Academic Accommodation for Students with Accessibility Needs Policy

Policy Number: SS-3201-2013
Policy Title: Academic Accommodation for Students with Accessibility Needs
Policy Owner: Dean of Students
Effective Date: December 2013
Last Revised: January 25, 2024

On this page:

  1. Purpose
  2. Application and Scope
  3. Definitions
  4. Principles
  5. Accountability and Compliance
  6. Rules / Responsibilities
  7. Policy Revision Date
  8. Attachments

9. Specific Links

1. Purpose

Mohawk College recognizes that inclusive design and accommodations respect the dignity of persons with disabilities. This policy is to inform and guide the Mohawk College community in providing academic accommodations for students with accessibility needs. Following the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) 2018 Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and the best practice recommendations of the Post-secondary Education Accessibility Standards (PEAS), the college will support students with accessibility needs to meet the requirements of Mohawk College’s courses and programs including experiential learning opportunities. This policy outlines the roles and responsibilities of the College Community when providing academic accommodations for students with accessibility needs.

2. Application and Scope

This policy applies to academic accommodation planning for all Mohawk College students with accessibility needs who self-identify and register with Accessible Learning Services (ALS).  

3. Definitions

“Accommodate System” is a data management system used by Accessible Learning Services to manage all aspects of academic accommodation planning including distribution of Accommodation Letters to students and teachers, appointment booking, and alternative test scheduling. 

“Ableism” privileges body types with specific capabilities through a belief system that sees persons with accessibility needs as being less worthy of respect and consideration, less able to contribute and participate, or of less inherent value than others. Ableism may be conscious or unconscious, and may be embedded in institutions, systems or the broader culture of a society. Ableism can limit the opportunities of persons with disabilities and reduce their inclusion in the life of their communities (Law Commission of Ontario, cf, OHRC, 2018).

“Academic accommodations” are educational practices, systems and support services designed to remove barriers to equal access to educational experiences. Accommodations apply to all programs of study, courses, labs, and experiential learning opportunities related to a student’s program of study.

Accessibility” refers to the conscious design of devices, services, products, or environments to create barrier-free access for individuals with disabilities.

“Alternate format” refers to the transcription or conversion of information in one format into another in order to make the content accessible (e.g., lecture recordings, large print materials, PDF versions of course content).

“Essential requirements” of a course or program may include, but are not limited to, the knowledge and skills which must be acquired and/or demonstrated in order for a student to successfully meet the learning objectives of a course or program. The OHRC outlines a three-step test to determine essential course requirements. The three-step test involves reflection and response to three questions: Was the requirement adopted for a purpose or goal that is rationally connected to the function being performed?; Was the requirement adopted in good faith, in the belief that it is necessary to fulfill the purpose or goal?; Is the requirement reasonably necessary to accomplish its purpose or goal, in the sense that it is impossible to accommodate without undue hardship?.

“Experiential Learning” The province of Ontario defines experiential learning (EL) as “an educational activity facilitated and supported by a college through which students learn while doing. Students participate in workplaces, or simulated workplaces, where they are exposed to authentic professional demands and expectations. The goal of an EL experience is to improve students’ employability and interpersonal skills and to support their transition to the workforce”  (Ministry of Advanced Education and Skill Development, 2017).

“Retroactive Accommodations” are considered when a student may be experiencing a disruption in their functioning but may not be able to follow the college’s process for arranging accommodation due to no prior warning that they will have accommodation needs, or be in a situation where they are experiencing accessibility needs for the first time. In these circumstances, if a student has failed to meet performance expectations in a class, course, program, etc., the college has an obligation to consider accommodation after the fact (OHRC, 2018). 

“Self-identification” occurs when a student identifies their accessibility needs to Accessible Learning Services staff. Self-identification is confidential and the release of personal information is subject to Section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. 

“Significant alteration” refers to any change to a course, program or employment requirement that modifies its fundamental nature to the extent that it becomes different in meaning and/or intent.

