It’s helpful for both students and instructors to know what kinds of academic accommodations can reasonably be considered in certain situations.
If a student has difficulty working in a group situation because of their mental illness, and the course is one in which the student is expected to learn group work skills, this accommodation may not be permitted by the instructor.
Over the past 18 years, I’ve seen an enormous change in the number of students with various psychiatric disabilities who are attending and succeeding in post-secondary education.
Under provincial human rights codes, reasonable and appropriate accommodations are your right, not a privilege.
Not only can staff at those offices advocate for students, but hopefully they will teach students to become their own best advocates. Academic accommodations are changes made to the academic environment that level the playing field so that students with disabilities can perform in a way that best reflects their potential.
If memory is being tested and a student requires memory aids, this accommodation may also not be allowed.
On the other hand, if a student needs a memory aid (e.g., list of formulas for math or historical dates for art history) during exams because of memory problems, and the purpose of the course is not to test memory, then this accommodation would be a reasonable one.
However, no matter the academic level, students with psychiatric disabilities benefit from extra support.
There is a strong relationship between a student’s academic career and his or her experience with mental illness.
Instructors need to understand how the disability affects the student’s learning—that, for example, it can affect concentration, memory, speed of performance on tasks, and participation level.
Instructors also need to know what alternatives are available that are fair for everyone involved.
Enid Weiner, MSW, Ed D I coordinate the Psychiatric Dis/Abilities Program at York University in Toronto.