In response to the OHRC’s inquiry, several institutions reported policies or practices that raise concerns.
Requiring interim documentation
Some institutions indicated that to receive interim accommodation, students are required to provide some form of “interim documentation” from a medical professional. This approach fails to account for the needs of students who may require accommodation before they can see a medical professional. Interim accommodations should not be refused because the student does not yet have medical documentation. Institutions should work with the best information available, including how the student identifies their own needs, pending assessment.
Accepting documentation only from specialists and treating family physicians
Some institutions indicated that they only accept documentation from a specialist, or a family physician who is familiar with the student’s circumstances. In the context of a shortage of family physicians and long wait times to receive appointments with family physicians, not all students may be in a position to provide medical documentation from a family physician when their accommodation needs arise. Furthermore, students who move away from home to attend college or university may rely on medical professionals other than their treating family physician. Unless there are bona fide (legitimate) reasons to question the provided medical information, documentation from a licensed medical professional should not be refused because it is not completed by a student’s family physician.
Emphasis on “self-advocacy”
Some institutions referred to “self-advocacy” as a rationale for direct student-professor communication relating to academic accommodations, and noted that direct communication may lead to better tailored accommodations. Requiring students with mental health disabilities to establish their need for accommodation with individual instructors can create barriers to appropriate accommodations for some students with mental health disabilities. While students can be provided with the option to directly discuss their accommodation needs or the implementation of their accommodation with instructors, they should not be required to engage in “self-advocacy” with individual instructors as a condition for receiving academic accommodations.