Policy for Students with Disabilities

Athabasca University passed the revised Policy for Students with Disabilities on November 1, 2000.

You can review this Policy at:

Our Mission Statement and Goals

ASD is committed to provide students who have disabilities with reasonable, individualized accommodations and support services to facilitate access and the successful completion of Athabasca University undergraduate and graduate programs and courses. Our Goals as a part of Learner Support Services are to:

  • Reduce and eliminate barriers to institutional access and academic success for persons with physical, sensory, psychological, and learning disabilities.
  • Ensure a level playing field for all students by assessing needed accommodations on an individualized basis. Accommodations may be recommended in direct relationship to identified functional differences that would disadvantage a person in the performance of specific academic requirements due to delivery within a specific mode, format, or a required procedure.
  • Deliver services based on the specific needs of individuals.
  • Provide a non-prescriptive practice that acknowledges the expertise of the student regarding their condition and needs; requires their active participation in the planning and implementation of accommodations and supports; and demand student responsibility.

Disclosure of Disability

Athabasca University is committed to removing barriers to ensure access to students with disabilities. Identifying your disability will not affect your access into programs or courses.

Identifying your disability will enable you to access ASD services and to work with us to ensure your needs are met through reasonable accommodations.

ASD encourages you to discuss your needs with your tutors to facilitate a better understanding of your academic strengths and differences. Open communication helps faculty to be more aware of how they can be supportive.

Information and documentation regarding disability or medical conditions that is forwarded to the ASD Office is placed in a confidential file and secure location.

Additional documentation such as a medical letter verifying the need for an extension is kept on file in the ASD office. These files are also secure and confidential.

Unless we have discussed it with you, and obtained your written permission, specific information regarding diagnosis is generally not provided to AU faculty or Administration. A notation is posted that indicates you are a student eligible for ASD services on the Athabasca University Student Management System. When ASD contacts a Faculty member to identify accommodation requirements we indicate that you are a student who has a disability. The need for a specific accommodation is explained in terms of functional differences rather than a "diagnostic label (e.g. the student needs to use a computer with a screen-reader to write examinations as they are unable to visually access text based material").

All communication within the institution regarding a student's disability or medical condition is strictly conducted on a need to know basis. In other words, the information that is provided is limited to how it is pertinent to the procedure (e.g. information about your disability would not be shared if we are assisting you to register in a course, but information on exam accommodations that have been assessed would be identified if we are helping you to book an exam).

All communication with any individual, agency, or family member outside of Athabasca University regarding an student requires a signed release from the student.

Personal information provided to ASD is collected in accordance with and protected under Alberta's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

International Students with Disabilities

ASD welcomes the opportunity and challenge of serving enrolled and prospective international students with disabilities.

International students with a disability must apply and meet the same eligibility criteria as Canadian students. (Please see the information about eligibility and how to apply.)

ASD will extend all the same assessment and documentation services that students residing in Canada receive, provided:

  • the language of communication is English
  • communications outside of Canada and the continental United States are conducted by e-mail; and
  • we can access the information we need to provide accommodation.

With respect to variables such as cost, available human or community resources, technological differences, and soon; ASD may not be able to extend a full range of services. We will work with you to determine the best possible accommodation that can be provided. Contact ASD for further information.

Visit also the AU International Students page.


Wherever you are, even if you are hundreds of miles from the nearest town, your AU university campus is right there. AU students have completed courses and degrees while travelling abroad, while stationed in remote arctic outposts, while serving overseas with the Canadian Forces or with humanitarian groups and while competing as professional or Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Many courses are digitized and are delivered through a Content Management Learning System (Moodle) and can be accessed via popular internet browser. Most Assistive Technologies work with the CMS and AU endeavors to work towards making all courses more accessible and usable for all students with varying learning needs.

Making alternative format materials available through distance education provides ASD with both unique challenges and opportunities. ASD is committed to the development of institutional capabilities to provide or produce all course materials in alternative formats. Since its inception in 1998, ASD has made a number of strides. This goal is reflected in the Athabasca University Strategic University Plan 2002-2006, Open Access Goal 2.2, which indicates a commitment to the adoption of Universal Design principles.

Government Legislation

ASD would like to encourage all students with disabilities to review applicable International, National and Provincial/State Legislation and related documents. Familiarity with legislation can help both students and educators to work together to identify and implement appropriate accommodations through the development of a good understanding of our responsibilities.

Legislation & Policies

The Employment Equity Act

Discrimination and Harassment - Physical or Mental Disability

Alberta Government, Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act

Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, Alberta Government. Interpretive Bulletin Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities in Post-secondary Education

Ontario Human Rights Commission, The Opportunity to Succeed: Achieving Barrier-free Education for Students with Disabilities

Government of Canada Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Government of Canada, Canadian Human Rights Commission, Duty to Accommodate