Once a disability-related need has been identified, or a case of discrimination has been established, education providers have a duty to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities, unless to do so would cause undue hardship. Accommodation is a means of preventing and removing barriers that impede students with disabilities from participating fully in the educational environment. Accommodation involves three principles: dignity, individualization and inclusion.
- Respect for Dignity: Students with disabilities have the right to receive educational services in a manner that respects their dignity. Human dignity encompasses individual self-respect and self-worth. It involves physical and psychological integrity and empowerment. It is harmed when individuals are marginalized, stigmatized, ignored or devalued. Accommodation solutions should therefore respect the dignity of students with disabilities, and those that do not will not be considered appropriate.
- Individualized Accommodation: Each student’s needs are unique and must be considered afresh when an accommodation request is made. At all times, the emphasis must be on the individual student and not on the category of disability. Blanket approaches to accommodation that rely on labels and generalizations are not acceptable.
- Inclusion and Full Participation: In some circumstances, the best way to ensure the dignity of persons with disabilities may be to provide separate or specialized services. However, education providers must first try to build or adapt educational services to accommodate students with disabilities in a way that promotes their inclusion and full participation and enables barrier-free access.
Education providers can provide students with disabilities with the greatest opportunity to participate fully in educational services by:
- Promoting Inclusive Design: Academic facilities, programs, policies, and services must be structured for inclusiveness, and course curriculum, delivery methods, and evaluation methodologies should be designed inclusively from the outset.
- Remove Barriers: Where barriers already exist, the duty to accommodate requires education providers to make changes up to the point of undue hardship to provide equal access for students with disabilities.
- Accommodating Remaining Needs: Where barriers continue to exist, or where barrier removal fails to ensure full participation, differential treatment might be required to provide equal opportunity for students with disabilities.
For further information see the OHRC’s Guidelines on Accessible Education.