Skip to main content
McMaster University +-

Accessibility Hub is a collaborative endeavor with a number of departments and groups taking shared responsibility to advance the University's 3rd strategic goal of "Building an Inclusive Community".

This website is an example of one of those collaborative efforts as we strive to develop a one-stop-shop for all things Accessibility at McMaster. Whether you are a student (prospective or current), staff member, faculty, or member of the wider community, this website is intended to be the primary portal where you can find information and links to accessibility-related information from across the University.

As this is an on-going project, the Website Accessibility Group will be happy to receive your feedback on any aspect of this site. A glossary of key terms used throughout this website can be found under "Resources > Glossary". The website is intended to be a model for accessibility both in content and form, so should you encounter any features of this site that are inaccessible, we encourage you to contact us.

Get Involved with the Website Accessibility Group

To get involved with the Website Accessibility Group, please contact access@mcmaster.ca

We welcome everyone who wishes to join the Website Accessibility Group. In particular, we encourage you to participate if you are:

  • creating or editing websites
  • developing multimedia learning objects
  • uploading content to a learning management system
  • teaching web design or development skills
  • working with educational technologies
  • advocating for an accessible university experience

The Website Accessibility Group meets on a monthly basis and has an action-oriented focus.

Members

We thank everyone for their time and contributions! The members of the web accessibility working group include:

  • Raihanna Hirji-Khalfan
  • Ayshia Musleh
  • Nick Marquis
  • Greg Van Gastel
  • Devon Mordell
  • Katrina Espanol-Miller
  • Clark Cipryk
  • Joanne Buckley
  • Beth Marquis
  • Julia Kraveca
  • Nicole Wagner
  • Lorna Turcotte
  • Gord Arbeau
  • and the efforts of many more!

Initiatives

The website accessibility sub-committee of the Accessibility Community of Practice has planned and begun a number of initiatives, including:

  • Accessibility @ McMaster, a centralized accessibility resource website for McMaster
  • Accessibility Makeover Project
  • Accessibility Champions

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was passed in 2005 with the goal of creating an accessible Ontario by 2025. This legislation is unique because it:

  • applies to both public and private organizations
  • requires obliged organizations to be proactive in identifying, preventing and removing barriers to accessibility
  • shifts the focus from the individual who requires an accommodation and focuses on the obligations of organizations to remove barriers

The AODA is implemented through a series of Accessibility Standards:

The Customer Service Regulation into came into effect on January 1, 2010 for public sector organizations such as McMaster University.

In order to comply with this standard, McMaster established policies, practices and procedures that outline the provision of its goods and services to persons with disabilities. These policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the four core principles:

  • Independence - Recognizing when a person is able to do things on their own without unnecessary help or interference from others. 
  • Dignity - Providing service in a way that allows the individual to maintain self-respect and the respect of other persons. 
  • Integration - Providing service in a way that allows the individual to benefit from the same services, in the same place, and in the same or similar way as other students, employees, visitors, unless an alternate measure is necessary. 
  • Equality - Providing service to individuals in such a way that they have an opportunity to access goods or services equal to that given to others.

McMaster's Accessibility Policy can be found here.

A requirement of the Customer Service Standard is that McMaster train all employees (including faculty and staff) as well as student leaders and volunteers on how to provide accessible customer service. For more information about the training click here.

The Accessibility Standard for the Built Environment will help remove barriers in buildings and outdoor spaces for people with disabilities. The standard will apply only to new construction and extensive renovation.

Latest information from the Ontario government suggest that this standard is still under review. For more information please refer to the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services website here

This Standard includes provisions for Information & Communication, Employment and Transportation and came into effect on January 1, 2012.  The compliance obligations are being phased in between 2012 and 2025 with annual updates on progress made.

Detailed information about McMaster's compliance obligations can be found in the McMaster Multi-year Accessibility Plan. Download the plan here: McMaster Multi-Year Accessibility Plan

Information & Communication, Employment and Transportation have been combined into one Standard called the Integrated Accessibility Standard.

McMaster is obligated to keep a public record of its plans for complying with the AODA. The McMaster Multi-year Accessibility Plan can be downloaded here: McMaster Multi-Year Accessibility Plan.

The AODA legislation can be found here.

