The principles of respect for dignity, individualization, inclusion and full participation apply both to the substance of an accommodation and to the accommodation process. The manner in which an accommodation is provided and the methods by which it is implemented are subject to human rights standards.
At the heart of the accommodation process is the responsibility, shared by all parties, to engage in meaningful dialogue about accommodation, and to seek out expert assistance as needed. Everyone involved should co-operatively engage in the process, share information and avail themselves of potential accommodation solutions.
Information about accommodation procedures should be readily available to students and, where applicable, their parents. It is important to create an educational environment that encourages and supports accommodation requests, and educators and school staff should be encouraged to show a positive attitude toward accommodation. Educational institutions can demonstrate their support for and commitment to providing accommodation by making public announcements during meetings or through the institution’s communication channels. All students should be informed that students with disabilities are entitled to accommodation, the process for requesting an accommodation, their right to participate in such a process, and any other information that may be helpful in making the accommodation process more understandable and accessible. In addition, the accommodation process should be part of the regular life and discourse of the educational institution. At the same time, it should respect confidentiality and the process itself should not result in an undue burden on individual students and/or their parent(s)/guardian(s).
Accommodations must be provided in a timely manner. Delays in providing accommodation have the potential to directly impede a student’s ability to access and participate in the educational curriculum. As such, unreasonable delays may be found to violate the procedural duty to accommodate, and thus constitute a breach of the Code.
Examples of delays that students with disabilities may experience include:
- waiting long periods of time for textbooks and other academic materials in alternative formats
- delays in the receipt of professional assessments
- delays in the provision of support staff (e.g., educational assistants, special needs assistants, sign language interpreters, etc.)
- waiting lists for other types of special education services (e.g., identification hearings, classroom placements, preparation of accommodation plans, implementation of accommodation plans, processing of claims for funding, etc.)
- delays in receiving needed adjustments to accommodations.
When making accommodation requests, students have a responsibility to give education providers ample time to ensure that accommodations will be available when needed.
Where the most appropriate accommodation cannot be provided right away, education providers have a duty to provide interim accommodation as the next best and timely solution while planning for a more appropriate and permanent solution. In the meantime, this will enable students be as productive and involved as possible.
In practice: A personal reader may be an interim accommodation for a person who has low vision, while she is waiting for an electronic transcription of course materials to be provided.
Education providers should provide an effective and transparent mechanism to resolve disputes that arise in the accommodation process. At the primary and secondary levels, students and their parents should have timely access to a mechanism that will hear and resolve issues related to the identification of a student’s disability-related needs, placement, programs and services, and any other process issues that may arise. The mechanism should comprise or have access to qualified individuals representing a range of interests. At the post-secondary level, students should also have an avenue to address and resolve accommodation disputes in a timely fashion.
The purpose of a dispute resolution mechanism should be to identify problems and determine ways to solve them which would permit the student access to educational services with a minimum of delay. Educational institutions should facilitate this process and provide reasonable assistance to students, and where applicable, their parents/guardians. Dispute resolution procedures that are not timely or effective could amount to a failure of the duty to accommodate.
Where there is a dispute regarding a proposed accommodation, and an education provider alleges undue hardship, the education provider must demonstrate it. It is not the responsibility of a student seeking accommodation to prove that a proposed accommodation would not cause undue hardship.
Staff training is one of the critical supports that an educational institution can provide in the accommodation process. Disability awareness training should be a mandatory part of professional training for all teachers, faculty and school staff, and should be available on an ongoing basis throughout the school year. The student being accommodated, those responsible for providing accommodation and other staff should learn about disability issues, accommodation and the implemented choices.
In practice: At the primary and secondary levels, effective training will enable teachers to deal effectively with disability issues in the classroom. Training will also help teachers educate students about issues of diversity and difference.
In practice: At the post-secondary level, staff may need to learn about the interaction of a new access device with the organization’s computer system.
Training should be repeated if changes in the educational institution or in the student’s accommodation plan make it necessary to modify the accommodation.