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Scenarios & FAQ for instructors about students’ registration status with CAL

Scenarios & FAQ

This libguide identifies common concepts, themes and issues in the work with students seeking academic accommodation where registration with Centre for Accessible Learning is in place, is in process or is not proceeding.

Should I refer to students with disabilities registered with CAL as CAL students?

We recommend using the term CAL-registered students, students registered with CAL or students with accommodations. When folks say CAL students, it gives the impression that students with disabilities belong to CAL or that CAL is somehow responsible for them.  Students with disabilities who register with CAL are Camosun students who are part of the same learning community as all other Camosun students.

Are the academic accommodations provided to students best understood or characterized as CAL accommodations? 

The accommodations provided are the ones assessed/assigned by CAL on behalf of the college as a whole as per our policy on academic accommodation.  Upon external legal complaint (e.g., to the BC Human Rights Tribunal) when an accommodation is alleged to not have been provided, the college is viewed as one entity. The more accurate way to characterize a student’s accommodation is as their Camosun College (per-course) academic accommodation.

Is the purpose of academic accommodation to ensure a student is successful?

The purpose of an accommodation in post-secondary is the removal or reduction of a barrier to full participation and learning. The emphasis is on access, not on outcome or success. For example, a student might receive an accommodation but still fail a course if they are unable to demonstrate they have met essential course requirements/learning outcomes to the level required by all students in the course.  

  • The focus on access in post-secondary is related to reducing barriers to participation based on considerations from anti-discrimination law.  
  • Alternatively, the focus on adaptations in K-12 education is related to ensuring students are successful so they complete/graduate.

Information developed by CAL for the college about this topic can be found in this Implementing Accommodations LibGuide and in this PDF handout.


Why is medical documentation required from students seeking to register with CAL?

A fulsome process is in place at the college for CAL instructors to confidentially and thoroughly review medical and other collateral documentation submitted by students seeking accommodation to:  

  • determine if the student has a disability (i.e., are they a person the college must consider and provide services to under protected grounds/characteristics clauses in human rights law?) 
  • and, if a disability is present, evaluate the functional impacts so that appropriate accommodations can be established to lower barriers


Is all medical documentation accepted and if not, will this cause a delay for the student?

Not all medical or collateral documentation may be sufficient to establish registration with CAL for the purpose of academic accommodation. 

In some cases, students with educational adaptations in-high-school do not have a disability or their documentation from the high-school setting does not contain evidence of a disability. It may be necessary for those students to obtain updated documentation or they may not be eligible for accommodation. In cases where they seek updated medical, this can take time for them to obtain and submit before CAL can move forward to assess and establish a specific academic accommodation plan.


I’ve had students tell me they are registered with CAL and assume that everything should be in place.

High-school learning adaptations are provided on a model where the many details are taken care of behind the scenes by school staff without the student having to be part of the process.  This experience in high-school can create assumptions that don’t match with the process of how accommodation is provided in post-secondary. 

Some students assume that adaptations for learning they received in high-school simply transfer to post-secondary education or that by once reaching out to CAL or indicating they are seeking academic accommodation on their college application, that this will result in immediate accommodation.   

They may show up in course instructors’ offices frustrated, thinking that accommodation should proceed without the need to go through the registration process with CAL, before that process is complete or assuming they already have completed that process when they have not.

In such cases, please refer the student to contact CAL to confirm where they are in the process or what further information is necessary if relevant.


How are students notified about CAL services when they apply to the college?

The Ed Planner BC application for prospective Camosun students contains language with a direct link for students seeking academic accommodation and services related to that to our New to CAL students page where the process for registering with CAL is outlined. 
We provide the high-school district-based support teams with information about transitioning from high school to college and the processes and timelines involved in seeking academic accommodations. 

CAL is featured in the new student pre-arrival and ongoing newsletters.  These newsletters have a greater than 80% open rate by students when they receive the email from the college. Specific newsletters direct students to the New to CAL students page with all the details about how to register with the Centre and recommended timelines for doing this.


