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Implementing Academic Accommodations

A guide for course instructors/departments/schools on implementing common academic accommodations in post secondary

Academic Accommodations Introduction

Academic Accommodation is a required adaptation or alteration to the physical and/or instructional environment aimed at providing equitable access to education by lowering barriers for students with documented disabilities. These may include, but are not limited to, the provision of alternate formats and methods of communication, the use of adaptive technology, and adaptations to the examination environment and/or mode of instructional delivery.

Equitable access is provided through academic accommodations by adapting the condition, manner, or duration in which students perform an academic task or tasks. The emphasis is on access, not outcome or success. For example, a student might receive an accommodation but still fail a course if essential course requirements/learning outcomes are not demonstrated to the level required. Academic accommodation should not result in a lowering of academic standards.


Academic accommodations lower barriers by adapting:

  • The way information, directions and content is presented (e.g., text, lecture, video, experiential)
  • The way in which the student is asked to respond (e.g., writing, speech, practical)
  • The characteristics of the setting (e.g., lighting, seating, location)
  • The timing, scheduling and sequencing of the instruction and/or assessment (e.g., time of day, length of assignment, time given for pre-reading before being evaluated, etc.)

Academic accommodations are determined by CAL Instructors based on a confidential review of written medical documentation which confirms a student's disability along with detailed information about its functional impact. A diagnosis alone is not sufficient to support a request for an academic accommodation. The documentation must be current (within 5 years) and must come from a certified health care professional who has expertise in the diagnosis of the condition(s) for which the accommodation(s) and/or service(s) are being requested. Academic accommodations determined by CAL instructors have a logical relationship to student disability barriers/functional impacts. The review of medical documentation and determining academic accommodations at Camosun College aligns with best practice within Canadian post secondary professional accessibility services and with legal expectations and case law.

Confidentiality

The decision to disclose disability-related information by a student, is personal and confidential.

  • It is important that course instructors do not ask students for their disability diagnosis; if a student wishes to disclose, they will do so on their own.
  • A student should never be asked to discuss anything related to their academic accommodations in the presence of others, or in a classroom where other students can clearly overhear the conversation.
  • It is important that no reference be made to a student being registered with Centre for Accessible Learning in the presence of others or in a classroom where other students can clearly overhear the conversation.
  • Any and all discussions related to academic accommodations with any student, should always take place in an office during office hours, or by appointment where conversations can remain confidential.
  • Except for the usual process of discussing/considering with your student how accommodations will be implemented in the academic setting after receiving a Faculty Notification letter, any questions related to any student regarding academic accommodations or disability-related matters should always be directed to Centre for Accessible Learning.

Policy and Law

In May 2020 Camosun implemented the Academic Accommodation for Students with a Disability Policy. The policy articulates the college's commitments to:

  • Camosun College ("Camosun" or the "College") values and commits to the principles articulated in the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Policy G-2.1. The College promotes human rights, adheres to the British Columbia Human Rights Code, and commits to fostering a college community that supports full participation of all students to study and engage in work integrated learning experiences to the best of their capability.
  • The purpose of this policy is to articulate how Camosun will provide appropriate and reasonable academic accommodations for students with disabilities. The College is committed to identifying and removing institutional and social barriers that prevent access and impede success.

Disability is a protected characteristic under the Human Rights Code. Discrimination is prohibited by the Code and encompasses any adverse treatment of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of a protected characteristic. The code is quasi-constitutional and as such trumps all other policies, procedures, collective agreements and laws. 

When considering treatment of a student with a disability the College is expected by statute and evolving case law to:

  • Treat the student the same as all other students (same considerations and access that all students generally have to remediation periods, probation, additional training, and to be required to meet essential academic standards, etc.)
  • To treat the student differently from other students, by accommodating the differences in how they complete tasks and participate.
  • To develop academic accommodations on an individualized (per-student) basis providing specific accommodations that have a logical relationship to the reduction of that student's particular barriers. Each case is fact-specific and each is determined on its own merits; there is no template.

Fairness and Flexibility

When considered this way, fairness may not mean treating everyone the same.

Disability issues are complex, and require flexibility and creativity in response. What works for one student may not be appropriate for another and what works in one course may not work in another. Academic accommodations are therefore determined on a individualized, course-by-course, term-by-term basis. Course instructors and departments play an important role in this dynamic and consultative process guided by key concepts, key content and some limitations.