As part of our commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, and our legal duty to accommodate and support students with disabilities as they pursue their academic goals, Queen’s is launching an external review of its academic accommodations and related procedures.
The goal of the review is to ensure that all academic accommodations processes at Queen’s are effective, equitable, and straightforward for the students, faculty, and staff who navigate them. Everyone involved in the process should feel supported and empowered.
The review will focus on the adequacy and fairness of our policies, procedures, and programs in relation to student academic accommodations and considerations to ensure that they are aligned with evolving best practices in the post-secondary sector and beyond.
Recommendations may also be made regarding the education of our community members, resources dedicated to effective and timely implementation, and any other matters that the reviewers consider relevant in assisting us in meeting our ongoing commitments and obligation to students with disabilities.
For more information, please see Scope and Mandate of the Review below.
The Office of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor and the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) have engaged external reviewers with vast expertise in academic accommodations processes (see biographies below).
An Advisory Panel comprising students, staff, and faculty all of whom will identify as persons with disabilities will play an important role. The application period for the panel is now closed.
Stakeholder consultations will take place starting this spring.
It is expected the university will receive a final report and recommendations in spring 2024.
Scope and Mandate of the Review
External Review of Academic Accommodations and Related Procedures for Students at Queen's, 2023-2024
Scope and Mandate of the Review
Students with disabilities are increasingly seeking institutional services and processes that will enable them to participate fully in the academic environment. In the past academic year alone, the number of students with disabilities registered with Queen's Student Accessibility Services has increased by 33%. This upward trend in students requiring services related to accommodation and accessibility is expected to continue in the wake of COVID-19. Some sector experts predict that more students returning to university and college campuses post-pandemic will present with complex mental health and other disability related concerns.
Considering the high volume of accommodations processed and facilitated by QSAS and academic departments each year, it appears that most student accommodation needs are addressed successfully. However, each year there are students who raise significant concerns regarding accommodation processes at Queen's, from interactions with instructors through to formal academic appeal processes. For their part, staff, faculty, and administrators who administer these processes have pointed to a lack of clarity and minimal supports around how to address student accommodation situations that are complex, challenging, and growing in number.
Discussions with the Advisory Committee on Academic Accommodations, the Provost’s Teaching and Learning Advisory Committee, the Annual Queen's Accessibility Congress, and various university partners involved in providing accommodations have revealed:
- Students with complex health and disability issues, and who have challenges with respect to providing timely care provider documentation, may experience difficulty navigating current systems.
- QSAS and Faculties feel under-resourced with respect to doing the work of translating "Letters of Accommodation" (LOAs) into course relevant academic accommodations.
- Instructors are increasingly overwhelmed by student accommodation requests (volume and/or complexity). Some are relying on principles of "universal design" as a way of increasing accessibility and minimizing individual requests for accommodation.
- Students with disabilities sometimes meet resistance from course instructors and Faculty based offices with respect to implementing their Letters of Accommodation.
- Students find formal appeal processes burdensome and costly. The university does not have a more immediate appeal system specific to the issue of accommodations.
- Students may not always be well-informed about the distinction between high school level disability accommodations and the aims of university-level disability accommodations.
- Instructors are not always well informed about their responsibilities around accommodations
- Students who face resistance to having their accommodations implemented will often give up and drop courses rather than seeking additional assistance
The Reviewers' Mandate
The mandate of the external reviewers is to consider and make recommendations concerning:
- the need to balance the essential attributes of a course with the institution’s obligations under the law;
- the adequacy and fairness of policies, procedures and programs in relation to student academic accommodations and considerations;
- education of community members including students, staff, faculty, and administrators regarding student academic accommodations/considerations and accessibility;
- the resources dedicated to the effective and timely implementation of the policies, procedures and programs in relation to student academic accommodations and considerations;
- any other matter that the reviewers consider relevant in assisting the university to meet its obligations to students with disabilities.
Limitations to reviewer scope
The reviewers will not review:
- individual files related to clinical or administrative decisions made by healthcare providers or Queen's Student Accessibility Services,
- individual files related to administrative or legal decisions in relation to the university's academic appeal processes or any matter before the courts or the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.
The review will be co-led, administered, and supported by the offices of the Principal and Provost.
Further to this, the reviewers will receive guidance from an Expert Advisory Panel consisting of four students, two faculty members and one staff member, all of whom identify as persons with disabilities. This panel is advisory only to the reviewers and is to be used at their discretion. Administrative support will be provided by the Office of Principal.
The reviewers will undertake an environmental scan of other institutional structures and practices in addition to a review of Queen’s current practices through an initial document review of stated policy and practice of various offices typically involved in academic accommodations processes (e.g. QSAS, HRAS, Faculty Deans offices, Ombudsperson) that will provide institutional context and assist reviewers in defining the scope of their inquiries. Material from Queen’s will be accompanied by a summary of existing policies and procedures for context to the document review.
