Behind the Scenes of AccessAbility Services’ Exam Centre

Hello faculty members! It’s Jennifer Gillies here, the associate director of AccessAbility Services. In my last blog post for FAUW, I talked about the general operations of AccessAbility Services. This time, I’m going to share some ‘behind the scenes’ information about our Exam Centre.

Why is there an AccessAbility Services Exam Centre?

AccessAbility Services’ Exam Centre is both a student and faculty service. The Exam Centre enables students to write tests with their approved accommodations, without requiring faculty to facilitate the accommodations themselves. Accommodations such as securing scribes, purchasing and setting up assistive technology, monitoring supervised breaks, providing additional writing time, and securing rooms that have natural light or ergonomic furniture can be difficult to coordinate, so our office is here to help.

Who writes in the Exam Centre?

AccessAbility Services provides academic accommodations and support to approximately 2,500 students, almost all of whom receive testing accommodations. The Exam Centre facilitates approximately 6,000 tests a term, for students with a variety of disabilities.

Where do students write their tests?

A student writing a test with AccessAbility Services will be scheduled to write in one of five locations, based on factors in their accommodation (e.g., the need for a scribe or natural lighting). Continue reading “Behind the Scenes of AccessAbility Services’ Exam Centre”

News From Your Board: Meeting Summary for September 13, 2018

Daniel Cockayne (Geography and Environmental Management) and Brent Matheson (Math/Business and Accounting) are taking over the Board meeting recaps this year. Here’s Daniel’s first go: 

The first FAUW Board meeting of the 2018/2019 academic year (meet your new Board members here!) began with a summary of FAUW’s finances by Michelle Adams from the accountancy firm RLB, which audits FAUW’s finances annually. You’ll be glad to hear that she confirmed that FAUW’s financial situation is sound!

Long in the works, there is to be a new policy that will establish a clear process for dealing with accommodations for faculty and staff. As an FS-class policy, it will need to be approved by the faculty and staff relations committees (FRC and SRC). The terms of reference for the policy have been drafted, and a committee will be appointed soon.

We discussed the final details of the agreement between FAUW and the Renison Association of Academic Staff (RAAS). Pending adoption by both the RAAS and FAUW memberships, this agreement will make RAAS members affiliate members of FAUW. They will pay FAUW dues in exchange for access to specific services and resources. We expect to bring this to the membership at the Fall General Meeting on December 4.

The Board approved new election procedures, now posted on our website, which mostly just document existing practices and will be reflected in the next call for nominations for FAUW President this fall.

We discussed the current re-development of student perception surveys at Waterloo in light of the arbitration decision at Ryerson University, which ruled against the use of student surveys in tenure and promotion decisions. This has established an important precedent for faculty associations and universities across Canada. It is important to emphasize that this decision does not dismiss the value of student surveys wholesale, just their use for summative decisions pertaining to merit, tenure, and promotion. FAUW discussed how this decision affects (or should affect) Waterloo’s current Course Evaluation Project Team 2 (CEPT2) and Complimentary Teaching Assessment Project Team (CTAPT). (See also: Jay Michela’s recent analysis of this issue and all our blog posts about student surveys.)

Another point of discussion was FAUW’s response to the recent announcement from the Office of the Premiere that publicly-assisted universities and colleges must post a policy on free speech by January 1, 2019. There were questions around precisely how formalized such a policy needs to be and the kinds of protections for free speech that the University of Waterloo already has in place. There will certainly be more to come on this topic. Stay tuned.

News From Your Board: June 7 Meeting Recap

The board met for the last time this academic year in its basement home in MC. We began by hearing from Daniel Miller from Electrical and Computer Engineering who presented an analysis of early retirement policies based on those of the University of Toronto and other schools. FAUW will look at this further.

For several weeks, FAUW has been working on a response to a draft document on student academic accommodation procedures. The board will continue to work with the Equity Committee to identify feedback for Jennifer Gillies, associate director of AccessAbility Services. If you have feedback, please contact Katie Damphouse by Friday, June 15.

