Students with disabilities transitioning from secondary school to college
Getting started at college for students with disabilities
Students with disabilities who have been admitted to colleges can be provided with support as soon as they start post-secondary education. Multiple services and support measures are available to facilitate their transition and adaptation.
Support services for college students
As in secondary school, support services allow students to benefit from assistance with academic and personal issues. These services help ensure that students are provided with conditions to foster perseverance and educational success.
A diagnosis or a diagnostic evaluation is not required to use these professional resources or to gain access to these services. To learn more about the options that are available, contact your college.
Psychosocial support services
These services can provide support to new students regarding managing the stress related to integrating and adapting to college studies, and help students deal with difficulties in their personal lives.
Professional and academic orientation
These services allow students to receive feedback on their career choices and to explore potential career opportunities or available university programs. They also support students who are in the process of changing programs.
Individual educational help
Individual educational help provides support to students in planning and achieving success in college studies. Services provided include help with managing schedules and progression charts specific to a student’s situation, and the development of effective learning strategies.
Most colleges have specialized help centres for certain subjects, such as English, French, mathematics or philosophy. Educational support services, troubleshooting and peer tutoring are offered at these centres.
Financial aid and bursaries
These services support students in their steps to access the student financial assistance program administered by the Québec government. They also provide information on other public and private bursary programs. Some colleges have emergency funds for students who are experiencing a period of serious financial difficulty.
Adapted services at colleges are intended to support the integration and training of students with disabilities by implementing certain measures, without discrimination or privilege. The accommodation measures provided at colleges may be different than those that were made available in secondary school. These measures are determined during the meeting between the student and the staff at the student access centre based on the student’s current needs and the new educational context.
The following list provides examples of possible accommodation measures:
- Extra time for examinations
- Use of a computer and adapted software
- Access to adapted or quiet rooms during exams
- Modified schedule
- Note-taking services
- Physical guidance and help with handling objects
- Production of educational materials in Braille or alternative formats
- Interpretation into sign language or subtitling
- Loan of specialized equipment or use of adapted technologies
Exemptions granted during secondary school will not be automatically authorized for college, regardless of the subject being studied. Colleges are responsible for analyzing each case based on their Institutional Policy on the Evaluation of Student Achievement (IPESA).
For more information about the accommodations offered at the college level, consult the website of the individual college.
Ministerial examinations, language of instruction and literature
Colleges can offer accommodations to students with disabilities who are writing the ministerial examinations in the language of instruction and literature. These measures allow students to complete the uniform examination under circumstances similar to those encountered during their studies. They are not intended to reduce the established requirements or modify the objective of the evaluation.
Implementing these accommodation measures usually requires that the student have a diagnosis or a diagnostic evaluation as well as an individualized education plan.
To be eligible for accommodation measures during an internship, students must share information about their disability with the workplace. Students may also consent to having their college share the information on their behalf.
Once they have been informed of a student’s disability or limitations, the internship workplace has the obligation to set up accommodations. The workplace cannot refuse interns because of their disability, and the internship must take place in a similar manner to internships for other students.
It is important for all students to prepare their internship proposal appropriately, so that the workplace is better prepared to welcome the student and provide training based on the student’s abilities and limits.
Procedure for accessing support services
To access accommodation measures in college, students must contact the staff responsible for adapted services at their college.
All colleges offer adapted services, which are sometimes called student accessibility services, which are mandated to welcome students, assess their needs and develop an individualized education plan. It is possible to contact the college directly and ask to speak to the adapted services counsellor.
Use the search to find the contact information for a college . This tool is available in French only.
It is advisable to contact the adapted services office as soon as possible, for example, as part of the process for registering for a program. Some accommodation measures may require more time to set up than others. Students may also decide to have their situation assessed at any point during their time in college.
For more information, contact your college.
