The purpose of the Students with Disabilities: Academic Accommodation and Access Policy is to foster diversity, inclusiveness and student success by providing that students with disabilities are not discriminated against, and that they receive equal opportunities for academic success and personal development at the University of Saskatchewan.
Remote learning accommodations
Students registered with AES will still require academic accommodations in an online environment. For some students with disabilities, the inability to access campus spaces and resources may actually increase the impact their disability has on their academic performance. Some students with disabilities may not have access to assistive technologies at home that they would normally access on campus. It is important that faculty members and instructors consider their options to expand the ways they provide course programs to students.
The information provided is intentionally broad, and it may not address every issue or question that arises in a specific course. There may be exceptional situations that arise and cannot be predicted. Access and Equity Services recognizes that many students fall into high risk groups and may be disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
As per the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, the University of Saskatchewan has a duty to accommodate students who find themselves in one or more of the following protected categories. Instructors must continue to provide academic accommodations for students registered with AES who are enrolled in online courses. All students with academic accommodations must provide instructors with a letter outlining their approved accommodations. If a student has new or updated accommodations, they will be required to provide the instructor with an updated letter.
Text-based course materials
Course materials should be created in a format that allows students with visual, auditory, neurological and motor disabilities to easily engage with the material.
Use plain backgrounds. Do not add unnecessary images or styles to presentation slides or other text documents.
Use high contrast colours.
Use simple, non decorative fonts such as Arial or Times New Roman. For more information on choosing appropriate fonts, visit the Bureau of Internet Accessibility's page on choosing font that is accessible.
Allow students to download all documents to their personal devices and make them editable so they can manipulate the document as needed (eg: enlarge font or image size, highlight important information, add in their own notes).
Use headers to help highlight important information and draw focus to key points on slides.
Do not put too much content on one slide.
If you send images to your students, include descriptions of the images so assistive technologies (such as screen readers, magnifiers, etc.) can appropriately engage with the content.
If you are utilizing audio/visual components anywhere in your course, ensure all content is closed captioned.
Assessments, assignments and discussions
Online learning courses may present unique challenges for students who are now interacting with course material in ways that differ from the traditional lecture delivery format. Online courses may have heavier amounts of text to navigate and may incorporate more than one medium such as readings and audio/visual components. These changes may mean that students need more time to work through the course information as text or audio/visual heavy courses can both present challenges for students with disabilities.
When developing assessments, assignments, and class participation activities, please keep in mind the amount of time you are asking students to sit in front of a computer to access or engage with your course content. Consider providing options for students to demonstrate their learning when deciding on delivery of assessments, accepted forms of submission, and grading class or discussion participation and making considerations for students to move away from a screen while engaging with your course.
Text based courses can often involve large amounts of readings for students. Some students need additional processing time and the opportunity to engage with content multiple times to aid in comprehension and mastery. Allow adequate time for assessments and assignments and be mindful of the amount of material you are assigning and the deadlines you are setting. There should also be consideration given for audio/visual materials as students with disabilities may need to re-engage with audio/visual content multiple times in order to identify and transcribe pertinent information.
It is recommended to allow discussion postings to happen asynchronously so students can review and engage with content at a time that is most ideal from them. Some students with disabilities do better at certain times of day due to medication side effects or have difficulty with early morning deadlines due to complications from chronic illnesses. Students have the opportunity to choose their class times for in person classes and we encourage the same timing flexibility for online class engagement.
Keep in mind the technology you are asking students to utilize outside of the classroom as many students may not have microphones and/or webcams and may not be able to participate in live class or group work discussions. Students with hearing difficulties or neurological disabilities may have difficulty following along with large group discussions that happen via livestream and may need closed captioning or transcription services to see what was discussed. Encourage students to use the chat functions to make their contributions in live discussions and select programs that allow chat transcripts to be saved so students can review discussions as needed.
Students with auditory or processing disabilities may be using assistive technology to make transcriptions of live content. Because this software cannot pick up multiple voices at once, ensure that in live discussions there is only one speaker at a time and that they are speaking loudly and clearly into their microphone.
Collaborative note sharing among students can supplement any notes you may provide to the class. Students could be encouraged to share their class notes of live discussions with one another through the use of discussion postings or collaborative documents.
