Enhancing Accessibility in Post-Secondary Education Institutions

Academic Accommodation Types

The following are some of the possible ways PSE institutions accommodate students with disabilities. Please note, however, that this is not an exhaustive list.


  • Students with certain physical or learning disabilities may have difficulty taking clear and concise notes. When available, instructors could provide students with disabilities with supplementary copies of lecture notes, overheads or PowerPoint presentations. Ideally, instructors would post notes and other materials online so they are accessible to all students.
  • Allow students to record lectures or have professors create ďPodcastsĒ of their lectures. This allows students to listen to the lecture at later dates and play back key information to clarify notes.
  • Students with disabilities could submit a request form indicating the classes they will require notes for. Volunteers could then be recruited. This could include having a representative from disability services or the instructor ask the class for volunteers at the beginning of lecture. An email requesting volunteers could also be sent out to those who are enrolled in those classes.
  • Methods for copying notes could include use of non-carbonized two-ply paper, photocopying of classmates notes, or ideally by creating electronic copies.
  • Consider supplying laptops to registered volunteer note-takers who do not have their own laptops. This would facilitate note-taking for the student requiring the accommodation and might act as an incentive for individuals to volunteer.

Visual Language Interpreting

  • Interpreting Services should be available for deaf and hard of hearing students. Interpreters would need to match the preferred sign-language style of the student.
  • The interpreter should interpret into Sign Language everything that is heard in the classroom, as well as interpret all questions and comments signed by the student.
  • When possible, interpreters could also be provided with class notes or presentations ahead of time to help prepare.


  • Some Deaf or Hard of Hearing students who donít use sign language may request captioning services.
  • Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) should be made available for lectures, labs and seminars, so that all course content is captured and displayed in print-based format on a laptop that the student will view.
  • Often real-time captioning services are not located on campus and will need to be contracted out to local providers. Assistance with securing funding should be provided to students with disabilities.
  • It should be taken into consideration that in some communities it is very difficult to find qualified sign language interpreters and CART service providers. Options need to be explored to facilitate access for students who require these services.

Classroom Features

  • Students should be able to request class relocations if they are scheduled in an inaccessible room. These requests should be addressed quickly to ensure students arenít forced to miss classes.
  • Students with disabilities who require it should be given priority seating whether it be at the front of the class, near electrical outlets, near a speaker system, etc.
  • Listening systems, such as infrared listening systems or FM sound systems, should be made available in as many classrooms as possible so that students can amplify sound during lectures and tutorials.
  • Classrooms and labs should be equipped with wheelchair accessible tables and computer workstations.
  • Seating with ergonomic back support may be a necessary accommodation for some students. Proper equipment that can be loaned or installed in the classroom should be available as required, For more on physical accessibility, see the section on Physical Accessibility (page 21).

Procedural Adjustments

  • For those who require it, allow for a reduced course load while still maintaining full-time status. Disability services should discuss with students with disabilities the advantages and disadvantages of studying with various course loads.
  • Assignment substitutions, such as substituting a written report for an oral one, could be considered for students with certain disabilities.

Field and Practicum Supports

  • Offer field and practicum placement supports for registered students who may require accommodation support in practicum or experiential learning courses. This could include a field mentor, use of assistive technology or equipment or an alternate field placement or project.

Learning Skills Services

  • Many students, not just those with disabilities, would benefit from learning services to help them build and improve effective academic skills. However, students with disabilities, particularly learning disabilities, may require special considerations.
  • As learning services can be shared among many different departments, it may be beneficial to have a central agency where students can go to obtain assistance with their academic skills. As well, disability advisors should be aware of these services so they can properly inform and refer students with disabilities.
  • Consider having one or more academic strategists or advisors who have training in learning supports for students with disabilities and ensure that these strategists are available to students registered with disability services.
  • If it is not possible to hire staff with these particular credentials, graduate level students in relevant programs such as Special Education, Education Studies, or Psychology may be a good resource.
  • Learning skills counsellors or strategists could help students with disabilities identify strengths, weaknesses, academic goals and appropriate training.
  • The institution should offer a variety of learning methods such as one-on-one training sessions, group sessions, workshops or seminars. Topics may include:
    • Learning styles and strategies
    • Study skills and memory strategies
    • Motivation and concentration skills
    • Problem solving skills
    • Time management and organizational skills
    • Effective presentation and public speaking skills
    • Writing effective essays and reports
    • Note-taking skills
    • Preparing for and writing tests / exams (including multiple choice and essay)
    • Self-advocacy and networking skills

Testing Accommodations

Special accommodations may be necessary for students with disabilities that could affect the completion of in-class exams, tests, and quizzes. Accommodations could include the following:

  • Allow additional time -- from 25% to 100% additional time depending on the nature of the disability is not unusual. However, some students may require up to three times as long to complete a test. The accommodation, in this case, must suit the studentsí disability..
  • Allow for short, supervised breaks when the disability or chronic condition, such as chronic pain or ADHD, interferes with performance.
  • Allow for in-class exams, tests and quizzes to be written in a separate, distraction reduced environment;
  • Allow for the use of approved assistive technologies such as computers, calculators, electronic dictionaries and/or spell-check.. (for more on assistive technologies see Assistive Technologies on page 26).
  • Provide alternate formats such as Braille, large print, and digital format. (for more on alternate formats see Alternate Formats on page 24).
  • Allow for use of scribes.

Exam Accommodations

  • Exam period accommodations can be more difficult to arrange if they are coordinated through a central office, such as the registrarís office, who may not know an accommodation is needed. It is therefore important to provide clear and detailed information for students with disabilities on the process of requesting exam accommodations. For example, create an online guide that lists available exam accommodations and how to request them, as well as any other information that students with disabilities will need to know, such as procedures or rules.
  • Ensure that the exam accommodation requesting process is simple and easy to complete. Provide options for booking accommodations online or make staff available to help coordinate accommodations.
  • As exam accommodation requests often have strict timelines, ensure students are aware of upcoming deadlines. This can be accomplished by notices or an updated calendar on the disability service website. Use a list-serve to email reminders, and encourage faculty members to announce deadlines to their classes.


  • Tutoring services are available at many PSE institutions and are usually open to all students. Disability services should be aware of these services and able to assist students with disabilities in acquiring them.
  • Whenever possible, direct students to tutoring services that have experience with people with disabilities; it may be useful to maintain a registry of tutors and tutoring agencies with this experience.
  • Assist students with disabilities with acquiring funding whenever there is a cost involved.

Alternate Formats and Assistive Technology

  • Provide access to alternate formats and assistive technology. For more on these see Alternate Formats on page 24 and Assistive Technology on page 26.

Special Arrangements

  • Sometimes situations will arise where a student with a disability requires uncommon accommodations or special arrangements such as attendant care. Even if the mechanism for this is not already built in to the institution, be willing to investigate the options and help facilitate the request.

Resources Academic Accommodation Resources

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