“Students with Accessibility Needs” refers to a student self-identifying with Accessible Learning Services for accommodation support to access and engage within the post-secondary environment. A student with an accessibility need has a disability diagnosis or has a condition which requires accommodation. The student’s disability or condition has been confirmed by submission of documentation provided by a Registered Health Care Professional to confirm functional impact of disability or condition.  

“Social Model of Disability” Mohawk College adheres to a more comprehensive and inclusive definition of disability based the social model of disability. The social model sees disability as an interaction between people living with an impairment and their environment. The environment may include barriers to accessibility. In contrast, the medical model of disability views impairment as a health condition that requires remediation. 

“Teachers” Full time and partial load members of the academic bargaining unit, and part-time contract employees, whose main duties and responsibilities include course instruction and student teaching.  Titles for such roles typically include Professor and Instructor.

“Undue hardship” is defined by the OHRC, as special or specified circumstances that partially or fully exempt a person or organization from performance of a legal obligation to avoid an unreasonable or disproportionate burden or obstacle. There are three circumstances which include cost of accommodation, outside sources of funding to cover cost, if any, and health and safety requirements, if any.

“Universal Design for Learning /Inclusive Design” Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a curriculum design, development, and delivery framework used to create inclusive and accessible learning environments. The goal of UDL is to ensure inclusion in teaching and learning processes, while encouraging the development of expert learners. The three central principles of UDL are: Provide multiple means of engagement – Develop learning options to produce and sustain interest, Provide multiple means of representation – Provide content in multiple ways, Provide multiple means of action and expression – Offer options that allow students to fully demonstrate knowledge. Universal Design for Learning can reduce the number of accommodations required, by preventing barriers, but will not eliminate the need entirely. 


4. Principles

4.1 Dignity and Autonomy

Mohawk College will respect the dignity of students with accessibility needs, encourage the principles of social model of disability approaches such as universal design in the teaching and learning environment, and take into consideration the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005) and the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities (2018) when implementing initiatives and services that impact students with disabilities. 

4.2 Scope of Accommodations

Accommodations apply to all courses in a program of study including in-class, hy-flex, hybrid, and experiential learning opportunities. All members of the college community are responsible for fostering and championing an accessible College environment including adopting social model of disability approaches such as universal design for learning, and creating processes and procedures that eliminate barriers for students with disabilities. Creating a more accessible College environment for all includes raising awareness of Ableism in all its forms and ensuring that College policies take accessibility into account.

4.3 Individualization & Inclusivity

Accommodation is a reactive means of preventing and removing existing barriers that impede students with disabilities from participating fully in the educational environment in a way that is responsive to their own unique circumstances and individual needs. Accommodating students with disabilities aligns with the principles of inclusion and equitable participation and is a core tenant of Mohawk College’s commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

4.4 Confidentiality and Privacy

Mohawk College will respect the privacy of all persons concerning self-disclosed information in accordance with the college’s guidelines on Access to Information and Protection of Privacy and Accessible Learning Services’ Confidentiality Agreement.


5. Accountability and Compliance

5.1 Accountability Framework

This policy has been approved by the Senior Management Team

5.2 Compliance

The Dean of Students, in conjunction with the Chief Equity Diversity and Inclusion Officer, are responsible for monitoring the effectiveness of this Policy and associated procedures.

All members of the college community are responsible for fostering and championing an accessible College environment.  Creating a more accessible College environment for all includes raising awareness of Ableism in all its forms and ensuring that College policies take accessibility into account.

5.3 Noncompliance

Mohawk College provides reasonable academic accommodations for students with accessibility needs. Failure to comply with applicable legislation and accommodations may lead to legal ramifications including action that may be taken by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The College’s Student Rights and Responsibilities office is the first point of contact when addressing issues of non-compliance. 


6. Rules / Responsibilities

6.1 Admission

In the admission and selection process, no greater onus of proof with respect to capability should be required from a student with accessibility needs than is required of other students. 

