The AODA does not yet have an education standard. Two committees are making recommendations about what an education standard should include. Some of these recommendations could be based on elements from the existing AODA. For instance, the Employment Standards have rules about individual accommodation plans for workers with disabilities. An education standard could mandate similar rules for accommodation in university and college.
Accommodation in University and College
In elementary and high school, students are learning about themselves, their abilities, and the accommodations that help them succeed in school. Their families, classroom teachers, and other support staff are also finding out which accommodations work best for them and which ones work less well. In contrast, students in higher education often have enough experience to know which accommodations they will need. In this way, they are similar to people who need accommodations to do their jobs. Therefore, the AODA’s regulation on workplace accommodation processes could also apply to students in university and college.
Likewise, the Employment Standards also have rules about return-to-work processes for workers who have been absent from work due to disability. Unlike other workers with disabilities, workers new to disability may not know what accommodations they need. As a result, they work with medical or technology professionals, and their managers, to plan their accommodations. Students taking a leave of absence from university or college because of a new disability could benefit from a standard return-to-school process. Similarly, students new to disability at the start of university or college could use a similar process to find out what their accommodations should be.
Accommodation Plans at Work
Under the Employment Standards, workers needing accommodations meet with their managers to arrange them. During this discussion, the worker and employer do not need to talk about exactly what the worker’s disability is. Instead, they should talk about how the worker will perform certain functions of the job. The worker’s accommodation plan must list strategies or arrangements that would allow the worker to perform each job function. An employer may deny the worker’s accommodation request. However, this denial must be in writing.
Accommodations in Higher Education
In contrast, there is no single process for planning accommodation in university or college. Instead, according to a report by the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), each school must develop its own process. As a result, schools’ accommodation policies may differ widely. Students’ chances to succeed in class may depend not on their needs, but on where they go to school.
In Part 2 of this article, we will outline how a standardized process for creating accommodation plans could help more students succeed in school.