Students with Disabilities Complete University at Home

John was diagnosed with schizophrenia while still in university. In his efforts to retain a normal life, he attempted to attend classes while being treated. However, he found it hard to be alert at the specific times the traditional university schedule demanded.

He then discovered he could take university courses at home through distance education. This allowed him to study at his own pace, at any time of the day or night while still maintaining contact with society via online or telephone communication with professors and fellow students.

Flexibility is what draws most students to university distance education, explains Vicky Busch, executive director of Canadian Virtual University (CVU), an association of accredited Canadian universities specializing in distance and online education.

This flexibility can be especially important for those with a physical, psychological or learning disability; a chronic illness; or visual or hearing impairment.

Another advantage of distance education is the email and phone contact with a personal tutor. Many students report that they have more contact with professors in online classes than they ever had in face-to-face classes.

Currently, over 1,400 students are registered with the student disabilities service at Athabasca University alone. Most commonly, services include additional time to complete a course or to write an exam. Students may also request additional instruction from a tutor and assistance with funding applications.

Thompson Rivers University also provides extensive services for students taking distance education, including individual planning with the student to ensure a successful transition to the university environment.

The most important thing for students with disabilities to remember, say student advisors, is to apply early for disability accommodation since some requests, such as course materials in alternative formats, can take several months to arrange.

The CVU website lists over 2,000 courses, and 300 degrees, diplomas, and certificates all completely online or through distance education.

Many courses can be started at any time of the year, and some have open admission requirements, meaning students only need to be 16 years of age or older.

Contact CVU universities for details on their services for students with disabilities.

Participating Universities