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Welcome to the Video Series on Accommodating Post-Secondary Students with Mental Health Disabilities

About The Videos

The goal of the video series is to provide information about the process of accommodating students with mental health disabilities in the post-secondary education context. Practices differ from one institution to another; however, the videos address common accommodation situations and outline ways to address each situation, using a best-practice perspective.

The material is directed to faculty, staff and students. Each video highlights a particular aspect of the accommodation process. The videos range in length from four to 10 minutes. Each video can be viewed independently of the others. Students (and their parents) who are new to the post-secondary accommodation experience may want to view all of the videos since they will provide information regarding both the student’s and the institution’s responsibility in the accommodations process. The videos can be used as part of an education and training program for new faculty and for new student leaders or as part of any professional development opportunity for staff and students. 

Scripts and Actors

The project team developed the scripts and solicited feedback from various stakeholders and then made changes based on their feedback. All names and scenarios used in the videos are fictitious. Footage was shot at Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College and at other post-secondary institutions throughout Ontario. Channel 3 Communications auditioned the actors, chose the locations and BrilliantEye.ca shot the videos. Amateur actors, including some post-secondary students, were hired to appear in the videos; some actors appear in more than one.

Video 1: The Accommodation Letter

Summary:  A new professor seeks assistance from a more experienced colleague regarding how to respond to an academic accommodation request.  The new professor receives guidance and direction on the accommodation process

Goals: 

  • To provide a framework for new professors to understand their responsibilities in the accommodation process
  • To illustrate the roles played by faculty, students and the Office for Students with Disabilities in the accommodation process.
  • To provide information to new faculty on why they need to accommodate students with disabilities

 Key Messages:

  • While each college and university has its own process, all are required to grant academic accommodations to students whose functional limitations in the academic environment result from a diagnosed disability unless the accommodations (i) interfere with an essential requirement of a course or program or (ii) create undue hardship for the institution.
  • Privacy:  The student is entitled to keep disability-related information private; the professor must in turn respect the student’s right to privacy.  Also, under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA 1990), professors are required to maintain the confidentiality of accommodation-related information.  As an illustration of this: in the video, the experienced professor asks the new professor to “cross out” the student’s name to protect the student’s privacy by ensuring that no confidential personal information (in this case, the student’s name) is released.  Also storing accommodation-related information in a secure location (e.g. in a lockable filing cabinet) protects the confidentiality of the information. 
  • In our research, professors commented that they are sometimes concerned that because of privacy requirements they may not consult with the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD).  However, if the professor is aware that the student is registered with the OSD, then it is quite permissible - and should indeed be encouraged – for the professor to contact that office for a consultation.  As well, it is common practice for disability advisors to give their name and contact information at the end of each letter of accommodation.  Professors are invited to contact a student’s specific disability advisor when accommodation or classroom concerns arise. 
  • If the student is not registered with OSD it is still permissible to ask for advice – in this case, without using the student’s name.  Disability Advisors are the experts in disability-related accommodations and a quick consult can help immensely to clarify issues and provide possible solutions.

Key Concept

This video introduces the concept of essential requirements

The Accommodation Letter Video

Video 2: What a Professor Needs to Know…… 

Summary:  A new professor asks a student for details of his disability and the student explains that he does not have to share disability-related information with his professors.

Goals: 

  • To provide a framework for new professors regarding their responsibilities in the accommodation process
  • To make new professors aware that they are not entitled to information about a student’s disability.  Professors may enquire only about the student’s accommodations

Key Messages:

  • Professors should not ask students about their disabilities even if they believe that this information will help them to better accommodate students.  
  • Students are not required to share disability-related information with professors. 

NOTE:  Some students comfortably share their disability-related information with professors without being asked. This is their choice and does not interfere with their privacy rights. 

Key Concepts

This video deals with the concept of the confidentiality of personal information and the right of students to privacy regarding their disabilities

The Professor Needs to Know Video

Video 3: Accommodation Without Documentation

Summary:  After reading the course syllabus, a student asks the professor to be exempted from viewing videos which graphically depict violent acts. The professor seeks advice and clarification from the Office for Students with Disabilities.

Goals: 

  • To provide a framework for new professors regarding the concept of “good faith” accommodation requests
  • To make professors aware that they should consult with the Office for Students with Disabilities when they are unsure about how to handle an accommodation request.
  • To articulate the complementary and collaborative roles of faculty, students and disability advisors in the accommodation process.

Key Messages

  • Professors should consider requests for academic accommodation without documentation from the Office for Students with Disabilities.
  • It is good practice for professors to consult with the Office for Students with Disabilities when they are unsure about how to proceed with an accommodation request.

Key Concept

This video introduces the concept of granting accommodations without documentation

Violence in Course Content Video

Video 4: Testing Accommodation

Summary: A professor announces that he wants all students in the course to complete their tests in the classroom.  This announcement causes stress for one student who has an accommodation to complete her tests in a quiet space – the testing centre.  The student reaches out to her mother for advice and then contacts the Office for Students with Disabilities.  The disability advisor offers the student options for how to connect with the professor and once the student does so the situation is quickly resolved.

Goals:

  • To provide a framework for students to show how to handle situations when professors behave, knowingly or unknowingly, in ways that interfere with accommodations which have been recommended by the Office for Students with Disabilities
  • To make students aware that they can seek assistance from with the Office for Students with Disabilities when one of their accommodations is being denied by a professor
  • To articulate the complementary and collaborative roles of faculty, students and disability advisors in the accommodation process.

Key Messages

  • Students should seek assistance immediately when an approved accommodation is being denied
  • Professors may sometimes unknowingly deny an accommodation (for example, by requiring that all students write an exam in the classroom, thereby denying the accommodation of a student who has been approved to write the examination in separate space – such as an exam or test centre )

Testing Accommodations Video

Video 5:  Flexible Deadline Accommodation

Summary:  The student is concerned when the professor announces that all essays must be handed in by a specific date.  The student has an accommodation for flexible deadlines and is concerned about her ability to complete the essay on time.  She seeks support from a friend and then from the Office for Student with Disabilities.  When email contact with the professor does not produce the desired outcome, a meeting is arranged between the professor, the student and the disability advisor.  Working collaboratively, they develop a solution.

Goals: 

  • To provide a framework for students on how to  handle situations when professors behave in ways – knowingly or unknowingly - that interfere with their granted accommodations
  • To make students aware that they can seek assistance from the Office for Students with Disabilities when one of their accommodations is being denied – knowingly or unknowingly - by a professor
  • To articulate the complementary and collaborative roles of faculty, students and disability advisors in the accommodation process.

Key Messages

  • Students should seek assistance immediately when a granted accommodation is being denied
  • When a student with a disability has functional limitations that affect academic performance they are entitled to be accommodated under the Ontario Human Rights Code

Key Concepts

This video introduces the concepts of academic integrity and undue hardship.

Flexible Accommodation Deadline Video

Video 6:  The Accommodation Process

Summary:  A student tries to make academic accommodation arrangements directly with a professor; he tries to share his medical documentation with her.  With the help of a disability advisor, the professor guides the student to follow the accommodation process established at the college.        

Goals: 

  • To provide a framework for professors for dealing with  situations where they are asked by a student to review disability-related documentation
  • To articulate the complementary and collaborative roles of faculty, students and disability advisors in the accommodation process.
  • To demonstrate a problem-solving process which can help with resolving concerns regarding accommodation issues
  • To make professors aware that they can consult with the Office for Students with Disabilities when they are unsure about how to handle an accommodation request.

Key Messages

  • Professors have a responsibility to grant recommended accommodations that do not interfere with the “essential requirements” of their course.  If a student requests that a professor review their medical documentation, the professor should decline and guide the student to the Office for Students with Disabilities, where the professional staff will deal with the documentation and recommend appropriate accommodations.
  • Staff from the Office for Students with Disabilities processes all health-related documentation from students with disabilities.

The Accommodation Process Video

Video 7: Field Placement Eligibility.

Summary: A student is very demanding of her professors’ time in class. As well, recently she has had periods where she suddenly falls to the floor in the classroom or hallway and is unresponsive for up to 10 minutes. Her program coordinator is concerned that her behaviour is a safely risk when considering her eligibility for a field placement with young children. The program coordinator seeks assistance from the disability advisor and together they develop an intervention plan for the concerning behaviour. 

Goals:  

  • To provide a framework for professors on how to handle situations that involve student behaviour that is a concern
  • To make professors aware that they should seek assistance from the Office for Students with Disabilities when they are concerned about a student’s behaviour.
  • To illustrate the need to consider the likely impact of behaviours of concern on performance in placement settings, prior to approving placements
  • To articulate the complementary and collaborative roles of faculty, students and disability advisors in the accommodation process.
  •  (As part of our research recommendations, we strongly support the model of Accommodation Teams, comprised of faculty and disability advisors who work collaboratively to deal with “non-typical” or complex accommodation situations)

Key Messages

  • Professors should seek assistance immediately from the Office for Students with Disabilities when a student with a disability displays behaviour that is of concern. 
  • A student’s behaviour in class and on campus may temporarily prevent a student from participating in placement.
  • From a procedural fairness perspective, it is important to consider strategies that will set the student up for success in placement prior to making placement decisions.
  • An institution may deny access to field work placement because of a concern about a student’s behaviour especially when the behaviour represents a safety risk in the placement setting.  In the example illustrated in the video, if the student’s behaviour were to continue in the placement setting, young children would be placed at risk. 
  • In safety situations, the institution must endeavour to make sure that all aspects of a situation are investigated before taking a decision to temporarily deny a student a placement.

Key Concepts

This video introduces the concept of considering safety issues in deciding on access to fieldwork placements.

Feild Placement Eligibility Video

Video 8:  Dealing with a “Perceived Disability”.

Summary: 20 minutes into a mid-term exam a student shouts, tears up his exam and throws it at the exam proctor and storms out of the exam hall.  His behaviour disrupts the other students who are writing the exam.  After the incident the professor asks to meet with the student.  He suggests that the student complete the final exam in a quiet room away from the rest of the students.  Because of the student’s behaviour the professor wonders if the student has some type of disability.  The student declines the accommodation suggested by the professor.  The professor consults with the disability advisor and together they meet with the head of the department and devise a plan for future exams.

Goals: 

  • To provide a framework for professors and departments for how to deal with situations that involve concerning behaviour by a student
  • To make professors aware that they can seek assistance from the Office for Students with Disabilities if they are concerned about a student’s behaviour when they believe – rightly or wrongly - that it is disability-related. 
  • To articulate the complementary and collaborative roles of faculty, students and disability advisors in the accommodation process.
  • To illustrate the competing needs which may arise in dealing with behaviours of concern.

Key Messages

  • Professors should seek assistance from the Office for Students with Disabilities if a student displays behaviour that suggests that the student may have a disability
  • It is important to address behaviour issues with students and to problem-solve possible solutions 

Key Concepts

  • Faculty and staff have a responsibility to address situations when behaviours of concern have been observed, since these may relate to a disability. Typically, the first step in this process will involve talking to the student and enquiring as to whether the student requires an accommodation.
  • Talking to a student about their behaviour of concern in a timely manner is an important step to take.

Dealing with a Preceived Disability Video