CanLearn Interactive Project Proposal: Accessibility Guide

What is CanLearn?

CanLearn Interactive, according to the Learning and Learning Literacy Directorate of Human Resources Development Canada, is intended "to provide an Internet-based one-stop resource for learning information, products and services which support informed decision-making by individual Canadians in pursuit of their learning and career goals." Further its goals are: "to ensure informed decision-making by individual learners in the selection and financing of learning opportunities"; "to support the development of a highly skilled and flexible Canadian labour force capable of meeting the demands of the 21st Century."

The Learning and Literacy Directorate outlines three activities that are a function of CanLearn Interactive:

  • "Provide on-line access to information about lifelong learning opportunities, career options and sources of financial support available to Canadian learners."
  • "Provide on-line access to interactive planning tools to help Canadians explore career possibilities, identify training and education requirements, develop learning strategies, and create the financial plans to achieve their goals."
  • "Provide the means for Canadian learning organizations, information providers, and financial support agencies to work together in providing effective and efficient access to information and planning tools for learners."


The purpose of the proposed work is to construct an accessibility guide for the CanLearn project. The accessibility guide would allow students with disabilities to obtain information on programs, services and features of accessibility at various post-secondary institutions across Canada. The first part of the project would focus on preparing standardized data already collected on accessibility at 70 universities, colleges and CEGEPS (see appended list) and verifying information with those institutions for inclusion in the CanLearn database. The second part would focus on collecting similar information from up to 100 additional institutions. The first part of the project would be completed in February of 1999 and the second part would be completed in stages by September 1999. Project costs for researchers' time, duplication of surveys, mailing costs, phone charges for follow up calls and consultation with the Advisory Group (created for the National Approach to Services Project) are included at the end of this proposal.


Students with disabilities need information about accessibility at post-secondary institutions in order to be able to make appropriate choices. Most respondents surveyed by NEADS in 1996 (David Hubka and Emer Killean,. 1996. Employment Opportunities For Post-Secondary Students and Graduates With Disabilities: A National Study. Ottawa: NEADS.) felt that the disability services they had been provided with while at a post-secondary institution had been critical to their success in pursuing and completing their education. Post-secondary institutions vary widely in terms of the services, features and accommodations they can offer to such students. Although many institutions will provide information on disability services, students presently must seek out this information directly from the institution. Moreover not all institutions can provide detailed information on all features of accessibility. A comprehensive database that would allow students to compare different institutions in advance of making decisions about where to apply would fill a need that is presently not addressed.

Statement of Work

Stage 1 to be completed by March 31, 1999

A survey instrument developed as part of the NEADS project "Working Towards a Coordinated National Approach to Services, Accommodations and Policies For Post-Secondary Students With Disabilities: Ensuring Access to Higher Education and Career Training" (WTCNA) has been administered to service providers at post-secondary institutions; responses to this survey would be used to construct institutional profiles focused on questions of accessibility. Selected responses from a survey administered concurrently to students will also be useful in this regard since they provide reflective comments that would be of interest to students with similar disability profiles and educational experience. The service provider responses, however, provide a core of information that could be categorized within a database form, allowing users to make some comparisons between different institutions.

Information from 70 service provider surveys (25 from Universities; 4 from University-Colleges; 22 from Community Colleges; 18 from CEGEPS and 1 from a Trades-Vocational Institute) has been collected, coded and cleaned. All provinces except Prince Edward Island are represented in this group. One institution in the Yukon Territory was also contacted but no response was received.

The information contained in these surveys can be used to construct institutional profiles. Institutions that provided information for the WTCNA project would be sent an institutional profile to verify for the purpose of inclusion on the CanLearn site. Contact by mail and phone would occur in January and February 1999. An electronic file with information about these 70 institutions could be provided in SPSS or other database format by March 31, 1999.

