ALS: Who We Are, and What We Do

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Mohawk College's Vision:

Mohawk College recognizes that every member of the Mohawk College community is a stakeholder in accessibility. We all are responsible for access and inclusion.

Who We Are: Accessible Learning Services

Accessible Learning Services' Mandate:

Accessible Learning Services (ALS) works in collaboration with students, faculty and other college stakeholders to identify and implement strategies to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to achieve their educational goals.

Accessible Learning Services (ALS) Philosophy:

We are:

  • Focused on Accessibility
  • Operating under the social empowerment model of disability
  • Collaborative
  • Student-Centred

We will:

  • Promote awareness of disability and self-advocacy
  • Work from a strengths-based approach

Focused on Accessibility

We work under multiple layers of legislation including: Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC), Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) , Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU). These mandates drive our philosophy and practice framework. Mohawk College's Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities Policy has been developed based upon all the above mentioned legislation.

ALS practices ensure ease of access to our services. We are also advocates for accessibility issues within the college. Our goal is for students with disabilities to have an accessible college experience.

Operating under the social/empowerment model of disability:

We operate with the idea individuals with disabilities are experts of their disability. We explore what impacts a student's disability may have within the college setting. Disclosure of a disability diagnosis is at the discretion of the student. ALS operates with a strengths based framework. The information most helpful to us is a functional assessment of strengths and challenges that give indication of accommodation needs.

Collaborative:

Many stakeholders play a role in student success (e.g. ALS staff, student, faculty, internal college departments, community supports). Working with ALS represents a partnership between ALS, the program area and the student. Students are invited to bring any other stakeholders into this partnership. The shared goal is academic success.

Student-Centred:

All of our policies and procedures are designed through the student experience lens. We focus on ease of access to our services and we aim to support needs in a timely manner. Our supports are student driven and we respect student autonomy. This means choices regarding identifying as a student with a disability and choosing how and when to use accommodations are all respected.

Confidential:

ALS is a confidential service. There is student autonomy in terms of sharing of the Confidential Academic Accommodation Plan (CAAP) with faculty and others. All student documentation of disability and other records is controlled, stored and accessed pursuant to privacy legislation in Ontario (FIPPA). Students may choose to provide ALS staff with external consent so that others (family, community support) are included in the circle of care.

Promote awareness of disability and self-advocacy:

As students move through their post-secondary program their view of themselves as a student and their view of their disability will evolve. We aim to collaboratively help students frame their understanding of their disability and promote self-advocacy as a tool for future success.

We advocate on behalf of students and disability related issues in a systematic sense, influencing policy which has college wide benefits for students with disabilities. We also work with students registered with ALS to promote and teach self-advocacy.

Work from a strengths-based approach:

We believe people are not defined by their limitations or the label of disability (Hammond). We work with our students helping them to identify their strengths and facilitate use of these strengths within the academic environment. We see difficulty and challenge in the post­ secondary setting as opportunity for growth.

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ALS provides a continuum of support to meet student needs and promote growth through a variety of roles and supports.

 

Accessible Learning Services Roles:

Triage Officer:

The Triage Officer is often the first point of contact with ALS. The triage officer facilitates ALS intakes and provides assistance around documentation of disability. The triage officer is available to assist students with scheduling their ALS appointments.

Accessibility Counsellor:

Within the framework of a case management model, the Accessibility Counsellor works with students to develop Academic Accommodations to address a student's accommodation needs. Working collaboratively with an Accessibility Counsellor involves discussions of student strengths, and how strengths are used to compensate for areas of challenge in an effort to mitigate the impact a disability may have on a program of study. Accessibility Counsellors work closely with professors and College service areas to support a student's accommodation needs.

Adaptive Technologist and Learning Skills Advisor:

The Adaptive Technologist and Learning Skills Advisor uses a student-centred, strengths­ based approach in supporting students. The focus of the Adaptive Technologist/Learning Skills Advisor is to promote autonomy and efficiency in learning through the use of technology and learning skills.

Accessibility Support Officer:

The Accessibility Support Officer supports both the Accessibility Counsellor and students by facilitating timely access to ALS services. The Accessibility Support Officer helps students navigate the supports available within the College and the procedures of ALS.

ALS Technician:

The ALS Technician supports accessing, converting and obtaining course material in the alternative format required by the student.

The ALS Technician also supports students with borrowing and returning ALS equipment and technology and oversees the running of the ALS student workspace, Learning Technology Education Centre.

