Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible for services?

Enrolled or prospective students with educational challenges resulting from disabilities or medical conditions professionally diagnosed as:

  • Sensory (e.g. low vision, blind, hard of hearing, deaf)
  • Learning (e.g. LD, ADHD, ADD)
  • Physical/Mobility (e.g. spinal cord injury, MS, MD, CP, back injury)
  • Neurological (e.g. ABI/TBI, aneurysm, Parkinson's)
  • Psychological (e.g. bi-polar, MPD, schizophrenia, PTSD, clinical depression)
  • Permanent or chronic disabilities or medication conditions (e.g. CFS, Graves Disease, Fibromyalgia, Osteo-arthritis, Diabetes, etc.) or
  • Temporary (e.g. broken wrist, injury) providing there is a clinical diagnosis of the condition and that it impedes ability to complete course work.

Note: If you are concerned that you may have a disability, require information or are uncertain about eligibility, contact the Accessibility Services department.

How do I apply for Accessibility Services?

Contact the Accessibility Services office and request a Verification of Accommodation and Support Service Requirements (VOA) form or access the form online

Complete the general information and self-assessment portion of the form.

Provide documentation of your disabling condition as per Appendix A of the VOA form and/or review the summary of disability documentation that is required to register for services with Accessibility Services

Return the form and any attached documents to the Accessibility Services office via fax or mail.

Should I disclose my 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 Accessibility Services services and to work with us to ensure your needs are met through reasonable accommodations.

Accessibility Services 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 Accessibility Services 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 Accessibility Services 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 Accessibility Services services on the Athabasca University Student Management System. When Accessibility Services 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 Accessibility Services is collected in accordance with and protected under Alberta's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

What services are offered?

Advocacy, Liaison & Referral

Accessibility Services staff is able to advocate and liaise on behalf of the student with various parties. This may include referral to certain services that are not available internally and only accessed in the local community or other professional resources.

Alternative Format Course Materials

Course materials that have been repurposed in a format that will facilitate individuals with a variety of print, auditory, visual, or physical access challenges to print or multimedia course material.

Assistive Technology

A term used to describe technological aides, hardware and software, that help individuals to perform activities more independently and with greater ease.

Course Management Services

Refers to different accommodations that can be assessed to provide students with the best opportunity to succeed academically by managing their time schedules and course loads.

Exam Accommodations

A general term that refers to a wide variety of alternative exam delivery procedures.

Learning Support Services

Identified during the Accessibility Services assessment, to help a student with a disability with academic difficulties or problems completing courses within the course contract period.

How are services provided at a distance?

Alternate format course material describes course materials such as Textbooks, Reading files, Study Guides, Student Manuals, Assignment Guides or audio-visual materials that have been reproduced in a format that will facilitate individuals with a variety of print, auditory, visual, or physical access challenges to course material.

Formats that Accessibility Services is able to create:

  • Alternate layout (line spacing, page colour, font)
  • Large Print
  • Electronic Text (edited and unedited)
  • Braille & Tactile Graphics
  • Kurzweil format (KESI with(out) zones)
  • Audio MP3 files
  • Transcriptions of audio or video material

Accessibility Services tries to assist students to acquire alternate format course material via a student request form. This service is an accommodation in addition to the print course pack that is sent to students from the university when registered in a course. The accommodation is assessed by the Assistive Technologist within the context of the student’s print disability and Accessibility Services resources.

Accessibility Services has developed the following service delivery strategies to meet student needs.

  • Assist the student to meet alternative format requirements through technology.
  • Accessibility Services encourages all students to apply for funding to acquire the technology to independently reproduce the materials and/or contract Accessibility Services to repurpose course materials listed in the syllabus, depending on the individual student’s assessed needs and Accessibility Services resources.
  • Provide all possible internally published AU materials in the formats required.
  • Attempts will be made within reason to provide you with materials or tools that will work for your alternate format needs

With respect to the individual needs of the student, Accessibility Services will implement the best possible and mutually agreed upon single or combination of strategies. Within this context, Accessibility Services asks students requiring alternate format materials provide as much notice as possible to facilitate the identification, acquisition, and preparation of alternate format course materials. Times will vary in accordance with the materials, specific formats, etc.

