The Ontario Human Rights Commission Policy

Accessible education for students with disabilities

Taken from a presentation by Cherie Robertson, OHRC Senior Policy Analyst and author of the policy paper, Accessible education for students with disabilities

 Summary of Key messages

A disability is an expected variant in the human condition not an anomaly to normalcy.

  1. The process that the education provider goes through to explore accommodation options is as important as the accommodations themselves. The request for accommodations cannot be refused without an extensive process to look at possible accommodations before accommodations can be denied. The process must be documented.
  2. Educators must accept requests for accommodations in good faith unless they have a legitimate reason to doubt the request.
  3. The education provider is entitled to ask for medical documentation to substantiate the need, but the documentation should not be used as a way to question or second guess the need. Asking for a diagnosis is not acceptable.
  4. Requests for retroactive accommodations should be accepted in good faith. To refuse will put the education provider in violation of the code. The request by the student should be done as soon as possible and medical documentation needs to be provided, but the institution must consider the request. In some cases the request may be impossible to meet due to the length of time that has passed (the course may no longer be available), but all possibilities must be explored.
  5. Institutions are required to cover the cost of the documentation that they are demanding.
  6. If documentation takes time to obtain accommodations must be implemented while waiting for the testing and/or documentation.
  7. A school cannot jump to the conclusion that a request for a certain accommodation will impair academic integrity. An entire process of reviewing options and academic integrity must be undertaken. An array of possible evaluation accommodations must be reviewed.
  8. Before a student’s behaviour is sanctioned the education provider has a duty to inquire about a disability, or if aware of a disability must consider if the actions of the student were caused by the disability. They must evaluate whether accommodations for the disability have been put in place, if they were put in place in a timely manner, and if they are sufficient. In other words, is the behaviour due to the duty to accommodate not being met?
  9. If the education provider cites health and safety risks as a reason for exclusion of the student, such a risk must be clearly demonstrated and not just anticipated. Also, accommodations must be reviewed. Are they in place and implemented? Are they effective and were they put in place in a timely manner?
  10. The Commission is aware that schools are excluding students (asking them not to attend school) rather than going through a formal process of suspension or expulsion. Under the Safe Schools Act, the principal has the power to exclude, however it was stressed that a rigorous process of evaluation of accommodation must occur. The education provider must inquire if the student’s needs have been met to the level of undue hardship which is very difficult to reach. They must also look at what is triggering the behaviour.
  11. It is the education providers’ duty to be proactive and learn about the OHR’s code. They cannot claim ignorance.
  12. The OHR’s Code prevails over the Education Act when they are in conflict. The example of, “Categories of Exceptionalities”, were used to drive this point home. It was stated that the Commission views the categories as being under-inclusive. Under the OHR’s code any student with a disability, whether listed in a category or not, has the right to accommodation.

The videos can be accessed on YouTube: http://bit.ly/2FAueV0

The paper can be accessed: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/sites/default/files/Policy%20on%20accessible%20education%20for%20students%20with%20disabilities_FINAL_EN.pdf