ALS Manager:

The ALS Manager provides oversight and management of the day to day operations of ALS as well as directing college initiatives designed to meet requirements under AODA.

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ALS works with students to develop appropriate classroom and testing accommodations based upon documentation of disability and functional assessment of limitations. This document is called a Confidential Academic Accommodation Plan (CAAP). Below is description of some of the accommodations offered and their rationale.

Reduced Course load

A reduced course load can be an effective accommodation there are fewer courses to take, fewer assignments and tests to manage, and more time during the week to access necessary supports such as tutoring, learning strategies support, Accessibility Counselling, and mentoring support.

Audio Recording of Lectures

Audio Recording lectures can be an effective way to "revisit" lecture material for persons with disabilities that impact working memory, attention, focus, or mobility challenges that impact writing notes.

Class handouts/presentations in advance of class if not already provided on Elearn.

Since many disabilities impact the speed and efficiency with which lecture material is processed, the ability to "pre-read" material from a lecture can be helpful. This allows the student to develop a level of understanding of the material prior to learning the material in class.

Designated seating-near front of classroom

Sitting close to instruction may facilitate an increase in student attention and focus, for individuals with disabilities that impact attentional regulation

Peer Support Assistant (In-class peer supports)

Students who experience mobility, social or communication challenges related to their disability may benefit from a Student Support Assistant. Student Support Assistants offer in­ class and outside of class support in the following areas:

  • Understanding what is expected during in-class tasks such as computer and group work
  • Reminders to stay on topic during class discussions
  • Assistance with joining and participating in group work
  • Student Support Assistant monitors students during class to address any issues that may result in increased frustration, stress and responds with connecting to needed resources
  • Assistance with a review of assignment expectations from one class to the next
  • Encouragement and reminders to book tests and exams with accommodations
  • Assistance with recognizing the need for and assisting with appointment booking with a peer tutors
  • Assistance with social integration and communicating with peers
  • Assistance with physical aspects of course (e.g., obtaining books from book bag, assisting with computer/technology access in a course, assistance with movement to and from class)

Interpreter/Computerized Note taker

For students who are Deaf/Deafened, or Hard of Hearing, an Interpreter or a Computerized Note taker may be required. The Interpreter provides ASL interpretation of course lectures while the Computerized Note taker uses a laptop to take down lecture material verbatim.

Physical Restrictions

A student's disability may make limit the range of motion and thereby impact such physical tasks as standing for long periods of time, sitting for long periods of time, bending, or lifting.

Alternate Format Materials

Students with sensory or print disabilities may require digitized lecture content and textbooks so that text to speech or screen reading technology so that course content can be accessed by the student.

Presentation Accommodations

For some students, presenting in front of groups can result in an exacerbation of symptoms related to their disability diagnosis. Alternatives to presenting in groups may be needed such as presenting to the professor only, or to a very small group.

Missed Classes

Students with episodic disabilities may be required to miss the occasional; class when there is either an exacerbation of symptoms, or when appointments must be made with their healthcare providers as they work to manage their disability

Captioning of Videos

For students who are Deaf/Deafened/Hard of Hearing, videos shown in a course should be captioned so that video content can be accessed in real-time as the video is shown in class.

Leaving Class/Breaks

The impact of a student's disability may necessitate that the student leave class for brief periods as he/she attempts to manage symptoms related to his/her disability.

Group Work

Students who experience communication and social challenges related to a disability diagnosis may struggle with group work. These students may need additional guidance from the professor with getting into groups, and understanding their roles and tasks once matched with a group.

Additional time to complete writing assignments.

Students with written expression challenges may need to negotiate more time for any writing assignment that has a time constraint such as a need to complete the assignment before the end of a class period.

Computer usage for all assignments

Students with written expression challenges may find it difficult to see errors with writing assignments. As such, a student may need to use a word processing program such as Microsoft Word in order to use the spell check features within the program to correct spelling and grammar. When student is required to submit an in-class writing assignment, they are exempt from losing marks if student does not have access to a computer, and a laptop may be used in class for all assignments.

Extensions on Assignments

Students with a diagnosis of an episodic disability may need, on occasion, to request an extension on an assignment.

The following may be reasons why an extension would be needed:

  • An exacerbation of symptoms related to a student's disability diagnosis that has prevented the student from attending classes resulting in missed assignments
  • An exacerbation of symptoms related to a student's disability that has resulted in the student's inability to meet a deadline date for an assignment, although the student has consistently attended classes.

