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.

Student Accommodations

Accommodation Needs Assessment

While students with similar disabilities may face similar limitations in the learning environment, the accommodations that are put into place are tailored to address the unique individual needs of each student. Disability documentation presented to the CAL is reviewed by a Disability Access Advisor, who gauges the severity of the disability and the expected impact(s) it will have on the student’s access to equal educational opportunities. This is called the student’s ‘needs assessment.’ The Disability Access Advisor then meets with the student to discuss the assessment and the accommodations that they are eligible to receive in each of their classes that semester.

Accommodations that the student has been approved to receive will be outlined in a formal notification of accommodation prepared by the Disability Access Advisor.

Instructor Notification of Accommodations

As the instructor, you will be informed of the accommodations that are required for the student via an official email from the Centre for Accessible Learning ( to your SFU account.  Please note that the CAL follows compliance procedures and will only send notifications to official SFU email addresses.    

The subject line for the notification email will include the course code (e.g., ECON 101), as well as the terms "CSD" and "Accommodation".  You will be requested to click on the embedded weblink which will take you to our secure website.  You will need to login using your university computing ID and password, at which time you will be taken to the webpage which contains the specific accommodation information.  This ensures that only the instructor of record, according to the University Student Information Management System (SIMS), is able to review the specific accommodation letter and acknowledge the notification of the requirement to provide the accommodations. 

As an instructor, you can access our secure website, at any time, simply by clicking on the following link and logging onto the CAL system using your university computing ID and password.  Once logged into the system, you can check the status of all accommodation notifications for any of your courses.

Faculty and other staff have a legal responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified students when notified of the requirement by the CAL.  However, there may be elements of the course work that make the authorized accommodation difficult to fulfill or the request may violate an element of the course which has previously been established as essential (e.g., a request to provide flexibility in grading of spelling and grammar in a basic English course). In this type of situation, you should inform the CAL of the issue so that a full discussion can be undertaken and effective alternatives identified, where necessary. 

Most accommodations are arranged between the CAL and the Instructor.  While the CAL encourages students to meet with instructors during office hours at the beginning of the semester, there is no requirement that they do so.  Students tend to approach faculty only when they need to work with the faculty member to discuss the details of  how an accommodation will be carried out  (e.g., how the instructor will forward advance copies of overheads to the student).

It is the student’s responsibility to recognize that academic accommodations must be arranged through timely requests wherever possible. The CAL strongly encourages students to arrange their accommodations at the beginning of the semester, and advises all students that accommodations are not retroactive and are more difficult to negotiate later in the semester. However, some students may hold off on formally requesting accommodations until later, for a variety of reasons.

The university has a legal responsibility to accommodate up to the point of undue burden. As such, while deadlines can be established and reinforced to support the effective operations of the Centre and meet the needs of the faculty, appeals for variances (e.g., requests for accommodations made late in the term) must be considered on a case-by-case basis.



Only that information which is necessary to put in place the services and accommodations required by the student can be released. All disability information collected in a student’s CAL file is treated as confidential, in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act of BC. The CAL is precluded from providing information regarding the specific nature of a student's disability, as this is legally protected information. Where appropriate the CAL will provide information regarding the underlying deficit that results in the barrier to accessing or demonstrating knowledge, as this information may assist the instructor in appreciating the nature and purpose of the recommended accommodation. 

We appreciate that instructors often wish to know as much as possible about the student's disability in order that they might tailor certain tasks to be as inclusive as possible.  However, as an instructor you are in a position of authority, and any direct inquiry of the student regarding the specific nature of their disability may be seen as a violation of the student's human rights. If your have concerns about the student's disability or related issues, you should contact the CAL.

Adequate Accommodation v. Overcompensation

The CAL extends every effort to ensure that the accommodations authorized by the Centre are reasonable and that students are not over or under-accommodated.  Accommodations are tailored to the individual student's disability and the challenge of the particular course offering.  Two students who have similar disabilities will not necessarily receive the same accommodations, nor will an individual student necessarily receive entitlement to the same accommodations in every course. Depending on the nature of the impairment associated with the disability, one student may receive additional time on exams while another student will be provided with standard exposure time to exam materials, but incur no time penalty for breaks. Accommodations are not tailored to ensure student success in the course, but rather to ensure equal access to the learning experience or equal opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the content. 

In all cases, the student must be able to meet the core requirements of the course without adjustment. Accommodations should not change the curriculum for the course or modify assignments to the degree that they alter the course’s core requirements. For example, their would be no expectation that a student would be entitled to complete a paper in place of a speech, in a speech course (where demonstrating speaking abilities had been established as integral to the course). In contrast, it may well be reasonable for a student to be provided with additional time on exams, where their ability to fairly demonstrate their knowledge would be otherwise constrained by a disability that significantly impacts on speed of processing or motor output. 

If you feel uncomfortable with any accommodation requested by the CAL, you are encouraged to contact the CAL and discuss your concerns with a staff member.

If an Accommodation Will Not Work for Your Course

If you have received a CAL accommodation notification for a student, and believe a requested accommodation may cause fundamental alterations to your course’s core requirements or pose undue administrative burden, please contact the CAL. A Disability Access Advisor will work with you to review the request and your concerns. Once this process has been undertaken, the CAL will determine whether an appropriate alternative is required.  In some cases, the required accommodation may result in additional burden for the institution, it is only when this rises to the level of an undue burden that consideration can be given to withholding that accommodation.

Note-Taking Assistance for Students

Some students with disabilities have difficulty taking notes, for a variety of reasons, so the provision of lecture notes may be requested by the CAL. Even though the CAL assumes responsibility for providing note-takers to students who require them, it is extremely helpful when you assist the student in getting access to class notes (provided that they are not already being posted on Canvas or another website).

Sometimes faculty notes are only a brief outline of the actual lecture given, and these notes may not be sufficient. In most cases, we ask that you help the student find a volunteer note-taker by making an announcement in class. It is essential that you not reveal the disabled student's name. Rather, you can simply announce that a student in the course requires a notetaker and that any students interested in serving this function should approach the CAL. If the CAL is requesting a notetaker for a student, you will be informed of the need and provided with an instruction sheet or email requesting your assistance and outlining the process. If you have a TA in class to assist you and if this person takes notes, these notes may be another option. If your lecture notes are good, sharing your notes would be a third option. In some situations it may also be appropriate for a student to tape record a class, and this option will be indicated on the accommodation notification.