Date: Tuesday, July 16, 2013
ARCH Disability Law Centre has reported that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal is now hearing a disability discrimination claim filed by a former graduate student at McMaster University.
The student, Jason Tang, was a Ph.D student in Medical Sciences with an impressive publication record (20 articles in peer-reviewed journals). Mr Tang had completed most of his academic requirements towards completion of his degree when he suffered a brain injury. The brain injury resulted in post-concussion syndrome (PCS). The side effects of this disorder led him to seek accommodation for his upcoming comprehensive exam (pp 1-2). He claimed that his disability prevented him from completing the exam in the traditional format, and sought an alternative format that would still allow him to demonstrate his competencies.
Eight months before writing the comprehensive exam, Tang asked the University to clarify the essential requirements for the exam so that it could explore appropriate accommodation arrangements for his disability. It appears that he was seeking to complete the exam in an alternative format which would allow him to demonstrate his competencies. The Associate Dean of Graduate studies informed him that he would be required to complete the exam in the same format as other students (p 3). The University “offered [Tang accommodation in the form of] extra time to complete the exam along with other forms of support for writing” (p 2). Tang submits that this accommodation was inappropriate, given the nature of his disability. Tang eventually attempted to write the exam but was unable to complete it successfully. He was forced to leave his PhD. studies. Tang alleges that the University’s failure to accommodate him appropriately led to his expulsion.
The ARCH Disability Law Centre published an online article about this story and states that it is an important case which highlights “some of the unique questions that arise for students with disabilities at a graduate level. Our hope is that a decision will provide some future guidance to all universities and students” (p3)