FAQ

The following are answers to frequently asked questions by faculty members about CAL. 

How can I encourage my students to talk with me about their accessibility requirements?

Announce at the beginning of the course that you are available to discuss learning outcomes, and appropriate course adaptations with students who have disabilities.

Include a welcoming statement in your course syllabus (provided by the Learning and Teaching Centre and CAL websites) indicating your willingness to discuss these issues.

How do I approach a student who I notice is struggling and perhaps has a disability?

You can comment on what you have observed. Your student may disclose a disability. At this point you can refer your student to the CAL.

If your student does not disclose a disability, you may tell them that you’ve noticed they’re having difficulty and refer them to campus supports, just as you would with any student.

If you need to refer a student for help:

How can I encourage students to register with CAL if they request accommodations?

Include the recommended statement in your syllabus and make an announcement on the first day of class.  

What is a reasonable academic accommodation?

Students who find it difficult to access some lectures, labs, exams, written assignments, fieldwork, class discussions or technology may need accommodations like:

  • note takers
  • sign language interpreters
  • preferential seating
  • test and exam time extensions
  • classes in accessible locations
  • adaptive technology

They may require a range of accommodations for various activities in order to meet learning outcomes.  Accommodations provide different ways of meeting essential course or program requirements. 

Fulfilling these essential course or program requirements remains the student’s responsibility.

Some accommodations require extra time to be put in place.  Our team needs extra time for things like:

  • course materials in alternative format
  • sign language interpreting or captioning
  • adaptations to a physical learning environment

Is the information regarding a student’s disability and their need for academic accommodations confidential?

Yes. This is confidential and private information, governed by provisions of the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the university’s Protection of Privacy policy (GV0235).

It is important that you communicate respect for the student’s privacy regarding the specific nature of their disability.  The majority of students registered with CAL have invisible disabilities. 

What do I do if a student requests an accommodation that’s not mentioned in their letter of accommodation?

Students may approach you to request an academic accommodation that has not been mentioned in the information you have received.

As an accommodation, it may represent a precedent setting lowering of an academic standard.

Occasionally this request is one that we have reviewed, and denied on the grounds that it would go beyond leveling the playing field, by providing this student with an advantage over classmates.  The University of Victoria would not consider this a reasonable accommodation.

Can I choose to accommodate a student who is not registered with CAL and/or who has not provided me with the appropriate written information from CAL?

Any academic concessions an instructor chooses to make in the classroom or exams are not deemed an accommodation of a disability.

Most instructors choose to make exceptions for students from time to time such as for illness or family situations.

It is important to note, as per the UVic Procedures for Academic Accommodation and Access for Undergraduate Students with Disabilities, that CAL, although it reviews and implements logically-related and reasonable accommodation recommendations, has no obligation to provide or adopt recommendations made by outside entities, such as a medical professional who writes directly to an instructor.

This is particularly relevant when recommendations in medical documentation suggest accommodations that would result in an essential course requirement or academic standard being unmet.

What if I don’t agree with a recommended accommodation?

As stated in University Policy No.: AC1205 Academic Accommodation and Access For Students With Disabilities, CAL has the responsibility to coordinate the process of reviewing requests for academic accommodation, make decisions about provisions for academic accommodation, and communicate relevant information to the student and to faculty and staff of the university.  

CAL (a) reviews (confidentially) the documentation of disability and (b) determines eligibility for academic accommodation and services on the basis of documentation and assists in implementing these accommodations when necessary by providing, where appropriate, an initial written recommendation.

You are the person most familiar with your course.  Your accessible curriculum, determined essential course requirements and learning outcomes are the starting point for determining how well any accommodation plan will work.  Please contact the student's advisor or the Director CAL to discuss concerns about suggested accommodation plans.

The route for formal appeals of academic accommodations is outlined in the procedures accompanying AC1205.

How can I ensure I’ve met my responsibilities to accommodate when a student has been unsuccessful in my course?

When you have provided reasonable academic accommodations, and the essential course requirements have not been met, failing a student may be appropriate. 

The mandate of post-secondary education is access to education for students with disabilities, not guaranteed academic success.

Have you met the criteria for providing access and accommodation?

  • My course curriculum has been designed in an accessible and usable way and I know which course components were essential.
  • My course materials--both printed and electronic--are usable, accessible and available in different formats, such as e-text, or online.
  • I let my students know that I was willing to reasonably accommodate and had clear expectations for performance that I communicated to my students.
  • I respected any request for reasonable accommodation communicated to me by CAL.
  • I had successful working relationships with students who used services and technologies in my class such as note takers, interpreters or transcribers or who used audio recorders.
  • I kept all student disability-related information confidential.
  • I consulted with the student's advisor or the Director at CAL when I was unclear as to how to accommodate a student.

How do I know if my course materials are accessible?

Contact Nick Balyi at  if you need help determining if your course materials are accessible.

Contact the LTC if you need assistance with creating teaching and learning materials that are usable by all students with or without adaptation or special design. 

Checklist for ensuring accessibility of your course materials:

  • Inform your department and the bookstore of your textbook selections in a timely manner.  Documents (tests, exams, course outlines, PowerPoint presentations, etc.) produced within your department or by you should be created in an accessible format.
  • Ensure video is available with audio description for visually impaired users.
  • Ensure spoken audio is provided with and descriptive text (i.e. captions for videos)
  • The McPherson Library subscribes to a number of electronic text services that provide full text versions of some texts, articles and journals..
  • Contact Darryl Gorrie at  for help in determining whether your course materials work with assistive technology.

Can a requested academic accommodation be denied?

Under some circumstances a request for an academic accommodation will be denied.

These circumstances are considered under the framework of a legal definition of  "undue hardship".  In order to demonstrate undue hardship, you must provide evidence that:

  • Accommodation alternatives would result in the 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.

What can I do to make sure a student who is hard of hearing or Deaf can access my lectures?

There may be interpreters and transcribers working in your class to make your lecture accessible.

Interpreters

Professional sign language interpreters work in partnership with you to ensure your course content is fully accessible to all of your students.

They will become familiar with the language of the course, the textbook or other materials ahead of time, and will interpret everything heard in the classroom into sign language. They will also interpret all questions and comments signed by your Deaf student(s) into English.

Transcribing services

Some Deaf or hard of hearing students may use transcribing services.  A transcriber will work in your classroom transcribing course content into a print-based format viewed in real-time on a laptop near the student. This service can be done wirelessly with no obvious connection between the student and the transcriber.

Lip reading

Make lip reading possible by facing the students and not lecturing in front of a window or other strong light.

Language challenges

English is a second language for many students who are Deaf, and this can present some challenges when evaluating written assignments.

Continue to correct grammar and syntax and refer the student to the Centre for Academic Communication, or to our learning strategist program.

Contact us for more information.

Policies and procedures

The following policy and procedures guide the process of requesting and receiving academic accommodations: