Making the Most of Post-Secondary Accommodations

Making the Most of Post-Secondary Accommodations

Post-secondary school is often a very meaningful period in a person’s life. Whether it is at a university, college, or polytechnic, one’s post-secondary experience can have a big impact on the trajectory of their career and livelihood. However, students living with disabilities may experience barriers that impact their ability to learn and participate in post-secondary education at the same level as their peers.

Post-secondary institutions have a duty to provide reasonable accommodations to support students with verified disabilities. Disabilities may be sensory (e.g., vision/hearing), developmental, medical/physical, or mental health-related. It is important for students with disabilities to stay informed on the supports that are available to them and utilize their accommodations to make the most of their post-secondary experience.

What is an accommodation? An accommodation is a reasonable variation from an educational rule, standard, policy, or practice.

Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Note-taking supports
  • Exam accommodations (e.g., extra time; quiet space)
  • Assistive technology (e.g., voice-to-text software)
  • Adaptive equipment (e.g., ergonomic or modified work stations)

Here are some things to consider if you are a current or prospective student with a disability in a post-secondary program:

  • Register with the disability/accessibility center at your institution as soon as you are accepted into your post-secondary program.
  • Obtain and submit appropriate documentation which will be used to verify your disability.
    • For most disabilities, a physician can complete a disability verification form for the student.
    • Mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., generalized anxiety disorder; ADHD) may be verified by a registered psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a physician.
      • Specific Learning Disorders must be verified through a psychoeducational assessment completed by a registered psychologist.
    • Openly discuss the challenges you experience when it comes to education with your disability advisor. Offer suggestions of ways the institution can support you, drawing from experiences in high school or previous post-secondary studies.
    • Your disability advisor will let you know which types of accommodations will be most appropriate for you, based on your specific needs and the program that you are in. For example, a person with a Specific Learning Disorder in reading may benefit from extra time to write their exams, a quiet space for exams, and a reader (i.e., a person to read the exam aloud to them).
    • Communicate with your instructor and/or disability advisor as soon as you notice you are struggling in school. Your accommodation plan may need to be revised as you move through your program and as your needs change.
    • Access supports through other services within your institution, such as tutoring, academic advising, and counselling. These services are usually offered free-of-charge for enrolled students.

Post-secondary students with disabilities may be faced with increased barriers to learning and participation; however, supports and accommodations are available to ensure these students have the opportunity to reach their academic potential and future goals. Stay informed, reach out for support, utilize the resources that are available to you, and you will be on your way to post-secondary success!

Written by: Rachelle MacSorley, Registered Psychologist

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