Human Rights Office

Human Rights Office
Human Rights Office

Tang v. McMaster University; Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University; Centre for Student Development, McMaster University; Medical Sciences Graduate Program, McMaster University 2014 HRTO 92 (CanLII)

Note: This case was previously discussed at the July 16, 2013 HRLG meeting. At the time of this meeting no decision had been rendered in this case.

Summary:

Jason Tang was a PhD student in Medical Sciences at McMaster University. Mr. Tang had completed most of the academic requirements towards completion of his degree when he suffered a brain injury. The brain injury resulted in post-concussion syndrome (PCS). The side effects of this disorder led him to seek accommodation for his upcoming comprehensive exam. He claimed that his disability prevented him from completing the exam in the traditional format, and sought an alternative format that would still allow him to demonstrate his competencies. The Associate Dean of Graduate studies informed him that he would be required to complete the exam in the same format as other students. The University offered Tang accommodation in the form of extra time to complete the exam along with other forms of support for writing. Tang submits that this accommodation was inappropriate, given the nature of his disability.  Tang eventually attempted to write the exam but was unable to complete it successfully. He was forced to leave his PhD. studies.  Tang alleges that the University’s failure to accommodate him appropriately led to his expulsion. In this case, Mr. Tang failed to provide evidence proving that the accommodations he was requesting were directly connected to his PCS.  McMaster University accommodated Mr. Tang in relation to all other accommodations included within his medical documentation. This case was dismissed.

Question(s) to be Determined:

  1. Did the respondents (McMaster University; Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University; Centre for Student Development, McMaster University; Medical Sciences Graduate Program, McMaster University) breach the Code by failing to provide Mr. Tang with appropriate accommodations for his disability?

Findings:

  1. Did the respondents (McMaster University; Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University; Centre for Student Development, McMaster University; Medical Sciences Graduate Program, McMaster University) breach the Code by failing to provide Mr. Tang with appropriate accommodations for his disability?

NO

Reasoning:

  1. In this case it was found that the respondents did not breach the Code in relation to the provision of appropriate accommodations for Mr. Tang. The fundamental problem in the case was the lack of evidence (i.e. documentation) stating that an appropriate accommodation for Mr. Tang’s PCS was completing his comprehensive exams in an alternative format (i.e. orally). “The problem is that there is no evidence that the impact described by the applicant is related to his post-concussion syndrome except the applicant’s and Dr. Phillips’ sincerely held but subjective belief. Given the medical documentation submitted this is not a trivial evidentiary concern. The documentation clearly lists all of the accommodations the applicant’s doctors identified as being necessary to address his post-concussion syndrome. All of those accommodations were offered to the applicant. Therefore, it is logical to doubt that there is a link between the impacts the applicant describes and his post-concussion syndrome” (para 78).

It was further stated that “Given the medical evidence and the fact that all of the accommodations identified by the health professionals were provided to the applicant, I am satisfied that the applicant here is unable to establish that there is a link between the negative impact he says he experienced in attempting the comprehensive exam and his disability of post-concussion syndrome. Therefore, there is no reasonable prospect of success with respect to the allegation that the respondents breached the substantive duty to accommodate” (para 79).