Reading time: approximately 10 minutes.
ACTon Interactive Videos
- How were the interactive videos made? Who came up with the stories?
The ACTon interactive videos were scripted based on research with disabled students and placement instructors. The stories and characters represented in the videos are fictional, but they draw on real-life experiences from the project’s student and instructor participants. You can watch videos that the research participants created, which illustrate some of their experiences and thoughts about accommodation in placement. The ACTon research team used the research findings to inform their script writing. The scripts were reviewed by an advisory board made up of disabled students and disability scholars. Their feedback guided story content and confirmed the accuracy of information presented and the “believability” of the storylines.
- Why don’t the videos have clear endings with solutions?
Sometimes accommodation access is straightforward and effective, but sometimes it is really hard. And sometimes, accommodations are only moderately helpful. ACTon wanted the videos to be true to all of these different experiences.
There are multiple pathways that disabled students may navigate to access their accommodation needs in placement. This often depends on their disability and other intersecting social identities, their relationship with the placement instructor and placement supervisor, and their evolving familiarity and comfort level with the demands of the placement. The goal of the videos is to encourage viewers to consider what they would do in a given context and to assess the options and resources available to them and, thus, to ensure that disability accommodation and inclusion are realized.
- What are accommodations?
Disability accommodations in placement and experiential-education (EE) contexts are adjustments and modifications to the original design of activities or tasks; these accommodations support disabled students as they fulfill the requirements of the placement and meet the essential learning outcomes of the course.
- What does it mean that accommodations are a human right?
Disability accommodations are a human right; this means that all disabled people have a right to accommodations that respect their human dignity. The duty to provide accommodation is outlined in provincial human-rights codes across Canada (e.g., Ontario Human Rights Commission). Universities and colleges also have a duty to accommodate students with disabilities; the university and its employees have to listen to your request for accommodation and work cooperatively with you to find a solution that meets your needs.
- What are learning objectives?
Learning objectives are the required activities or understandings that a student is supposed to develop as a result of engaging with a course. Typically, a student must demonstrate that they meet all the learning objectives of a course in order to pass.
- What are my placement learning objectives?
To identify the learning objectives to your placement course, consult the course information (e.g., syllabus, course outline). You may also want to email or set up a meeting with your placement instructor to ask them for support in identifying and understanding the learning objectives.
- Why is it important for me to understand the placement learning objectives when thinking about my accommodation needs?
Understanding your placement learning objectives—that is, identifying the essential requirements you need to demonstrate to pass/complete the placement—supports both you and your placement instructor. If you can clearly understand these objectives, you are better situated to identify how to adapt and accommodate tasks so that you can meet those objectives.
Communicating About Accommodations
- Do I have to disclose my use of accommodations to take a placement program?
You never have to disclose your right to accommodation or your disability. You have the right to keep that information confidential. However, the ACTon research suggests students make their right to accommodations known to their placement/EE instructor as early as possible. This supports disabled students to access appropriate and reasonable accommodations should they require them during their placement/EE course. If you decide to keep your right to accommodation private, you cannot expect your accommodation needs will be met. If you require accommodations to meet the objectives of your placement/EE course, you will need to talk to your placement instructor, and likely your placement supervisor, to discuss your needs and identify the specific modifications required to support your success.
- Can I ask for a new/refined accommodation mid-placement?
Yes! Your right to accommodation can be accessed at any time. However, it may be difficult to efficiently and effectively find appropriate accommodations to meet your needs later in placement. Thus, we encourage you to start the conversations about accommodations as early as possible. If you feel your current accommodations are not working, try setting up a meeting with your instructor or your accessibility counsellor to discuss your needs in your placement/EE environment. Hopefully you will be able to work together to identify adjustments or new accommodations to put in place so you feel better able to meet the learning objectives.
- Do I have to disclose my disability during placement?
No. You never have to disclose your disability. Even if you are requesting accommodations, you have the right to keep your diagnosis to yourself. Your placement instructor/supervisor/placement coordinator is permitted to know information about your disability-related needs in order to accommodate you. For example, you may need to let them know that you need an accommodation for taking notes, but you can explain this without disclosing your diagnosis.
There are pros and cons to disclosing your disability. If you are uncertain if you want to disclose your disability, or if you want to access your right to accommodation, check out our Video Reflection Worksheet for support in deciding what will be best for you.
- How do I know which accommodations I will need in placement?
This is a great question! All placements are different and it may not be immediately obvious what accommodations you require to meet your needs. There are several strategies that you may use (together or alone) to figure out your placement accommodation needs.
You might set up a meeting with your placement instructor or your accessibility counsellor. We recommend setting up this meeting as early as possible once you have decided to enroll in a placement program. You may also want to meet with your placement supervisor, who should be able to answer specific questions about the placement environment and tasks. At the meeting, discuss the learning objectives of the program, the specific tasks or jobs that you will be required to complete, and the environment/context in which you are expected to complete them.