How do I obtain information or assistance to apply for funding?

Students with disabilities may access traditional sources for student funding such as Student Loan and Bursary Programs.

Students with disabilities may also be eligible for a number of other programs.

Eligibility for programs may be affected by an individual's present means of support, course load, vocational goals, eligibility for other programs, cost of support service and technological requirements, and previous history with funding for education.

Programs and requirements vary across regions, nationally and internationally.

When applying, students can expect to be required to provide medical verification of disability; supporting documentation for reduced course load, support service and technological requirements; and quotes for any costs associated.

Accessibility Services will provide information, assistance to complete applications, and Individual Support Service and Technology Plan documentation to verify requirements.

On the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) directory of funding you may register and apply for specific scholarships, bursaries and grants relating to the nature of your disabling condition. You will be able to create a profile, perform searches, save awards and receive notifications of new awards. In addition you will find information on government student loans and grants organized by province.

Accessibility Services will work cooperatively with students who are ineligible or unsuccessful in applying for funding to find alternative solutions to achieve reasonable accommodation of their needs.

More information on the Canada Study Grant

Full and part-time students with disabilities may access a Canada Studies Grant (Bursary for Students with Disabilities [BSWD] in Ontario) to pay for disability-related access, learning, and technological supports that are assessed and recommended to facilitate the successful completion of courses and programs. The funding is restricted to cover supports that directly relate to education and disability.

You must be eligible for and applying for full or part-time student loans or bursaries.

Medical or assessment documentation verifying a permanent disability or medical condition and the validity of the identified supports must be attached.

An Individual Support Service and Technology Plan prepared by the Professional Services Coordinator of Students with Disabilities must also be attached. This document is prepared by the Accessibility Services Coordinator following an assessment of your individualized needs. Some provincial student funding applications also require the Coordinator to sign and complete designated sections of the grant application.

Finally, you will be required to obtain two quotes for all supports and technological aids indicated in the bursary application. Accessibility Services will provide you with the specifications you need to obtain the quotes.

Forward the completed application to the Accessibility Services office and include: the full or part-time student loan application and associated fees (or copy of the online application), the required documentation, and the Athabasca University Course Study Plan. (Contact the Accessibility Services office for more information.)

Please Note:

  • It is important to review the guidelines and procedures for the student loans program in your province or territory.
  • The Canada Studies Grant for Students with Disabilities application may be referred to under a different name, such as Bursary for Students with Disabilities. To identify the correct application, review the specific information for students with disabilities provided under the student loans program.

Accessibility Services will attach the required additional documentation, including the Individual Support Service and Technology Plan, check the application for completeness, and forward it to the appropriate Government Learning, Human Resource Development, or Student Loans Program. If you require further information or assistance to complete the application, please contact Accessibility Services .

If your grant application is approved for assistive technology or required supports, in whole or in part, a cheque will be forwarded to you.

If the full amount of the grant applied for is not approved, you will need to contact the Provincial Student Loan Office to determine what specific requests were accepted or disallowed. If you have difficulty obtaining the information, contact the Accessibility Services department for assistance.

You will be responsible to purchase the equipment or service, obtain invoices or receipts from the vendor or provider. Accessibility Services can advise you on how to proceed.

Submit the receipts and any remaining funds to the funding sponsor. Failure to use all of the funds or to submit the receipts for the approved expenditures can result in being designated as having an 'overpayment.' This amount would be deducted from subsequent loans or could affect future eligibility until the amount has been repaid. Please familiarize yourself with the guidelines and timelines for accountability to ensure eligibility for ongoing funding.

Please Note: Grant monies can not be used to purchase services or equipment that have not been approved. Any other expenditures must be well-documented and pre-approved, if possible. In addition, the funds approved generally do not cover GST and PST costs.

Contact the Accessibility Services office for more information.

What is Employment Assistance for People with Disabilities?

There are a variety of employment supports to assist people with disabilities to obtain entrepreneurial funding or acquire resources for employment.

Every province has their own grants and employment support programs.

