Accessibility, COVID-19 and Returning to Campus

The campus re-opening continues for Fall 2020, and with it comes particular questions around how to ensure an accessible experience for people with disabilities on our campus. These resources take the principles of accessible service delivery, as seen through the lens of COVID-19, to equip staff and instructors with the skills they need to ensure a safe and accessible Fall semester. This website is a companion to the workshops coordinated by the Office for Students with Disabilities in collaboration with the Accessibility Advisor in the Office of the Provost.

To attend the virtual workshop sessions, register for one of the following dates:

A recording of the workshop is available for asynchronous viewing via Microsoft Stream

Thumbnail of webinar presentation

Questions can be directed to one of the following facilitators:

  1. gift.tshuma [at] (Gift Tshuma), Office for Students with Disabilities
  2. Isabella.scurfield [at] (Isabella Scurfield), Office for Students with Disabilities
  3. Rachel.desjourdy [at] (Rachel Desjourdy), Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)

Disability in Canada

Learn more about the demographics of persons with disabilities in Canada by reviewing these resources:

Reflection Prompts

  • After reviewing the Statistics Canada infographic, did anything surprise you? What, if anything, was new to you?
  • The majority of people with disabilities have what we would consider an "invisible" disability. How does knowing this impact the way you might approach your interactions with others?

Types of Barriers and the Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 has impacted people around the globe, and has had a particular impact on persons with disabilities. These articles highlight some of the ways that the pandemic has introduced new barriers and exacerbated others for people with disabilities.

Reflection Prompts

  • Review 2-3 of the resources listed in the section above. What barriers do people with disabilities face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? List as many as you can think of.
  • How might awareness of these barriers impact the work that you do at the university?

Disability Etiquette

In order to foster an inclusive environment, it is important to be aware of some of the basic "do's and don'ts" when it comes to disability. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted some of these rules of etiquette, and are important to mention here. This list is by no means exhaustive, but serves as a resource to kickstart your learning.

  • Alternate formats: The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of accessible electronic communication. In order to reduce instances of physical contact, many organizations have switched to paperless means of communication. Providing alternate formats can mean having a digital copy of a paper document available, but can also mean providing a Word document instead of a PDF.
  • Working with an interpreter and/or a support person: In some cases, you will need to account for the presence of an interpreter or a support person accompanying a person with a disability on campus. Bear in mind that these people provide accommodations for the individual, and refusal of their presence may constitute discrimination. If you will be arranging meetings to provide in-person services, include a way for individuals to signal their accommodation needs, which will allow you to select appropriate locations that allow for social distancing.
  • Working with clients using service animals: Note that service animals are not trained to social distance, so please be understanding.
  • Handling assistive devices and personal equipment: Persons with disabilities may request you to use personal assistive devices in order to facilitate communication. This could be their cell phone, a Brailler, or other technologies that support them. Be sure to ask before sanitizing someone else's assistive device (e.g. with disinfectant wipes) to prevent inadvertent damage to their equipment. The person is the expert on their own devices - respect their instructions on the safe use and handling of assistive devices. 

The most important rule to remember is that if you are unsure, always ask before assisting. Then, make sure that you respect whatever the person tells you.

Learn more about general disability etiquette and customer service:


The Federal and Provincial governments have a list of resources and information to help facilitate access to information during the pandemic.

McGill's Human Resources' Disability Management team is your point of contact if you have concerns about the gradual return to on-campus activities, due to your own health and/or disability.

McGill University is on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. We acknowledge and thank the diverse Indigenous peoples whose presence marks this territory on which peoples of the world now gather.

For more information about traditional territory and tips on how to make a land acknowledgement, visit our Land Acknowledgement webpage.

Back to top