Support through the admissions process is available for any applicant from Mohawk College and Ontario College Application Service (OCAS). OCAS has a contact centre where applicants can call for support, which includes a live chat for those who are hearing impaired The contact centre staff can accept an offer on behalf of the student if they are having trouble navigating the site to do that., Applicants can book an in person or phone appointment with Admissions for assistance.

6.2 ALS Registration

Students are required to complete a confidential intake form, register with ALS, and provide documentation of functional impact of a disability. Sharing a disability diagnosis is not required when seeking accommodations. Documentation will not be a barrier to accessing accommodation support as interim accommodation may be available while a student secures additional documentation. 

6.2.1 Students will be supported through the registration and intake process. All requests for accommodations are to be treated respectfully and taken in good faith. Requests will elicit a response from college faculty and employees that indicates a commitment to explore the various ways a student may be accommodated. Treating the student’s request respectfully does not guarantee the request will be implemented.

6.2.2 Students with accessibility needs are to be provided with services, support, and accommodations on an individualized basis as outlined on an Accommodation Letter. Not all accommodation needs will be reflected in an Accommodation Letter, as accommodations are task and situation specific. Students, Accessible Learning Services, and Academic programs collaboratively create individual accommodations to meet a student’s accommodation needs. 

6.2.3 Once accepted to a program, students with accessibility needs are deemed to be capable of fulfilling the requirements of the program, if provided with reasonable accommodations and services.

6.2.4 Students may request accommodations on a retroactive basis, which will be accepted in good faith, and reviewed carefully by ALS and the student's academic program. Addressing retroactive accommodation requests requires submission of documentation to substantiate the request. Each request involves a meeting with an Accessibility Counsellor to review submitted documentation before any approval is made. Approaches to resolve retroactive accommodation requests are unique and represent a variety of responses to meet the accommodation need.

6.2.5 If there is a disagreement about an accommodation listed on an Accommodation Letter, the accommodation must remain in place while the Accommodations Review Committee (Appendix B) reviews the concern. 

6.2.6 See Appendix A for Student, ALS and Teachers Responsibilities for Students who are Accessing Accommodations.


7. Policy Revision Date

7.1 Policy Review Date

January 2029

7.2 Responsibility

The Dean of Students will review this policy every five years or earlier when required.


8. Attachments

9. Specific Links

GS-4300-2013 Accessibility (AODA) Policy

OHRC Policy on Education for Students with disabilities (2018)

Testing Centre Usage Policy

Access to Information and Protection of Privacy and Accessible Learning Services’ Confidentiality Agreement

Mohawk College Privacy and Legal Statements  

Appendix A - Student, ALS and Teachers Responsibilities for Students who are Accessing Accommodations

  1. Students

Students may request accommodations at any time in the semester. Requesting accommodations prior to, or at the beginning of the semester provides Accessible Learning Services (ALS) and the student more time to arrange accommodations. 

Through completion of the ALS confidential intake form, the student provides signed consent for ALS to share the functional impact of the student’s disability as required and Accommodation Letters developed for the student to college teachers and employees in support of the student.

Students who seek academic accommodations will follow the process as follows:

  1. Complete the Accommodate System Confidential intake/registration form on the ALS registration page and submit necessary documentation. Students are required to present documentation of accessibility needs to ALS. Students may be eligible for interim accommodations if they have no documentation at the time of registration. 
  2. Students are required to provide a Disability Verification Form (DVF) if identifying as a student with accessibility needs when applying for OSAP. The DVF can be used for ALS documentation.
  3. Students will meet with ALS to prepare an Accommodation Letter. Students can make revisions and additions to their Accommodation Letter as accommodation needs change through consultation with ALS staff and submission of additional documentation where required to substantiate the change.
  4. Once a student requests an Accommodation Renewal through the ALS software system, ALS will send Accommodation Letters to teachers.
  5. Students are advised to meet with their teachers early in the term to discuss course design and accommodations they may need to ensure equal access to learning. Students will have an ongoing connection with ALS and can adjust or modify their accommodations while maintaining a partnership with their teachers.
  6. Students’ personal information is kept within a digital database and will be securely stored. All personal information disclosed to such employees will be pursuant to Mohawk College’s privacy and legal statements.

