Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Accessibility FAQ

What does Accessibility Services (AS) do?

  • As an institution TRU has a responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities in accordance with the Human Rights Code (BC) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • AS provides service to both F2F and distance education students.
  • Our primary role is to review documentation, determine academic accommodations and facilitate the provision of those accommodations. We also develop and provide awareness events and educational sessions.
  • As a department, we operate according to the University’s academic policies.

What is a disability?

According to the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, a disability is defined as a "permanent disability." Which means: "a functional limitation caused by a physical or mental impairment that restricts the ability of a person to perform the daily activities necessary to participate in studies at a post-secondary school level or labour force and is expected to remain with the person for the person's expected life." However, we do provide accommodations to those students who experience longer term but likely temporary disabling issues: i.e. recovery from an injury or surgery.

What is an accommodation?

  • An accommodation involves the removal of barriers (physical or instructional).
  • An accommodation does not usually involve modification of curriculum or evaluation; a student must still meet the learning objectives and essential requirements of the course.
  • An accommodation may involve an adaptation or alteration to the physical and/or instructional environment.
  • An accommodation may include alternate formats and methods of communication, the use of adaptive technology and/or adaptations to the examination environment.

Are there limitations to accommodations?

Yes there are:

  • The University has an obligation to make the necessary efforts to reasonably accommodate a student with a disability but, at times, due to the nature and degree of the disability, no reasonable accommodation would enable a student to fulfill the essential requirements and therefore they cannot be accommodated. However, it does not happen often that we cannot find some way to accommodate a student and ensure that essential requirements are met.
  • Accommodations are designed to level the playing field so a student can meet the essential requirements and succeed on their own merits. Accommodations do not guarantee success.

What are reasonable accommodations?

"A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a course, programme, service, job, facility or activity that enables a qualified person with a disability to have an equal opportunity. Institutions are obligated to make reasonable accommodations only to known limitations of an otherwise qualified individual. Reasonable accommodations should not alter a course's essential components or in any way ‘water down the curriculum or standards of the institution." From the University of Minnesota.

Who can access services?

  • Students with a diagnosed permanent disability and who require academic accommodations and/or services in order to pursue their education.
  • Types of disabilities include: LD, ADHD, other neurological disorders, physical, mental health, sensory, chronic medical, autism spectrum disorders

A student in my distance course has disclosed they have a learning disability. They haven't contacted AS but they would like me to provide some concessions when it comes to marking their writing skills. What should I do?

We certainly encourage Open Learning Faculty Members to provide reasonable support to students; however, we strongly encourage you to refer students to DS first before doing that. Our role is to assist you in accommodating a student by verifying the nature of the disability, determining the functional limitations and what the reasonable accommodations would be prior to you having to accommodate. This way we can ensure that all students with disabilities have followed the same procedures and have been treated equitably. Otherwise, by trying to assist the student, an Open Learning Faculty Member may actually provide more accommodation than would be reasonable or equitable considering the disability.

Do I have the right to know whether a student is registered with Accessibility Services and what that disability is?

All students have the right to keep their disability confidential (although some may chose to self-identify of their own accord) and Accessibility Services does not disclose to Open Learning Faculty Members whether a student is registered with AS. Nor will we disclose the nature of a student's disability or any particular information about the impact of the disability without the student's permission. However, AS Advisors will encourage students to discuss their disability with their Open Learning Faculty Members and disclose as much as they feel comfortable disclosing, particularly if doing so would assist you or the student in some way.

Many students with disabilities take Open Learning courses because of the anonymity it allows, as they do not necessarily want or need the Open Learning Faculty Member or classmates to know they have a disability. Unlike a student with "classroom" needs, the disabilities of students taking OL courses often do not impact the day to day coursework the same way that it might in a classroom setting. Most students only require exam accommodations in order to make the exam setting more accessible (e.g. extra time, use of a computer) or they require an alternative format for their course material, both of which we arrange.

If a student requires a particular course related accommodation, Accessibility Services will often contact the course Open Learning Faculty Member; however, as with the above FAQ and example, if you have a student requesting concessions around grading and completion of work, you are encouraged to contact us first so that we can confirm that this is indeed a necessary and justified accommodation.

How do I know if a student is qualified to receive disability related accommodations?

All students receiving accommodations have been in contact with a AS Advisor and have provided the Advisor with documentation from a registered health care professional. The Advisor, or the AS Manager if necessary, has reviewed the documentation to verify the disability and discussed their needs to determine reasonable accommodations based on their disability.

I have a student with a disability in my distance course who is receiving accommodations but is doing poorly and, at this point, is not passing the course. Do I have the right to fail a student with a disability?

A student with a disability has the same right to fail as anyone else. Their work should be equivalent to that of their peers. They must meet all deadlines and complete the required course components unless otherwise determined and discussed with AS and OL ahead of time. Discuss your concerns about the student’s performance with the student just as you would with anyone else in your course that is experiencing difficulty.

So, what exactly is a learning disability?

Learning disabilities (LDs) refer to a wide variety of significant difficulties with information processing. Often called “invisible” disabilities, LDs are real, persist throughout the life span, and are permanent. LDs are not cognitive delays; individuals with learning disabilities are usually of at least average intelligence. A student with a learning disability may demonstrate difficulties with academic performance that seems at odds with the student's intellect and ability level.

Who can I talk to if I have any questions?

Call 1-250-828-5023 (local 5023) and ask to speak to one of the Accessibility Advisors, or email Accessibility Services at and someone will get back to you in a timely manner.