AODA Customer Service Online Training Module

Accessible customer service to persons with disabilities is a key component in creating an inclusive and accessible McMaster Community. This online training module will take you through the key principles of accessible customer service and will provide tips, tools and examples as you complete each section of the training.

The training consists of 3 modules and will take approximately 90 minutes to complete. To begin your training, you will need to enter your McMaster ID and password. Once you complete the module, a confirmation email will be sent to your McMaster email address.

AODA Training Step Guide Checking your AODA Online Training Results

Log into Mosaic to begin

McMaster University has a number of policies that are relevant to persons with disabilities and impact the provision of accessibility across campus. Links to these policies have been provided below. For more information about the University's policies, please visit the University Secretariat website here: http://www.mcmaster.ca/policy/

Frequently Asked Questions about the AODA

What is the purpose of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)?  When did it come into effect?

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires organizations to develop, implement and enforce mandatory accessibility standards. Accessibility standards are the rules that businesses and organizations in Ontario will have to follow to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility. The Act was passed in 2005, and separate standards come into effect as they are drafted and become law.

The AODA sets out standards in five separate areas of our lives:

•    customer service,
•    built environment,
•    transportation,
•    employment, and
•    information and communication.

The first standard, Customer Service became law on January 1, 2008 and the University must demonstrate compliance in 2010.

Why do we use the word 'customers' at McMaster University?  Students are not customers and many university employees are not employed in a 'customer service' role.

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, education is considered a service. By extension, Ontario universities are service providers. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), 2005 models its regulations to the extent that is possible upon language contained in the Code.

Granted, the word ‘customer’ does not translate as completely in a university setting as it does in other settings. However, in crafting a standard that applies to every Ontario organization with one employee or more, the standard development committee decided on language that would encompass as many different public types as possible: students, clients, patients, employees, retirees, investors, patrons, etc. At McMaster any one of these groups are our ‘customers’. 

What is required of McMaster to comply with the Customer Service Standard?

The Customer Service standard requires the University to meet several components in the ways we provide our services to our students, colleagues, employees and visitors. A brief outline is listed below:

  • Establish policies, practices and procedures consistent with accessibility principles regarding accessible customer service, use of personal assistive devices, service animals and support persons, feedback process.
  • Ensure every person who deals with the public or influences development of policies/procedures on behalf of the University receives training on providing accessible customer service.
  • Establish a process for providing notice of temporary disruptions and a feedback process for receiving comments and/or complaints about the way service is provided.
  • Communicate with a person with a disability in a way that takes into account his or her disability.
  • Allow persons with disabilities to be accompanied by their guide dog or service animal in those areas that are open to the public, unless the animal is excluded by another law. If a service animal is excluded by law, use other measures to provide services to the person with a disability.
  • Permit persons with disabilities who use a support person to bring that person with them while accessing goods or services in premises open to the public or third parties. Where admission fees are charged, the University must provide notice ahead of time on what admission, if any, would be charged for a support person of a person with a disability.

As someone providing service on behalf of McMaster University, what are some of the questions I should keep in mind when striving to provide more accessible customer service in my office/department?

Does my office/department have any specific work practices/procedures in effect for providing accessible services?

What are the points of contact in my office/department where a person (student, fellow employee, alumni, visitor) receives service?

At these contact points, what barriers to service might persons with disabilities encounter? How can I help improve accessibility with regard to these?

Does my office/department provide assistive devices or have special measures in place to assist persons with disabilities? If so, are the devices and special measures documented and communicated widely through signage, a website or other methods? Are those individuals who provide service trained in how to use these devices?

Are there any areas in my office/department where a service animal would be prohibited by law?
Do we charge admission fees? If so, is the fee communicated widely in advance through websites, brochures or other public methods? This will ensure that persons with disabilities who use a support person are informed.

How are disruptions in our services communicated in a most accessible manner?

Does McMaster provide assistive devices or have any special measures in place to assist persons with disabilities?

Yes, the University offers some assistive devices and/or special measures for persons with disabilities.

McMaster libraries offer a Library Service for Students with Disabilities (LSSD) for students referred by The Centre for Student Development (CSD). They offer help with common services, obtaining information in alternate formats and providing assistive technologies (including specialized software). You can find out more about these services here. or call ext. 26058. 

McMaster University Technology Services (UTS) offers assistive software in the Kenneth Taylor Hall (KTH) and Burke Science Building (BSB) computer labs. You can find out more about these services here. 

