Enhancing Accessibility in Post-Secondary Education Institutions
Access to post-secondary education is an integral component of achieving income security, yet people with disabilities are less likely to attend and complete post-secondary education (PSE) than those without disabilities. Students with disabilities have the potential to be successful in PSE and the support they receive from their institution can play a large role in this success.
All publicly funded post-secondary institutions have offices that provide or coordinate services and supports for students with disabilities. However, service delivery models and standards are variable as no specific federal or provincial governmental standards exist. However, it is clear that professional organizations like the Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers (CADSPPE) nationally, the Post-Secondary Service Providers for Students with Disability (PSPSD) in Alberta, l'association québécoise inter-universitaire qui regroupent les conseillers aux étudiants en situation de handicap in Quebec, the Inter-University Disability Issues Association (IDIA) and the College Committee on Disability Issues in Ontario are working to ensure standards. In Alberta, the PSPSD has published papers to reflect this work, one being Alberta Guidelines for Accommodating Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Studies. In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA) legislation is having critical impact on colleges and universities in terms of their reporting on disability services, accommodations and physical accessibility to facilities.
In 2010, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada’s Office for Disability Issues (ODI) carried out a scan of select PSE policies and programs on how they enable access for students with disabilities. Following this review, consultations were conducted with PSE disability service providers and student groups to gather best practices and identify potential knowledge gaps on access to PSE for students with disabilities. Based on this information, the Enhancing Accessibility in Post-Secondary Education Institutions: A Guide for Disability Service Providers was developed.
In 2011/2012, The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) partnered with ODI to ensure that the Guide was thoroughly reviewed by university and college disability service providers and student disability groups. Once revised, NEADS then developed the Guide into a web-based tool, the purpose of which is to build awareness of disability issues within Canadian PSE institutions and to share best practices in accessibility and accommodation practices and procedures.