Determining Essential Requirements

Decorative: Written on a chalk board, "Want" and "Need" as he two branches of a Y diagram with "Must Have" at the end of the stem


"Essential Requirements" (web page) outlines "guidelines [that] were adopted from a document produced by the Inter-University Disability Issues Association (I-DIA) to assist disability service professionals in determining essential requirements when recommending reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities at their institutions."

  • "The following sections are particularly relevant for university instructors."

See the following resources from the Ontario Human Rights Commission:

I. "Essential Requirements"

"'Essential requirements' is a specific term used in human rights legislation, referring to the bona fide requirements of a task or program that cannot be altered without compromising the fundamental nature of the task or program."

  • "Determining what is an essential requirement and what is not is critical in distinguishing requirements that cannot be accommodated from what can and should be altered.

"According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (2003)":

  • "Terms that have been used [to describe essential requirements] include indispensable, vital, and very important."
  • "Thus, a requirement should not lightly be considered to be essential, but should be carefully scrutinized.  This includes course requirements and standards."
  • "For example, it may likely be an essential requirement that a student master core aspects of a course curriculum. It is much less likely that it will be an essential requirement to demonstrate the mastery in a particular format, unless mastery of that format (e.g. oral communication) is also a vital requirement of the program. In contrast, non-essential duties would not detract from the main purpose of the course or program if they were not done or done in a different manner (p.62)."

"'Essential'" can therefore be defined by two factors" [emphasis added]:

  • "the skill must be demonstrated to meet the objectives of the course; and"
  • "the skill must be demonstrated in a prescribed manner." 

II. "Questions to Consider When Determining Essential Course Requirements"

"It is important that instructors identify the essential requirements (or components) in their course and/or program. If an instructor is clear about what is being taught, and why it must be done a certain way, it is much easier to find creative solutions to the needs of students with disabilities."

  • "The following open-ended questions have been drawn from various documents relating to essential requirements."
  • "Phrasing variations have been provided to account for different communication styles, backgrounds and knowledge bases."

A. "Learning Objectives"

1. "What is the purpose of this course? (Scott and Maniltz, 2000, p. 35)."

2. "Would elimination of the skills/knowledge/attitude alter the learning objectives of this course/program? (Blacklock, 2001)."

3. "Is the competency integral to the learning of this course? (Wales, 1997)"

4. "Are the skills/knowledge/attitudes an integral part of the learning objectives of the course? (Blacklock, 2001)."

5. "Does the ability or skill necessarily need to be performed in a prescribed manner? Why?"

6. "Was this course created to teach any of the skills/knowledge/attitudes? (Blacklock, 2001)."

7. "Would these accommodations require a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program, service, or activity? (Blacklock, 2001)."

8. "What is the purpose of the program?"

9. "What are the outcome variables that are absolutely required of all participants?"

  • "What academic skills can be demonstrated?"
  • "What percentage of subject area knowledge must be mastered?"
  • "What specific knowledge, principles or concepts must be mastered?"10. What methods of instruction are non-negotiable? Why?

11. "What methods of assessing outcome variables are absolutely necessary? Why?"

B. "Alternate Method"

12. "Is there only one way for the skills/knowledge/attitudes to be demonstrated? (Blacklock, 2001)"

13. "Is there an alternative way to do the same work?"

14. "Academic Adjustment: Substituting Exam Methods: Is the exam methodology specifically designed to test the particular course material? (Hicks, Morley, 2000, p.27)."

C. "Undue Hardship/Consequences If Accommodated"

15. "Would there be any significant* consequences if this skill were performed at varying levels of competency?

  • "Does it put the student or others in danger?"
  • "Does it make a difference to the field acquisition of unique approaches or philosophies?"
  • "Does it make a big difference to the student’s life or future? (Wales, 1997)"

16. "Would there be any significant consequences if the skills/knowledge/attitudes were not learned? (Blacklock, 2001)"

17. "Will accommodating the individual needs pose a risk to personal or public safety?"

D. "Skill Analysis"

18. "Will the student have to transfer the skill to different settings? (i.e., Field placement) (Wales, 1997)"

19. "Does the student have to be physically able to perform this skill [themselves]? (Wales, 1997)"

20. "Does the student need to be cognitively able to perform the skills/knowledge/attitudes themselves? (Blacklock, 2001)"

21. "What are the acceptable levels of performance on these measures? Why?"

22. "What pre-existing abilities or skills must all participating students possess?"

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