Stage 2 to be completed by September 30, 1999

While the sample collected provides a reasonable basis for the production of our current report, it is necessary to collect information from institutions that did not respond to our survey for the purposes of the current project. A contact list developed by NEADS provides the names of service providers or student service officers at 170 institutions throughout Canada. This list includes most universities, and approximately half of the colleges in all provinces and territories. Not included on the contact list are those universities, colleges and CEGEPS where no particular responsibility is recognized or assigned for the administration or provision of services to students with disabilities. Few trades and vocational institutes are included. It should be noted that approximately 150 other post-secondary institutions exist in Canada (according to Statistics Canada). These institutions are not presently included for the purposes of this project because of the difficulty of contacting them. While the CanLearn guidelines for the Accessibility Guide suggest that all Canadian universities and colleges should be included, we wish to make it clear that a profile of these additional 150 institutions would require greater resources than what we have specified.

Using the NEADS list, an additional 100 institutions would be contacted and asked to fill out the survey, or a modified version of it (i.e. reduced in length), for the purpose of including the information obtained on the CanLearn database. All 100 would likely need several follow-up phone calls to ensure the best possible rate of return. In the first phases of this stage, contact calls would focus on ensuring that we obtain at least adequate regional coverage. In this regard, it is important that we collect information from institutions in the two Territories and in Prince Edward Island (Holland College and UPEI), from community colleges in Newfoundland, and from universities and community colleges in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. These files could be prepared by mid-June 1999. Further contact would be conducted in July, August and September of 1999, with final data files to be completed by the end of September.


Electronic files entered in SPSS or other database format (file format to be determined in consultation with CanLearn technical support team) appropriate for conversion to Access or Oracle containing institutional profiles focusing on:

  1. type of institution (e.g. university, college, CEGEP, distance learning, etc.)
  2. types of qualifications offered
  3. types of disability which are accommodated, i.e. seven standard categories plus a separate category to indicate any which could not be classified within these categories
  4. approximate total enrollment (f/t, p/t)
  5. approximate number of students with disabilities served at the institution in 1997
  6. type of service provision office, i.e. whether a separate stand-alone office of disability service provision or a service provided through some other administrative unit
  7. shared services, i.e. those shared with other institutions
  8. whether documentation is required for receipt of services in any cases
  9. whether service or access decreases in the summer months, in the evenings or on weekends
  10. whether a committee dealing with accessibility exists at the institution
  11. whether the accessibility committee includes student representation.

And the following features of accessibility:

  1. physical accessibility in: main student services building; main administration building; main library building; main food services building; book store; physical science labs; and computer labs
  2. the availability of special equipment and of adaptive computer equipment
  3. safety features
  4. availability and accessibility of on-campus housing and of on-campus transport
  5. availability of accommodations for entrance exams
  6. availability of special adaptations for registration and orientation
  7. adaptations available in athletic/fitness programs
  8. assistance with lecture notes, assignments, research papers
  9. text-book access, i.e. alternative format availability
  10. support for instructors
  11. student services for persons with disabilities
  12. academic accommodations in exams and course requirements
  13. existence of policy and administrative support
  14. availability, accessibility and cost of public transit

Each institution would be profiled according to these features. In addition, contact names for service offices, student organizations and accessibility committees would be provided as well as selected comments from student surveys reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of disability provision at the institution profiled. The dataset would also include selected charts and tables to be published in the final report for the National Approach to Services Project on the student experience of various aspects of accessibility features with respect to disability type and accommodations required for pursuit of studies. *accessibility concrnned In terms of the functionality of the database from a users perspective, searches would primarily be enabled through two categories of information: institution name and disability type. From this, students would be able to access institutional (college and university) profiles. Users would also be able to access the selected charts and tables from the National Approach to Services Project by entering the name of the project.

Consultation With the Advisory Group

A project Advisory Group was created for the National Approach to Services Project. This body includes representatives from the NEADS Board of Directors, Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers in Post-Secondary Education, Association of Canadian Community Colleges, Canadian Federation of Students, Quebec Association of Post-Secondary Disabled Students, and Human Resources Development Canada. It will be necessary to maintain ongoing communication with the Advisory Group as the accessibility guide is developed for CanLearn. The project budget includes support for one meeting of the Advisory Group in March, 1999. At this meeting we would invite representatives from the CanLearn group of Human Resources Development Canada to speak with members of our Advisory Group.