Contact us

Our office hours are 9 am to 4 pm,
Monday to Friday

Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL)
1250 Maggie Benston Centre
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby BC V5A 1S6
Phone: 778.782.3112
Secure Fax: 778.782.4384

Visit our Accessibility Information Page to find detailed information about our office and its accessibility considerations.

Establishing Accommodations FAQs

What is a ‘reasonable academic accommodation?’

Accommodations in general describe changes in a class or exam which help create equal educational opportunities for students with disabilities. Accommodations reduce the barriers caused by a disability and should enable students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills without diluting curriculum or credentials, or detracting from the responsibility of the student to achieve individual results consistent with course or program requirements and objectives.

For accommodations to be considered ‘reasonable,’ they must:

  • be based on documented individual disability needs;
  • not provide an unfair advantage to the student;
  • allow the most integrated experience possible;
  • not compromise the essential requirements or security of a course or program; and
  • not pose a threat to personal or public safety.

What accommodations and services are available through the CAL?

A variety of accommodations are available to students who have registered with the CAL. Eligibility depends on the nature of the disability, as determined by professional documentation that meets CAL's Documentation Guidelines and in consultation with a Learning Specialist. Accommodations and services may include, but are not limited to:

Class Accommodations

  • The use of assistive listening devices such as an FM or Infrared system
  • Priority seating
  • Opportunity to audio record lectures
  • Aid in class, such as a sign-language interpreter or Communication Access Realtime Transcription (CART) captionist
  • Notetaking assistance
  • Written material (overheads or notes) provided in advance from the instructor
  • Textbooks or reference articles in alternate formats (e.g. larger type, PDF format, or E-Text)

Exam Accommodations

  • Extra time
  • Breaks without time penalty
  • Alternative format (e.g., doing an oral exam instead of an essay)
  • Help from a reader or a scribe
  • Allowance made for spelling or grammatical errors
  • Reduced distractions (e.g., writing an exam in a separate room)
  • Use of a dictionary or calculator
  • Use of a computer for essay exams

Other Services

  • New student orientation
  • Access to adaptive computer stations in the library that are equipped with assistive technology
  • Access to quiet study rooms in the library
  • Academic, career and developmental advising and/or referral
  • Assistance with learning strategies
  • Assistance in making a class physically accessible for students with mobility impairments

Does the CAL provide tutoring services under its accommodation policy?

No, tutoring services are not offered as an accommodation through the CAL. However, any tutoring that is provided by the University which is available to all students (e.g. Writing Labs, Library tutorials, tutors sponsored by various departments, etc.) must be reasonably accessible to persons with disabilities. The CAL can also assist in locating a tutor for students who have their own resources to pay for personal tutoring (such as may be available through a disability related grant). All tutoring arranged through the CAL must comply with the University’s published standards regarding Academic Integrity. Tutors arranged through the CAL are typically current SFU graduate students.

Do I have to pay anything to receive reasonable academic accommodations?

No, SFU is responsible for providing reasonable academic accommodations at no cost to qualified students registered with the CAL. Please note that some services, such as personal care providers, attendants and private tutors, are not considered accommodations and are not covered under this policy.

What if a student needs additional medical support during their period of study at the University?

As a student, you are responsible for securing the personal healthcare or medical services that you require. CAL staff can help you locate such individuals and/or provide referrals to local medical professionals. We encourage students with disabilities to work closely with their existing healthcare providers to ensure a smooth transition to university. SFU students can also see qualified medical professionals at SFU Health and Counselling Services.

How are reasonable accommodations determined?

Because each disability and the particular circumstances and classes surrounding each request are unique, accommodations are approved on a case-by-case basis. Factors include:

  • The implications of the disability for academic activities, as described by a healthcare professional in your documentation
  • The requirements of your course or program of study
  • Your history of using accommodation and other methods of coping
  • The findings of the Needs Assessment completed in consultation with a Learning Specialist

As a result, the accommodations that the CAL determines to be appropriate for you in a given term may differ from the accommodations you initially requested, or the accommodations you may have received in high school, in other educational institutions or for classes in previous terms at SFU. See a more complete description of the accommodation process. Please note that students are responsible for requesting accommodations each term.

Who is eligible to receive disability related accommodations?

The SFU Access Policy for Students with Disabilities defines who is eligible to receive services.  In essence, all students who have been accepted to SFU, are enrolled in classes, have been diagnosed with a disability and provide documentation that meets the CAL's Documentation Guidelines are eligible to receive services. The CAL makes its services available to students with a range of physical, psychological, neurological and chronic and temporary medical disabilities.

According to the SFU Access Policy for Students with Disabilities, a student with a disability is a person who:

  • Has been diagnosed by an appropriate professional as having: a mental health impairment; physical impairment; neurological impairment; learning disorder; or sensory impairment, any/all of which may be permanent or temporary and is likely to continue and may significantly interfere with educational pursuits; AND
  • Experiences functional restrictions or limitations in their ability to perform the range of life's activities; AND
  • May experience attitudinal and/or environmental barriers that hamper their full and self-directed participation in life.

In order to be considered for accommodations, the impairments associated with the diagnosed disability must result in a significant restriction or limitation in the student’s ability to access the educational experience.  For a complete list and descriptions of specific disabilities, please view our Documentation page.

What is the process for requesting and securing accommodations?

It is important to note that the process of determining, securing, and implementing accommodations takes time.  It is the student’s responsibility to act in a timely fashion so as to not generate delays in the process.  Please note that if you delay completing steps, such as waiting till the last week before an exam to secure accommodations, it may not be reasonably possible to implement your supports, and as such, you will need to write the exam without accommodation.

