Disability Services

The following is a list of Disability Services that are supported at Algoma University.

Mild Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is characterized by moderate changes in one, or all, of an individual’s level of cognitive, emotional, behavioural, or physiological functioning. These changes can take a number of forms, but will likely include a combination of:

  • Impaired memory
  • Trouble expressing thoughts
  • Decreased tolerance for frustration
  • A lack of emotion
  • The tendency to overreact
  • Depression
  • Impulsivity
  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Increased fatigue
  • Poor coordination of movements
  • Dizziness and loss of balance
  • Frequent headaches or nausea
  • An inaccurate assessment of ability
  • Poor judgement

The most common cause of ABI is a traumatic injury to the brain as a result of either a blow to the head or a violent whipping action of the neck. There is no such thing as a “typical” ABI; similar injuries may produce different effects in different people.

Some of the most commonly provided academic accommodations to students with ABI include:

  • Use of memory aids such as formula cards during tests
  • Provision of a note taker for lectures
  • Tape recording of lectures
  •  Provision of written, step by step instructions when assigning work
  •  Separate room for writing exams
  • Priority seating to facilitate attention
  • Break periods for rest and taking medication
  • Extended time for tests and exams
  • The use of oral exams in place of, or as a supplement to written exams

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can occur in three forms: the inattentive type of attention disorder, the hyperactive-impulsive type of attention deficit, and the combination type, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Between 30 to 70 percent of children diagnosed with these deficits continue to have residual symptoms that persist into adulthood, which impact to a significant degree, social, academic and occupational functioning. As well, in adults, other conditions often co-exist with attention deficits that include learning disabilities, as well as mental health issues including anxiety and depression.

Some of the most commonly provided academic accommodations to students with ADHD include:

  • Reduced course load
  • Provision of a note taker for lectures
  •  Access to a computer to organize and edit assignments
  • Provision of extended time for tests and exams (usually time and a half)
  • Tape recording of lectures
  • Writing tests/exams in distraction free  room
  • Time extensions on assignments (to be negotiated ahead of time with professor)

The term “visual impairment” is used to describe a variety of problems with eyesight, from total blindness to variations of partial sightedness. Individuals with visual acuity equal to or less than 20/200 are considered to be legally blind. It is impossible to correct their vision by medical or surgical means or corrective glasses. The majority will rely on the use of dog guides or white canes to assist them, as well as the use of sound and touch. Partial sight is a category of visual loss that designates individual acuity levels between 20/70 and 20/200. Some can distinguish only light or dark or varying patterns and shapes. Many are able to read with difficulty.

Some of the most commonly provided academic accommodations to students with blind or low vision include:

  • Provision of extended time for tests and exams (usually time and a half)
  • Provision of a scribe/reader for exams and tests
  • Provision of a note taker for lectures
  • Provision of alternative format materials (AFM), such as Braille, large print, taped books, talking calculators, thermo graphic pen and paper, screen readers, text-to-speech devices
  • Specially arranged campus tours
  • Accessible computer software
  • Closed circuit television (CCTV) for print enhancement (if available)
  • Arrangements may be made to use tape recorders in the classroom
  • Enlarged text for tests and examinations
  • Zoom text available for the Library’s computerized catalogue of holdings
  • Optical scanner

Types of medical conditions having educational implications include chronic health problems such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, kidney disease, allergies, cardiovascular problems, cancer, diabetes, and AHIV infections, as well as respiratory and gastro-intestinal disorders. Many university students who suffer from these conditions have frequent absences due to the effects of medication, fatigue and pain.

Some of the most commonly provided academic accommodations to students with chronic illness/systemic/medical include:

  • Use of note taker and/or scribe
  • Allowance of break periods as needed for rest and taking medication
  • Ergonomically designed seating/furnishings
  • Alternative methods of evaluation
  • Provision of extended time for tests and exams (usually time and a half)
  • Allowances for absences for medical reasons (i.e. Rescheduling of tests or exams)

A deaf person has a profound hearing loss in which there has been damage to the auditory pathway. Most people use some form of sign language to communicate. The earlier the loss, the more serious the implications for a student’s education. Students who have acquired American Sign Language (ASL) consider it their first language and it is unlikely that they have a complete command of English, which would be considered their second language. It is important to note that their grasp of the English language is not a reflection of intelligence but is a reflection of their command of the second language due to their inability to hear.

Deafened is both a medical and sociological term referring to persons who have become deaf later in life. Deafened persons cannot hear what you say, but usually respond verbally in a conversation. They sometimes use interpreters, but more often request a computerized note taker.

Persons who are hard of hearing have hearing losses ranging from mild to profound. These students experience difficulty hearing and may wear a hearing aid to amplify sound. A hearing aid does not cure the loss, but assists in better communication.

