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Accommodation planning

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As part of the duty to accommodate, education providers are responsible for taking steps to plan for the accommodation of students with disabilities. Effective planning will take place both on an organizational level and on an individual level in relation to each student with accommodation needs. Individual planning should also address the transition needs of a student as he or she moves from one level or type of education to another. Accommodation planning may also require education providers to collect and analyze aggregate data on students with disabilities to ensure that education policies and practices do not have an adverse effect on these students.

Accommodation is an ongoing process. Accessibility plans and accommodation plans should be reviewed on a regular basis. As with any other plan, documenting progress in writing helps with monitoring, accountability and future planning. Where academic requirements or facilities change over time, education providers are required to review, modify or upgrade accommodations. Plans should be revised as the individual’s needs, or the educational institution, changes.

Example: A change in the computer network could interrupt a student’s efficient use of a technical aid connected to the system. New equipment in the school or educational institution may require additional accommodation or modifications to existing accommodations.

Institutional accessibility plans

Education providers must take steps to ensure that accessibility plans comply with the requirements of human rights law and policy. To be effective, an accessibility plan should set out an educational institution’s specific commitments to providing equal access to educational services for all students. In this regard, accessibility plans should:

  • set goals, identify steps being taken and report on achievements made by the educational institution with respect to adhering to the principles of inclusion by design, barrier removal, most appropriate or next best or interim accommodation of remaining needs, individualization, confidentiality and shared responsibilities in the accommodation process
  • report on policies, procedures and mechanisms for implementation, monitoring, education and training, input, dispute resolution and accountability
  • include timelines, performance measures and accountability structures; and respect the dignity and the right to inclusion and participation of students with disabilities in the process of planning for and implementing accessibility.

In practice: Education providers might wish to prepare and make available to the public a formal report outlining their commitment to providing accessible education for all students. The Report might include the educational institution’s accessibility plan and the findings of data collection and analysis. Where the data reveals discrepancies, the report could also set out steps that will be taken to address inequities and bring the education provider’s practices into compliance with the Code and OHRC policy.

Individual accommodation plans

Education providers should also develop an accommodation plan for each student with a disability who requires accommodation, in consultation with that student and/or his or her parent or guardian. At the primary and secondary levels, accommodation plans will likely be more prescriptive and structured and include learning objectives. At the post-secondary level, students might prefer to have more control over their accommodation planning, and plans would likely focus on specific accommodation services or modifications to evaluation methods, and would not be as tied to learning outcomes. Depending on the student’s individual needs and preferences, an effective accommodation plan may include:

  • a statement of the student’s individual limitations and needs as they relate to accessing the service of education, including any necessary assessments and information from experts or specialists
  • arrangements for necessary assessments by a health or other professional
  • identification of the most appropriate accommodation
  • a statement of the specific services and supports required by the student (e.g., assistive technology devices)
  • ordering any necessary products or services
  • the student’s present levels of educational performance and a statement of current educational status (may not be required at the post-secondary level)
  • a statement of annual goals (including specific performance indicators and short-term objectives)
  • incorporation of input from student and/or parent(s)/guardian(s)
  • clear timelines for the various stages of the accommodation process
  • specific steps to be taken to meet annual goals
  • criteria, procedure and schedule to determine whether the accommodation is facilitating the student’s educational goals
  • a mechanism for review and re-assessment, where necessary, to determine whether the student’s accommodation needs are being met
  • an accountability mechanism (for example, if plan not implemented, or if not implemented effectively or in a timely fashion.

Transitioning

At the primary and secondary levels, accommodation plans should also include a statement with respect to the student’s transition needs. It might include, for example, a plan to have the student take specific courses designed to prepare him or her for post-secondary study, or it might outline a strategy to have the student participate in a vocational educational program or other type of “co-op” placement. The focus should be on how the student’s educational program can be planned to facilitate a successful transition to his or her goals after secondary school. Each student is unique, and goals may include post-secondary schooling, vocational training, integrated employment, continuing and adult education, independent living or community participation. School staff should inform students that, where the student so desires, staff will communicate with the student’s prospective educational institution or employers with regard to accommodation practices or effective learning strategies to help facilitate the student’s transition.

Transition planning will also be appropriate in situations where students are transferring from one type of educational setting to another.