When you show images or videos via screen-share, provide those files for students to download. This will especially help students with dyslexia, visual impairments, and processing disorders.
Instructors are encouraged to employ principles of universal design when setting up online or in person courses whenever possible. For more information on universal design, AES recommends the following website on universal design in higher education created by Georgetown University.
Information on remote learning styles and recommended approaches for your course(s) can be found here.
For assistive technology for students with disabilities, AES recommends Read&Write Software. Read&Write is easy-to-use software for PCs and Macs that supports reading, writing, studying, and research. The software is free to all University of Saskatchewan students, staff, and faculty to download to their personal computers. The software makes the web, documents, and files more accessible - any time, any place on any platform or device.
With Read&Write you can:
- Hear text read aloud to improve reading comprehension, with a choice of natural voices.
- Understand unfamiliar words with text and picture dictionaries.
- Highlight and copy text from documents and web pages to create study guides, outlines or complete assignments.
- Supports writing skills with word prediction.
- Turn text from documents and web pages into MP3 sound files for listening on the move.
- Check writing and grammar mistakes with proofreading tools.
Additional remote teaching resources
For information on online tools and programs recommended by the University of Saskatchewan as well as additional technology considerations, please visit our remote teaching resources.
Students diagnosed with COVID-19
The University of Saskatchewan does not require students to register with Access and Equity Services for a diagnosis of COVID. No formal medical documentation needs to be presented to an instructor; use of the student-signed Declaration of Absence form is acceptable if necessary. Also, note that the Student Wellness Centre does not provide a medical note for missed academic requirements (including exams) because of illness.
Students who are feeling unwell should contact their instructors who will be able to guide the student with regard to departmental and/or college procedures to determine next steps related to requesting deferred exams, postponing non-final exams, or requesting extensions on outstanding work.
Should you require further information, please contact your department head or associate/assistant dean.
Types of accommodations
Letters to Professors
The purpose of Letters to Professors (LTPs) is to:
- provide confirmation to the professor that the student is registered with AES
- outline required academic and exam accommodations they will need
- and state the deadlines they must meet in order to receive exam accommodations through AES.
It is the student's responsibility to provide the LTP to their instructor(s).
We encourage students to provide this information to their instructors as close to the beginning of the semester as possible; however, there is no deadline to register with AES and so an instructor may receive an LTP at any time during the year.
Definitions of accommodations
If you are unsure of what an accommodation entails, please browse through the definitions.
AES Exam Program
What is the AES Exam Program
The Exam Program is a centralized service that provides accommodations for students with disabilities. Only those accommodations recommended by a student's medical documentation and/or psycho-educational assessment may be provided. Accommodations include a range of services and aids, including additional time; access to a sofa, drafting table, or assistive technology; the use of a reader/scribe; and restrictions on how many exams a student can write within a specified period of time.
AES takes academic integrity very seriously and students writing exams through AES are expected to adhere to all USask examination policies.
How the program works
The University community as a whole has a legal responsibility to provide the accommodations and supports that students with disabilities require to succeed. In 2016-17, working in tangent with most academic departments on campus and hundreds of instructors, AES will arrange accommodations for over 5,000 unique exams: one exam, from one class, for one student who has a unique set of accommodations.
- Only students registered with AES, and who have valid and current medical documentation or a psycho-educational assessment on file, are eligible to use exam accommodations. Students may use only those accommodations that are specifically outlined in their documentation.
- Students must meet deadlines for requesting to write exams through AES. AES is not able to accept late requests for any reason, due to high demand and resource shortages.
- Students fill out an online request form for each exam they wish to write through AES. The link for the form is available on their AES PAWS tab. Once an applicable deadline has passed, the online form will not accept requests for accommodations.
Request for exam copies
- Requests for exam copies are automated. During the Fall and Winter terms, the requests are emailed directly to instructors 10 days prior to the exam date.
- AES can accept hard copies of exams only. Hard copies may be dropped off at the SESD lock box, which is located next to the reception desk in the atrium of the Administration Building.
- Please provide hard copies 3-5 business days in advance during the Fall/Winter terms, and 2 business days in advance during the Spring/Summer terms. This will allow AES sufficient time to package, sort, and prepare the exams for invigilators to pick up on the exam date.