Accessibility Services can assist students seeking grants by providing information, needs assessments for assistive technology and accommodation verification while studying at AU. Contact Accessibility Services for more information.

How do I request alternate format course materials?

Students need to be registered with Accessibility Services in order to be assessed for this accommodation. If you are not registered with Accessibility Services for services, please begin the process at How to Apply.

  1. Identify the courses that you plan to register in. Allow at least two months before the course start date.
  2. Check the Athabasca University course syllabus page for the courses you intend to register in and identify the materials you will require.
  3. If you have specific questions about the content, format or layout of the materials, contact the Course Coordinator (often identified on the syllabus) or Academic Centre that offers the course.
  4. Complete the Alternate Format Course Materials Request Form and submit it to Accessibility Services . If you are unable to use this form contact Accessibility Services for assistance.
  5. An alternate format course material assessment is required at the initial request and if student needs change.
  6. Materials that are prepared by Accessibility Services will be forwarded to you through the mail or electronically.
  7. For all subsequent semesters, complete and submit the Alternative Format Course Materials Request Form to Accessibility Services for all courses that you pre-register in.

Please note: There may be fees for the preparation of materials.  As a result of your permanent disabling condition you may be eligible to apply for financial assistance for Alternate Format Course Material production supports. Please contact our office by email at or by telephone at 1-800-788-9041 press 3 then 1 then extension 3424 in order to schedule an appointment to discuss how to apply for financial assistance.

If you have received funding to cover associated costs, you will be responsible for making payment and submitting the invoices or receipts and any remaining money to the funding sponsor. You should familiarize yourself with the sponsors’ guidelines and timelines for accountability to ensure you are eligible for ongoing funding.

If you require further information, contact Accessibility Services .

How do I arrange for academic or study skills assistance?

Learning Support Services are identified during the Accessibility Services assessment, and used when a student with a disability experiences academic difficulties or has problems completing courses within the course contract period. These services will be assessed as an accommodation only where the need has arisen through differences directly related to disability. These services include the following:

Academic Strategist

Learning Specialist or professional assists students to develop very specialized strategies directly related to their individual perceptual, processing, memory, recall, organizational, expressive, etc. , abilities and differences. At present, Accessibility Services can not offer these services directly, but will assist students to apply for funding to access these supports.

Academic Monitoring

Upon request Accessibility Services will work with students to help them establish assignment and course completion schedules modified with respect to their specific abilities and differences.


Tutoring is assessed as an accommodation when an individual requires additional instructional or editorial assistance to master the content and demonstrate the required course learning objectives. (For further information try Athabasca University's Ask AU and Learning Services website.) This service is not offered directly, but Accessibility Services will assist students to apply for funding for this service.

How do I book exams when accommodations are required?

Once you are registered with Access to Students with Disabilities, you can request an exam with accommodations.

  • standard accommodations (request at least 20 days prior to exam date)
  • exceptional accommodations (request at least 30 days prior to exam date)

Please review the Athabasca University Calendar for specific information regarding scheduling examinations as an Athabasca University student. The information below applies to scheduling exams with a previously approved invigilator.

Scheduling to write an examination at Athabasca University, Edmonton Location or Athabasca University, Calgary Location

The ONLINE examination request form will now allow students to view dates that the private room in Edmonton/Calgary is available for booking and to complete their examination request without first contacting the Access to Students with Disabilities office. In order to request your examination, you proceed as follows:

* Access the on-line examination request form
* Ensure that you indicate yes when asked "Are you a student with a permanent or temporary disabling condition and have registered with Accessibility Services Department (ASD) at Athabasca University"
* Select your invigilation location (Calgary-Athabasca University OR Edmonton-Athabasca University)

You will then be presented (in step two) with the option to select your exam write date by highlighting your mouse over the write date selection box. If you have followed the above steps, ONLY dates that are presently available for booking an examination at the AU Calgary/AU Edmonton location will be highlighted on a pop up calendar. You may then select the date for your examination from the pop up calendar and complete your examination request.

Standard Accommodation Exam Schedulings

These examination requests must be received by Athabasca University 20 days in advance of your expected write date.

