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Policy and Procedures for Accommodations for Candidates in the Lawyer and Paralegal Licensing Processes

Revised October 2019

1. Introduction
2. Purpose
3. Policy
4. Confidentiality and Disclosure of Information
5. Procedure to Request a Licensing Examination Accommodation and Responsibilities of Requesting Candidate
6. Responsibilities of Examination Administration when Considering a Request for Accommodation
7. Undue Hardship
8. Appeal Procedure
9. Review of Practice, Policy and Procedures
10. Information about Policy and Practices
11. Call to the bar

1. Introduction

As the governing body of a profession concerned with justice, the Law Society of Ontario (the “Law Society”) has a strong public interest in promoting equality. The legal approach to equality recognizes that treating people identically is not synonymous with treating them equally. Substantive equality requires the accommodation of differences that arise from the enumerated grounds listed in the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19 (the “Code”). If a rule, requirement or expectation of the Lawyer Licensing Process or the Paralegal Licensing Process (individually and collectively, the “Licensing Process”) creates difficulty for a candidate because of factors related to one or more of the enumerated grounds listed in the Code, a duty to accommodate may arise.

This document outlines the policy and procedures for candidates in the Licensing Process to request an accommodation based on the enumerated grounds listed in the Code. The accommodation policy is consistent with the Code and operates within the overall mandate of the Law Society to ensure that entrants to the profession are competent to practise law or provide legal services, as applicable. This document applies to services offered by the Law Society in all Licensing Process locations and to all candidates registered in the Licensing Process. It operates pursuant to, and should be read in conjunction with, Part XIX of the Lawyer Licensing Process Policies and Part XII of the Paralegal Licensing Process Policies, as applicable.

The components of the Licensing Process for which the Law Society can provide accommodations to candidates include the licensing examinations and, for Lawyer Licensing Process candidates, the Call to the Bar ceremony.

2. Purpose

The purpose of this document is to set out:

  1. the Law Society’s duty to accommodate candidates in the Licensing Process;
  2. the Law Society’s procedures and strategies for accommodation in the Licensing Process; and
  3. candidates’ responsibilities when requesting and receiving accommodation in the Licensing Process.

3. Policy

The Law Society is committed to ensuring that the requirements of the Licensing Process are directly and logically connected to the competent practice of law or provision of legal services and that persons who wish to practise law or provide legal services in Ontario are not effectively barred from qualifying because of one or more of the following enumerated grounds (as defined under the Code): race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability. The Law Society recognizes that its commitment to equality requires that it accommodate individuals, up to the point of undue hardship, in circumstances and situations that arise because of one or more of the enumerated grounds. Assessing whether an accommodation is needed and what accommodation may be appropriate is an ongoing obligation of the Law Society and its Examination Administration staff.

Accessibility support for candidates in the Licensing Process is coordinated and provided by Examination Administration staff. Examination Administration provides accommodations for candidates who are unable to meet a condition or requirement of the Licensing Process because of a condition that arises from an enumerated ground listed in the Code. Examination Administration provides accommodations by adapting the conditions or requirements of the Licensing Process for individual candidates, up to the point that the candidate cannot be accommodated without imposing undue hardship on the Law Society.

4. Confidentiality and Disclosure of Information

Examination Administration maintains information and records related to a candidate’s accommodation request, including any actions taken and other relevant documentation (the “Information”), up to the point a candidate becomes licensed. To protect the interests of candidates seeking accommodation, the Law Society will keep the Information confidential. The Information will only be accessed by staff who need to be aware of the Information. The Information will be not be provided to any other departments of the Law Society, except where it is necessary to do so to obtain legal advice. Should a candidate seek any accommodation from the Law Society after becoming licensed, the candidate will be required to submit a new request to the appropriate department along with any required supporting documentation.

Candidates have a responsibility to provide sufficient information about their requested accommodation needs to facilitate the requested accommodation. Examination Administration has a responsibility to require from a candidate only information that is reasonably necessary to the provision of accommodation. In the context of a disability-related accommodation (which, for these purposes, includes any medical condition or a pregnancy- or maternity-related need), a candidate will be required to provide medical confirmation that the disability exists, but will not generally be required to explicitly inform Examination Administration of the specific type of disability, or to provide specific medical information, such as a diagnosis, where that information is not reasonably necessary to the provision of accommodation.

A candidate may voluntarily provide Examination Administration with more detailed information about his/her disability, including a specific diagnosis, where the candidate feels comfortable doing so.

In some circumstances, Examination Administration may have a reasonable basis for requesting additional information from a candidate, such as requesting information clarifying the limitations that may be caused by the disability, or other information that will assist the Law Society in determining the  type of accommodation that may be effective in the particular case. In these cases, Examination Administration will request the information from the candidate. The candidate’s delay in responding to the request may result in a delay in the provision of accommodation.

5. Procedure to Request a Licensing Examination Accommodation and Responsibilities of Requesting Candidate

To make a request for a licensing examination accommodation under this policy, candidates must follow the following procedure:

  1. The candidate must make a written request for accommodation to Examination Administration, using Form A - Candidate Request for Licensing Examination Accommodation.
  2. Depending on the candidate making the request, the request for accommodation and all supporting documents must be received by Examination Administration as follows:
    a.    For New Candidates Entering the Licensing Process – Requests for accommodation and supporting documentation must be submitted on or before the deadline for the application to the licensing process; or
    b.    For Candidates Already Registered in the Licensing Process – Candidates registered in the licensing process who have a new or emerging need for accommodation, or who are requesting a change to an existing approved accommodation plan, must submit their request to the Law Society as soon as the candidate discovers the need for the accommodation or revision to an accommodation plan, and, in any event, no later than 30 business days prior to the sitting of a licensing examination for which the candidate has registered.
  3. Candidates who have not submitted a request for accommodation or a request for a revised accommodation by no later than 30 business days prior to the sitting of the licensing examination for which the candidate has registered are considered Late Accommodation Applicants. Late Accommodation Applicants must submit the Late Registration Request Form, along with any supporting documentation, directly to regsupport@lso.ca
    Note: The Law Society may not be able to address requests from Late Accommodation Applicants prior to the licensing examination for which the candidate has registered. Requests will be reviewed with regard to the Law Society’s obligations under the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19.  Priority for addressing accommodation requests will be given to candidates who have met the applicable deadlines. Late Accommodation Applicants who had registered by the required deadline for the sitting of the licensing examination without accommodation, but whose late accommodation request cannot be addressed by the Law Society, may request to write the licensing examination without any accommodation. 
  4. All accommodation requests are reviewed by the Law Society, including those applications that are received late and past the deadline. A candidate’s choice of examination is not guaranteed by the Law Society. Since the Law Society must ensure that all approved accommodation plans are properly resourced and implemented for each examination, and since the implementation of late accommodation requests impacts the Law Society’s ability to effectively administer approved accommodation plans for candidates for an examination, the Law Society reserves the right to defer the implementation of an accommodation plan for applicants who are unable to meet the Law Society’s deadline requirements. A failure to meet the Law Society’s requirements for registering for a licensing examination, or for submitting an accommodation request, can result in the Law Society deferring the candidate’s sitting of the licensing examination to the next regularly scheduled licensing examination.
  5. The candidate is encouraged to identify the ground(s) (e.g., disability, creed or family status) upon which the accommodation is requested.
  6. The candidate must provide sufficient information to confirm the existence of a need for accommodation and the type(s) of accommodation requested, as well as any further supporting information regarding the accommodation request that may be requested by Examination Administration.
  7. The candidate must cooperate in obtaining necessary information and, when requested by Examination Administration, participate in discussions about solutions.
  8. Following a request, if there are any changes to the candidate’s circumstances that could affect the need for accommodation or the type(s) of accommodation required, the candidate must inform Examination Administration as soon as possible.

Requirements for Supporting Information:  

A request for accommodation must be made in sufficient detail, and be accompanied by appropriate verifiable documentation, to ensure that Examination Administration has all the information it requires to determine the best accommodation. A request for accommodation must be made within sufficient time to allow Examination Administration to arrange for the accommodation if approved. 

A candidate making a request for accommodation based on a disability (which, for these purposes, includes any medical condition or a pregnancy- or maternity-related need) must provide verifiable medical documentation in support of the request. Health care professionals must use Form B: Health Care Professional Recommendation for Licensing Examination Accommodation (Form B) to submit their supporting documentation. Form B, along with any appendices, must be submitted directly by the health care professional to Examination Administration, by email.

Candidates who request additional writing time for a licensing examination due to a cognitive condition (e.g., a “learning disability”) must provide a psychological or psycho-educational assessment report to support their request. This is in addition to the Form B. A psychological and/or psycho-educational assessment report should identify issues impacting the candidate’s development and functioning, the severity of condition, and current treatment. This report should explain how the candidate is impacted by the disability, and how the candidate’s functional limitations are caused by the diagnosed impairment, in order to provide a measurable basis to justify the recommendation for additional writing time. All recommendations for additional writing time must indicate exactly how much additional writing time is requested and must relate to the multiple-choice format of the licensing examinations.

All documentation should be as specific as possible. Documentation provided by a professional should clearly indicate the name and qualifications of the professional. Supporting medical documentation must also include the following information:

  1. Confirmation that the candidate is affected by a disability;
  2. An explanation of how the disability adversely affects the candidate’s ability to participate in the Licensing Process; and
  3. A description of the professional’s recommended accommodation and any alternative accommodations that may be considered (please note that the accommodation provided may not be the professional’s recommended or alternative accommodation).

Requirements for Recommended Accommodations:  

If the candidate’s request includes supporting information which recommends a specific accommodation(s), that recommendation must explain how that accommodation will negate or mitigate the adverse effect of the candidate’s disability while writing the licensing examination(s). All recommended accommodations should be as specific as possible and must take into account the format of the licensing examinations. Each licensing examination is 7 hours in length, divided into two 3.5 hour sessions (morning and afternoon of the same day) with a break in between. Each licensing examination is an open-book format consisting entirely of multiple-choice questions with answers marked in pencil on a Scantron answer sheet.

Proof of prior accommodation is not a guarantee that the same accommodation will be provided in the Licensing Process, as all requests are assessed on a case-by-case basis with reference to the specific conditions and requirements of the Licensing Process. However, candidates are encouraged to provide information regarding any prior accommodation they have received for a similar disability from another organization or institution (such as the Law School Admission Council or the candidate’s law school). This information may assist Examination Administration in determining the most appropriate accommodation for the candidate in the Licensing Process.

Examples of accommodation for licensing examinations include: alternative examination formats (such as text-to-speech), the use of special equipment such as a personal computer and adaptive software, the use of a private room, the use of proctors as readers or scribes in the examination setting, and, in some exceptional cases, additional writing time to complete the licensing examinations may be approved.

6. Responsibilities of Examination Administration when Considering a Request for Accommodation

When a candidate requests an accommodation under this policy, Examination Administration has the responsibility to assess the need for accommodation. The procedures listed below will be followed:

  1. Examination Administration respects the dignity of the candidate requesting the accommodation. This means acting in a manner that recognizes the privacy, confidentiality, comfort, autonomy and self-esteem of the candidate.
  2. Examination Administration presumes that the request for accommodation is made in good faith unless there are legitimate reasons for believing otherwise.
  3. Examination Administration requests only information that is reasonably necessary to consider the request for accommodation.
  4. Examination Administration considers accommodation requests in a timely manner, where the request (including all necessary supporting information) has allowed a reasonable time to do so.
  5. Examination Administration considers any suggestions or recommendations offered by the candidate and/or a supporting health care professional in arriving at a strategy for accommodation. Examination Administration may consult with the candidate to determine whether a requested or approved accommodation will be or remains appropriate or should be modified.
  6. If a requested accommodation cannot be implemented in part or in full, Examination Administration considers alternatives.
  7. If it approves the request for accommodation, Examination Administration will be responsible for providing the accommodation required, unless stated otherwise. In situations where it determines that the approved accommodation should be provided by the candidate, Examination Administration will advise the candidate accordingly.
  8. In the interest of both prompt attention to the needs of a particular candidate and the need to explore the utility of various accommodation strategies, an interim strategy may be implemented.

7. Undue Hardship

In accordance with Ontario human rights law, an accommodation will not be provided if it imposes undue hardship on the Law Society. This determination is made on a case-by-case basis by the Law Society. 

A decision by the Law Society not to grant a requested accommodation on the basis of undue hardship will be communicated to the candidate in writing, along with reasons.

8. Appeal Procedure

If an accommodation request is refused, or the accommodation cannot be made, or the candidate considers the approved accommodation to be unsatisfactory, the candidate may appeal the decision of Examination Administration in writing to the Director, Licensing and Accreditation. A written appeal request must be submitted within ten business days after the date on which Examination Administration notifies the candidate of its decision. Written appeal requests should be submitted either through the candidate’s online licensing account or by email to examinationaccommodation@lso.ca.

Decisions pertaining to the appeal of an accommodation decision take up to 15 business days to be delivered to the candidate. If the request to appeal is submitted fewer than 15 business days prior to the sitting of licensing examination, the decision to grant or revise an accommodation will be applicable to the next scheduled sitting of the licensing examination.

The decision of the Director is final.

9. Review of Practice, Policy and Procedures

The Law Society will undertake a review of its practices and this policy, on a regular basis, to address barriers that might affect candidates identified by the enumerated grounds listed in
the Code.

10. Information about Policy and Practices

Third party service providers will be briefed concerning the Law Society’s policies and procedures, in recognition of their importance to the success of the Licensing Process and to promote their appropriate responses to candidates' needs.

The Law Society will inform all candidates of this Policy and of the nature of available accommodations. Given the number of candidates that the Law Society must administer to in a licensing year, the Law Society strongly encourages candidates to identify their need for accommodation based on any of the enumerated grounds set out in the Code as soon as possible.

11. Call to the Bar

In furtherance of its obligations under the Code, the Law Society provides accommodation and assistance at call to the bar ceremonies upon request by candidates. 

Requests for accommodation must be made by the candidate at least one month prior to the call to the bar ceremony. For more information on call to the bar accommodation requests, please review the Accommodations page.