Easing the transition to postsecondary for students with disabilities
Sheridan College student advisor Joe Henry suggests a few things students, their parents and teachers can do to ease the transition to postsecondary education for students with disabilities.
All students make choices in planning for further education. But students with disabilities must investigate not only academic requirements and admission standards, they also want to know how prospective institutions will meet other needs.
In Ontario, community colleges and public universities offer services that assist in providing fair and equitable accommodations for students with disabilities. But the services offered and process for accessing them may differ from one institution to another.
In some instances, students may find that the particulars will help them in choosing a college or university, but in all instances students will want to know what they can expect when they arrive on campus.
How it works
Under Ontario Human Rights legislation, all public postsecondary education institutions must accommodate students with disabilities, provided they have met the prerequisites for their chosen academic program. Currently, this includes students with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health or emotional disorders and temporary medical conditions.
To access such services, students must self-identify to the office for students with disabilities operating on the campus of their chosen institution. This should be done as soon as possible after an offer of admission is made, so that appropriate transition programming and accommodations can be in place for the start of the academic year.
If a student has complex disabilities, a visit is recommended before an offer is accepted to ensure that staff will be able to make the correct accommodations and prepare appropriate orientation.
Students will need to provide documentation of their disability. Documentation may vary according to the type of disability, but common documents include:
Accommodations will vary from one institution to another, so students must consult with their chosen institution to understand what to expect, but common accommodations include:
Most required services are available free to students, but there may be some additional costs. These costs might include assistive devices, psycho-educational assessments, outside private tutoring and/or transportation costs. There is, however, a Bursary for Students with Disabilities (BSWD) that can defray such costs. Students must apply for this bursary in conjunction with funding from the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP). Terms of eligibility are the same for both financial aid programs. For current information visit the OSAP web site.
In recent years additional funding has been available for students with specific learning disabilities. This may assist with the cost of a qualified learning strategist and assistive technologist or with developing tools that will enhance academic success and the overall postsecondary experience.
To qualify for this funding, students must have a documented learning disability - a recent psycho-educational assessment from a registered psychologist. (Limited funding may be available to complete a new assessment.)
Additional private or institutional bursaries and grants may also be offered. Information on such funding will be available through the financial aid office and/or the disability services office of each institution.
Joe Henry works full time at Sheridan and is an MEd student in Adult Education and Community Development at OISE/UT.
Tips for student advisors
Handy web sites