In addition to examining policy and procedure documents, it is expected that reviewers will consult widely with community members who interact with student accommodations systems at Queen’s, including key partners involved in administering these systems and service users (undergraduate and graduate students).
Timing of the Review
The review will commence in April of 2023; a preliminary report will be shared with the Principal and Provost’s offices by February 1, 2024, with a final report and recommendations expected in April or May of 2024 and in any event not later than December 31, 2024.
 Note: Queen’s also has a policy and procedure related to academic consideration. This can cover issues such as short-term illnesses, a death of a family member or friend, or other significant and/or traumatic life event. In the last two years this process has also managed COVID related academic considerations. While accommodations and considerations are different, they can intersect and an illness or traumatic event may trigger an immediate consideration but the situation may well turn into a mental health disability or issue that requires a longer term accommodation. Students have reported a lack of empathy or flexibility around academic considerations from some instructors - a sense that instructors will only accommodate a disability but are not “required” to make adjustments for other situations. Instructors are often concerned about issues of fairness with respect to considerations and may use the “floodgates argument” as a rationale for not granting considerations.
While this review is primarily focused on accommodations, intersections with consideration policies and practices should be examined.
External Review Committee
Tanya Packer, PhD, OTReg (NS), is a licensed occupational therapist and full professor at Dalhousie University. She is the Assistant Dean, International Partnerships for the Faculty of Health, Director of the School of Health Administration, and a Visiting Professor at Umea University in Sweden. In more than 35 years of academic experience, Tanya has sought new experiences and perspectives by working at universities in Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Australia. Her academic leadership positions have included Director of the School of Occupational Therapy (Hong Kong and Canada), Director of the Centre for Research into Disability and Society (Australia), Vice-Chair Dalhousie University Senate, and Honorary Professor at Radboud Medical University in the Netherlands. Previously a board member for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), she currently serves on the boards of Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada and the Canadian International Health Education Association (CIHEA). In addition to her academic leadership roles, Tanya leads an extensive research program that strives to improve the lives of, and health care services received by people living with chronic, long-term conditions. Her work has been funded via tri-council grants, government, and international awards (for example, the US Patient Centred Outcomes Research Institute – PCORI). She has over 100 peer reviewed papers and has received, as PI or CI, over $5M in research funds in the last five years alone.
Nora Farrell is currently a consultant to various higher education institutions and Ombuds Offices as well as an adjunct instructor at Osgoode Hall Law School. Nora has earned a Ph.D. as well as a Masters of Laws from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and a Master of Education (in adult and higher education) from the University of British Columbia.
Previous Ombuds’ Roles include:
- Ombudsperson at Algonquin Power & Utilities Corporation/Liberty (renewable energy production) for 3 years.
- Ombudsperson at Toronto Metropolitan University (previously known as Ryerson University) for 18 years.
- Ombudsman for the International Franchise Association and Ombudsperson for the Canadian Franchise Association for 3 years.
- Manager of Investigations and Complaint Resolution for the Ombudsman for Ontario for 5 years.
Patrick Case, MLS, LL.B., LL.M., is Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Equity Officer in the Education Equity Secretariat of the Ministry of Education. Dr. Case was most recently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Guelph. He was a long-time adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, where he directs the certificate program in human rights theory and practice.
From 1979 to 1985, Mr. Case was a trustee with the City of Toronto's Board of Education, where he served as an equity consultant from 1989 to 1999. From 1999 to 2009, he was Director of the Office of Equity and Human Rights at the University of Guelph, and from 2006 to 2010, he was a Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. In addition, he has been a trade unionist, school counselor and legal practitioner whose primary focus has been to serve survivors of male violence. Mr. Case was a staff lawyer in the Family Law Division of Parkdale Community Legal Services. He is a past chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, which was created as part of the federal government's redress agreement with Japanese Canadians, and served as co-chair of the Equality Rights Panel of the Court Challenges Program of Canada. In 2015, he was a member of the Management Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board and one of two people appointed by the Minister of Education to review the management and administration of the York Region District School Board.
Jeff Preston, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Disability Studies at King's University College at Western University with a focus on disability, popular culture, and inclusive policy. Jeff is an award-winning teacher at the college and university level whose research has been funded through Ontario Graduate Scholarships, a Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Masters Scholarship, and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship. Jeff's first book, "The Fantasy of Disability", was published internationally in 2016 and rereleased in paperback in 2018 by Routledge. A long-time advocate and committed public intellectual, Jeff is a past vice-chair of Easter Seals Ontario, past member of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee for the Ministry of Community and Social Services, past vice chair of the Committee of Adjustments at London City Hall and past vice chair – leadership table of the London For All anti-poverty initiative organized by the City of London. Jeff currently sits as the board chair of Defeat Duchenne Canada and is currently acting Chair of Disability Studies at King’s.