Carleton University has earned a reputation as a leader in the provision of academic accommodations and services for students with disabilities. Academic accommodation refers to educational practices, systems and support mechanisms designed to accommodate functional challenges posed by an individual’s disability. The purpose of accommodation is to allow students to perform the essential requirements of their courses or programs. At no time does academic accommodation undermine or compromise the learning objectives that are established by the academic authorities of the University.

Carleton’s reputation has been facilitated by a progression of innovative policies and procedures over the span of almost two decades.

  • In April 1989, the Senate passed the Policy Statement for the Disabled, which required the University to “consider and recommend on policies and practices that would permit effective implementation of the Policy Statement for students with physical and learning disabilities.” The Policy Statement had been established in response to powerful human rights legislation in Ontario, which recognized the rights of a sizable population of students with learning disabilities to seek and obtain post-secondary education.
  • In December 1993, the Senate passed the Academic Accommodation Policy, one of the first universities to do so, in recognition of recent Human Rights Commission rulings and subsequent guidelines. These guidelines stipulated that “accommodation means that people with disabilities will have choices about pursuing their individual goals and purposes in life.” At the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services conference in Halifax in 1997, Dr. Donna Hardy presented her findings on a survey of academic accommodation policies from universities across Canada. She noted that Carleton’s Policy was the best for providing a fair and balanced appeal mechanism for both faculty and students.
  • ” The Accommodation Policy was subsumed under the Carleton’s omnibus Human Rights Policy and Procedures in May 2001. Until that time, the Academic Accommodation Policy had regular input from faculty through the Senate Committee on Disability Issues, with one member appointed from each Faculty for a set term.

New Challenges

As the number of students with disabilities qualifying for academic accommodation, and the complexity of accommodations requested has increased, the number of contentious cases has also grown. The appeal mechanism lauded in 1997 is no longer effective in addressing concerns of students, faculty, and administrative staff. The existing dispute resolution mechanism did not allow for transparent and effective decision-making in a timely manner, which is essential to students and a key consideration in the adjudication of human rights matters before a tribunal. Students often had been frustrated by our inability to make a decision by the date of the exam in question, faculty members felt left out of the University’s decision process, chairs and deans did not always agreed on who should have the responsibility for making a final decision, and the University was at risk of litigation as the number of pending cases grew.

A working group was established by the Associate Vice-President (Student and Academic Support Services) to recommend an effective and transparent Academic Accommodation Appeal Process that builds on the existing Accommodation Policy for Students with Disabilities. This working group was chaired by Associate Dean of Student Affairs and had representatives from the Faculty of Science, Faculty of Engineering and Design, Faculty of Public Affairs and Management, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Equity Services, and the Paul Menton Centre. The amendments to the Academic Accommodation Appeal Process were passed by the Senate on June 1, 2006.

Features of the New Appeal Process

  • The appeal process is available to both students (seeking accommodation) and faculty (objecting to the provision of accommodation requirement in their course).
  • This process is an expansion of the existing accommodation process, which does not provide for a final resolution mechanism once an impasse has been reached between the request for accommodation and the provision of accommodation.
  • The process recognizes that the faculty member is the expert in the management of his/her course, that the Paul Menton Centre is the expert in academic accommodation based on medical documentation, and that Equity Services is the expert on institutional obligations arising from accommodation obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  • The decision as to whether accommodation will be granted in the form proposed will be determined by a panel of three faculty members who will balance the essential course requirements as articulated by the instructor, and the academic accommodation proposed by the Paul Menton Centre in response to a formal assessment of the student’s disability-related academic requirements.
  • The Paul Menton Centre will provide its assessment of accommodation requirements based on disability-related need as required under the Ontario Human Rights Code (not as advocates for the student per se). The panel will be assisted by a representative from Equity Services, who will advise the panel of institutional obligations for accommodation of persons with disabilities arising under human rights legislation.

Click here to read the Academic Accommodation Policy for Students with Disabilities