any time in the future.

In the event that any questions arise during the application process pertaining to the University's ability to reasonably accommodate the applicant without undue financial hardship, the issue will be discussed with the Vice-President: Academic. In the event that the Vice-President: Academic determines that reasonable accommodation cannot be provided without causing undue hardship the applicant shall be so informed and other options shall be discussed.

All personal information disclosed in the application process may be used by the appropriate staff and faculty members (including, but not limited to, the Centre for Accessible Learning, the prospective program, the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and the Vice-President: Academic) to make decisions relating to admission. The Centre for Accessible Learning is available throughout the process to support and counsel students with disabilities, as well as faculty and administrative staff.

III. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

The provision of academic accommodations is based on a collaborative process that includes many individuals and groups within the University. Effective and open communication among those involved in the accommodation process is the key to optimizing the likelihood of success.

A. Roles and Responsibilities of the Centre for Accessible Learning
The Centre is dedicated to the overall development of all students while they are at Laurier. More specifically, with regard to students with disabilities, the Centre shall:

1. provide support and personal and academic skills counselling to students when requested;

2. determine the financial implications of proposed accommodation plans and secure funding as needed;

3. when indicated, make referrals to appropriate professionals for assessment and intervention services;

4. receive and verify a student's documentation, including but not limited to medical, psychological, psycho-educational, and neuro-psychological information. Such documentation will be provided by an approved and regulated health or social services professional and will be recent and relevant in nature;

5. ensure that all student information and all documentation is treated confidentially, subject to disclosure as necessary to effect the accommodation or as required by law, and maintained in individual student files within the Centre;

6. review all documentation and consult with each individual student in order to determine if they need academic accommodations and/or services (Note: Students may qualify for some services offered by the Centre but not require accommodation beyond that);

7. whenever possible, discuss the studentís proposed academic plan prior to registration and when necessary, consult with department or Faculty staff to clarify program/course requirements as they relate to the studentís disability and potential accommodation needs;

8. in consultation with the student and the graduate officer/program director, develop an accommodation plan for each student who requires accommodation based on the student's needs and available course/program information and requirements; this proposal shall be reviewed each term and may require revision as the studentís needs and course requirements may change;

9. provide letters outlining the proposed accommodation plan, as required, specifying in as much detail as possible what accommodations are requested and revising these letters as necessary;

10. communicate with the student and faculty as needed throughout the term to ensure accommodations are continuing to work effectively and when necessary, work with the faculty and the student to adjust accommodations that support the student and maintain academic integrity;

11. consult with instructors, departments/programs, Faculties and other administrative staff as needed, and assist in the provision of accommodations;

12. participate with other campus offices, departments and Faculties in the ongoing education of department chairs, instructors, and other Laurier community members regarding issues around disability, and the rights and responsibilities of each individual.
B. Roles and Responsibilities of Students
The University recognizes the importance of a student's experience and knowledge with respect to his/her disability and its impact on learning. This being the case, it is imperative that the student participate fully in determining appropriate accommodations. The students needing accommodation(s) shall:

1. where possible, discuss with the Centre, their instructor, and their department, Faculty, or the Faculty of Graduate Studies any concerns they may have about whether or not they would be able to meet the essential requirements of a course/program prior to registering in a course/program;

2. contact the Centre about any required accommodations in a timely manner;

3. provide to the Centre relevant and recent psychological or medical documentation (from an approved and regulated health professional) to substantiate their disability and any resultant restrictions;

4. communicate their needs and resultant restrictions in sufficient detail in order for the University to assess their needs and determine the appropriate accommodations;

5. notify the Centre and all parties who need to know of any changes to their needs;

6. work with the Centre, the graduate officer/program director, and, when appropriate, others (e.g., instructors, academic advisors, library staff) to develop an accommodation plan;

7. follow the procedures outlined in Part IV of this policy when an accommodation is required, and comply with the Centre's instructions relating to the implementation of any specific accommodation;

8. meet with the Centre at least once each term;

9. meet regularly with instructors and with others as needed to discuss arrangements for accommodations.
C. Roles and Responsibilities of Graduate Officers/Program Directors (or equivalent)
Graduate officers/program directors are in key positions in terms of helping to develop overall accommodation plans when students are first admitted to the university and to ensure that such plans continue to meet studentsí needs. To help facilitate a studentís academic success, graduate officers/program directors shall:

1. refer all students with disabilities (and/or suspected disabilities) and all requests for accommodation to the Centre;

2. identify, upon request of the student and/or the Centre, the essential program/course requirements and the methods of demonstrating knowledge;

3. assist students and the Centre in determining the manner and extent of accommodation that can be provided short of undue hardship;

4. participate with the student and the Centre, as appropriate, in structuring a suitable accommodation plan that meets the needs of the student and satisfies the essential requirements of the respective course/program;

