FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions by Faculty about Students with Disabilities

How do students register with Disability Services?

Undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities can choose to register with any of the three disability service units within Counselling & Disability Services.  Students must provide CDS with medical/ psychological documentation confirming the presence of a diagnosed learning, mental health, physical, sensory, or medical disability in order to become officially registered with our services.

More detailed information about registering with one of the disability services can be found at the following web sites:

What types of disability support services are provided to students by cds?

Our Disability Services Units primarily assist students in arranging academic accommodations so that they are given an opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of course and program material without discrimination on the basis of disability.

Determining which academic accommodations are appropriate is a shared responsibility among students, the disability counsellor, and the professor or course director in each course.  Although professors are not "disability experts", they are the authority in their field and in the course they teach; therefore, sometimes they may suggest a more appropriate, practical or creative accommodation that best suits the course and respects academic integrity.

The process of accommodation is very individualized. Students diagnosed with the same type of disability may have very different accommodation plans. The disability counsellor will consider the recommendations in the diagnostic report along with other factors.

Provided that the recommended accommodations do not undermine the academic integrity of the course, they should be implemented as recommended.

When would a Course Director refer a student to disability services?

If you are concerned about a student's performance in your course and suspect that there may be a disability interfering with the student's success, you may want to meet with the student to explore whether there are any potential issues that could be supported by consultation with a learning skills counsellor or disability counsellor in CDS.  Our staff are available for consultation with faculty members if you would like to discuss how to approach a particular situation.

Why would a student wait until the last minute to ask for help, especially if the course work is outlined in the syllabus?

We emphasize to students that it is typically in their best interest to discuss at the earliest possible moment with Course Directors how their disability affects their learning and the type of academic accommodations they will require.  However, many students still worry    that knowledge of their personal information may be used against them. This issue of self-disclosure becomes particularly problematic at the graduate level where students worry that disclosure of their disability may hinder them from obtaining professional jobs.

Fear of disclosure, worry about being judged, and difficulty accessing academic accommodations in the past, may prevent a student from asking for an extension, deferral or make-up test in a timely fashion.

Many students do not want to ask for help unless they feel they really need it. Sometimes they feel undeserving of help, especially if they are taking a reduced course load. Other times they may feel intimidated by authority figures and are afraid to ask for academic accommodation.

Students may begin the term not requiring assistance from our office or their instructors but as the work accumulates, the cumulative effect can cause serious difficulties.  Sometimes this results in overwhelming anxiety and students' academic performance may plummet.  An on-going dialogue between the student, their disability service provider, the professor and/or teaching assistant may be required and is recommended to support the student’s academic success.


Why may students with disabilities require academic accommodations?

Academic accommodations are adjustments to the learning environment that support students' academic endeavours while at the same time maintaining the essential academic requirements of the course and program of study.  Accommodations are meant to remove barriers while providing neither an academic advantage nor disadvantage to students.

Here’s an example of how academic accommodations work. Because of a disability such as Cerebral Palsy, or some forms of learning disability, or because of the side effects of certain medications used in treating students with mental health disabilities, students may experience great difficulty with tasks requiring fine motor skills such as handwriting. This may affect how quickly and legibly they can write. A reasonable academic accommodation in this instance might be extended time and/or use of a computer to complete written tests and examinations where the intent is to evaluate students’ knowledge or analytical skills in relation to the topics encompassed by the test or examination. The evaluation can be done fairly once the student has had the opportunity to write legibly.


What is the purpose of Letters of Academic Accommodation to instructors?

Letters of Academic Accommodation are meant to be given to their instructors by every student registered with our service who requires academic accommodation. This procedure is in keeping with York's Senate policy on accommodating students with disabilities. These letters are typically written early on in the term or whenever the student registers with our office (which can be any time throughout the academic year). The recommended academic accommodations are based on medical/ psychological documentation that we have on file in Disability Services.  It is the students' responsibility to ensure that faculty and TAs receive the letter of accommodation in a timely fashion so that appropriate arrangements can be made.  Students are strongly encouraged to meet with their course directors to discuss the contents of the accommodation letter.

While some Course Directors might prefer that the letters of accommodation contain more details, we are not at liberty to disclose students' specific diagnoses. This is a privacy and human rights issue; students' confidentiality is meant to be respected at all times. It is the student's responsibility to deliver the letter to you. These letters are meant to facilitate discussion between you and students with regard to their specific educational needs for your particular course.  If the Course Director has any concerns that the recommended academic accommodations may undermine the academic integrity of the course, we encourage a discussion between the Course Director, the student and the disability counsellor in CDS.

More information about the academic accommodation process is available at the following links: