Medically confirmed functional impairment as proof of accommodation need in postsecondary education: Are Ontario’s campuses the bellwether of an inequitable decision-making paradigm?

Allyson G Harrison, Alana Holmes, Kathleen Harrison


Historically, students with disabilities in Canada provided comprehensive and objective documentation of their diagnosis and related functional impairments to access appropriate accommodations at the postsecondary level. Recently, some Canadian provinces have adopted an approach whereby students with mental health disabilities need not reveal their diagnosis; a healthcare professional may simply verify that a disability exists, enumerate the functional impairments, and detail the accommodations to be provided.   Without transparent documentation, Disability Services Offices frequently rely upon physicians for this information. We completed a census of all medical training programs in Ontario to evaluate the extent to which medical professionals receive training in determining functional impairments in postsecondary students with mental health conditions. Our findings demonstrated that the vast majority of medical residents receive no such training. Two programs report offering limited training in subjective methods such as self-report or the wishes of the client. Implications and recommended best practice are discussed.


disability policy, academic accommodation, functional impairment, decision making; human rights

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