MONTREAL, April 18, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - The duty to accommodate persons with disabilities also applies to students who have learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders - with or without hyperactivity - and mental health problems, disabilities that are described as "emerging".
In an opinion released today, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse is issuing a reminder to private and public general and vocational colleges that they are obligated to accommodate all disabled student in order to respect their right to full equality as guaranteed in the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
"As the number students with disabilities enrolled in colleges is on the rise, the Commission believes that it is time for colleges to change their practices in order to meet their duty to accommodate the persons with disabilities, including students who have "emerging" disabilities," said the president of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, Gaétan Cousineau.
Between 2005 and 2009, the number of disabled students enrolled in a general or vocational program increased five-fold from 860 to 4,309. A large proportion of this increase is due to the enrolment of students with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders - with or without hyperactivity - and mental health problems.
As a result of this increase, the Commission has faced a growing number of requests for help on how best to accommodate the needs of students with "emerging" disabilities. In April 2010, it set up a Working Group made up of approximately 30 organizations, including the major representatives of the province's network or public and private colleges, and several disability rights groups. This work informed the Commission's opinion and its 36 recommendations in order to help private and public colleges meet their obligation to accommodate students with "emerging" disabilities.
These recommendations which were presented today to members of the Working Group are directed to Québec Government, the Ministère de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport, the general and vocational colleges, the Fédération des cégeps and the Association representing private colleges.
The Commission is calling on the government to change the General and Vocational Colleges Act and the Act Respecting Private Education to include specific provisions that would clearly set out the responsibilities of these post-secondary institutions regarding the organization of the services for disabled students as well as the required implementation regulation.
Moreover, the Commission believes that the government should revise how it presently funds special programs for the disabled, including its policy Accueil et Intégration des étudiants handicapés au collégial so that it can apply to students who have "emerging" disabilities. This would be in line with the objectives, orientations and plan now in place throughout the primary and secondary school system.
In order to create an environment conducive to learning and success for all disabled students, the Commission is also recommending that the personnel involved should be provided with training, and support, and have access to external resources including those provided by the health and social services network. The Commission believes that such an approach would allow all stakeholders to reach a better understanding of the organizational and pedagogical challenges of an inclusive education and, in the longer term, help improve the existing accommodation practices throughout Québec's public and private network of colleges.
"These public and private institutions must make the necessary efforts to honour their reasonable accommodation obligation to students with "emerging" disabilities unless there is undue hardship," Mr. Cousineau said.
The obligation to provide reasonable accommodation is a legal obligation derives from the right to equal treatment, and applies in all situations involving discrimination. It entails adapting a standard or practice applied universally in order to create differential treatment for a person who would otherwise be penalized. There is no requirement to provide reasonable accommodation if doing so would involve undue hardship.
The opinion L'accommodement des étudiants et étudiantes en situation de handicap dans les établissements d'enseignement collégial and the Commission's recommendations are available in French at: www.cdpdj.qc.ca.
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