The process of establishing accommodations for a given term must be completed by the end of Week 10.  This ensures that there is reasonable time for instructors to review and provide feedback about accommodations, and for the CAL to make the necessary arrangements leading up to the final exam period. 

Step 1: Register with the CAL
To register with the CAL, submit both the Application for Services Form and the Verification of Disability Form. These forms can be picked up at the CAL office or are available via the preceding links.  Please note that there are specific Verification forms for different disabilities and that you are required to submit the correct verification form for the type of disability for which you are requesting services.

Documentation guidelines are available on the Documentation section of this website.

Step 2: Determine What Accommodations You Are Eligible For
Prior to the start of classes each term, it is your responsibility to make an appointment with one of our Learning Specialists to discuss your eligibility for accommodations. Upon being recommended for accommodations, the Learning Specialist will generate a Letter of Accommodation (LOA) for each course in which you are seeking accommodation. The LOA verifies that you have a disability and that you are registered with the CAL. It also describes what types of accommodations you are eligible to receive for that course.

Step 3: Meet with your Instructor(s)
You are not required to to meet with your instructors regarding your accommodations, however there may be benefits to doing so.  Discussing your accommodations with your instructors provides an opportunity to confirm your specific needs and make any necessary arrangements. If you choose to meet with your instructor(s), it is recommended that you do so during his or her office hours, not before or after class, because this will provide greater confidentiality and allow more time for discussion.

What should I expect during an intake appointment with a Disability Access Advisor?

  • A Disability Access Advisor will review your documentation, verify your eligibility for accommodations and discuss what types of services and/or accommodations you may need for the semester. Students must apply for accommodations each term, as your academic needs and requirements will change with your classes. If the initial documentation is incomplete or inadequate for the purposes of determining the extent of your disability and appropriate accommodations, additional documentation may be requested.
  • A Letter of Accommodation, outlining the accommodations you are recommended to receive from your instructor(s), will be generated by the Disability Access Advisor and sent to your instructor(s).

I’ve been denied an accommodation. Why?

The CAL may deny a student an accommodation for a number of reasons, including:

  • The student is not a qualified student with a disability as defined under the SFU Access Policy for Students with Disabilities
  • The accommodation is not supported by the student’s submitted documentation
  • The accommodation constitutes a personal service or personal care, which is not covered by the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning
  • The accommodation would change the essential requirements of the course, program, service or activity
  • The accommodation would place undue hardship or financial burden on the university.

It is the goal of the CAL to make a prompt, clear decision regarding a student’s request for accommodation; however, this decision can only be made once all the necessary documentation is received.  In certain cases there may well be a need for the CAL to follow-up with the assessor to qualify any questions about the documentation.  As this process takes time, students are strongly encouraged to seek services early and act promptly.

Student’s who feel they have been unfairly denied accommodations should review our appeals policy.

What are my responsibilities as a student in the accommodation process?

The responsibility for securing academic accommodations rests with you. You are responsible for:

  • Bringing the request for accommodations to the attention of CAL in a timely manner — before the start of the term wherever possible (there may be exceptions if the disability is diagnosed mid-term)
  • Providing documentation that verifies your disability and conforms to our documentation guidelines
  • Understanding that accommodations are needs-based, determined on a case-by-case basis and are directly related to the documentation of disability and the impact of that disability in the specific learning situation.  There must be a clear rationale for each accommodation requested
  • Meeting with a Disability Access Advisor prior to the start of the term to determine recommended accommodations
  • Making the necessary arrangements to have exams proctored by the CAL, by submitting online exam requests according to the published deadlines (at least one week midterm exams and two weeks before the start of the finals exam period)
  • Notifying the CAL if accommodations are not in place or not effective, or if they are no longer required

What are the responsibilities of the CAL in the accommodation process?

  • Request and review documentation relating to a student’s disability
  • Determine appropriate accommodations as supported by the submitted documentation and in collaboration with the student and the relevant faculty
  • Deny accommodations that are not supported by the documentation or by the needs assessment. If evidence of a significant impact is not present, accommodations may not be warranted.
  • Support faculty members around providing accommodations as needed
  • Provide services, such as alternate text formats, to students whose documentation supports the need for it

The CAL takes the responsibility of determining reasonable academic accommodations very seriously. Consequently, all accommodations approved by CAL must be supported by documentation on file.

What is the legal basis for the provision of accommodations to students with disabilities at SFU?

In providing accommodations for students with disabilities, the CAL looks to the University's own commitment to equality of access (GP-26), the BC Human Rights Code, and relevant case law

SFU Accessibility Policy GP-26

Simon Fraser University recognizes and affirms the rights of students with disabilities who are academically qualified, to have full, fair and equal access to all University services, programs and facilities and to be welcomed as participating members of the University community.

The University must provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. This will not entail any modification of the academic standards of the University or the elimination of the academic evaluation of students.

Students seeking academic accommodation for a disability must bring the request to the attention of the Centre for Accessible Learning in a timely manner, normally with one semester's notice, and must provide appropriate documentation of their disability.

*To access the complete policy, please see: 

 SFU Accessibility Policy GP 26

BC Human Rights Code (1996), Section 8

The Code speaks to discrimination in accommodation, service and facility:

A person must not, without a bona fide and reasonable justification,

(a) deny to a person or class of persons any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public, or

(b) discriminate against a person or class of persons regarding any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public

because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex or sexual orientation of that person or class of persons.

*bold added by CAL website authors

To access the full Code, please see: BC Human Rights Code (1996), Section 8