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NEADS Membership Report 2010-2012

Graduate Student Experience Project

As the number of students with disabilities entering graduate education continues to increase, disability service providers, graduate departments, and universities as a whole are required to develop new strategies to facilitate their success. There is a critical lack of research and information in this area, as well as a significant need to better understand the overall experiences of students with disabilities in graduate studies. The aim of this project is to assess the situation for students with disabilities in researchstream graduate education, which has yet to be studied in-depth.

The Graduate Experience Project focuses on and discusses the experience of students with disabilities enrolled in, or who have recently completed, research-stream (Master’s and PhD) graduate programs in Canadian universities. The overall goals of the project are:

  • To examine the experiences of and barriers faced by graduate students with disabilities across Canada;
  • To produce information to develop strategies to facilitate the success of students with disabilities in graduate programs;
  • To develop a discussion paper outlining the current system issues for graduate students with disabilities; and,
  • To develop recommendations for the continued improvement of graduate experiences of students with disabilities that can be translated into policy at an institutional, provincial or national level.

Task force mandate:

A key piece of the Graduate Experience Project is a National Task Force, which includes a multistakeholder group of experts.

The mandate of the task force is:

  1. To review and discuss the academic experiences of graduate students with disabilities;
  2. To discuss issues faced by graduate students with disabilities in the context of the last fifteen years’ advances in technology, attitudes and legislation;
  3. To develop a “landscape snapshot” discussion paper outlining the current system issues for graduate students with disabilities;
  4. To identify and review best practices and policies that support the experience of graduate students with disabilities; and,
  5. To develop recommendations around the continued improvement and current best practices of graduate experience of students with disabilities.

Key issues

  • Existing accommodations for students with disabilities at the different stages of their program (early stage; research phase; Experiential Components of Graduate Study; conferences and publishing; dissertation defense);
  • Appropriate strategies for accommodating graduate students with disabilities within the parameters of and without compromising the essential requirements of the degree;
  • Removal of the Barriers to Graduate and Professional Education and Careers;
  • The Need for Clear access to University Policy on Academic Accommodation for Graduate Students.

The committee held its first task force teleconference call on August 28, 2012. During this call many different ideas were discussed including additional recruitment, additional areas to study and how to best move forward. Task force meetings will take place approximately every two months. The next one is planned for November 7, 2012.

Stay tuned for exciting updates as the committee continues our work in this very important area.


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