  • Confirm a date and time with the designated or approved invigilation site or invigilator.
  • Advise the invigilation location/invigilator of the examination accommodations that you require and confirm that they are able to provide your required accommodations.
  • Book the exam online.
  • When booking the examination please ensure that you indicate yes when asked "Are you a student with a permanent or temporary disabling condition and have registered with Accessibility Services Department (ASD)at Athabasca University."

Four to five days prior to the date of the exam, contact the invigilation centre or the invigilator and check if the:

  • exam has arrived;
  • correct exam was sent;
  • information was included about the approved accommodations;
  • confirm the arranged date and time; and
  • verify that they are still prepared to provide the identified accommodations.

The examination package will be forwarded to the identified invigilation site or invigilator with a notice confirming the accommodations that have been approved for the exam.

Contact Accessibility Services if there are any problems.

Exceptional Accommodation Exam Schedulings

These exam requests must be received by Athabasca University 30 days in advance of your expected write date. The required extended request time enables Accessibility Services to obtain academic special permissions and directions, make other specific arrangements, or ensure the preparation of alternate format materials.

In rare cases, Accessibility Services may request that additional notification be required.

  • Confirm a date and time with the designated or approved invigilation site or invigilator.
  • Advise the invigilation location/invigilator of the examination accommodations that you require and confirm that they are able to provide your required accommodations.
  • Book the exam online
  • When booking the examination please ensure that you indicate yes when asked "Are you a student with a permanent or temporary disabling condition and have registered with Accessibility Services Department (ASD)at Athabasca University"
  • Accessibility Services will request professor approval of the assessed exceptional examination accommodations. Should alternate arrangements or revisions to requested accommodations be necessary, Accessibility Services will contact you to review and discuss changes.

Four to five days prior to the date of the exam, contact the invigilation centre or the invigilator and check if the:

  • exam has arrived;
  • correct exam was sent;
  • information was included about the approved accommodations;
  • confirm the arranged date and time; and
  • verify that they are still prepared to provide the identified accommodations.

The examination will be forwarded to the identified invigilation site or invigilator with a notice confirming the accommodations that have been approved for the exam.

Contact Accessibility Services if there are any problems.

Rescheduling Exams

If you must reschedule the exam due to personal, disability-related, academic, or invigilator problems:

  • Cancel the exam with the invigilation site with as much prior notification as possible
  • Set up an alternative date and time with the invigilation site or invigilator. Please note: As per Athabasca University policy, the exam must be written within ten business days of the cancelled date. The examination would usually be returned to AU and require rescheduling through the Exams Unit. Have the invigilator hold the exam until you have discussed the situation with Accessibility Services . Multiple exam fees may be applied. See the current calendar for exam information.
  • Contact Accessibility Services as soon as possible to identify difficulty and indicate the revised date. Accessibility Services will advise you and provide further direction.

On the Day of the Exam

  • Have all standard or individually approved aides prepared and with you.
  • Arrive or be ready to start at least 30 minutes prior to the exam to facilitate any special set-up (e.g.. technology) and/or to ensure all arrangements are ready. If there are any problems, contact Accessibility Services immediately or as soon as possible. Note: it may be beneficial to have the Accessibility Services contact information handy.
  • Upon completion of the exam, report any difficulties with the accommodations or invigilation to Accessibility Services as soon as possible ( The situation will be assessed and potential actions recommended.

Other Important Information

Please Note: Exam accommodations are subject to ongoing evaluation and Accessibility Services will revise the recommended accommodations in accordance with

  • individualized needs;
  • new information;
  • changing technologies;
  • treatments;
  • supports;
  • resources;
  • and course requirements.

Students will be consulted to participate in this process.

How do I apply for more time to complete courses or assignments?

The information presented below is very generalized and does not address specific details of how credit value and course loads are calculated. General questions on full-time or part-time student status can be asked through the Ask AU link on the Athabasca University home page. Students should also consult the online calendar.

Course Load refers to...

The number of course credits that a student is enrolled in during a specific time period, usually a term or semester of four months in a traditional university where you attend classes OR a four month contract period at Athabasca University.