An outstanding issue is that of FAUW having access to faculty appointment letters on a limited basis to assist in our role of counselling new faculty. The board believes that having this information will significantly improve the support we can provide to new faculty members, and while we are at currently an impasse, we will keep working on making this happen.

A few board members gave updates on current policy initiatives and issues, including that Policy 43 (Special Conditions for Employment for Deans) has recently had an explanatory appendix attached, which is contrary to the process for FS policies. This is being addressed.

We reviewed drafts of upcoming surveys for both volunteers and all members. Look for those in your email by the end of the month. Your feedback will shape FAUW’s work in the future.

Finally, this is a time of transition. Shortly (after one more blog post) both authors of the News From Your Board series (Peter Johnson and Sally Gunz) will end their terms on the board. We await a new and high quality version of the series this fall with baited breath! Thanks for your patience with our scribbles.

—Sally Gunz, past president

Unveiling AccessAbility Services

—Jennifer Gillies, PhD | Manager, AccessAbility Services

AccessAbility Services (ASS) can be a bit of a mystery. The purpose of this post is to help break down the wall between AAS and rest of the campus and shed light on its purpose, function, and benefits.

Why does AccessAbility Services exist?

Offices that support academic accommodations for students with disabilities are present in every postsecondary institution in Ontario. The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development provides financial support and oversight of these offices. At the University of Waterloo, AccessAbility Services fulfills its mandate by collaborating with the university community to support equitable access to post-secondary education by designing academic accommodation plans and facilitating the implementation of accommodations.

The office is accountable to the Ministry concerning documentation requirements and service offerings, but it is also accountable to the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and the integrity and academic standards of the University.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission states that postsecondary instructors have a duty to accommodate students with disabilities. However, students’ medical information is private and needs to be reviewed and stored appropriately. Our office acts as a bridge: We receive and hold the sensitive medical documentation, and relay to you the ways you can fulfill your duty to accommodate. Essentially, our office is a faculty resource. We help you understand your duty to accommodate.
Continue reading “Unveiling AccessAbility Services”

Know Your Rights: Disability Accommodations for Waterloo Faculty

This month, FAUW’s Status of Women and Equity Committee hosted Margaret Price, an award-winning scholar of disability, to present findings from an international study examining the experiences of disabled faculty members. Professor Price will continue in an official role as a consultant to FAUW as we navigate accommodation processes at Waterloo. Unlike the clear and consistent accommodations process in place for students, faculty navigate a much more difficult terrain.

Know your rights: disability accommodations for waterloo faculty

Here’s what we know

Ontario Human Rights Commission

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) states that:

Costs of accommodation must be distributed as widely as possible within the organization responsible for accommodation so that no single department, employee, customer or subsidiary is burdened with the cost of an accommodation. The appropriate basis for evaluating the cost is based on the budget of the organization as a whole, not the branch or unit in which the person with a disability works or to which the person has made an application.[1]

Employees should be aware that necessary accommodations are not subject to budget limitations at the departmental or unit level. The University of Waterloo can and frequently does take financial responsibility for accommodation provisions at both the faculty and the central administrative levels.

Moreover, administration of accommodations must be central, and disclosure limited to protect the privacy and dignity of the individual.

Faculty should not feel compelled to disclose disability diagnoses to their chairs or deans, or anyone else in a position of power over their hiring, tenure and promotion, salary, teaching assignments, performance evaluation or other benefits and responsibilities. A chair or dean may need knowledge of an accommodation, but they won’t ever need to know a diagnosis. Your chair or dean might be the nicest, most accommodating person in the world, but, as the OHRC guidelines show, they have too much control over your career to be involved in the accommodation process without the danger of bias. Removing your superiors from the process protects them as well. And, as the OHRC tells us, this is your right.

The precedent set by almost all of our peer institutions across Ontario, Canada and North America also reinforces this message: accommodations must be paid for and administered centrally. The OHRC guidelines are common sense and common practice.

Research-based guidelines

During her presentation, Professor Price, along with her research partners, laid out a similar set of guidelines for faculty accommodations, in even greater detail.

