HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Access to Post-secondary Education in Canada for Students with Disabilities

Laverne Jacobs (University of Windsor), Access to Post-secondary Education in Canada for Students with Disabilities, Int'l J. Discrimination & L. (Forthcoming):

Article 24(1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) provides a commitment to the full development of human potential and of the student’s sense of dignity and self-worth, as well as a commitment to develop the student’s personality, talents, and creativity, along with their mental and physical abilities, to their fullest potential. Article 24(5) builds on this commitment by guaranteeing persons with disabilities access to general tertiary (or post-secondary) education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning without discrimination and on an equal basis with others. Yet, on the ground, within educational institutions, disabled post-secondary students continue to face barriers to education every day.

In Canada, the right to post-secondary education for persons with disabilities is protected through various domestic human rights instruments and supplemented by the CRPD. At the same time, obstacles for disabled students exist at different stages of the experience of post-secondary education. This article uses a case study to identify the barriers experienced by students with disabilities on the ground despite the long-standing legal frameworks that ensure post-secondary education for persons with disabilities in Canada. It further examines how law and policy may be improved to ensure access to post-secondary education for students with disabilities.

This article begins with a discussion of the legal frameworks that exist in Canada to protect the right to post-secondary education. Part II provides an overview of the types of barriers that students with a variety of disabilities have faced during the course of completing post-secondary studies. The barriers are identified through an analysis of decisions of Canadian human rights tribunals and courts rendered between 2014 and 2021.These barriers to pursuing post-secondary education are identified in relation to the admissions process, in-program learning, and the pursuit of remedies. In Part III, I draw from an analysis of these contemporary decisions to argue that the right to post-secondary education for disabled students in Canada would be strengthened if more inspiration were drawn from Article 24 of the CRPD and instituted a human capabilities approach.

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