National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) releases The Landscape of Accessibility and Accommodation for Post-Secondary Students With Disabilities in Canada report

(Ottawa, October 1, 2018)

The ‘Landscape of Accessibility and Accommodation’ project represents a thorough examination of the current landscape of accessibility, services, accommodations, technical equipment and supports for students with disabilities at publicly-funded post-secondary institutions across Canada. This research on post-secondary access and services is timely. It contributes to the Government of Canada's and the Ontario government’s emphasis on access to education and training for persons with disabilities, leading to their participation in the competitive labour market.

More specifically, the purpose of this project and report has been to inform the Government of Canada’s consultation on the development and implementation of a new federal disability act. The National Educational Association of Disabled Students gratefully acknowledges significant grant funding support for this research from the Social Development Partnerships Program, Employment and Social Development Canada, the Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund, Government of Ontario and the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling, Counselling Foundation of Canada. The project included a team of researchers working across Canada in Ottawa, Toronto, at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Assiniboine Community College in Manitoba and Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s important to note that we employed 15 graduate students with disabilities to conduct most of the research in all locations across the country.

Through our consultations with students with disabilities, faculty, staff and policy makers across the country within the Canadian post-secondary system from the fall of 2016 to the end of June, 2018 we have consistently heard several key messages:

  • In many ways, accessibility remains silo’ed within post-secondary education; progress toward models of inclusion and universal design is slow and exists in pockets across the country;
  • Good faith efforts to improve accessibility and inclusion for students with disabilities exist within the post-secondary system;
  • Accessibility and inclusion efforts in the post-secondary environment have lagged behind the evolution of the student experience, and are limited to the academic (classroom and online learning) environment; in particular, accessibility in the co-curricular, professional development and work-integrated learning spaces needs to be developed;
  • The intersectionality among universal design for learning, differentiated instruction, and essential requirements for courses, programs and disciplines in the context of accessibility and individual student's learner pathways has not been effectively understood within the post-secondary context;
  • Significant transition barriers into, between, and out of levels of post-secondary education remain, with particular challenges faced by students transitioning into post-secondary, and from post-secondary into the labour market;
  • Accessibility and inclusion in the post-secondary environment are lagging behind technological advances; we continue to focus on specialized assistive solutions, as opposed to mainstream technological solutions, to accessibility challenges; and,
  • Strong regional and provincial disparities exist with respect to institutional and provincial policies and practices around accessibility and inclusion in post-secondary education.

Continued progress toward a universally designed and inclusive post-secondary education environment for all students requires a renewed and nationwide commitment to achieve this goal. Ultimately, work in this space needs to adhere to two primary guiding principles:

  1. Recognition of the student’s individual lived experiences and learner journey, and the impact they have on the student’s accessibility needs in education and employment, particularly as related to the interactions among social assistance, financial aid and lived circumstances with the educational environment.
  2. Accessibility and inclusion legislation, policies, practices and guidelines must recognize the evolving nature of disability and accessibility for individuals over time (particularly for individuals with chronic, episodic and degenerative disabilities), and in consideration of the evolving nature of the interaction among disability, technology, and the learning and workplace environments

In this report, we provide a series of legislative recommendations, as well as recommendations for key stakeholders (federal and provincial governments, institutions, service providers, and professional societies, among others) which are intended to further progress toward accessibility.

Roxana Jahani-Aval, Chair and Ontario Director of NEADS lauds the report and its recommendations: “This report is ground-breaking. I am so proud of the work of our Landscape of Accessibility and Accommodation for Post-Secondary Students With Disabilities research team. Over the course of the next few weeks we will be rolling out more reports from our extensive research of large national data-sets that I’m also very excited about.”

The full report is now available in PDF and Word formats. NEADS is also publishing five separate reports, with more detailed analysis of disabled students’ reported experiences from the Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (2016). We are beginning to review data reported by disabled students from the most recent Canadian University Survey Consortium (CUSC) survey. We have already released: Post-Secondary Students With Disabilities: Their Experience Past and Present: An Analysis of the Statistics Canada 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability and Graduate Students With and Without Disabilities: A Comparison – The Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (2016):

Read the Landscape of Accessibility and Accommodation in Post-Secondary Education For Students With Disabilities report below:

Landscape of Accessibility and Accommodation in Post-Secondary Education for Students with Disabilities (PDF)