Enhancing Accessibility in Post-Secondary Education Institutions
Designing PSE Institutional Disability Policies
Canadian PSE institutions have identified the following best practices to create disability policies responsive to the needs of their students, staff and stakeholders.
- Create an Accessibility Committee with formal roles and responsibilities to research, draft and propose policies on accessibility for people with disabilities. It is important that any developed committee include people with disabilities and people with a strong knowledge of disability issues such as disability service providers, counseling or mental health providers, students with disabilities, etc. The committee could also include representatives from various sectors of the college or university such as faculty members, deans, administration staff, legal staff, library staff, etc. These different representatives have allowed for different perspectives and insight into disability issues in specific areas. As well, it is important that any developed Disability Committee have on-going mandate as the committee could be useful in the implementation and review of disability policies and other activities.
- Provide Disability Committees with other tasks such as coordinating hearings for student or faculty appeals, promoting accessibility and accommodation to the college/university community, addressing accessibility issues on campus, reporting to the senate, etc.
- Carry out consultations with disability organizations and students with disabilities when drafting disability policies.
- Review the policies of other Canadian PSE institutions of similar size and type.
- Use disability-related policy templates and guidelines already developed by professional organizations, researchers, or government bodies.
- Separate formal disability policies from formal disability procedures, as procedures are more likely to require updates. This split will allow for a quicker turnaround on amendments.
- Write policies using plain language to ensure maximum clarity, understanding, and transparency.
- Ensure that policies are broad in scope as policies that are too specific or narrow can quickly become outdated or not allow for individualized accommodation.
- Have the draft policies reviewed by other on-campus committees and groups who work on related topics (such as housing, built environment, safety, privacy, etc.), to help ensure that the policy is in accordance with other on-campus policies and procedures.
- Ensure that the policies receive high-level approval within the PSE institutionís governance structure and are reviewed by the office for Policy Development or the institutionís equivalent.
- Once finalized, the policies should be easily accessible and widely distributed.
- Once policies are in effect, they should be periodically reviewed (ideally, this review would be mandatory) to help ensure their continued relevance. As an example, all policies could be reviewed after 1 year with subsequent reviews occurring every 2 to 5 years thereafter depending on the policy type.