These included the following clear guidance:

Neither upper-level administrators nor chairs/directors should require faculty members to arrange accommodations with the same person who makes salary, scheduling, evaluation, or promotion decisions about their work. [Universities should:]

  • Ensure there is a central office or system to arrange faculty accommodations, so that faculty do not have to negotiate disability issues with their chair, dean, or provost.
  • Ensure that accommodations are funded centrally, so that a faculty member’s accommodation needs are not charged to their department or program. Access is an institutional responsibility, not a departmental or programmatic responsibility. Involving departments or programs in paying for faculty members’ accommodations leads to discriminatory outcomes such as avoiding hiring disabled personnel, and/or resentment from colleagues or supervisors.
  • Ensure that all accommodation requests and negotiations can be carried out confidentially. Contact information for the central office/person who handles faculty accommodation should be easily findable via every department’s or program’s web page, so that faculty seeking accommodations do not have to “ask around,” which may involve making unwanted disclosures. In addition, this information should be included in all orientations and relevant faculty trainings.

Seeking accommodations at Waterloo

As we work with Waterloo’s administration to ensure that these guidelines are followed, we encourage faculty members to do three simple things:

  1. Feel empowered to disclose disabilities and ask for help and accommodation. Far too few faculty seek and obtain the accommodations to which they have a right. We are a more productive, inclusive, and effective workplace if we all seek the accommodations we need, when we need them. FAUW will support all faculty members who need assistance.
  2. Do not disclose disability to superiors. Instead, contact Linda Brogden or Karen Parkinson at Occupational Health to begin the accommodation process. If you would like to discuss any questions, concerns, or if you encounter barriers in the accommodations process, contact Katie Damphouse or Christopher Small from FAUW’s Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee.
  3. Share this blog post, and these procedures, with all of your colleagues. We are all likely to need accommodations at some point in our careers. More than this, we need to be prepared to help our disabled colleagues. Currently, many of your friends and neighbors are afraid to seek accommodations, or confused or frustrated by the system. Conveying these guidelines to one another, to make them common knowledge, helps us all.

Waterloo aims to be one of the top employers in Canada, and these guidelines will help us to achieve this goal.

Update, June 12, 2017: Price and co-authors have just released an article on the same study, “Disclosure of Mental Disability by College and University Faculty: The Negotiation of Accommodations, Supports, and Barriers,” published in Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ), which explores their findings and recommendations in more detail.


1. Ontario Human Rights Commission (2016).  Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability.  ISBN/ISSN: Print: 978-1-4606-8602-7 | HTML: 978-1-4606-8607-2 |PDF: 978-1-4606-8612-6. [This document is intended to provide clear, user-friendly guidance on how to assess, handle and resolve human rights matters related to disability.]

New Board Updates, Starting with Weather Policy

By Elise Lepage

Greetings FAUWers,

I’m one of the newest Directors on the FAUW Board, and will start hearing from me quite regularly on this blog (I hope!) to share what this Board is about and what it is doing for you.

Having attended bi-weekly Board meetings since last summer, I have been amazed by the number of crucial issues that FAUW is committed to. Meeting agendas are packed with a variety of burning topics requiring a range of expertise, and fostering in-depth discussions.

My hope is that regular, short updates on the blog will help you better understand FAUW’s role, gain insight into what is at stake, and encourage you to reflect upon the UW environment – and to share your stories with us.

 * * * 

I will start this week with a timely issue: the Severe Weather Policy. This issue stems from 2015 when the University of Waterloo remained open during a very stormy winter day. The University updated the weather closing guidelines on January 19 of this year, and has agreed to discuss, with FAUW, revisions to these guidelines as they are integrated into the University’s overarching emergency guidelines.

The FAUW Board and SWEC have been hearing a number of concerns from faculty, mainly about the need for clear and transparent standards for non-closure during severe weather, such as priority snow clearance routes to aid accessibility, and accommodating missed classes fairly.

As this important discussion continues, the silver lining is perhaps that the remaining weeks of the winter semester may bring more spring than snow!

As always, we want to know how issues are affecting you. Please join the conversation in the comments, or send private concerns via email.