Students choose to enrol in a full-time or part-time course load based on a number of considerations such as goals, family, employment and resources available. The last point is particularly relevant to students who are funded through student loans or other types of sponsorship, as course load often affects eligibility. For further information on requirements for full-time and part-time students consult the Accessibility Services website regarding funding, and section 7.3 Financial Assistance in the Athabasca University Calender. You should also review the eligibility requirements and definition of full-time student within the policies and guidelines prepared by the funding agency or sponsor.

What is the difference between full-time and part-time?

The number of course credits one is enrolled in during the contract period determines whether a student is full-time or part-time. The course load is generally represented with a number based on the calculation of the credits assigned to each course that the student is enrolled in within a contract period, or is reflected through a percentage based on a full program load. Please refer to the online calendar definition of a full-time student. 

A full program course load is considered to be 15 credits during one term or contract period. This figure is based on the number of credits in a program (e.g. 120 for a 4 year degree) divided by the number of years in a program (e.g. 120 ÷ 4 = 30) and, divided by the traditional number of terms a student would complete in a year (e.g. 30 ÷ 2 = 15).

The percentages used to indicate the proportion of the course load a student is enrolled in during a contract period are calculated on the basis of 15 credits per term. Hence, if a student is enrolled in three, 3 credit courses during a contract period they are registered in 9/15 or a 60% course load.

A full-time student is required to be enrolled in a 60 - 100% course load during a contract period.

A student is considered part-time if they are enrolled in anything less than a 60% course load during a contract period.

Course Load for Students with Disabilities

Some students with disabilities may be eligible to be granted full-time student status with a reduced course load of 40%. This designation will be considered for individuals who can provide documentation to verify that the differences that result from the disablement would indicate that a 40% load would be equivalent to a 60% load for other students.

Please Note: The number of credits required to constitute a full-time course load may vary for individual graduate programs. Please consult with the program.

Important Facts about Course Load

Affects eligibility for student funding:

  • types of funding that can be applied for upon enrollment
  • on an ongoing basis if a student is unable to meet performance requirements for academic success or withdrawls
  • indebtedness may increase dramatically by increasing the number of course terms needed to complete a program
    • the maximum amount that can be borrowed may be reached before the program is completed.

Has an impact on academic performance or grade point average (e.g. enrollment in too many courses may result in lower grades or unnecessary withdrawals):

  • may affect eligibility for further study (e.g. graduate programs).

For further information see Cautions on Course Load.

What Should I Consider?

Assess how much time you have available for study in consideration of factors such as family, work, living environment, and so forth. For further information see the Am I Ready for AU application and other resources provided through the AU Counselling and Advising Services.

Students with disabilities/medical conditions should also consider how their functional differences, symptoms, treatment, and other related factors may impact upon the number of hours they have available to study or on how long it may take to complete certain types of academic activities. For example:

  • How long can you work or study before becoming fatigued?
  • Do you need to read assigned materials several times to be able to recall the information?
  • Do you have scheduled activities (e.g. therapy) that require a certain amount of time each week?
  • Do you have any side effects from treatments that interfere with study activities? How often does this occur?

Accessibility Services staff members will work with students to assist with the determination of course load requirements as part the assessment process and development of an Individualized Education Plan. Please contact the Accessibility Services Department for further assistance.

Helpful Hints

Start early. We would encourage individuals to contact Accessibility Services four to six months in advance. It can take time to set up supports and apply for funding.

Any information provided about potential resources in one's community may be beneficial.

Identify any technology you own or have access to (e.g. computer, language-master, tape recorder, and so on).

To ensure good planning, carefully consider any needs that may be associated with activities like reading, writing, keyboarding, using a library, going to a designated location to write an exam, recalling information, or organizing information.

Remember that all services are not available to all students. Each student will be assessed on the basis of their individual abilities and differences.

Do Not Be Afraid to identify a disability. Athabasca University is committed to providing access to diverse populations. (See the AU Mission Statement and our Disclosure of Disability page). Maintain communication with Accessibility Services so service plans can be modified according to with your individual changing needs, especially if you are experiencing academic difficulties.