Some of the most commonly provided academic accommodations to deaf, deafened, and hard of hearing students include:

  • Priority seating for students and their interpreter
  • Access to computer for note taking
  • Access to a computerized note taker or note sharer if necessary
  • Photocopy service if necessary
  • Provision of extended time for tests and exams (usually time and a half)
  • Access to an interpreter during tests and exams, to interpret questions
  • Use of sign/oral language interpreters for oral assignments
  • Access to assistive devices such as captioning devices, FM systems, TTY (if available)
  • Use of computer for completion of test/assignments
  • Reduced course load
  • Adapted methods of evaluation such as marking on content rather than writing style
  • Provision of advance reading lists, texts and content specific vocabulary

Every effort is made to provide students with learning disabilities the academic support consistent with their psycho-educational assessment profile. These may include:

  • Accommodations for tests and exams
  • Tutorial support
  •  Microcomputer usage
  • Planning appropriate courses and course load
  • Academic skills support

Documentation of the learning disability, which includes a recent psycho-educational assessment and reports from high school guidance counsellors or previously involved post-secondary Disability Services is required.

  • Learning Strategy Support/Training
  • Adaptive Technology, Training and Support

Students who request accommodations because of a mental health disability are participating in some form of treatment intervention, either medication therapy or psychotherapy, or a combination. It is the responsibility of the disability support office to work in collaboration with mental health professionals in hospitals and community agencies to ensure that students with mental health disabilities are capable of sustaining normal academic stress.

Adjustment Disorders: tend to develop in response to a particular stressor and complete recovery usually occurs within a 6-month period.

Anxiety Disorders: disorders in which the main feature is anxiety. Types include panic disorders, agoraphobia, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder.

Mood Disorders: can be acute, severe, and have relatively short duration, or they can be chronic conditions. The types include major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, bipolar disorder, cyclothymic disorder, and substance induced mood disorder.

Personality Disorders: are characterized by a pattern of inner experience and behaviour that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, starts in adolescence or early childhood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment. Types include paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.

Eating Disorders: characterized by anxieties about weight gain. There can be long-term, irreversible consequences which can affect one’s physical and emotional health. Types include anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Some of the most commonly provided academic accommodations to students with mental health issues include:

  • Separate testing room
  • Provision of extended time for tests and exams (usually time and a half)
  • Use of memory aids such as formula cards during tests
  • Provision of a note taker for lectures
  •  Reduced course load
  •  Allowance of break periods as needed for rest and taking medication

Generally, there are two types of physical disabilities that affect mobility: orthopaedic or neurological.

Some of the more representative disabilities are:

Orthopaedic Disabilities: involve a deformity of the skeletal system. The impairment can be the result of a congenital anomaly (i.e. club foot, Spina Bifida), the result of disease (i.e. Muscular Dystrophy, Arthritis) or the result of trauma or accident (i.e. Amputation).

Neurological Disabilities: involve the nervous system affecting the ability to move, use or control certain parts of the body. Such impairments can be the result of a congenital anomaly (i.e. Cerebral Palsy), the result of disease (i.e. Polio), or the result of an accident (i.e. spinal cord injury, heard trauma).

Multiple Sclerosis: is the most common neurological disease affecting young Canadian adults. It is thought to be caused by a virus or an immune reaction, or a combination of both. Symptoms vary, but may include visual disturbances, slurred speech, fatigue, paralysis, muscle tremors, impaired gait, personality changes, respiratory infections, loss of coordination, loss of balance, numbness or prickling feelings in extremities and general malaise.

Cerebral Palsy: is a condition caused by damage to the brain before, during or after birth. It is chiefly characterized by motor disorder. It is not progressive nor is it considered curable, although physical therapy can be helpful in improving comfort and mobility.

Spina Bifida: is one of the most prevalent birth defects causing physical disability. It occurs in the spinal column when one or more vertebrae do not close during prenatal development. The condition varies, displaying few to many consequences, ranging from mild to serious in nature.

Spinal Cord Injuries: are most commonly the result of trauma from sports related injuries and accidents. The spinal cord can be partially severed or permanently damaged by severe scarring. The degree of impairment depends on the extent and level of the damaged vertebrae in the spinal cord. Terms used to describe the amount of physical functioning that an individual may retain include, paraplegia, or paralysis of both legs, and quadriplegia, or partial or complete paralysis of all four limbs.

Algoma University is an accessible building to the physically disabled and mobility impaired. Specifically designed features and services include:

  • Electronically operated doors at all main entrances
  • A wheelchair route featuring magnetic doorstops allowing free passage by a wheelchair through the University
  • All floors can be accessed by elevator
  • Accessible washrooms
  • Classroom and seating modifications may be made on an individual request basis
  • Specially designed and furnished residences

Some of the most commonly provided academic accommodations to students with mobility/functional disabilities include:

  • Access to adaptive technology, assistive devices and/or a scribe or note taker
  • Allowance of break periods as needed for rest, taking medication and personal needs
  • Advance book/reading lists
  • Preferential seating
  • Provision of extended time for tests and exams, usually time and a half
  • Reduced course load
  • Early access to timetable for transportation purposes

It is recognized that certain medical conditions or any physical or mental illness may interfere with or hinder a student’s academic performance.

Students with any disability are encouraged to contact the Disability Services Office to discuss their individual needs. Every effort will be made to identify appropriate support services or make accommodations to meet the student’s individual needs.