Many post-secondary schools have some form of disability services. The larger schools have a department of access or disability services, sometimes paired up with equity services or human rights. These departments are designed to make disabled students welcome and provide specialized services for their particular needs.
Some of the more common needs covered by these departments include vision impairments, mobility difficulties, hearing impairments, hand co-ordination impairments, medical disabilities, learning disabilities, and those with attention deficit disorder.
Disability services programs
One of the main services offered is that of disability awareness training. This is to make faculty and staff aware of what constitutes a disability and strategies to manage it academically. As well, departmental staff delivers specialized and customized workshops for non-school-affiliated classes and organizations upon request.
A peer student orientation is often held each fall for new and returning students in most schools. This orientation focuses on exam accommodations, notetaking, study and social spaces, and tutoring programs available to disabled students. As well, staff and faculty orientations take place. They discuss issues that are critical in creating an accessible and welcoming environment and providing disability-related accommodations, including the provision of alternate format materials, disability letters of accommodations, and exam accommodations.
Service-learning projects are another common initiative of these departments. This offers students with disabilities the chance to participate in projects such as designing urban environments that also allow access for the disabled, or developing education curricula for special needs children.
Funding and scholarships
Some schools offer bursaries and scholarships specifically for disabled students. Some are specific to physical disabilities, while others focus more on learning disabilities. When these awards are available, the disability departments will make these known to students registered with them (many scholarships go unclaimed due to lack of knowledge of their existence).
Funding for disabled students may also be available at the provincial or federal level. If so, the school’s disability department can handle the paperwork for those as well. Funding is often available to cover disability-related costs such as alternate formats for print material, assessments and training pertaining to adaptive technology, interpreting and transcribing services, and psycho-educational assessments.
Support for students
Academic accommodations allow students to overcome disability-related challenges that impede their academic success. Some examples of academic accommodations includes providing material in an alternate format (such as Braille for blind students), private exam space for students with attention deficit disorder, and providing notetakers for students with hand or wrist injuries. Students must usually provide notification of requiring academic accommodation in advance, so personnel and space (if needed) can be provided.
These departments also hire student assistants throughout the year. These student assistants work with disabled students in a variety of ways. This includes exam assistants, exam invigilators, library access assistants, mobility assistants, notetaking and scribing, and being a peer tutor.