Frequently Asked Questions
The following are frequently asked questions from students with learning disabilities who are interested in pursuing post-secondary education.
What information does my high school guidance counsellor have that will help me choose a college or university that will accommodate my disability, yet still have the quality of programming required for the field I wish to pursue?
Guidance counsellors have knowledge on each post-secondary institution’s strengths and weaknesses with regard to academic programs and disability accommodations. If you are not receiving the type of support you need from your high school guidance counsellor, please contact the Canadian Counselling Association to find other avenues of help.
I’m a first year university student with a disability. How can I learn to be an effective self-advocate with professors, tutors and other students at my school?
There are many ways to be a good self-advocate at the post-secondary level. First and foremost, you must believe in yourself. Maintaining good self-esteem will help you build positive relationships with others. Secondly, be proactive. Ask for accommodations early and follow proper procedures to receive your accommodations. Third, join a disabled students’ group on campus that can help guide you in being a good self-advocate. Also, volunteering your time to a worthwhile cause or organization can be fulfilling. Find an organization that can help you build self-esteem, and that teaches you the assertiveness and confidence that will be crucial when asking for accommodations at school.
If you would like to find more information on being a good self-advocate, contact your local Independent Living Centre through the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres (www.cailc.ca), or a member group of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) in your province.
What are my rights to post-secondary education as a person with a disability?
All educational institutions have a legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodation, up to the point of “undue hardship,” in order to ensure equity for students with disabilities. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the various provincial and territorial human rights charters prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. Post-secondary institutions have been mindful of the obligation to create an accessible environment dictated by these charters. Canadian colleges and universities now articulate the rights of disabled students in educational equity policy statements.
It is recommended that students with disabilities contact their disability services office for more information. Other organizations that can help clarify the legal aspects of disability accommodations include: The Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped (ARCH), Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and Reach Canada.
ARCH is a non-profit community legal clinic that defends and promotes the equality rights of people with disabilities through litigation, law and policy reform, and legal education. You can contact ARCH at its Toronto office:
Council of Canadians with Disabilities is a national human rights organization of people with disabilities working for an inclusive and accessible Canada.
Reach Canada is an Ottawa-based voluntary organization that empowers people with disabilities to remove barriers in education, work and the general community. Contact Reach at:
I am a student with a learning disability who has just completed high school, and I need financial assistance to support my post-secondary studies.
There are many financial assistance programs available for college and university study through the provincial, territorial and federal governments. A number of non-governmental organizations such as the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada , and the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada offer designated scholarships or bursaries to support the post-secondary education of students with disabilities. Schools also sometimes establish bursaries for students with disabilities. Contact the Awards office at your college or university of choice for further information.
You can also check out the Financial Aid Directory available on the National Educational Association of Disabled Students’ (NEADS) website: . NEADS published the National Directory of Financial Assistance Programs for Post-Secondary Students with Disabilities, which is a great resource that may prove valuable to you. The directory includes descriptions of federal, provincial and territorial funding programs, along with scholarships offered by non-governmental organizations and post-secondary institutions.
Finally, don’t forget that there are plenty of bursaries, awards and scholarships that are open to all students. You can find more information on your prospective university’s website.
What are the tax implications of a Canada Student Loans Special Opportunity Grant (Canada Study Grant)?
Canada Study Grants now provide up to $8,000 per year to students with disabilities to help cover disability-related education costs. The tax exemption on income from scholarships, fellowships and bursaries is $3,000. Many of the expenses for which the Canada Study Grant may be used to help cover exceptional education-related costs associated with your disability, such as a tutor, interpreter (oral, sign), note-takers, readers, attendant care for studies, specialized transportation (to and from school only), or 75% of the cost of a learning disability assessment up to a maximum of $1,200, also qualify for tax assistance under the medical expense tax credit.
The medical expense tax credit recognizes the effect of extraordinary medical expenses on an individual’s ability to pay tax. It does this by providing tax relief on eligible medical expenses in excess of a certain portion of an individual’s net income. As a result, although Canada Study Grants must be considered taxable income like other bursaries and scholarships, in many cases, tax relief provided through the medical expense tax credit offsets the tax on the grant.
The Education Tax Credit is available to people with disabilities who receive assistance for post-secondary education under Human Resources Social Development Canada’s training programs, including Employability Assistance for People With Disabilities and the Opportunities Fund.
If I have an outstanding Canada Student Loan and am unable to repay the loan because of my disability, what are my options?
The Canada Student Loans Program recognizes that a permanent disability may mean that some disabled students will be unable to repay a loan, because they are unable to seek or obtain a full-time job that would enable repayment. In these cases, the program offers a permanent disability benefit, which may allow applicants to have a loan forgiven. For more information on this provision, and other Student Loan Information Guides, please visit: www.canlearn.ca/eng/main/publications/info/index.shtml.
I would like to become involved with a group or organization of students with disabilities at school. How do I find out if one exists on campus?
Many colleges and universities across Canada have either a campus group of students with disabilities or an accessibility committee. Some schools have both types of organizations. Contact your general students’ association or the office that provides disability related services to find out if there is a group at your school and how you can become involved in meetings and other activities. If you would like to find out more about these groups, visit CampusNet, the new online community developed by National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS).
What sorts of accommodations are usually in place for students with disabilities attending college and university?
Services and accommodations vary greatly from one institution to the next. Some typical services include: tutors, note-takers in class, extended time for tests/exams, oral exams, access to computers with adaptive hardware and software, an adaptive technology centre, assistance with research in libraries, texts on tape, communication with faculty regarding accommodations in the classroom, special parking permits for mobility impaired students, orientation sessions, attendant services and accessible transportation. The fact of the matter is, all students require different accommodations depending upon their disabilities and individual circumstances. Speak to the disabilities service office at your school of choice to find out what is available to support students with disabilities in their pursuit of accessible education.
Where can I go to locate textbooks in alternative formats?
If you are registered with the disability services office at your college or university and are interested in requesting alternative format textbooks, contact them directly. Many college textbooks are available in alternative formats for the use of students with disabilities.
Some textbooks are available electronically so that a computer program can read the book to a student. This is referred to as electronic text, E-text or E-books. Some college books are read by volunteers and available digitally. These are referred to as audio books.
The following web resources provide additional information regarding Alternative Format Textbooks and for requesting permission to use materials:
Recordings for people with dyslexia (Princeton, New Jersey)
The student must contact this organization directly, as Canadian colleges and universities are not able to get memberships.
Will there be any fees that come with the use of special services at the post-secondary level?
This will depend upon the school that you attend. Some of the services that you receive may be covered by provincial or federal funding programs that you are eligible for, while other services will be supported by your school. Some colleges and universities charge for tutors, note-taking, large-print transcription, photocopying, etc. If in doubt, talk to the disability services office on your campus.