Documents to provide to receive accommodation services
To receive accommodations, students must provide a diagnosis or a diagnostic evaluation carried out by a professional who is authorized under the Professional Code or specific professional legislation. The recognized professionals are:
- psychologists and neuropsychologists
- speech therapists
- guidance counsellors who hold proof of training issued by their professional order
- nurses with the experience and training required by their professional order
A diagnosis or a diagnostic evaluation is usually valid for the entire life of the individual. However, colleges are permitted, under certain exceptional circumstances, to request a new evaluation to better define the student’s needs.
If no diagnosis or diagnostic evaluation has taken place, it is advised to meet with a resource person at the college. For example, this person may be an academic advisor, an adapted services counsellor or a guidance counsellor, who can help students identify their needs and direct them, if necessary, toward the appropriate professional resources.
The individualized education plans that students had in secondary school may be relevant to facilitating the transition but might not be applied in the same way as in secondary school.
Informing the college of a student’s disability
To be eligible for accommodation measures, students must share the necessary information with their college. However, according to the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information (section 53), one is not required to divulge information about a disability. Once a college has been informed, the institution is required to respect the confidentiality of the process and cannot share any information with others without written consent.
Divulging information about a disability will have no impact on admission to a program of study.
Individualized education plan
In college, the individualized education plan is created following a meeting between the student and the adapted services counsellor. Parents are not required to be involved in the creation or implementation of accommodation measures.
This initial meeting aims to allow participants to:
- gain better knowledge of the student, as well as the student’s strengths, goals, difficulties and needs
- understand the nature and severity of the student’s disability
- identify the impacts of the student’s disability on their learning
- determine the material, technopedagogical or human resources necessary for overcoming the limitations that have been identified, without discrimination or privilege
- sign the authorization for sharing personal information and the individualized education plan
At the end of this meeting, the student may be asked to provide each of their teachers with a letter describing the recommended accommodations for that teacher’s course.
Implementation of accommodation measures
Teaching staff must be advised of the measures that will be implemented in their courses. The adapted services office can provide support during this process, for example, by providing a specific letter for each learning activity that is affected.
The accommodation measures can apply to some or all courses, based on a student’s needs. If the student’s needs change during the semester, it is possible for the accommodation measures to be revised. In that case, the student must contact the adapted services office at their college to discuss the situation. Furthermore, intervention plans are generally revised each semester.
Rights and responsibilities
Rights and responsibilities of the student
The measures supported by the government are based on the Act to secure handicapped persons in the exercise of their rights with a view to achieving social, school and workplace integration . This law defines a “handicapped person” as a “person with a deficiency causing a significant and persistent disability, who is liable to encounter barriers in performing everyday activities.”
The policy Equals in Every Respect: Because Rights are Meant to Be Exercised specifies that the disability can be motor, intellectual, related to speech or language, visual, auditory or associated with other senses. It can be related to organic functions, an autism spectrum disorder or a serious mental health condition.
To be eligible for accommodation measures, students are responsible for divulging their disability and participating in determining their needs in collaboration with their college.
Responsibilities of the college
All post-secondary institutions are required to provide support to students with disabilities, as stated in section 10 of the Charter of human rights and freedoms , regarding the right to equality. Therefore, colleges must admit students who meet the admission conditions, provided that places are available. Colleges cannot refuse a student admission because of a disability. However, if a student is admitted to a program and has difficulty meeting one or more of the program requirements, it is likely that the college will communicate with them, as is the case with all students, in order to help make the best decision for pursuing their studies.
The college is also responsible for informing students and supporting them in the steps to take and the implementation of accommodations that encourage student success.
Additionally, accommodations are put in place when it is reasonable, meaning without an undue hardship for the college. More information about what is considered a reasonable accommodation or undue hardship can be found on the la Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse website.
If teaching staff refuse to implement the accommodations set out in the individualized education plan, students must speak to the adapted services office at their college as soon as possible. If a student believes they are being discriminated against, they should speak to a staff member at the adapted services office or to any other staff member they trust. Students can also check if a policy against discrimination exists at their college and consult it. This policy will usually describe the procedures to follow and the people to contact.
Last update: February 23, 2023