Faculty Awareness and Training in the Post-Secondary Community: An Annotated Bibliography

Reach - Equality and Justice For People with Disabilities

Ottawa, Ontario

A Framework For Action - Law Schools, Educational Equity and Students with Disabilities: Working Towards Equitable Access to Legal Education


This 105-page guidebook, released in 1998, is the product of two years of research into accessibility in Canadian law schools. Sandra A. Goundry and Yvonne Peters led a team of researchers and wrote the final document.

The guidebook's preface sets out the rationale for the project; namely that, although people with disabilities comprise some 17.8 per cent of the general population, they are consistently underrepresented in the legal community. Accordingly, the project aims to set out "a national framework for law faculties developing disability-related policies."

This aim is further explained in the Introduction and Overview section. While recognizing that issues of education equality and disability accommodations are a concern of schools across the country, it is also pointed out that Canadian law schools are in various stages of implementing accessibility policies. The project team hopes this document will serve as a guideline for schools to measure their efforts against, and can lead policy writers in everything from admission, to program modification, to student placement and future employment. The research phase is also outlined here. Findings from interviews with law school representatives were combined with a review of legal and other literature, and of human rights and charter case law.

Part two looks at the statistical makeup and trends involving people with disabilities. For example, it is pointed out that the number of students with learning disabilities enrolling in legal education is on the rise. A statistical breakdown of people with disabilities is given with regard to both the general population and the Canadian post-secondary population. Finally, the section emphasizes systemic barriers faced by people with disabilities in education and other aspects of society.

Part three, entitled Analytical and Legal Framework, provides definitions of accommodation and discrimination, as well as outlining rights legislation relevant to people with disabilities, internationally, federally and within each province and territory. Interspersed throughout this section is information on cases which have looked at the scope and implementation of this body of legislation.

Part four examines disability issues in Canadian law schools, such as recruitment, admission procedures, student self-identification, physical accommodations and teaching strategies. Problems faced by law schools in each area are discussed, and concrete examples are given to illustrate how certain schools have dealt with the issues. Strategies schools can use to alleviate accommodation problems in these areas are also discussed.

Part five, a Practical Guide for Developing Policies and Procedures, articulates the value and need for formal accommodation policies at Canadian law schools. Components that should be included in a policy (ie; a description of what is meant by accommodation), and procedures for implementing policies (by educating students and faculty, for example) are examined. At the end of the section, examples of student disclosure forms and accessibility plans, outlining students' disabilities and the specific accommodations needed, are given.

In the final section conclusions are drawn from the project research, and some recommendations for further areas of discussion and study are offered.

An extensive bibliography lists sources consulted, both legal and general. The first two appendices list the law schools and representatives consulted in the interview phase, as well as the policy and accommodation documents provided by law schools. Appendix C provides the checklist consulted during interviews.

Appendix D is a list of various groups of disabilities, and of point-form examples of accommodations that can be offered in the classroom, on exams and in support services.

Finally, appendix E looks at key American disability rights legislation, and relevant case law.

This is an extensive guidebook with background, examinations of legislation and legal precedent, and concrete recommendations for student accommodation. While the material is extensive and broad in scope, the sections also all end with a summary of the key points explored, for a quick overview.

The focus of the guide is toward Canadian law schools, and the language and much of the content is of a legal nature. But ultimately, many of the issues explored and the recommendations given can be applied to many programs and institutions across the country. This is a valuable source of information for both faculty and students.

More recently, REACH published Navigating Law School and Beyond: A Practical Guide for Students Who Have Disabilities (June, 2000). This publication serves as an excellent companion piece to the 1998 research.

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