Does McMaster charge support persons admission fees to buildings/events?

It is the responsibility of organizers of any campus event to decide whether support persons accompanying a person with a disability will be charged admission/ticket fees. However it is imperative that if fees apply to support persons, that this is communicated to the public and attendees ahead of time in an accessible manner.

For example, the David Braley Athletic Centre (DBAC) does not charge membership/registration fees for a support person accompanying someone with a disability. Rather, the Recreation Business Office at the DBAC simply asks that any support people make themselves known to the office and staff as accompanying a specific member of the gym. For more information about DBAC’s process, contact the Recreation Business Office at DBAC WG 101, or at 905-525-9140 ext 24464.
For information about a particular event or service fee, individuals should inquire with the appropriate event organizer or office.

Where on campus are service animals prohibited by law?

Animals may not be allowed in restricted portions of McMaster campus laboratories. These may include, but are not limited to sections of the Life Sciences Building (LSB), A.N. Bourns Science Building (ABB), Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning & Discovery (MDCL) and/or Institute for Applied Health Sciences (IAHS). For more information about support animal use within these and other campus buildings, please contact the main office of these buildings. 

Animals are not allowed in restricted parts of the McMaster University Medical Centre, such as operating rooms, or the ICU. For more information about support animal use within the Hamilton Health Sciences hospital sites please contact their Main Information Desk at 905-521-2100 or St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton at (905) 522-1155.

How can persons with disabilities find out in advance about disruption of services/routes throughout campus?

Disruptions (both expected and unexpected) within campus buildings are posted as ‘Alerts’ on the Facility Services website, which you can find here.

To receive email notification of disruptions in a specific building, you can subscribe to the Building Notification List through McMaster's Mailman system. This can be done via the Facility Services website which you can find here.

Note: these shutdown lists only pertain to academic buildings on the main campus and exclude Residences, Health Sciences Centre and satellite locations.

Disruptions due to inclement weather are covered by the University’s Storm Emergency Policy & Procedures.

When will the Information & Communication Standard come into effect?

This standard was submitted to the government for consideration as law in the summer of 2009. The Ministry of Community and Social Services will announce a compliance date and an approximate implementation timeline for this standard once it has become law.

When will the Built Environment Standard come into effect?

This standard is going to be reviewed by the standards committee in order to incorporate public input received during 2009, and then it will be sent forward for approval for law. The Ministry of Community and Social Services will announce a compliance date and an approximate implementation timeline for this standard once it has become law.

When will the Employment Standard come into effect?

This standard was submitted to the government for consideration as law in the fall of 2009. The Ministry of Community and Social Services will announce a compliance date and an approximate implementation timeline for this standard once it has become law.

When will the Transportation Standard come into effect?

This standard was submitted to the government for consideration as law in the fall of 2008. The Ministry of Community and Social Services will announce a compliance date and an approximate implementation.

Accommodation is a means of preventing and removing barriers that impede full participation and access based on the prohibited grounds of discrimination. It is not a courtesy or a favour, neither is it a lowering of standards. Rather, accommodation is a recognition that individuals may require some adjustments in order to support their performance on the job or in the class room.

The provision of an accommodation is based on 3 principles:

  • Dignity
  • Individualization
  • Inclusion

Providing an accommodation is a shared responsibility between the individuals requesting and providing the accommodation. While the stated principles above apply in all cases, the nature of an accommodation is specific to the individual and should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

The duty to accommodate arises most frequently in relation to

  • Disability
  • Religion
  • Sex (pregnancy) and/or
  • Family Status
  • Gender identity/gender express

For the purposes of this website, accommodation is addressed in relation to disability.

Duty to Accommodate

The goal of accommodation is to allow equal benefit from and participation in services and programs such as education and in the workplace. The Duty to Accommodate is enshrined in human rights legislation in every jurisdiction in Canada (e.g. Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Human Rights Act).

The Duty is intended to further society's commitment to equality and implies a duty of fairness so that disadvantaged groups can participate in society. Organizations such as McMaster are obliged to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship.

