Faculty and Instructor FAQs
Does a student who identifies themself to SFU's CAL as having a disability automatically receive services from the CAL?
No. Prior to being authorized with accommodations, a student must present from a qualified professional source documentation of their disability, which meets the University’s published Documentation Guidelines. A professionally verified disability means a condition certified by a licensed physician, psychologist, audiologist, speech pathologist, or other appropriate professional. A Disability Access Advisor with the CAL then reviews the documentation for completeness, the severity of the disability and the expected impact(s) it will have on the student’s access to equal educational opportunities. The Disability Access Advisor then interviews the student and reviews the course requirements before making a determination of the kind of accommodations the student may be entitled to during the current semester.
How do I know if a student registered with the CAL is enrolled in one of my classes?
It is the responsibility of the student to approach the CAL in order to request and establish an entitlement to accommodations for each individual course. As the instructor of record for the course, you will receive an automated email from the CAL which contains a link to a secure website on which you can view the students' accommodations for your course.
Students who use our services are not required to meet with their instructors, nor provide their instructors with information on the nature of their disability. If you have questions about the disability or the accommodation request, please contact the student's Disability Access Advisor. Although not mandatory, some students may choose to contact their instructors directly to introduce themselves.
It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that academic accommodations are arranged through timely requests wherever possible. We encourage students to approach the CAL during the first weeks of each semester to renew/establish their accommodations. However, some students may not approach the CAL until later, for a variety of reasons, including medical circumstances that only reach a threshold and trigger a need for accommodations later in the semester. Other students may hold off on contacting the CAL for accommodations in hopes that they can complete the course requirements without reliance on the entitled accommodations.
I have a student who self-identified to me as having a disability, but I have not received official notice from the CAL of the need to provide specific accommodations. Should I still consider making accommodations for the student?
You are not required to provide academic accommodations which may relate to a disability where you have not received a formal notification from the CAL. In these types of situations we suggest that you speak to the student privately to let them know that you welcome the opportunity to meet their accommodation needs and will do so if notified formally by the CAL.
Students with disabilities are entitled to the same compassionate consideration for issues, such as absences related to routine illness, that you would provide to any other student in your course or program.
Do I have the right to know the nature of a student’s disability?
No. All information collected in a student’s file with the CAL is treated as completely confidential, in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act of BC. Although not required, a student can sign a release of information form allowing the CAL to share information about their disability with a faculty member or, if the student decides, they can disclose this information to their instructors directly. However, instructors should not query students about their disability.
Only the information necessary for the provision of services and accommodations to the student will be routinely provided to faculty and staff. In most cases knowledge of the specific accommodations requested is sufficient. In some cases, the CAL may provide general information regarding the nature of the impairment that needs to be addressed (e.g., poor visual acuity) without providing the diagnosis associated with the impairment (e.g., macular degeneration) as this protects the student’s confidentiality while at the same time assists the instructor in ensuring that the student’s needs are met.
Do I have the right to know which students in my classes have disabilities?
All students have the right to keep their disability confidential, but some may chose to self-identify of their own accord. In order for students to receive accommodations, however, the student needs to register with the CAL and be approved for accommodations. Once accommodations have been established you will receive an automated email from the CAL containing a link from which you can view the details of the students' entitled accommodations.
If I suspect that a student has a disability, or a student self identifies as having a disability, should I refer a student to the CAL? What language is appropriate to use under referral circumstances?
Faculty members are encouraged to refer students who self identify as having a disability to the CAL.
Where you simply suspect a student has a disability, it is best to take a less direct approach. Do not tell a student that you think they have a disability. Rather, approach the student as you would any other student having difficulty in the class. Inquire about what might be impacting the student's progress. A student with a disability will likely disclose at this time if the difficulties are disability related. You should refer the student to the CAL if they disclose a disability or if they indicate that they suspect they have a disability. If neither of these scenarios occurs, we recommend providing the student with a list of campus resources available to help individuals who are experiencing difficulties, such as the CAL, Student Learning Commons and Health and Counselling. As all these units cross refer, there is a considerable likelihood that the student will be referred forward to the appropriate resource.
Yes - once students with disabilities are accommodated their performance in the course should be evaluated in a manner similar to other students. Their work should be equivalent to that of their peers and they must meet all deadlines and attend all classes and required course components, unless otherwise specified in their accommodation notice sent by the CAL. Discuss your concerns about the student’s performance with the student just as you would with anyone else in your class who is experiencing difficulty.
What if a student first discloses their disability “after-the-fact” (e.g., after failing an exam or missing a paper deadline)?
In most cases such as this, you should treat students with disabilities exactly as you would treat any other student approaching you “after-the-fact”. If you never make exceptions for other students, none are required for students with disabilities. However, if exceptions are made for other students depending on their reasons, requests such as this from a student disclosing a disability must also be considered.
In addressing the issue, the student might benefit from being informed that supports may be available through the CAL, and that you would be open to working with the student and the CAL to address any relevant issues.
What do I do if a student doesn't meet the attendance or due date requirements for my course?
As in the previous examples, you should treat students with disabilities exactly as you would treat any other student who does not meet due dates or attendance agreements.
In some instances students registered with the CAL have disabilities that impact on attendance or their ability to consistently meet due dates. If this is the case, the accommodation notice provided by the CAL should include specific statements indicating that absences or difficulties meeting due dates may be anticipated, and providing direction as to how to accommodate these difficulties.
There may be instances where there is a clear rationale for your attendance requirement, and there is no other means of meeting the course requirements other than through class participation. In these cases there may be no appropriate accommodation that will allow the disabled student to meet course requirements. If you have concerns about how to respond to the issue, please feel free to seek consultation from CAL staff.
What is assistive technology and what types of students with disabilities benefit from it?
Assistive technology is any piece of computer software, hardware or equipment that increases accessibility for people with disabilities. Examples of assistive technology include screen magnification software, screen reading software, Braille translation software, accessible computer or laboratory stations or audio textbooks. Generally students who require assistive technology will face a visual or audiological deficit, though a range of disabled students may benefit from assistive technology, as determined on a case-by-case basis.
Do you have a suggested syllabus statement directing students to the CAL?
We encourage you to include the following statement on your syllabus to direct students who might require disability related accomodations to the CAL:
"Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion."