Glossary of Terms for Faculty

Academic Accommodation

The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s guidelines on accessible education specify 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
  • inclusion

Each student's needs are unique and must be considered whenever an accommodation request is made. At all times, the emphasis must be on the individual student rather than on the category of disability.

Academic accommodation might include:

  • extra time on tests and exams
  • access to the SAS notetaking portal
  • writing an exam in a low-distraction setting
  • adaptive technology, such as screen readers or text-to-voice software
  • breaks during exams
  • a limit of one exam or test a day
  • service animals
  • memory aids
  • other SAS-approved accommodations, based on individual need


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.


Essential Requirements

The concept of an essential requirement stems from the Ontario Human Rights Code. In our context, it is understood to be an indispensable learning outcome.


Learning Outcomes

The Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) has established a website to help with the development of learning outcomes.

Undue Hardship

The Ontario Human Rights Code says some degree of hardship is acceptable when providing accommodations.

The Code establishes a test for “undue hardship”. When an accommodation reaches the point of creating undue hardship, the university is not required to provide that accommodation. 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

Disclosure of a Disability

How much a student discloses about the nature of their disability is a personal choice made by each student.

Following are some considerations that might influence a student’s decision:

  • If the student feels embarrassed or experiences stigma relating to their disability
  • The amount of support the student requires
  • How much the instructor may be involved in setting up accommodations
  • Whether the disability is visible or invisible
  • How much the disability is a part of the student’s identity
  • The degree to which the instructor has demonstrated that they are knowledgeable and/or sensitive to the needs of students with this particular type of disability.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has specified that instructors cannot require students to disclose personal health information. In addition, SAS can only disclose information about a student’s needs when it is relevant to the academic accommodations they require. In these cases, SAS focuses on the functional abilities of the student rather than the underlying health condition.


Further Reading

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.