Frequently Asked Questions by Students about Disability Services at York University

NOTE: To find out how disabilities may be taken into account in the admissions process at York University, please visit: Future Student's Information for Applicants with Diagnosed Disabilities page.

Disability Services (DS) is committed to ensuring that students with documented disabilities who have qualified for admission to York University receive equitable treatment in pursuit of their educational goals.

Our primary aim is to help students realize, develop and fulfill their personal potential in order to maximally benefit from their university experience. At both the Keele and Glendon campuses, we provide a range of support services that are tailored to students’ individual needs and strengths in an accessible, respectful and confidential environment.

The question and answer format below includes some of the most commonly asked questions and could serve as a good basis for further discussion with your disabilities counsellor.

What are my rights as a student with a disability?

In addition to enjoying the same rights as all other students, you have the right to

  • equitable access to educational opportunities by means of reasonable and appropriate academic accommodations relating to your educational goals, and
  • privacy and confidentiality – your disability status will not be disclosed to any third party without your informed consent

What are my responsibilities as a student with a disability?

  • Whether or not you self-identify to the University as a student with a disability, you are responsible for meeting the same standards of behaviour to which all York University students are held, as outlined in the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities and other policies set forth by the University
  • If you are requesting academic accommodation or other assistance because of your disability, you must first self-identify as a student with a disability to Disability Services as early as reasonably feasible after you have accepted a place at York University
  • Participate in initial and then periodic discussions regarding possible accommodation solutions
  • Share all relevant information with your disabilities counsellor so that appropriate support and academic accommodation can be arranged
  • Recognize your accountability for your own learning so as to fulfill all academic requirements and demonstrate mastery of the curriculum in your courses

What is the role of Disability Services at York University?

Disability Services provides services tailored specifically for students who have self-identified as having a disability and who have submitted certifying documentation. In general, we serve students with learning, mental health, physical, sensory and medical disabilities

Our services include: providing information about the University in relation to disabilities, assisting students with navigating through York University, promoting self-advocacy, developing more effective learning and coping strategies, disability-related counselling, determining and arranging for appropriate academic accommodations.

I am new to York. How do I register with Disability Services?

Your first step is to ensure that you submit documentation diagnosing your disability, prepared by a qualified health practitioner. Information about documentation requirements is available from our Disability Services Documentation page. Your disability related documentation should be uploaded to our online Disability Services Student Questionnaire.  An initial appointment will be arranged with Disability Services once we have received your registration information (disability related documentation and online questionnaire) .

If academic accommodations are necessary, it can take time to put the appropriate measures in place so you should submit the documentation and make arrangements for your appointment as early as possible, at the start of the academic term or as soon as you can thereafter.

Our three disability service units at Keele Campus are:

What if I don’t have appropriate documentation but I think that I need some assistance from Disability Services?

You should arrange to have a consultation appointment with staff from one of the disability services units as soon as possible so they can discuss the options available to you – this may include arranging for a medical or psychological assessment, being directed to other offices on campus that can provide academic support, etc.

Do I have to register with Disability Services?

Only if you want to access services through our offices. Our services include helping you determine whether you require academic accommodations. If you are unsure whether you do or not, we recommend that you register and meet with a disability service provider as soon as possible to discuss your accommodation needs.

What are academic accommodations?

Academic accommodations are adjustments to the learning environment that support your 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.

How will academic accommodations be determined?

Your disability related documentation will be reviewed by a qualified Disability Services staff member. This is the beginning of an interactive process whereby you and a disabilities counsellor will discuss:

  • Your learning style
  • Your academic program of study
  • The method of course delivery and the type of participation required of students (e.g. lecture, seminar, tutorial, practicum)
  • The nature of your disability and its impact on the postsecondary learning process
  • The recommended accommodations in the diagnostic assessment report

Determining which accommodations are appropriate is a shared responsibility among students, the disabilities 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 disabilities counsellor will consider the recommendations in the diagnostic report along with the other factors noted above. Depending on the circumstances, additional, or sometimes, fewer, accommodations may be recommended to your professors.

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

I have difficulty taking notes in class. What support is available to assist me?

Class notes are first and foremost a personal undertaking. How one filters, interprets and records information is a critical academic skill to develop, not only to thrive at university but also to use throughout your adult and professional life after you graduate. It is also very personal. Effective notes capture the key aspects of a lecture and can be a useful study aid to refresh the knowledge acquired before and during classes.

Given the personalized nature of the process of good note taking, we encourage students to develop this skill to the fullest extent possible. We strive to provide you with opportunities to enhance your ability to take notes effectively in class. Many students benefit from additional practice and guidance in how to take effective notes. Students registered with Disability Services should contact their disabilities counsellor to discuss supports and services available at York to help enhance note taking ability.

In addition to writing your own notes, there are other strategies that may be helpful to you in absorbing the lecture material.

  • Keyboarding as opposed to handwriting; use of a laptop or other portable keyboarding device may make it easier for you to take effective notes.
  • Some students find that using a digital voice recorder in lectures, with the permission of the course instructor, can be helpful because they can re-audit portions of the lecture after class both to consolidate their learning and to improve their notes from the lecture.
  • Some professors provide access to online notes or PowerPoint slides which are another way to review the lecture content and improve the notes you took during the lecture.
  • Various assistive technologies, such as "LiveScribe" and "OneNote", can be used to assist with the note taking process.
  • A peer note sharer may be recommended as a temporary strategy while you work on refining your own skills in this area.

You should discuss the options above with your disabilities counsellor so that we can arrange for the appropriate level of note taking support.

Students who are unable to take notes on their own even with the support of the assistive technology and strategies above may require a peer note sharer or professional note taker on a more regular basis.

Note: Despite our best efforts and for a variety of reasons beyond our control (for example, there may be a shortage of note sharers or note takers who are familiar with the subject matter of a particular course). When that occurs, it is not always possible to supply notes from a note sharer or note taker right at the beginning of a term in some courses, or on a consistent basis for all courses.

I am a new student at York University. Will I get the same accommodations that I had at my previous educational institution?

Whether you were previously in high school or in another post-secondary institution, you are in a different academic environment at York University. The recommended accommodations may stay the same, or they may be enhanced, reduced, or altered. Whatever your previous academic context, the program of study, course delivery methods and expectations can, and often will, differ here at York.

How will Course Directors be informed about the recommended accommodations for me?

You will provide a Letter of Accommodation to each of your Course Directors.  Your Letter of Accommodation will provide information relating to recommended accommodations. The specific diagnosis and nature of your disability are not disclosed in your Letter of Accommodation. Except for the accommodation(s) recommended, we do not release information about your disability without your informed consent.

You should request your Letter of Accommodation at that start of a new academic term .  Once your request has been processed, your letter will be emailed to you.  You can forward your Letter of Accommodation to each of your course directors electronically or you can print it and provide it to them in person.

We encourage students to meet with their Course Director during the Course Director’s office hours to discuss the recommended accommodations as early as possible to the start of term. Provided that the accommodations do not undermine the academic standards or integrity of the course, the Course Director is expected to comply with the recommendations (see above for more information about appropriate accommodations). If Course Directors have any concerns with the recommendations, they may discuss them with you and your disabilities counsellor so that an acceptable resolution can be achieved.

What if a Course Director refuses to implement the recommended academic accommodations even though they do not undermine academic integrity?

If an informal resolution is not achieved by discussing the issues with the Course Director and your disabilities counsellor, your options include:

  1. Appealing to the Chair of the academic department in which the course is taught
  2. Appealing to the Associate Dean or Dean of the Faculty in which the course is taught
  3. Consulting with or complaining to, the University’s Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion