Aerial view of VIU's Nanaimo campus

What you need to know about VIU’s Accessibility Services

December 31, 2022
Author: Samantha Allan

Your top questions answered

Many students don’t realize soon enough how accessibility services can impact their learning. Have you ever felt like you’re struggling with your learning more than your peers due to a disability? Or have you experienced a sudden injury or condition that is impacting your ability to access a course? Then VIU’s Accessibility Services department may be of help for you.

Accessibility has many definitions, but at VIU our Accessibility Services have worked out what they can contribute to create an equitable learning experience for students. No matter your type of disability or circumstances, VIU strives to accommodate you with wrap-around support for all of your accessibility needs. Bryan Tinlin, Director of Student Affairs, shares his insights to help students to build their toolkits for getting the support they may need.

What is accessibility?

Broadly defined, accessibility is the design of products, devices, services, vehicles or environments to be usable by persons with disabilities, whether they be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory or a combination of these.

Within the context of VIU, accessibility is the array of disability services, devices, environments and assistance that are available to support students’ learning. Many students may not realize that whether you have a short or long-term disability, VIU Accessibility Services can help you develop your individualized academic accommodation plan.

Does accessibility apply to you?

People with disabilities are just as diverse as people without disabilities, and those who need accommodations are covered by the obligations of accessibility. Wider doorways across campus are a sensible accommodation for learners using a wheelchair, but may also be in place to accommodate a parent who comes to learn at VIU with a stroller. “About 27% of the students that we see have complex or multiple disabilities,” says Bryan.

Some examples of visible disabilities include:

  • Paralysis
  • Amputations
  • Autism spectrum
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Visually impaired
  • Hearing impaired
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Multiple sclerosis

Some examples of invisible disabilities include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Allergies
  • Epilepsy
  • Endometriosis
  • Diabetes
  • Narcolepsy

An individual may have one or more of these circumstances to manage alongside their studies. A VIU Mariners athlete might injure themselves at a game and require accessibility services for a short time to support their learning. In another case, a student with sensory sensitivities may require a private, dimly lit space to take their exams.

What services for accessibility are offered at VIU?

New students are encouraged to reach out to VIU Accessibility Services to get registered before their classes even start. To fully familiarize yourself with the services offered by VIU, a great place to start is the VIU Accessibility Services website and then stop by the reception desk in Building 255 on the second floor. Due to the unique circumstances of each individual, consultation with an access specialist is recommended to obtain the most appropriate information, support services and reasonable accommodations. Examples of support services include:

  • American Sign Language Services or Sound Field System technology for students who have a visual or hearing impairment.
  • Distraction-reduced testing rooms for students with mental health conditions or chronic health conditions.
  • Text-to-speech software or speech-to-text software.
  • In exam services alone, VIU Accessibility Services, supported by their exam specialists and invigilators, accommodate at least 100 exams per month, averaging 1,200 exams per year, up to as many as 1,800 exams.

How do you access services for accessibility?

Bryan answers this question by saying, “I think we’ve made a lot of progress in our culture, particularly in Canada, about the stigma that’s associated with disabilities.”

He goes on to say that it is critical for students to start the process as early as possible. New students should attend their orientation to become acquainted with these campus services. Your primary care physician can provide a medical note that explains how your disability impacts you in the school setting. Accessibility Services then creates an accommodation plan to reduce the disability-related barriers. There is no cost for accessing Accessibility Services at VIU.

Who knows that I am accessing these services?

In short, only yourself, your primary care physician, the VIU Accessibility Services team and your professors will know that you are accessing these services. The information is confidential and scaled on a need-to-know basis, so your professor may be notified of an accommodation that you require, but not what your specific condition or circumstances are. This information is strictly private from your peers, classmates and other VIU employees.

What are the external accessibility resources available?

The Nanaimo community has a number of organizations and resource hubs for individuals seeking further external support for accessibilities. The Nanaimo Disability Resource Center is your non-profit center for support, the Nanaimo Red Cross HELP Program has accessibility equipment available for rental, and this database provided by offers an extensive list of resources and organizations that can assist with all types of mental health conditions.


Samantha Allan is a first-generation learner of Indigenous and British ancestry with home roots across the province of BC. She is currently a Bachelor of Business Administration, major in Management student at VIU and her long-term goal is to work in law and economic development.

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