The concept of an “essential requirement” flows from the Ontario Human Rights Code and in our context is understood to be an indispensable learning outcome.
At the university level, appropriate accommodations enable a student to successfully meet the essential requirements of an academic program, with no alteration in standards or outcomes, although the manner in which the student demonstrates mastery, knowledge and skill may be altered. In this way, students have equal opportunities to meet academic requirements without compromising academic integrity.
The OHRC’s guidelines on accessible education specifies that “accommodation” means preventing or removing barriers that impede students with disabilities from participating fully in the educational environment in a way that is responsive to their own unique circumstances. The principle of accommodation involves three factors: dignity, individualization and inclusion.
It should be noted that there is no set formula for accommodation. Each student's needs are unique and must be considered afresh when an accommodation request is made. At all times, the emphasis must be on the individual student and not on the category of disability.
The Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) has established a website to help with the development of learning outcomes.
The Ontario Human Rights Code says some degree of hardship is acceptable in the provision of accommodations, and establishes a test for “undue hardship” which is the point when an accommodation is not required. The conditions for undue hardship are:
- Cost prohibitive to the University as a whole (this is a high standard)
- Exhausted opportunities for external funding
- Health and safety requirements
The principles of accommodations in an educational setting have been described by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
You may also be interested in reading their policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions.