Frequently Asked Questions for Instructors

Accessibility Services FAQ

We strongly encourage you to refer students to AS, for the following reasons:

  • One of our main roles is to assist faculty in accommodating students by verifying the disability, functional limitations and appropriate reasonable accommodations.
  • Referral to AS ensures that all students with disabilities have followed the same procedures and have been treated equitably.
  • Faculty risk providing a higher or lower level of accommodation than would be reasonable or equitable considering the disability. E.g., a memory aid may not be allowable in all classes.
  • A formal accommodation on file helps to protect the students’ documented accommodation needs and align accommodations across program areas.

No, all students have the right to keep their disability confidential, although some may choose to self-disclose.

  •  AS does not disclose a student’s disability or any information about the disability without the student’s permission.
  • Students are encouraged to discuss their accommodation needs with instructors, including as much information as they feel comfortable, or is necessary to share. E.g., requesting accessible format of documents for screen reading software.
  • If a student hands you their disability documentation, please refer them to AS, as this is personal medical information and must be stored according to FIPPA guidelines.

Please make an announcement about Accessibility Services during the first week of class. Let students know you are aware and supportive of services. Include a welcome statement in your course syllabus such as:

  • VIU's Accessibility Services provides services to students with disabilities including, but not limited to, Learning Disabilities (LD), psychiatric/mental health disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), chronic medical conditions, and impairments in mobility, hearing, and vision. If you have a disability requiring academic accommodations in this course but are not yet registered with AS, please contact them at accessibilityservices@viu.ca. If you are already registered with AS, please provide me with your accommodation letter, either in person during my office hours, or by email.
  1. Check your VIU email for system-generated links from the on-line exam booking system. (Students are responsible for initiating exam requests at least 7 days prior to exam date.)
  2. Submit the required exam details into the exam system.
  3. Send exams to Assessment Services (B200, R218) 3 days or more before the scheduled date. Email electronic copies to accommodatedexams@viu.ca. Word docs are preferred due to assistive technology compatibility.
  4. Late student exam requests are reviewed and considered on a case-by-case basis.

 For further information on completing exam requests, please review the Accommodated Exams: Instructor Guide.

In Nanaimo, the Exam Centre is open from 8am to 6pm, Mon-Fri. For further information contact 250-740-6276.

Under some circumstances a request for an academic accommodation can be denied. These circumstances are examined within the framework of a legal definition of “undue hardship.” In order to demonstrate “undue hardship,” the university must provide evidence that:

  • Accommodation alternatives would result in an essential course or program requirement being unmet; or
  • The accommodation would result in a risk to public safety or a substantial risk of personal injury to a student or instructor; or
  • Financial cost is such that the operations of the university would be fundamentally diminished, or a program or services would cease to exist due to the financial burden of the accommodation.
  • Faculty members are advised to document and accommodation efforts they undertake. Due to the high numbers of students with registered accommodation, a best practice of documenting complex accommodation situations is advisable.

“The knowledge and skills that must be required or demonstrated in order for a student to successfully meet the learning objectives of that course or program.” (Rose, 2009)

In deciding if a requirement is essential, the following “3 step test” from the Meiorin case (regarding essential occupational requirements), is often applied to essential academic requirements: 

  • Is the requirement rationally connected to the task (i.e., the objective of the course)?
  • Was the requirement established in an honest and good faith belief in its necessity?
  • Was the requirement reasonably necessary to accomplish the goal (i.e. the meeting of the learning objective of the course)?

Accommodations provide access but do not guarantee success. A student with a disability is not prevented from failing. All students need to be assessed based on the same learning outcomes, with or without accommodation. 

  • Discuss your concerns about the student’s performance with the student, just as you would with anyone else in your class who is having trouble.
  • Consider referring the student to VIU academic resources, or to their Access Specialist if you think accommodations may need to be adjusted.
  • If you have provided the approved accommodations and the student still does not meet the essential requirements, then grade the student accordingly.

Some students have difficulty listening to a lecture and taking notes at the same time (perhaps due to ADHD, a learning disability, vision loss, or a physical barrier such as carpel tunnel syndrome).

  • If you already provide PP slides or notes for the whole class, no action may be needed, especially if your notes are fairly detailed.
  • You may be asked to help recruit a “peer notetaker” (a fellow student who is willing to share notes in exchange for a small stipend).
  • In some cases, AS may arrange a computer-assisted notetaker (‘captionist’) to attend the class to take a complete set of notes.

Permission to audio record class is a common accommodation and improves access to content for students who are not able to keep up with notetaking, or who have functional limitations in working memory, or hearing loss. 

  • Students with this accommodation should be providing you with a signed copy of VIU’s Audio Recording Agreement, which outlines the following conditions of recording a lecture:
    • Agreement that the recording is for personal study use only, and may not be transmitted or shared
    • Agreement not to use the material in a malicious manner
    • Agreement to destroy the recording at the end of the semester
  • The Audio Recording Agreement acknowledges that neither recording nor notetaking would be appropriate during times of personal self-disclosure.
  • In general, audio recording in these circumstances is not considered an infringement on intellectual property rights, given the need for instructors to provide access to the course materials.

Students can register with AS throughout the semester. It often takes time for students to obtain documentation of a disability, especially if they don’t have access to a family doctor. Some conditions can only be diagnosed by a specialist, which can take months to access. 

  • In some situations, an Access Specialist may give a student a “letter of consideration” that recommends academic support, pending receipt of formal disability documentation.

This accommodation may be approved for a student with an episodic or chronic condition, where the ability to get to class may be impacted. When considering how much time can be missed before essential learning outcomes may be compromised, consider: 

  • To what extent student participation is an essential requirement to learning?
  • Is the course “hands on,” or more lecture-based?
  • Are discussion forums hosted in VIULearn?
  • To what extent does each week’s content build sequentially from previous weeks
  • For more information, please review Attendance as an Accommodation
  • When speaking with the student, try to speak with them at eye level as opposed to standing above them.
  • Be sure not to lean on or touch the student’s wheelchair without permission, as it is part of their personal space.
  • Watch your language. Using terms such as: “wheel-chair bound” or “confined to a wheelchair” are inappropriate because that is not how a wheelchair user may see themself. For many, their wheelchair is their source of freedom.
  • For more information regarding inclusive language please refer to this Inclusive Language Guide.
  • All VIU staff and students have the right to a learning and work environment that is “free of disruptive and intimidating behavior” (Policy 31.06 Disruption-Free Learning and Working Environment).
  • VIU’s Student Conduct Code (Policy 32.05) asserts that students are “expected to behave in a responsible manner respectful of the learning environment inside the classroom.”
  • If instructors are concerned about the behaviour of a student who is registered with AS, please consult with the Access Specialist listed on the student’s accommodation letter. It may also be appropriate to reach out to Student Affairs (Student Care and Conduct Support).

Please download the Accessible Event Planning Checklist.

VIU staff and/or departments organizing events on Campus with Communication Access needs such as, American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreting, or Communication Access Real Time Translation (CART) are expected to include costs in their budgets and make their own arrangements. Contact Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing by phone at 250-753-0999 to make a request. Please also ensure that any videos are captioned.

Students should be encourage to connect with AS in this circumstance. If a student discloses to a faculty member that they have contracted COVID-19 and request flexibility on tests, exams and assignments, the faculty member may provide that flexibility without a formal accommodation documentation from AS.

  • At this time, COVID-19 is considered a disability and requires formal accommodation under the BC Human Rights Code.
  • Due to the urgency and shifting timelines of COVID-19, students are not required to obtain a formal accommodation letter through Accessibility Services. Instead, Instructors are required to provide accommodation for students who have a confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19.
  • Instructros are expected to provide flexibility for students who cannot be physically on campus because they are self-isolation, in quarantine or attending vaccination appointments.
  • If a student already registered with Accessibility Services misses and exam due to illness symptoms, it can be rescheduled with Assessment Services.
  • As a result of contracting COVID-19, some students may eventually be diagnosed with a "Long COVID-19" health condition that impacts their learning. These students can be referred to Accessibility Services.
  • Students requesting "mask exemptions" during times of mandatory mask wearing regulations can be directed to the COVID-19 Mask Student Exemption Form.