Academic Accommodations for Post-Secondary Students with Learning Disabilities: What Are Your Rights and Responsibilities?
Each and every Canadian college and university is legally required to provide academic accommodations to students with learning disabilities. That means, you have a right to post-secondary education—and all the career and life advantages it entails—just like any other student. This right is protected in two ways.
One, discrimination based on disability, including learning disabilities, is strictly prohibited by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as each provincial Human Rights Act. This is an overarching protection that covers all Canadian citizens, not just post-secondary students.
Two, each post-secondary institution will have set student policies, including one against discrimination. The policy at the University of British Columbia, for example, specifically states, “Examples of discrimination include…Denying appropriate accommodations to persons with a medically certified disability.” International students with learning disabilities may not be protected under the abovementioned laws but they are protected by school-specific policies.
Schools must ensure all their students are learning in an accessible environment. The keyword there being “accessible.” Some students will require academic accommodations, and these accommodations are not to give them an edge over other students. These accommodations are meant to level the playing field, to give these students equitable access. To deprive a student with a learning disability the accommodations they require is discrimination, plain and simple.
Now that you know what your rights are, what are your responsibilities? The following list is not meant to be comprehensive, but they are general, fundamental responsibilities you should keep in mind.
- The responsibility to work on your education
Each student is responsible for their own education and their own success. You will be given the appropriate academic accommodations you require, but this does not mean you can slack off. It is still important that you attend your classes, complete the assigned homework, and study for your tests.
- The responsibility to inform the school’s student accessibility office or disability service office
If you have a learning disability that you feel gives your non-disabled peers an unfair advantage, it is your responsibility to inform the appropriate office at your school and request academic accommodations. Depending on your school, the office may be a specific department called student accessibility services or the student disability office, or it may be a part of the general student services department. It is your responsibility to provide documentation of your learning disability to allow the counsellors there to provide you with accommodations specific to your needs.
- The responsibility to request accommodations in a timely manner
The responsibility to request accommodations in a timely manner is an important one. For example, a student may require that they write their exams alone in a separate room. This requires booking the room as well as hiring an invigilator for the student. These arrangements cannot be done the day before, especially during hectic exam weeks. The student accessibility office as well as the professor should be notified well in advance.
The key takeaway from this article is know that Canadian universities and colleges are legally required to provide academic accommodations for students with learning disabilities. They legally have to! You just have to ask for accommodations and take responsibility for your education.