5. notify the student and the Centre if a proposed accommodation plan is not acceptable on the basis that the student, even if reasonably accommodated to the point of undue hardship, will not be able to fulfill the essential requirements of the course/program;

6. work with the student, the Centre, and relevant instructors to explore alternative forms of accommodation in the event that the current accommodations are not working well or do not suit particular courses;

7. review and approve, in accordance with part IV of this policy, all accommodation plans or revisions to accommodation plans;

8. if there is dispute about what accommodations meet the needs of the student or satisfy the essential requirements of the course or program, refer the case to the department chair;

9. when an accommodation plan affects Graduate Studies regulations (e.g., time to completion of the degree), consult with the Dean of Graduate Studies (or designate);

10. when an accommodation plan has substantial financial implications, consult with the Vice-President: Academic.
D. Roles and Responsibilities of Instructors
Instructors play a vital role in shaping a student's graduate experience. An important relationship for many students while at university is the one established between themselves and their instructors, and one which can be the key to success for many students. Although this relationship is very important to all students, it perhaps takes on more importance to students with disabilities, whose academic success may rely on good communication with their instructors.

To help facilitate a student's academic success and maintain the University's academic standards for the benefit of all students, instructors shall:

1. refer all students with disabilities (and/or suspected disabilities) and all requests for accommodation to the Cenre;

2. identify, upon request, and with the assistance of their academic department, the essential requirements of a course and the methods of demonstrating knowledge;

3. participate with the student, the Centre, and the graduate officer/program director, as appropriate, in developing the accommodation plan or in revising it to better suit the studentís changing needs or the essential requirements of a course;

4. implement the terms of any agreed accommodation plan;

5. continue to work with the student, the Centre, and the graduate officer/program director to explore alternative forms of accommodation in the event that the current accommodations are not working well;

6. if there is dispute about what accommodations meet the needs of the student or satisfy the essential requirements of the course or program, refer the case to the graduate officer/program director or department chair;

7. determine course content, textbooks and resources in a timely fashion so that alternative formats may be arranged, ideally prior to the beginning of classes, for students with disabilities.
E. Roles and Responsibilities of Department Chairs (or equivalent)
The accommodation of students with disabilities will place some economic demands on the University. In this regard, department chairs, in conjunction with their Faculty, as well as with the Faculty of Graduate Studies, often act as financial resource managers. In addition, department chairs may act as mediators and decision-makers when graduate officers/program directors, the Centre, and students cannot reach agreement on accommodation plans.

The department chair shall:

1. provide an opportunity for all faculty members to familiarize themselves with this policy;

2. ensure that instructors receive the departmental and/or university resources and support necessary to implement any accepted accommodation plan;

3. act as a mediator and decision-maker, in accordance with part IV of this policy, in instances where there are disputes about accommodation plans;

4. when considering an accommodation plan that affects Graduate Studies regulations (e.g., time to completion of the degree), consult with the Dean of Graduate Studies (or designate);

5. when considering an accommodation plan that has substantial financial implications, consult with the vice-president: Academic.
F. Roles and Responsibilities of the Faculty of Graduate Studies
The Dean of Graduate Studies or his/her delegate shall:

1. work in conjunction with the department chairs to ensure that graduate officers/ program directors and all instructors are made aware of this policy and that the practices associated with the delivery of accommodation services are consistent with this policy;

2. consult with students and the Centre, upon request, when students have first identified their need for accommodation. This may occur prior to registration, following registration, or when a student first approaches the Centre with an accommodation request;

3. discuss with the student and the Centre any department or Faculty concerns about the accommodations and /or how the accommodations relate to the essential requirements of the course/program;

4. consult with graduate officers/program directors about accommodation plans that affect Graduate Studies regulations (e.g., time to completion of the degree);

5. when necessary, and in accordance with part IV of this policy, act as a first level of appeal with regard to a department chair's decision on an accommodation plan.
G. Roles and Responsibilities of the Registrar's Office
The Registrar's Office shall:

1. provide assistance, in consultation with the Centre and the department, in implementing other accommodations where the requirements fall within the jurisdiction of the Registrar's Office; for example, the provision of special time tabling or specific classroom use.
H. Roles and Responsibilities of the Harassment and Discrimination Coordinator
The Harassment and Discrimination Coordinator is responsible for the application of the Harassment and Discrimination policy. This policy protects all University members from discrimination on the basis of disability. The Coordinator shall:

1. act as a resource for students, faculty and administrative staff as to their rights and responsibilities under the terms of both this policy and the Harassment and Discrimination policy;

2. assist, whenever appropriate, students, faculty and administrative staff in the informal resolution of accommodation issues.
I. Roles and Responsibilities of Library Services
The Library shall:

1. make every reasonable effort short of undue hardship to provide students with disabilities equal access to information;

2. provide a specified Library employee to help students with disabilities to find required resources;

3. maintain regular communication with the Centre to ensure studentsí information needs and requests for accessible equipment and so forth are shared.
J. Roles and Responsibilities of the Instructional Development Office
The instructional development office shall:

1. provide assistance and advice to faculty members related to instructional design, delivery and evaluation methods that may facilitate the academic success of students with disabilities;

2. identify and circulate, at times, teaching and learning insights related to the provision of academic accommodation for students with disabilities.

IV. PROCEDURES FOR ACCOMMODATION PLANS, REVIEWS, AND APPEALS FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS

A. Assessment of Requests and Preparation of an Accommodation Plan
The Centre for Accessible Learning shall review and verify all documentation provided by the student and will also consider any material that the student has pertaining to the course/program (e.g., the course outline). If it is the student's first request for an accommodation, the Centre shall contact the relevant graduate officer/program director to discuss the essential requirements of a program and possible accommodations.

If the Centre, following such discussions, determines that accommodations are required in order to enable the student to meet the essential requirements of a program, the Centre will work with the student and the graduate officer/ program director to develop an accommodation plan based on the student's needs (as determined by the Centre after consultation with the student and review of the documentation) and the program requirements. An accommodation plan shall encompass all academic work to be undertaken during the academic session for which the accommodation is sought. The Centre shall prepare a letter outlining the accommodation plan in as much specificity as possible. The accommodation plan will be signed by the Centre, the student, and the graduate officer/program director. The approved plan will be placed in the studentís official file (in either the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the Faculty of Social Work, or the School of Business and Economics) and copies will be given to all parties who need to know (e.g., the Centre, the student, and the course instructor).

In the event that the Centre, the student, and the graduate officer/ program director cannot agree on an accommodation plan, the Centre shall notify the department chair (or equivalent). The department chair shall schedule as soon as possible a meeting of all parties (the student, the Centre, and the graduate officer/program director) in an effort to mediate the impasse. Whether or not agreement is reached, the chair will issue a written decision on the accommodation plan within three days of the meeting. The written decision will be placed in the studentís official file and copies will be given to all parties who need to know. The student may appeal the chairís decision (see Appeals Process, below).

Subsequent revisions to the accommodation plan due either to changes in the studentís needs or to different course or program requirements shall be negotiated among the student, the Centre, and the appropriate faculty. Generally, matters dealing with program requirements shall be discussed with the graduate officer/program director and the supervisor, whereas matters dealing with a course shall be discussed with the graduate officer /program director and the instructor. Whether or not agreement on revisions to the accommodation plan is reached, the same process noted in the previous two paragraphs shall be followed. Any revisions to the accommodation plan shall be made in writing and signed by all relevant parties.

When any accommodation plan affects Graduate Studies regulations (e.g., time to the completion of the degree), the graduate officer/program director and/or department chair will consult with the Dean of Graduate Studies (or designate). When any accommodation plan has substantial financial implications, the graduate officer/program director and/or department chair will consult with the Vice-President: Academic.
B. Appeals Process
When there has been dispute about an accommodation plan and the department chair (or equivalent) has had to issue a written decision on this matter, the student may appeal this decision in writing, within five days of its receipt, to the Dean of Graduate Studies (or designate). The Dean of Graduate Studies shall determine the appeal within five days of its receipt and notify in writing all parties who need to know of the decision.

Following any appeal to the Dean of Graduate Studies, the student may appeal this decision in writing, within five days of its receipt, to the Vice-President: Academic. The VPA shall determine the appeal within five days of its receipt.
C. Accommodation Pending Appeal
The University recognizes that decisions involving accommodations must be made expeditiously to assist students in their ongoing studies. Once a decision on an accommodation plan has been made, it shall be implemented promptly. In the event that accommodations have been denied by the department chair or the Dean of Graduate Studies (or designate), and an appeal by the student is pending, the Dean of Graduate Studies (or designate), the department chair, the graduate officer/program director, and the Centre shall review the accommodation plan to determine what portion, if any, of the plan it is reasonable to implement immediately. It is suggested that minimal accommodations shall remain in place until there is a final disposition of all appeals. Where a student has been accommodated pending the final disposition of all appeals, and such disposition is that the accommodation should not be granted, an alternative means of fairly determining the studentís course mark or the timing of submission of the studentís work shall be determined by the Dean of Graduate Studies (or designate), the department chair, the graduate officer/program director, and the instructor or advisor and communicated to the student. In some circumstances the Dean of Graduate Studies† may, in his/her discretion, agree to withdraw a student retroactively from a course or program without financial or academic penalty to the student.