Example: An 11-year-old girl with a history of behavioural difficulties has made significant progress in a section 20 program.[37] She has learned effective anger management techniques and is ready to be re-integrated into the regular school system with supports. Working together, her former and prospective teachers, her parents and medical professionals develop a plan to facilitate this transition.

Data collection

Effective planning requires that education providers ensure that education policies and practices do not have an adverse impact on students with disabilities or other individuals protected by the Code. To make sure that education environments are free from social phenomena widely recognized as discriminatory such as profiling, institutionalized barriers, socio-economic disadvantage or unequal opportunity on the basis of protected Code grounds, education providers should collect statistical information for the purposes of monitoring, preventing and ameliorating systemic and adverse discrimination.

Did you know: In 2004, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), in conjunction with provincial organizations, established the Safe and Compassionate Schools Task Force to review the Board's Safe Schools Policy and its implementation. In its submission to the Task Force, the OHRC recommended that the TDSB collect and analyze data on suspensions and expulsions under the Safe Schools Act and that this data be used to prevent and correct any discriminatory effect.[38]

Statistics and data collection may also be warranted in situations where an education provider has an objective basis to believe that systemic infringement of rights may be occurring, where there are persistent allegations or perceptions of systemic discrimination, or where it is an organization’s intent to prevent or ameliorate disadvantage already known to be faced by persons with disabilities. Where problems are identified, data analysis can provide useful direction for remedies to address systemic discrimination as well as evaluate the success of such measures. This is in keeping with the remedial purpose of the Code and with recent human rights jurisprudence that finds organizations have an obligation to take into account a person’s already disadvantaged position within Canadian society.[39]

Other jurisdictions: In the United States, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires states to collect and provide data on students with disabilities on an annual basis. Internationally, the United Nations has also recommended that “States Parties should encourage the collection, analysis and codification of statistics and information on disabilities and on the effective enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities.”[40]

Data collection and the use of data should only ever be undertaken for legitimate purposes not contrary to the Code such as ameliorating disadvantage, removing systemic barriers and promoting substantive equality for individuals and groups protected by the Code. Collecting information about characteristics based on enumerated grounds under the Code may lead to an inference that the information might be used to treat an individual or group in a discriminatory manner. To address such concerns, measures should be taken to ensure that the collection and use of data is done in a legitimate and appropriate manner.[41]

In practice: At the primary and secondary levels, data collected could include numbers of students in mainstream classrooms versus self-contained classrooms, number of students in each placement according to type of disability, number of students who also belong to other historically disadvantaged groups, etc. At the post-secondary level, data collected could include numbers of students who leave their programs before graduating, and lengths of time taken to provide accommodation.
Where an analysis of this data reveals significant discrepancies with respect to trends in identification, placement, disciplinary action, graduation and/or drop-out rates, education providers should review and revise their policies, practices and procedures accordingly to ensure that they are in compliance with the Code.


[37] Section 20 programs provide educational programming to students who, for a variety of reasons, require their educational needs to be met outside of the regular school system in specialized settings.
[38] See Recommendation #3 of the Submission of the Ontario Human Rights Commission to the Toronto District School Board Safe and Compassionate Schools Task Force (April 2004) available online at the OHRC’s website: www.ohrc.on.ca. In addition, in The Opportunity to Succeed, the OHRC recommended that school boards collect and analyze data on suspensions and expulsions under the Safe Schools Act to ensure that the Act is not having an adverse effect on individuals protected by the Code. The OHRC also recommended that the Ministry of Education collect and analyze data on placements of students with disabilities for the purpose of addressing iniquities and promoting compliance with the Code and OHRC policy. See The Opportunity to Succeed, supra, note 27 at pp. 25 and 40 respectively.
[39] The notion that substantive differential treatment can result because of a distinction, exclusion or preference, or because of a failure to take into account a person’s already disadvantaged position within Canadian society, was first articulated in Law, supra, note 12. The approach has been affirmed in several subsequent cases, most notably two cases dealing with discrimination on the basis of disability: Mercier, supra, note 8, and Granovsky, supra, note 11.
[40]Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, supra, note 18, s. 618(c); Draft Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, at Article 6, United Nations Ad Hoc Committee, January 2004.
[41] For more information, please see the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Guidelines for Collecting Data on Enumerated Grounds Under the Code, available online at the OHRC’s website: www.ohrc.on.ca.

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