On October 30th, 2013, Sally Greenough, Laurie Carcia and Kim MacKinnon, Educational Psychologists, Student Development discussed the Reasonable Accommodations Policy G-3.5 at SIAST and answered questions that faculty had regarding how the policy and accommodation strategies translate into the classroom, clinical and workplace.
It was noted that the Reasonable Accommodations Policy is a requirement of The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. Sally stated that it was a legal duty for SIAST to accommodate to the point of “undue hardship” and that this applies to both SIAST students and employees. The definitions of discrimination, reasonable accommodation, the duty to accommodate and undue hardship were discussed as well as the limits on the duty to accommodate.
Students come to SIAST either with an assessment already done (that is they bring their medical documents or psychologist report from High School) or the psychologists at SIAST do the educational tests to confirm the diagnosis. The Psychologist report is only valid for five years and then another one is required. There was a discussion on admission requirements and that perhaps programs needed to review their admission requirements if there are work-related requirements that are not noted in the program admission requirements i.e. lifting heavy loads.
The discussion on recording devices in the classroom was engaging as the development of the SMART pen and other assistive technologies has mushroomed. These technologies are being used by a variety of users including those who have a learning disability. Many instructors were not aware of the Smart Pen and that the pen can record the lecture and is used on pixelated paper so that the recorder will automatically go back to the section of the recording that the person wants to hear again. The student who has a Smart Pen as an accommodation signs a waiver so that the information is only for their use in learning and is not to be shared. It was noted that the student is not only recording the instructor but also other students and in some courses there might be personal information that is shared. Sally noted that the instructor would instruct everyone to shut off any recording devices during any personal or confidential discussions. Instructors need to be aware that they will be informed of any student who requires recording as an accommodation however all students have access to this technology and they are not likely to be informing the instructor that they are recording the session.
While instructors are informed by the Program Head of any accommodations that a student requires they are not informed of the learning issue or disability: this is a confidentiality issue and unless the student agrees the information may not share. In this sense, many instructors noted that they are not educated on how to help the student learn. This was a major discussion point with instructors underlining their frustration with the current system.
The question regarding students being weaned off of accommodations was discussed. Sally stated that in most cases a disability is permanent: that is the person would live with it all of their lives however they may develop better coping skills as they deal with their disability.
You may wish to listen to the Student Accommodation Podcast.