Emerging Issues in the Law of Accommodation. Milé Komlen Director, Human Rights & Equity Services McMaster University Hamilton, Ontario. Human Rights & Equity Services. Provides consultation and advice on human rights-related issues and complex situations
Director, Human Rights & Equity Services
MYTH: Student is trying to gain an unfair advantage
FACT: Student wants same opportunity to achieve as everyone else and shouldn’t be penalized for a condition that is beyond their control
MYTH: Student shouldn’t be in school if they have a disability (or other protected characteristic)
FACT: Most disabilities do not affect intellectual capacity (e.g. loss of sight or hearing), but some adjustments are required to allow everyone to succeed on an even plane (i.e. “but for” disability)
MYTH: Anyone can get an accommodation letter
FACT: Students first need a diagnosis from a medical professional, then a functional analysis by a disability specialist at CSD
MYTH: Some disabilities can be faked for a missed test, such as depression or other mental illness
FACT: Accommodation is for ongoing or recurrent mental or physical limitation, and must be diagnosed by a health care professional. Temporary illnesses (e.g. short-term depression) don’t count.
FACTS: Student cheerleader performs well during mid-terms. Sustains head injury during practice in late November. Diagnosed with a concussion. Student advises Faculty, is given option to defer, but chooses to write final exams in December. Poor results on exams. Subsequent diagnosis with specialist reveals diminished brain functions. Medical documentation shows that injury likely contributed to poor performance on finals. Student requests to re-take courses in following year.
FACTS: Foreign graduate student was aware of medical condition prior to arrival in Canada. Did not mention disability to instructors due to fears of stigma or misperception that he could not complete program. Student was not familiar with Canadian medical system and did not have a family doctor. Condition worsened while in Canada. Student sought treatment, but still had apprehensions about disclosing disability. Student failed two courses and was asked to withdraw from program. Disclosed disability during efforts at reinstatement.
FACTS: Student performed well during mid-terms, but did poorly during final exams. Later discovered that he had mononucleosis during last half of term, confirmed by doctor’s note. Student requested that grades be re-weighted or that he be permitted to re-write exams, or re-take courses.
FACTS: Instructor notes that student’s performance drops significantly after third mid-term. Student exhibits fatigue and lack of participation during classes, which is a noticeable difference from before. Instructor does nothing, but student continues in course. Student neglects to submit final paper before grades are submitted, and requests extension or retroactive withdrawal months later when she receives a diagnosis of a severe mental illness with detailed medical documentation.
FACTS: Student had bulimia, which created an adverse impact on her course performance. She did not reveal condition to instructor prior to drop date, due to fears of stigma, although she was aware of it. She did well on a mid-term assignment, but high stress levels prevented her from completing remaining assignments. She sought assistance of her professor and mental health counsellor after grades were submitted in requesting late withdrawal without academic penalty.