Metro Morning

York University student wins mental health accommodation battle

Students at York University who are struggling with their mental health will no longer have to disclose their diagnosis when they're trying to get academic support.

Navi Dhanota filed a complaint with Human Rights Commission

Students at York University who are struggling with their mental health will no longer have to disclose their diagnosis when they're trying to get academic support. 

That's because of Navi Dhanota, who won a two-year battle with York University regarding academic accommodation for students with mental health disabilities.

The university will no longer require students to disclose their specific diagnoses, including Dhanota. Students are now only required to provide an assessment from a licensed doctor who has determined that they have a legitimate mental disability. 

According to Dhanota, this puts less pressure on students.

The two-year battle

It took Dhanota, a PhD student in the Critical Disabilities Studies program at the university, two years to win this concession from York with help from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

It all began while she was taking her undergraduate degree. She asked if she could get academic accommodation for her illness and was told she had to go through York's psychiatrist, or she couldn't get it. 

Specifically, Dhanota found it difficult to write exams beside hundreds of other students in large gymnasiums, which is typical at large learning institutions. 

Dhanota said it wasn't her "optimal learning scenario" and caused her unrest, not unlike anxiety. 

She wanted to write her exams in a private room, with fewer distractions, but the university wouldn't let her do that without a diagnosis that she disclosed to the university. 

She launched a human rights complaint, arguing that workers aren't required to disclose diagnoses to their employers.

"I was clarifying that students should be afforded the same rights protected to them by the Ontario Human Rights code in the same way that employees are protected," said told CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

Dhanota said she received a lot of support from faculty in the program, because they understood the need for students with mental health disabilities to have these accommodations.

"This leaves room for students to be able to get accommodations and not define their experiences using psychiatric diagnosis," she said.

The OHRC is now contacting other Ontario universities in the hopes that they will also change their regulations.

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