- Requests for exam copies include an "Instructions for Exam Invigilation" form attached to the email. Please print that form, and fill it out and include it with the exam copy to ensure AES invigilates the exam fairly.
- Once exams are received, they are handled with the utmost care with respect to examination security.
- Students are notified of the exam location through the same web form that they use to request exam accommodations.
- The AES Exam Program has 11 individual exam spaces in their area; when necessary, additional spaces are booked through Room Scheduling, FMD.
- AES has no way to verify the dates and times of non-final examinations. Exam accommodations are arranged for the dates and times that students indicate. If, upon receiving a request for an exam copy, the date looks incorrect, please notify firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
- Final exam dates and times are pulled from the University's Final Exam Schedule and are verified.
- At AES, exams are almost always written on the same day and begun at the same as the rest of the class. Exceptions are made for the following reasons:
- If the student has a class immediately following the exam and would miss that class, or part of that class, by staying late to use extra time, we begin the student early so that s/he finishes at the same time as the rest of the class.
- If the exam is in a night class, we begin the student early so that s/he finishes at the same time as the rest of the class. For personal security reasons, we will not require staff or students to stay on campus past 10 pm.
- If the student requires a date and/or time change for other reasons, the student must get the instructor’s permission for the new date and time before submitting the request to write the exam.
- Requests for exam copies include an "Instructions for Exam Invigilation" form. Please fill that out and include it with the exam copy to ensure we invigilate the exam fairly.
- Whether students write in an individual or shared space, they are strictly supervised and must adhere to USask exam policies.
- Other than a writing instrument and paper, students cannot take anything into the exam room, unless AES is previously advised differently by the instructor.
- If a student has documentation on file that supports the use of a computer or laptop while writing an exam, please know that AES provides non-networked computers for word processing purposes only. Unless an instructor gives written permission, students are never allowed to take in personal computing devices or other electronics.
Once exams are completed
- Exams can be picked up at AES once they are completed; or, we will deliver the next business day.
AES sets up in-person exam accommodations for those students who are registered with the office and who have appropriate documentation. In an online setting, students are expected to arrange most accommodations on their own. Students are encouraged to provide their Letters to Professor and also to reach to reach out to their instructors to discuss needed accommodations.
For timed online exams, the timer on the exam will need to be adjusted. Some instructors are able to do this themselves; others will require assistance from their ICT support staff. Please contact your ICT support staff directly if help is needed.
Students who require the assistance of readers and/or scribes have been encouraged to use Read&Write software instead. While this is a tenable option for most students, some students will still require a live person to act as a reader and/or scribe. In those cases, AES can arrange for a staff person to work remotely with the student, via telephone or online web conferencing.
Alternatives to timed online exams are often more in line with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines. We encourage you to consider open-book exams or take-home assignments as these naturally allow for accommodations. For example, if a take-home exam is designed to take 3 hours to complete and the entire class is given 8 hours (or 24 hours) to complete the exam, any extra time accommodation is essentially "built in."
For more information or to discuss possible alternatives to timed online exams, contact the AES Exam Team at email@example.com.
The Notetaking Program facilitates the sharing of volunteers' lecture notes, through Blackboard Learn to eligible students. The program may assist students who have difficulty physically taking notes, who have difficulty hearing the lecture or who may be easily distracted. The program is confidential for both the notetaker and the AES registered student.
Notetakers are found through targeted PAWS announcements and emails, and are given a letter of recognition to validate their volunteer experience. For more information about how the program works for students, please take a look at our Notetaking Program information. Questions about the program may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students who have notetaking as an accommodation may still request notetaking for courses where there is video or audio instruction. To make your content accessible to all students, consider providing complete course notes and captioning or providing transcriptions of any audio/video recordings.
In classes where information is presented in a text based format (course readings with no audio visual components) note-taking will not be provided.
Alternate Format Textbook Program
The Alternate Format Textbook Program (Alt Format Program) assists students with perceptual disabilities in obtaining books in alternate formats, primarily in PDF format. For the purpose of this program, and in accordance with Canadian Copyright Law, Section 32, students with perceptual disabilities include those who have:
- Severe or total impairment of sight or hearing or the inability to focus or move one's eyes,
- The inability to hold or manipulate a book, or
- A reading impairment relating to comprehension
Access and Equity Services (AES)
Please contact Access and Equity Services for more information on any of our programs.