Are there methods of notifying students in classes about CAL services? 

The college has a syllabus statement that can be used by teaching faculty about registering with CAL The language directs students seeking accommodation to the CAL website where there are up to date instructions about the process required.


After a student registers with CAL, how do they know what to do?

Students who register with CAL attend an intake meeting with a CAL instructor where processes for sharing letters of accommodation with course instructors and booking exams and booking deadlines are explained, including a follow up email with links to that information. 

Then there are multiple notice and reminder emails sent to all students registered with CAL throughout the semester with that same information, including links to tutorial videos and invitation to come and see us in person for help is needed.

What would happen if CAL provided academic accommodation to students without disabilities? 

If there is no disability that produces barriers to a student’s participation, providing accommodations to that student would give them an advantage over their peers in the class and undermine academic integrity in the course.  Academic accommodation cannot lower academic standards or undermine academic integrity. 


A student tells you that CAL did not make arrangements to communicate their accommodation needs.  

By college policy and consistent with the law governing academic accommodation in post-secondary, students are active participants in the accommodation process.  On both sides of the accommodation equation (the student requesting and the school) all parties have both rights and duties. Students are required to take the steps to: 

  • register with CAL so an accommodation plan can be considered and activated,  
  • request letters of accommodation go to course instructors for courses in which they seek accommodation each term, and 
  • request exam bookings for exams in which they wish to use academic accommodation. 

Part of actively engaging in the process of accommodation is to bring accommodation requests forward using the methods given in a timely manner so they can be considered, organized and implemented.  

CAL does not automatically implement administrative aspects of informing course instructors about a student’s accommodations (e.g., send a letter of accommodation without the student requesting it be sent) or automatically book a student’s accommodated tests and exams.  However, students can connect with us to assist them in that process.


A student arrives in your office in distress.  They relay to you they have made first contact with CAL but accommodations are not in place yet. 

There could be a variety of reasons for this.   

Typically, if the student has submitted appropriate medical documentation multiple options for an intake appointment are offered to the student to occur within 5 to 10 business days.  This wait time is in place as there are many new and returning students CAL Instructors are already booked to work with.   

If the documentation is insufficient or non-existent, then the process of registering takes longer and/or may not be approved.  

Students with known disabilities are asked to contact CAL 8 weeks prior to the start of their program so an intake can be completed and accommodations established near to when school starts.  CAL instructors do not take leaves in mid-August to the end of September to facilitate this peak in intaking. 

A significant number of students (though being notified and reminded through a variety of methods) wait to release their letters of accommodation until weeks after the beginning of the term.  Others do not show up for their intake appointments despite email reminders.  These can produce delay in the accommodations process attributable to the student. 


What can I do if the student is in distress because they now understand they will not receive the accommodation or service they assumed would be provided? 

At CAL when this happens, we explain why it cannot be provided (e.g., too late and there is no way to logistically provide, etc.), it is not an approved accommodation or not yet approved.   

Should the student be unable to process or accept the information and their distress is escalating, typically a referral to the Camosun Counselling department would be appropriate.   

This link provides information about steps for considering and responding to students in distress:


If my student misses a deadline or is absent on the exam date due to illness, can I give them an opportunity to reschedule the exam for a later date?

Yes you can. Students who need to reschedule exams for any reason are told that they first must receive permission in writing from the course instructor (via email to CAL exams- that they forward to CAL with dates they are available). CAL will reschedule the student based on CAL staffing/space availability and confirm the details with you.


If a student is in the process of registering with CAL is there a way to expedite their accommodations before the registration is complete and before a letter of accommodation is ready for them to send to course instructors? 

CAL instructors have to thoroughly review the medical and any other collateral documentation and complete an intake with the student, including reviewing any consents to release information that the student has signed first.   

