Accommodations and Essential Requirements

Accommodations are intended to provide students with an equitable opportunity to meet the essential requirements of their course or program successfully, with no alteration in standards or learning outcomes. Accommodations do not alter what is being taught per se but may change how a student learns and demonstrates their knowledge of the content. 

Is this fair? What is equitable may not always appear equal. Equity is meeting an individual student’s needs to increase their opportunity for success; equality is treating every student the same. Equality seems to promote fairness, but it can only work if every student starts from the same place and needs the same help. At Humber, we recognize that students have different starting points. 

When determining and implementing appropriate accommodations, we must consider the essential requirements of the course and program of study. Essential requirements are defined as:

  • The knowledge and skills that must be acquired or demonstrated in order for a student to successfully meet the learning objectives of the course.
  • Something that must be demonstrated in a particular way or via a particular method or equipment, with no alternatives.

Three Key Questions to Determine if a Requirement is Essential:

  1. Is it reasonable that students must learn the specific skill set? In other words, is it a bona fide essential requirement as an industry standard?
    • What is the purpose of the essential requirement?
    • Does the essential requirement set standards that are irrelevant or that are higher than necessary to achieve that purpose?
    • Does it arbitrarily exclude students with disabilities?
  2. Is the specific learning outcome logically connected to the student’s development of the skill set?
    • Is the learning outcome logically related to the essential requirement?
    • When was the learning outcome created, by whom, and why?
    • What other considerations were included in the development of the learning outcome?
  3. Is the specific task (e.g., assignment, project, lab, test/exam) necessary to measure the student’s proficiency in the learning outcome? Are there other ways they can demonstrate their proficiency?
    • Is the task based on facts or assumptions?
    • Does the task adversely affect some groups of students more than others?
    •  Are there alternative, equivalent tasks that would permit the student to demonstrate their proficiency? If no, why?
    • If asked, would you be able to produce evidence that demonstrates the necessity of completing the task in this precise way?

Will additional time for testing compromise essential requirements?

An accommodation may not be appropriate if you have determined, following the analysis above, that the requirement is essential. If you are concerned that an accommodation listed on a student’s Accommodation Letter may possibly conflict with an essential requirement, feel free to reach out to Accessible Learning Services for support.