A Clinical/Practicum Accessibility Guide: Tips for Faculty

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This guide is intended to support faculty members and supervisors with improving accessibility practical learning settings. It provides general information about how faculty can support students with disabilities in meeting the essential practical requirements of their program. The context of this guide assumes that most Canadian post-secondary institutions have similar service provision infrastructures in place, such as an accessibility office.


Field Placements

Field placements, also known as practicums and/or clinicals are a mandatory, academic experiential learning component of a degree program. The placement is approved by the governing faculty (i.e. School of Nursing, Faculty of Social Work). The student is usually required to work under a licensed professional and can receive either a passing or failing grade.


AccessTracks uses the terms medical condition, injury and disability to describe a diagnosable condition that impacts permanently or temporarily impacts a person’s functioning. The World Health Organization uses the overarching term “disability” to describe most of these conditions. Here are just some examples of medical conditions that are considered a disability in Canada. See Appendix 1 for a list of conditions the Canadian Government defines as a disability.


Accommodations are tools, interventions, assistive technology, and equipment that reduce barriers/functional impacts for people with disabilities so that they can meet the expectation of the job. In some cases, a student may not identify as having a disability, but they may have an on-going medical condition that would make them eligible for accommodations.

Functional Impacts

A functional impact describes how a person’s medical condition or disability affects the way they work and learn. For example, a person may have difficulty interacting socially or experience on-going migraines (See Table 1). A person’s medical diagnosis is considered confidential; therefore, employers should accommodate based on how a person’s functioning is impacted, rather than on their diagnosis.

Table 1 – Example Functional Impacts and Accommodations

Functional Impacts Adaptations
Sitting Stretch breaks
Standing Stool/chair for rest
Stair Climbing Accessible Workspace
Communication Assistant / Interpreter
Fatigue Stretch breaks/extra time
Attention / Concenration Distraction reduced environment
Social interactions Redistribution of workload / accessible space
Information Processing Extra time, repeat instructions
Memory Project management software
Time Management Time management software


Accessibility Office

Most institutions have an accessibility office that students can register with to request academic accommodations. Accessibility professionals within this office can often support faculty supervisors in determining reasonable accommodations for field practicums.

Accommodation Letter

If a student is registered with their accessibility services office, their accessibility professional may send a letter to a faculty member outlining approved field placement accommodations.

Essential Requirements

Essential requirements are learning milestones that a student must meet to receive a passing grade in their courses. These requirements can also be described as learning outcomes in the course syllabus. Field placements allow students to demonstrate that they have learned a specific set of practical skills that help qualify them for future employment.



Starting Out the Semester

Here are some tips to prepare for students who need may require clinical/practicum accommodations.

Receiving an Accommodation Letter

If you receive an accommodation letter for a student:

Maintaining Confidentiality

Medical information is considered personal and confidential.


If you think a student may be struggling in their clinical/practicum placement due to a disability or health condition:

Disruptive Behaviour

Issues with behaviour can be a functional impact related to a disability, therefore, efforts must be made to accommodate the student.


Essential Requirements

Assessing essential requirements

If you believe an accommodation may compromise an academic requirement of your degree program,
here are some options to consider:

Impacts vs. Learning Outcomes

There is a difference between functional impacts related to a disability and a non-ability to meet learning outcomes (See Table 2). For example, a nursing student with a hearing impairment may be required to demonstrate an ability to build rapport with patients. In this scenario, building rapport is the learning outcome and hearing is the functional impact. This functional impact could be accommodated using technology such as an FM system and safety concerns could be mitigated by developing protocols that will help keep both the student and the patient safe.

Table 2– Examples Functional Impacts vs. Learning Outcomes

Functional Impacts Learning Outcome Concern Accommodation
Hearing Impairment Build rapport Difficulty hearing patient FM Pen; Safety training
Fatigue Administer meds on schedule 12-hour shift Split shifts; different learning environment
Memory Write case notes Incomplete, inaccurate charting/notes Notetaking, recording, confidentiality plan


According to Pardo & Tomlison (1999), “The duty to accommodate…includes a willingness to be creative and directed in the search for accommodating students; that more than an negligible effort is require in devising an academic accommodations; and that is the accommodation must be meaningful to the student’s individual needs”. (p. 15).


Denying An Accommodation Request

Students with disabilities must be able to perform the essential tasks of his/her profession in a competent manner with reasonable accommodations in order to be eligible for a field placement (Pardo & Tomlinson, pg. 49, 1999)

If you choose to deny an accommodation, here are some ways to prepare for this decision:



Creating A Policy

If your specific faculty does not have an accessibility policy related to your field for accommodating students, here are some tips for developing one:



2017 Canadian Survey on Disability (2018, November 28). Retrieved August 6, 2019, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2018035-eng.htm

BC Public Service Agency. (2019, June 04). WorkSafeBC Coverage & Claims. Retrieved August 2, 2019, from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/careers-myhr/all-employees/safety-health-well- being/workplace/worksafebc/coverage-claims

Oakley, B., Wideman, M., & Parsons, J. (2012, June 13). Identifying Essential Requirements: A guide for university disability service professionals. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu

Pardo, P., & Tomlinson, D. (1999). Implementing academic accommodation in practicum/field settings. University of Calgary Publications. Retrieved from http://contentdm.ucalgary.ca/digital/collection/ucpub/id/49826/

Sorlie, D. E. (1994). The Americans with disabilities act: Implications and suggestions for compliance for medical schools. Academic Medicine, 69(7), 525–535.

Posted 66 weeks ago