The request for accommodation process is based on the student as a consenting and requesting adult who has privacy rights, so CAL is not in the position to communicate about the student or make any confirmations or arrangements prior to this process being complete.  If a student registered with CAL in your course has not requested a letter of accommodation be sent to you, in most cases we can’t even confirm for you that they are registered with CAL.   


Does CAL recommend to students who are not yet fully registered with CAL to request course instructors directly provide exams accommodations without CAL involvement? 

No, this could create a host of potential problems for the student, the course instructor and for the college.   

If students are telling you that CAL is recommending this, it is most likely they are not understanding the process involved or have assumptions about the process that are incorrect. 


You notice your student is not writing their accommodated exam with CAL this time. Why? 

Students with exam accommodations decide when and if to request bookings with CAL. Not all students request for every exam or test or for every course.  Some disabilities are cyclical and accommodations are not needed at all times over a semester or some courses/exams are designed without access barriers so accommodations are not needed.  

CAL Invigilates over 7000 exams each year.  Two-week booking deadlines for students in semester-based programs (e.g., not Trades) are in place and communicated to students registered with CAL throughout the semester. The two-week notice period facilitates reaction time for the logistics to be implemented. 

Sometimes students do not make their request on time. 

  • CAL tells students to go ahead and make the booking request anyway and we do our best to provide a seat. Sometimes it is not possible to provide the booking as we are busy with bookings for students who booked on time.  Each test or exam requires us to book a location, technology, invigilators, etc., and communicate back and forth with teaching faculty to make suitable arrangements.  We also operate in a unionized environment and making changes to the schedule without adequate notice is problematic.  
  • In the case CAL cannot provide a seat, our exams staff emails the student confirming that and the reason we cannot provide the booking.  
  • In these cases, the student writes with the class without the benefit of accommodation. 
  • This information is on the CAL website, students are informed of this when they register with CAL and they are provided multiple email reminders across each term.  


Can I say no to an accommodation request as stated on the student's letter of academic accommodation for my course? 

Yes, under certain conditions. CAL has developed a robust resource guide to understand what is at stake in considering and providing or denying an accommodation.


A student has approached me requesting I go ahead and provide accommodations outside of the college process through CAL. Should I do this?  

While course instructors are autonomous and make adaptations to their course as the course author (for example, providing universally-designed teaching and assessment methods that benefit everyone), there can be risk in stepping outside of the process of having an accommodation request vetted and assessed at CAL. Jane Jarrow famously speaks to this in an article reprinted here

If a student is registered with CAL but is requesting an accommodation that is not on their accommodation letter, feel free to refer the student to CAL to meet with their CAL instructor to explore if the accommodation can be supported.  If it is, the CAL instructor will update the letter of accommodation and the student can reissue it to you.

*There are times when a student's request for a particular accommodation cannot be supported by CAL (eg. their medical documentation does not support it) so are not approved through CAL to have it added on their letter of accommodation.  Occasionally in such circumstances, you may find a student approaches you to request an adaptation, not as an accommodation, but as a simple move toward universal design (something that could be provided to any or all students in the class without lowering the academic standard). In such cases, a decision to provide or not provide an adaptation is non-obligatory and completely the decision of the course instructor.  


I was expecting to be able to speak to a CAL instructor today.  

CAL has a total of five full time ongoing instructors serving around 1600 students with disabilities. CAL instructor work includes a variety of appointment types including intake, prospective-to-CAL and returning student appointments and a large volume of other matters associated with current, prospective and new students. Methods of appointment reflect students' choice for phone, virtual or face-to-face. 

Due to the many continuous intake programs at the college, there is an ongoing structure of peaks and valleys in the heavy intaking periods across the year (not just September and October).  We distribute CAL instructor work across the year in anticipation of this so that we can serve students in all programs. 

Given this, booking an appointment with a CAL instructor is an effective way to receive their focused time and attention.