Faculty and Staff (Accessibility)
This page provides information for faculty and staff at the U of T St. George Campus about accommodating students with disabilities.
The University of Toronto has made a clear commitment to providing effective accommodation for students with disabilities. Please see the University’s Statement of Commitment Regarding Persons with Disabilities for details.
Academic Accommodations & Essential Requirements
Academic accommodations are provided when students experience disability-related barriers in demonstrating their knowledge and skills. Accommodations are provided to ensure students with disabilities have equal access to meeting the academic standards of their program. The University of Toronto has made a clear commitment to providing effective accommodation for students with disabilities. Please see the University’s Statement of Commitment Regarding Persons with Disabilities (PDF) for details.
It is expected that the provision of accommodations will not alter the essential requirements of a course. “An appropriate accommodation enables a student to successfully meet the essential requirements of the program, with no alteration in standards or outcomes, although the manner in which the student demonstrates mastery, knowledge and skills may be altered.” (Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2004).
In some circumstances, the nature and degree of disability can mean that no accommodation would enable an individual to meet the essential academic requirements or behavioural expectations of a course or program. In these cases, the University is not required to accommodate and may refuse to provide accommodations. However, all efforts must be made to survey all reasonable options.
Please see the statement addressed to Academic Administrators and Senior Administrators, who are members of the Principals, Deans, Academic Directors and Chairs Committee (PDAD&C).
Faculty and staff roles
Individual faculty members and academic departments:
- Encourage students to register with Accessibility Services if an accommodation request is made but is unaccompanied by a Letter of Accommodation from Accessibility Services.
- Provide clear information in course syllabi about course policies regarding accommodations.
- Provide accommodations as outlines on the Letter of Accommodations.
- Work together with students and /or Accessibility Advisor to find solutions if issues arise.
- Reviews the student’s medical documentation and verifies that there is a functional limitation that requires accommodation within a particular environment (e.g. classroom, lab, practicum setting).
- Uses best practices, input from the student and the documentation provided (i.e. healthcare documentation) to create an accommodation.
- Supports the facilitation of the accommodation process with the student, faculty and staff.
Assists students in accessing non-disability-related accommodations arising from exceptional circumstances.
- Provides students with academic and financial advising.
- Helps students to understand petition guidelines and processes.
- Liaises with staff at Accessibility Services and the student.
How accommodations are made
Decisions regarding accommodations are made by the student’s Accessibility Advisor on the basis of the following information:
- A student’s medical documentation from an appropriate healthcare practitioner.
- An interview with the student
- Provincial guidelines for accommodation in universities
Decisions which require changes to how students are assessed are supported by medical documentation.
Students with accommodations are expected to demonstrate the same knowledge and skill development as other students in your course.
Students with disabilities are not required to seek accommodations directly from faculty or staff. Rather, students are encouraged to register with Accessibility Services so that a Accessibility Advisor may outline academic accommodations based on a student’s functional limitations in a Letter of Accommodation. If it is required for you to be made aware of a student’s accommodations, you will be provided with a copy of the Letter. If you feel that a student’s recommended accommodations are inappropriate please contact the Accessibility Advisor listed on the Letter of Accommodation.
Talking to students
- Let students know that Accessibility Services may be available to them and encourage them to visit our offices
- College Registrars are a good source of support and referral for students
- Explain how Canada accommodates people with disabilities if needed
- Be straightforward and kind in your observations of a student’s performance; what they do well, where they struggle, what might assist them
- Reinforce that students with disabilities can succeed when they have appropriate accommodations.
- Avoid speaking to a student about their accommodations or disability in public. Instead, request that the student stay after class or scheduling a meeting to be held in a private office.
About Disclosure and Maintaining Confidentiality
- A student’s specific type of disability is private medical information. Under no circumstances should you ask a student to disclose this information as students are never required to disclose their disability.
- While some students are willing to disclose their disability, many students may be reluctant to do so. They may fear being denied opportunities or creating unwanted curiosity or concern. Be open to students who choose to discuss with you their disability or the functional limitations that are a result of their disability. Never disclose information to other staff or faculty without receiving a student’s permission.
- Ensure that written information about a student’s disability, such as their Letter of Accommodation or an email from a student, are never in plain view in public spaces.
- Do not ask a student direct questions or use their name when discussing general disabilities in a group setting (e.g. discussing academic accommodations in you lecture).
A statement on your course syllabus will indicate your openness
For example: "Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. Please feel free to approach me or Accessibility Services so we can assist you in achieving academic success in this course."
Setting clear learning objectives and outcomes can assist students and Accessibility Services with determining and recommending appropriate accommodations.
Listing all deadlines and dates for tests and exams in the course outline is also recommended, as well as providing clear instructions for students should they miss a deadline or test.
You are responsible for maintaining confidentiality regarding the student’s registration with Accessibility Services.
If you have questions about any of the following, contact the student’s Accessibility Advisor at 416-978-8060.
- Supporting a student's learning
- A request a student has made
- A student's accommodations in relation to your course requirements
- Many students with disabilities may require extensions to meet all of their coursework deadlines.
- Help the student assess how much additional time they need and negotiate what is possible given your deadlines.
- The student’s Accessibility Advisor can assist with this negotiation or verify the need.
- Students are expected to submit work on the new deadline unless their Accessibility Advisor verifies that unanticipated circumstances have arisen.
Services and supports
Alternate format materials
You may receive a request for course materials prior to the start of class to allow time for conversion to alternate format. Please meet this request as quickly as you can to support the student’s access to the materials.
Sign language and computerized note-taking
- You will receive an email from Accessibility Services regarding the presence of these service providers in your class.
- Work with the student and service providers to determine how to position the sign language interpreters and adjust the lighting if necessary.
- The computerized note-taker may or may not sit with the student depending on their preference.
- These service providers will leave after 20 minutes if the student is absent.
Test and Exam Services
Test and Exam Services will send you an email outlining the details of the student’s test which you will verify.
Please submit the test 48 hours prior to when the student writes by email or delivery to:
255 McCaul Street, Room 340
The test will be couriered back to you or your departmental designate.
Students writing at a different time than their class for accommodation reasons sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Corrections to the test call: 416-946-5510 or 416-946-8584 or 416-948-8357. After hours: 416-946-5305.
Security at Test and Exam Services
- Tests are stored under strict security measures with rigid checking in and out procedures, storage in a locked safe and strictly controlled staff access.
- Invigilation follows all University requirements. Rooms have windows to allow for clear views of students.
- Access to computers and device components are password protected. Internet and wireless are disabled. The hard drive is cleared after each student writes.
Laptop computers and tablet devices are an academic accommodation for students with disabilities. They’re considered to be “assistive devices” that can be used to support learning and to bypass challenging tasks such as handwriting. Assistive or adaptive technology refers to devices and services that increase, maintain or improve the capabilities of a student with a disability.
People with disabilities are permitted to use personal assistive devices like laptops, so banning these devices in the classroom could limit a student’s full participation in the academic environment and violate their right to appropriate accommodation. Banning laptops for all students except the ones registered with Accessibility Services is also discouraged because it reveals a student’s disability to the rest of the class. Many students with disabilities choose not to register with Accessibility Services, but are nonetheless protected by the provincial legislation regarding appropriate accommodations.
Allowing the use of laptops by all students, unless it would compromise the academic integrity of the course’s core requirements, is important because it protects the confidentiality of students with disabilities. It’s appropriate for professors to create clear messages about the use of laptops in the classroom because they are effective learning tools and essential for some students.
For more information on how to support assistive technology for students with disabilities, please contact Accessibility Services.