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To: Stephen McNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia
Support Students with Learning Disabilities in Post-Secondary Education
I am writing to ask that you please provide funding to cover the up-front cost of psycho-educational assessments (psych-eds) for post-secondary students in Nova Scotia. As the province with the highest disability rate in Canada, Nova Scotia must support persons with disabilities in achieving their full social and economic potential. Post-secondary participation is a key element to this challenge.
For students with learning disabilities, psych-eds are required by policy to access disability-related funding and accommodations. Under Nova Scotia's current system, the cost of psych-eds is highly prohibitive for students from low-income families, averaging $1,500. As a result, these students' rights to equal opportunity are not being realized.
British Columbia already provides $1,800 to assist with the upfront costs of psych-ed assessments to confirm a learning disorder diagnosis. Nova Scotia should follow suit and ensure students with learning disabilities can access all the services that they are entitled to.
I hope that you will invest to support equal opportunities for students with learning disabilities.
Why is this important?
Psych-eds cost $1,500 on average, and in some cases as much as $3,000. While students can access the Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities to reimburse up to 75% of assessment costs, this funding is only provided after the fact, only if the psych-ed is positive, and only to a maximum of $1,200. Many students and their families cannot afford the total cost or up-front expense, even if they are reimbursed. Many may also be reluctant to seek an assessment in the event that they do not receive a positive result and therefore must pay the full cost for a service that does not do them any good. Low-income students and families are the most affected.
Students with learning disabilities require psych-eds to register for disability supports, including funding and academic accommodations. Psych-eds provide extensive information about the learning strengths and weaknesses of students with learning disabilities, which help disability services to address each student's individual needs.
Disability services and supports have been created not to provide privileges to certain students, but in an effort to uphold the rights to inclusion of students with disabilities. Unaffordable psych-ed assessments are obstructing these students' enjoyment of their full rights.
To learn more about the challenges facing students with disabilities in Nova Scotia's post-secondary education system, check out: http://www.studentsns.ca/disable-the-label/