FAQ for Students
I was identified as a student with an exceptionality in high school. Will this apply at university?
Your identification as a student with an exceptionality in high school will not automatically transfer to university. A student with an exceptionality in high school is different from a student with a disability in university. In elementary and secondary school, a committee decides if a student should be placed in a special education program. In university, you must identify yourself as a student with a disability and provide documented proof of your disability (from a certified practitioner) to AccessAbility Services. Documentation of the services you received in high school will not be enough.
In high school, some of my courses were modified. Will this continue in university?
In elementary and secondary school, an educational modification means that changes are made to the expectations for a subject or course to correspond to the capabilities of the student. For example, you may be asked to complete work at a different grade level or complete a different amount of work. Educational modifications are not available in university. Instead, you may receive an educational accommodation. Accommodations are available for students in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education. Accommodations don't change the level or amount of work you are expected to complete. Instead, they are resources or services to provide you with an equal opportunity to complete the work, should you require them.
Educational accommodations may include: alternate format textbooks and other materials, the use of assistive technology, alternate testing locations or extended time for tests. Accommodations are designed to meet your individual needs.
How should I disclose my disability, and to whom?
It is a personal choice if you want to share information about your disability with others.
However, if you require educational accommodations in college or university, you need to disclose your disability to AccessAbility Services to set up the accommodations and provide other support. Some students are not comfortable disclosing their disability to others because they fear they may fall victim to stereotypes or stigma. Some find it beneficial because a candid discussion with an instructor or roommate may help alleviate any misunderstandings by ensuring the other person understands your personal situation. It is up to you whether you want to share information about your disability with anyone else, such as your professors or your peers. Although you should discuss your accommodations with your professors, you do not have to disclose your disability to them.
What type of documentation is required to be registered?
All documentation should be from a licensed/registered health care practitioner, and include a description of the following:
- Diagnosis & severity: Temporary or permanent/chronic (note: for mental health disabilities, the specific diagnosis is not required).
- Functional limitations or the manner and degree that your condition impacts your ability to perform daily activities necessary to participate in post-secondary studies
- Recommended reasonable accommodations
- Licensing information, area of specialization, date of report/documentation and Signature of your Specialist/Doctor
What are my rights and responsibilities? What are the responsibilities of my Instructors and AccessAbility Services?
- Providing the required documentation of your disability to AccessAbility Services.
- Setting up meetings to access the supports and resources available through AccessAbility Services. Remember that some accommodations – for example, textbooks in an alternate format or the services of a sign-language interpreter – may require extra time to arrange.
- Meeting the requirements and deadlines you agree to with staff at the office for students with disabilities.
- Managing your time – class work, attendance and study time. Although staff at the office for students with disabilities will provide reasonable educational accommodations, you are responsible for your academic success.
Is there funding available for assessments and equipment costs?
Bursary for Students with Disabilities (BSWD) is a grant available for students with permanent disabilities who have disability-related educational costs for services and equipment. Students must qualify for at least $1 of OSAP in order to qualify.
What do AccessAbility Advisors do and what should I expect from my first appointment?
Our advisors work with students registered with AccessAbility services to determine and implement appropriate accommodations to support and promote their access to their academic program. Together, they create an individualized accommodation plan for each student, based on their specific needs and abilities. The advisor will collaborate as appropriate with academic units and student services, and make referrals on and off campus, in order to develop and implement accommodations. They also work with students to increase self-awareness and adoption of strategies to support their success.
At your new Student Advising and Registration Appointment, your advisor will get to know you – your strengths, your challenges, and your academic and employment goals. We will inform you of our processes, policies and procedures, deadlines, and the rights and responsibilities of those involved in the accommodation process. We will discuss your courses, your eligible accommodations, and develop an individualized accommodation plan. We will ensure you have a chance to ask questions, and contribute fully towards your plan.
If I have a problem, or my educational accommodation needs are not being met, who should I contact?
If you have concerns about your accommodation plan, or if your educational accommodation needs are not being met, make an appointment to speak with your AccessAbility Advisor, who will work with you and your educators to ensure that the appropriate disability accommodations and services are in place. If you should have a concern or problem with AccessAbility Services, please speak with your AccessAbility Services Advisor. If the issue you are experiencing is with your advisor, or if the issue is not being resolved with your Advisor, please feel free to contact the Manager of AccessAbility Services at firstname.lastname@example.org. AccessAbility Services will examine the issue, and reach out with a solution, resolution, or response within 48 hours (2 business days). If the issue is not resolved with the Manager, or if the issue involves the management of the office, you can contact Mat Erickson from the Conflict Management and Human Rights Office at email@example.com who will facilitate discussions or lead an investigation.
What are some of the other support services that are available?
- Success Coaching
- Counselling and Psychological Services
- Academic Advising
- Centre for Career Action
- MATES Program
- Health Services
- International Peer Mentors
- Living Learning Communities
- Writing Services
What role does an IEP play in university disability support?
An IEP describes the special education program and/or services required by a student and identifies learning expectations and accommodations. As IEPs may be developed for a student who has not been formally identified, AccessAbility Services can help students make arrangements to obtain the necessary documentation when appropriate. Students with suspected disabilities should make an appointment to meet with an AccessAbility Services advisor for screening of disability and referral to a qualified professional.
Am I required to take a full course load?
Students with a disability often reduce their course load and either take additional semesters to complete the degree, take courses during the spring/summer semester or take an additional course while on a co-op work term.
Is my disability considered in the application and admission process?
All applications for full-time, on-campus studies are processed by the Ontario Universities' Application Centre (OUAC).
When admissions decisions are made other factors in addition to grades are considered. Students are encouraged to complete the Admission Information Form (AIF) to:
- tell more about themselves
- provide information about extra-curricular activities
- explain any special circumstances that may have affected their grades and/or which they would like taken into consideration during the admissions process
- “brag a little!”
The Admission Information Form (AIF) is available on Quest – Waterloo's online student information system.
Do I require the same admission averages as other students?
When admissions decisions are made other factors in addition to grades are considered. Students are encouraged to complete the Admission Information Form (AIF) to explain any special circumstances that may have affected their grades and/or which they would like taken into consideration during the admissions process.
What do I do if I miss/do not complete an exam, assignment, or other course requirement because of a disability-related incident?
Students who miss or do not complete a course requirement are encouraged to review their course syllabus for important information on course requirements, as well as the department’s processes for missed assignments, exams, etcetera. After doing so, students can connect with their AccessAbility Services advisor to explore options. All accommodations after the fact (retroactive accommodations) will be considered on a case by case basis.
What if I have just been diagnosed with a disability which may have impacted my previous academic performance?
Students can connect with their AccessAbility Services advisor to discuss the situation, and to ensure they are supported for the upcoming term. All accommodations after the fact (retroactive accommodations) will be considered on a case by case basis.