Consider the accommodations that you have used in the past and how they might work in the placement environment. You may be able to use accommodations you are familiar with, or you may have to develop new ones. Try to formulate a plan that you feel good about. After you have had a good amount of time to implement the plan in the placement environment, you may want to check in again with your instructor/supervisor/counsellor to see if any adjustments or changes are required. In this way, figuring out placement programs accommodation may feel like a process.
Everyone in the placement is learning. For disabled students, placements should provide a safe environment in which they can test out different accommodation strategies and prepare for a smooth integration to their profession/workforce after graduation.
Lack of Accommodation or Refusal to Accommodate
- What if my placement instructor/supervisor refuses to accommodate me?
You may have requested accommodations and your instructor or placement supervisor said no, or you may feel that the placement or EE environment is implicitly unwelcoming to discussions about accommodation. Either way, this can be upsetting and isolating. You may also feel angry at the sense of injustice. These reactions are understandable. When deciding what to do about the situation, acknowledge your feelings and then consider what is best for you moving forward.
Identify the resources available to you and consider what kind of support(s) you need in this situation. Do you want an empathetic ear? Or do you want to take more formal action to address the situation? Sometimes, challenges can be resolved relatively quickly with a meeting where miscommunications can be addressed and/or alternative accommodations can be put in place. Other times, the situation may take considerable time to resolve. This is especially the case when refusal to accommodate is implicit or systemic. Making sure that you feel supported along the way is important for your well-being.
If you are looking for a sympathetic ear, consider telling a trusted friend or loved one about what is happening. Seek mental-health support as needed. It is usually helpful to talk the situation through with someone who is a good listener and whose opinion you trust.
If you want to take action, there are several pathways you can consider. If your accommodation was refused by your placement supervisor, consider discussing the issue with your placement instructor. If it was your placement instructor who refused the accommodation, consider talking to the placement coordinator and program director. Another resource might be your accessibility counsellor or the centre for inclusion, access, and/or social justice at your institution. It is a good idea—should the situation become difficult or should you decide to take more formal complaint measures at your institution—to keep a copy of all communications you make about this subject. Higher education institutions have resources available for students to help address human-rights complaints or social-justice issues. These might be another resource for you, especially if you decide you want to document a formal complaint with your institution.
- My placement instructor/supervisor has told me they will not provide me with my requested accommodation.
Your placement instructor/supervisor has to listen to your request for accommodation and work cooperatively with you to find a solution that meets your needs. However, not all accommodations are suitable in every placement environment, and one accommodation may compete or come in conflict with someone else’s right to accommodation (e.g., Aaleyah’s challenge with being unable to use her cellphone to record client meetings because of privacy concerns). In these more complex situations, an alternative accommodation may need to be developed.
Institutional Accommodation Process
- I have a disability but am not registered with Student Access Services. Can I still be accommodated in placement?
If you have a diagnosed disability your right to accommodation is a human right. This is not reliant on having registered your disability with your institution. However, most higher education institutions have a policy that requests students to document their disability with the institution in order to have their right to accommodation recognized. Registering your disability facilitates the institution’s timely response to your request for accommodation. Requesting accommodations may trigger a process that requires you to follow institutional protocol and register your disability with the institution. This is a confidential process. If you do not want to register your disability with your institution, consider talking with your placement instructor about adapting the course program to your learning needs. While some instructors need to follow instructional protocol, course directors and faculty typically have discretion over course implementation.
- What do I do if my accommodation letter does not list accommodations in placement?
To adjust any information in your letter of accommodation, you will need to set up a meeting with your accessible counsellor.
- My placement supervisor is not letting me perform the tasks required to meet my placement learning objectives. What do I do?
It is possible that this may be part of the placement process. The process may be incremental, and it may be that you need to meet some learning objectives before you progress to meet others. You may want to ask your placement supervisor for specific, actionable tasks that you can prepare for and demonstrate to show you are ready to progress. However, if you feel your opportunities for advancement are being barred because your placement supervisor harbours conscious or unconscious stigma towards you, you may want to reach out for support. If your relationship with your placement supervisor is strong, you may want to address your concerns with them directly. You could also contact your placement instructor or placement coordinator to inform them of the situation and seek guidance.
- What do I do if other students treat me poorly because I require accommodations?
If your peers or other students in the placement program are treating you poorly, consider talking to them directly about your concerns. You may also want to inform your placement instructor about the situation. If a dialogue is necessary but meeting independently with the student feels unsafe, consider who might act as a moderator or ally in a meeting where you can express your concerns. Hopefully, the group can come to an agreement on how to treat each other with respect moving forward. Making information about the accommodations (e.g., ACTon Resource Hub) available may also help.
- What do I do if colleagues at my placement treat me poorly because I require accommodations?
If the colleagues are employees of your placement institution (i.e., not your higher education institution,) consider talking to them directly about your concerns. If your relationship with your placement supervisor is supportive and feels safe, it may be helpful to talk to them about the situation. Including or informing your placement instructor is also a good idea. Placement programs often rely on the long-term partnerships they foster with partner institutions. If a placement setting is not inclusive or does not provide a safe environment for students, the placement program may consider whether it is worth continuing the partnership.