Sharing more information about a diagnosis.

Due to the nature of this student's disability, he/she, at their own discretion, has chosen to share more information regarding the impact of his/her disability(ies) with his/her professor(s). Please refer to the emailed Faculty Guide, which includes definition of disability and specific teaching strategies, sent to you by this student's Accessibility Counsellor. Students with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder may experience social and communication challenges that may have an impact in a classroom environment. In an effort to increase a professor's ability to respond to any social or communication challenges, the Autism Faculty guide has been developed. With the student's consent, this guide is shared by the student with professors. The guide includes a definition of ASD, strengths associated with ASD, challenges associated, and teaching strategies.

Extra time for Tests

For many students with disabilities, the processing of information required with testing situations may take longer due to the nature of their disability. Therefore, extended test time is offered to provide more time for the student to process and respond to test questions.

Access to a Computer for Word Processor

Use of a computer for spelling and grammar check is needed to compensate for written language challenges. All computers in the Alternative Testing Centre are monitored by staff to ensure students are not using resources that are not approved for their test/exam. Access to a Computer for Spell and Grammar Check.

Clarification/re-phrasing of questions

Students with disabilities, depending on the nature of their disability, may have difficulty during tests comprehending words and phrases, or "misread" questions resulting from focusing on only part of the question. To compensate for reading challenges, the student can request clarification of questions by an invigilator or from a professor if the invigilator cannot provide clarification.

Extended time for elearn quizzes

The student requires the percentage of extended time as noted on the CAAP for Eleam quizzes or tests. The student will inform the professor of his/her needs for extended time on an Eleam. Given increasing reliance on E-learn quizzes and tests to assess course content, this accommodation will allow the student to request extended time on any elearn test/quiz.

Cubicle/Isolation

For some students, the impact of their disability means that testing situations can lead to an exacerbation of symptoms related to their disability diagnosis. To mitigate the impact of disability, an environment is needed that minimizes noise from others as well as provides the student with opportunities to "think out loud" as they verbalize responses questions.

Use of Assistive Technology

(Text-to-Speech, Speech-to-Text)

Students with disabilities that impact reading and written language may need to use Assistive Technology to minimize the impact of deficits in reading and writing. Text to speech software reads scanned material for the student while Speech to Text software word processes as a student speaks.

Reader/Scribe

For students who have not yet been instructed in the use of Assistive Technology, a human reader, who reads all parts of a test, and a scribe, who writes or types as a student verbalizes responses, may be needed.

Spacing of Exams

For some students, taking more than one exam per day, or having little time between exams scheduled on the same day can be difficult to manage given a disability diagnosis that requires additional effort to process information. Thus, having no more than 1 exam per day, or a number of hours between exams can mitigate the impact of an information processing deficit.

Memory Aid/Formula Sheet

A student's disability may impact his or her ability to store, retain, and recall knowledge. To address this impact, the memory aid accommodation serves as a way to prompt the student to recall information studied through the use of pictures, diagrams, mnemonics, acrostics, etc. The memory aid guide specifies how memory aids are to be constructed and is a collaborative process between the student and professors.

The guide to this accommodation can be found on Mohawk College's website under Accommodation Guides in ALS Resources.

Calculator Use

Students with deficits in math calculation/numerical operations may require a calculator when completing math problems. These students often have a strong foundation in math concepts, but may make errors with calculation if not provided with a calculator.

Breaks during tests

For students who experience challenges with attention, focus, and concentration, the ability to take brief breaks to stand, stretch, and move about can be helpful with maintaining the sustained attention and focus required when taking tests/exams.

Dictionary/Thesaurus use

For students with spelling and reading comprehension challenges that are part of a disability, a dictionary or thesaurus may be required to provide context and meaning to words and phrases encountered when reading.

Music/Ear Plugs

For students who experience attention, focus, and concentration challenges related their disability, listening to music, and thereby tuning out certain other environmental noises, can help with sustained attention and focus, while wearing ear plugs that help minimize all noise can also help with sustained attention and focus.

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Your Accessibility Support Officer or Accessibility Counsellor will assess your need for additional resources and make referrals as necessary. Referrals to Counselling, The Learning Support Centre, Student and Graduate Employment, and Financial Assistance may be made on your behalf.

What's next?

There are Accessible Learning Services offices at all Mohawk College campus locations. To access support, please phone 905-575-2211 or drop in to the ALS Office at your campus location.