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, there are only 3 factors that can be considered regarding undue hardship:

  • Costs - A cost is "undue" when it is so high that it effects the survival or changes the essential nature of the organization. However, in the case of a large organization such as McMaster University, it is unlikely that costs will be determined a reasonable consideration for not providing an accommodation.
  • Outside sources of funding - Organizations should explore the availability of external sources of funding, such as government grants or loans which could offset accommodation  costs, when assessing "undue hardship",  
  • Health & Safety - if the accommodation puts the individual and/or others at risk, it may not be provided

If the University fails to accommodate, the burden of proof is on the University to explain why. An internal mechanism for addressing the failure to accommodate is the McMaster Anti-Discrimination Policy which is administered by the Office of Human Rights & Equity Services (HRES). For more information about this process, please visit the HRES website..

*The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination on the following grounds: race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, citizenship, ethnic origin, family status, marital status (including same-sex partnership status), sex/gender, sexual orientation, creed/religion, receipt of public assistance, disability, age, and record of offenses.

McMaster's Anti-discrimination policy expands upon the grounds of discrimination in the Code to include the following: Language, accent, dialect, political belief, membership or non-membership in a political organization, membership or non-membership in a trade union, or employee or employer organization.

Academic Accommodation

Accommodation in the academic context does not alter the content of exams, the standards used to assign grades, or the requirement that students demonstrate their knowledge of course material. Rather, academic accommodation is an alteration in the way students perform academic tasks. Partial of complete tasks may be changed through an accommodation as long as the changes allow the students to meet the essential requirements of the course or program.

Examples of academic accommodation may include:

  • Providing lecture notes and materials in a larger font size
  • Sign language interpreters for students who are Deaf
  • Writing exams in smaller/quieter rooms

Student Accessibility Services (SAS) provides support to students with disabilities and strives to work with students and instructors to develop appropriate accommodation plans. For more information on how to accommodate students with disabilities, please visit their website here.

Information for TA's on academic accommodations for students with disabilities.

Workplace Accommodation

The type of workplace accommodation are determined on a case by case basis. Examples of typical workplace accommodation include:

  • Adjustment of the workspace to accommodate a mobility device such as a wheelchair
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Provision of assistive technologies such as screen reader software
  • Publications and training information in alternative formats such as large print or braille

For information about workplace accommodation at McMaster please contact the Manager of Employee Health Services at ext. 26965

Students

Students who require academic accommodation are required to register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and meet with a Program Coordinator. Together with the Program Coordinator, you will develop your individualized accommodation plan which must be communicated to your course instructor within a timely manner. For details on obtaining an accommodation, please visit the SAS website here.

Staff

Staff who require a workplace accommodation are required to notify their supervisors who will then identify the process for developing an accommodation plan. For more information please contact the Manager of Employee Health Services at ext. 26965

Faculty

Faculty who require a workplace accommodation should contact the Chair, Director or other appropriate University Officer to proceed with the development of an accommodation plan. This plan will take into consideration the duties outlined in their letter of employment with respect to teaching, research and the tenure and promotion process. For more information, see...

Accommodation is an individualized provision that is enacted once an individual identifies as having a disability whereas accessibility requires proactive measures to identify, prevent and remove barriers to access.

While the process of accommodation can only be triggered by an individual requesting specific alterations to a program, service, or workstation, accessibility is the process of eliminating barriers for all, not just persons with disabilities.

For example, a fourth-year capstone course requires students to create a research poster that is presented at an event for their classmates and invited guests.

Lydia, a student in the course who is blind, receives an accommodation; she is paired with a sighted transcriber who creates a poster for Lydia with the content that she dictates to the transcriber. The assignment is weighted to emphasize how the research is communicated, rather than the visual appeal of the poster itself.

An accessible assignment, on the other hand, would be designed so that Lydia - or any other student - could fully participate without needing an accommodation. In the case of the research poster, the assignment could offer multiple alternatives to the poster in communicating the student's research, like a creating a web page or an audio narrative.

For the accessible assignment, Lydia creates an audio recording to explain her research; this allows her to skip the intermediary of having to work with a transcriber and have more agency over her message as a result. On the day of the event, her research station includes a device to playback the recording and a transcription for anyone unable to access the audio narration.

Accessibility in the Libraries

The McMaster Libraries have a number of accessibility services for students.The staff in Library Accessibility Services work with publishers to acquire both required and supplementary texts in a variety of alternate formats, assist students with research help, arrange to have books retrieved, assist with photocopying and provide access to bookable study rooms equipped with assistive technologies.

Library Accessibility Services is located on the second floor of Mills Library. Click here for contact information and more details on their services.