2. Accessible Learning Services (ALS)

ALS is responsible for facilitating services to students with accessibility needs in order to provide equal opportunity to access a program and demonstrate abilities when meeting program requirements and specific learning outcomes.

ALS is responsible for the provision of services to students with accessibility needs, and in doing so, fulfills the obligations as described in the legislative initiatives to provide “fair and equal access”.

The purpose of these services is two-fold: To provide supports that equalize educational opportunities of students with accessibility needs; and to eliminate barriers to accessibility, both physical and academic, through consultation, and professional development activities for teachers within the college community.

Accessible Learning Services (ALS) will follow the process as follows:

  1. ALS will work in co-operation with the student and teachers to identify the essential requirements of courses, and to determine the most suitable method of accommodation that will allow the student the best possible opportunity to meet those requirements.
  2. ALS, with the support of the Centre for Teaching and Learning, is responsible for providing professional development opportunities for college teachers and employees in support of education and awareness of students with accessibility needs in the teaching and learning environment.
  3. ALS recognizes and supports Universal Design for Learning principles that may reduce, but not eliminate, the need for individualized accommodations. 
  4. ALS will send the Accommodation Letter through Accommodate System once the student makes a Request to Renew Accommodations through the student Accommodate System Portal. 

3. Teachers

Teachers take all requests for accommodations in good faith and the response should include a commitment to explore what is possible within the learning environment to accommodate the student. Teachers will work collaboratively with ALS and the student to arrive at a solution that meets the student’s accommodation needs while protecting the academic integrity of programs and courses. 

Teachers will support and follow the approved accommodations on the Accommodation Letter. The purpose of the Accommodation Letter is to enable students to meet the requirements of courses within their academic program. At no time will accommodation undermine or compromise the learning outcomes of a course or program. Significant alterations or modifications to programs or courses will not be requested or required, unless in a rare circumstance, an alteration or program modification may be made by approval from an Associate Dean.

Teachers will follow the process as follows:

  1. Teachers will acknowledge receipt of Accommodation Letter by viewing letter in teachers Accommodate portal and Review accommodation guides on ALS website as necessary.
  2. Teachers will implement accommodations as indicated by the Accommodation Letter and companion accommodation guides. The Accommodation Letter outlines the required accommodations for each student.  Teachers are partners in the accommodation process and if there are questions about how an accommodation will be applied in a program or course, the student’s Accessibility Counsellor can be consulted.
  3. Teachers will accept additional Accommodation Letters for a student when revisions occur as students request new accommodations during the semester. 
  4. Students meet with their Accessibility Counsellor to implement accommodations for experiential learning opportunities. 
  5. Academic programs, Co-Op, and Placement Staff are required to accept and implement Experiential Learning Accommodation Plans as they may apply to Experiential Learning opportunities within a program of study. The provision of experiential learning accommodations requires consultation and agreement between the academic program, ALS, Co-Op and Placement staff and the experiential host organizations or employer. Questions about implementation in various settings are to be directed to ALS staff.

Appendix B - Academic Accommodations Advisory and Review Committee (AAARC)

The committee will review any accommodation issues not resolved through informal discussion with program teachers and Associate Dean at the request of the student, Director of Accessibility and Testing Services, Program Dean or Associate Dean and subsequently recommended to the respective Dean and/or Associate Dean.

The Academic Accommodations Advisory and Review Committee can also be proactively consulted to review complex accommodation requests that have not necessarily become the subject matter of a disagreement and review revisions to existing accommodations and/or development of new accommodations.

The development of Committee Terms of Reference and committee structure is under the discretion of the Dean of Students.