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Access (Accommodation) Services and Academic Success Services - Students with Disabilities

Roles and Scopes of Access and Academic Success Services for Students with Disabilities

Learner Autonomy and Academic Integrity

Learner Autonomy:

College and other post secondary schools provide merit-based academic programming for students to complete tasks of learning autonomously and receive a fair and accurate assessment of their mastery.

For example,

  • upgrading courses that build or refresh math and English skills for learners to meet admission requirements and promote their success in other college programs or improve employability skills
  • certificate, diploma and other credential based-courses and programs
  • students in programs leading into and through to university

Essential learning requirements:

In college courses, essential learning requirements are determined by course instructors and academic departments and are the knowledge and skills that must be demonstrated in order for a student to meet the specific learning objectives of the course. Essential requirements reflect established practices, standards and methods of teaching and assessment in the academic field or discipline and are supported by the regulator in academic programs governed by one. As tasks are practiced and mastered and learners progress to higher levels of complexity, new essential requirements may emerge in the current course or in future courses.

Academic Accommodation:

Students with disabilities with specific barriers that prevent or impede access to participating use academic accommodations intended to level the 'playing field' to complete tasks with autonomy.

Example: A student with a Specific Learning Disability affecting written expression, fine motor control and working memory uses a computer with word processor with spell check and 1.5x extra time to complete tests requiring writing long answers in a History course. The word processor improves the student's writing fluency and legibility. They are able to identify spelling and grammatical errors in their work and self correct those before submitting the completed test to the course instructor. The extra time gives the student more time to perform the cognitive work required of working memory to craft and compose the content of the test answers.

Academic Accommodations provide equity of access while not lowering the standards of required learning. Students are expected to participate at the same level as their peers. In this way, accommodations provide access and an opportunity to try. They maintain the integrity of both the learning and assessment changing how a student learns, the way they demonstrate mastery, knowledge and skills but not what a student is expected to learn. They, therefore, do not guarantee a student's success/academic achievement; students with accommodations will experience similar challenges and successes as their peers do in their programs.

In many cases, academic accommodations do not jeopardize the learning requirements and can be provided. When they interfere, and there is no other way to meet that requirement, course instructors and academic departments cannot provide the requested academic accommodation. This is a limit on accommodation.

Example: A student enrolls in a program and receives an accommodation for extra time to experience and practice a specific task or skill (i.e. suturing a bleeding wound using a practice model or Manikin). However, in the subsequent courses the essential requirement to reduce substantial risk to the patient is to perform the suturing technique without extra time. For this task, an accommodation for extra time cannot be provided.

Accommodations do not affect the standards used to assign grades or the requirement that students independently demonstrate their knowledge of course material. They do not compromise the security, validity or reliability of a course or exam, nor provide an unfair advantage to the student with a disability.