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New Guidelines on Accommodating Students With Disabilities in Post-Secondary in New Brunswick
16 October 2014
FREDERICTON (GNB) – The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission has published a guideline on accommodating students with disabilities in post-secondary institutions.
“This guideline aims to help universities and colleges meet their legal duty to accommodate students with physical or mental disabilities,” said Randy Dickinson, chair of the commission. “We hope that it will help reduce the need for students to file a human rights complaint about a failure to accommodate.”
While the New Brunswick Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on 14 characteristics, most complaints filed with the commission concern mental or physical disabilities, mainly in relation to employment.
An increasing number of the complaints involve the duty to accommodate. Where uniform practices, policies and facilities have a discriminatory effect on students based on any of the 14 characteristics, educational institutions have a duty to accommodate the students so as to avoid the discriminatory effect. Examples of accommodation include wheelchair accessible washrooms, extra time to complete an exam, and not penalizing a student for medical absences due to a disability.
The duty to accommodate only requires reasonable accommodation. Educational institutions need not lower academic standards or undergo undue hardship, such as excessive costs or a serious risk to health and safety. Nevertheless, the legal requirements are stringent.
The guideline explains that accommodation must be personalized, since each student is unique, and must be timely and respectful of the student’s dignity and privacy. The guideline sets out the responsibilities of both students and educators.
“New Brunswick has been a leader in improving opportunities for students with disabilities in schools,” said Dickinson. “Now, we need to ensure that, as these students graduate, post-secondary institutions are ready to allow them to pursue their education and make the most of the time and effort that the students and the province have invested in their education.”
The new guideline supplements existing guidelines that apply to accommodation of disabilities in the workplace and in schools from kindergarten to Grade 12.
The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination and harassment, including bullying, based on 14 characteristics: race, colour, national origin, place of origin, ancestry, religion, age, marital status, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, social condition (source of income, level of education and occupation) and political belief or activity. The act applies to public and private sector employment, housing, public services, publicity and certain associations, except when they fall under federal jurisdiction.
The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission is the government agency that promotes equality and investigates and conciliates complaints of discrimination and harassment filed under the Human Rights Act.
- Guideline on Accommodating Students in Post-Secondary Institutions
Francis Young, New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, 1-888-471-2233.