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Audio Recording of Lectures as an Accommodation

For some students with disabilities, audio-recording of lectures is a useful and necessary accommodation that enables them to gain full advantage of a course or lecture that might not otherwise be fully accessible to them. To determine eligibility and ensure appropriate usage, permission to record lectures should be granted only through Student Support Services who reviews the documentation from students verifying disability and accommodation requirements.

After review, faculty will be made aware by a counsellor or manager in Student Support Services when this accommodation is required. The student recording lectures will be required to complete and sign an agreement form confirming that the recording will be used exclusively for the purposes of private study.

In some courses/programs, personal discussions and self-disclosure from students is encouraged. If faculty are concerned that the recording of classes will inhibit students from participating or that it will violate students’ right to privacy, the student needing the accommodation should be made aware that there may be some classes or portions of classes that are deemed inappropriate to record. In such cases, arrangements should be made for the student to be provided with copies of notes from a peer immediately following these discussions, if possible. These notes, should not contain personal information discussed by peers, but refer only to theories or principles discussed.

Frequently Asked Questions about Audio Recording

Do we advise the entire class and do we need permission from every student to record them? I thought you can’t record people without their permission. 

We do not want to stigmatize the student who is being accommodated. However, if there are personal issues that may be recorded, then it is also fair to let the students know that this is occurring so that they can govern themselves accordingly. A simple statement at the beginning of class or a statement in the course outline stating that “Lectures will be recorded in order to comply with legal obligations” is recommended. That way everyone has notice, but no one is stigmatized.

In Student Support Services, students eligible for this accommodation are required to sign an agreement that addresses the student’s responsibility to turn off the recording device should there be any personal conversations/personal sharing occurring as part of the course. Originally this was considered as a safeguard for more potentially personally haunting topics such as childhood trauma (part of Child and Youth Care and Early Childhood Education) and when personal processing in these areas is encouraged as part of the program. 

If Student Support Services should be aware of other examples, we can also review this with the student.

What if classmates are not amenable to being recorded and don’t want to be? What if students will stop participating if they know they are being recorded (which is very undesirable in a learning environment)?

Our duty to accommodate the student with the disability trumps the preferences of other students in the class. If a student has legitimate concerns about being recorded, we would need to assess the competing interests. For example, if there is something sensitive being discussed or a particular issue that is in play, we need to have the details to we can come up with a proper plan of action. Absent that, there is really no issue here. 

Recordings introduce the opportunity for phrases or sentences to be taken out of context, especially if the recording is altered or edited in some way. It means people have to be more concerned with what exactly they say (instructor included) due to this possibility.

The recording is only meant for one student, who will be in class, and will know the context of what went on. It shouldn’t be an issue. However, as in the agreement we review with the student and they agree to, we indicate that they will be subject to discipline should the recording be used inappropriately. 

How are these recordings regulated? Who ensures their privacy and guarantee that they do not become public domain? Who guarantees the deletion of the recordings?

Right now, we have the agreement and the student must sign. Should they break the agreement, the accommodation will be removed and discipline may occur. If there is any particular reason for you to believe recordings have been misused, please let us know as well as your program Chair. We will work quickly to resolve the situation. SSS works with students so they understand their responsibilities (not only their rights) in receiving this accommodation.

There are times when I have a guest lecturer teach a class and they do not wish to be audio recorded. What happens then?

If the guest lecture session is not optional for students (i.e. students are required to attend and will be responsible to know the content), the student with a disability with the accommodation of audio recording has every right to record this guest lecture session. The guest lecturer should be made aware that a student with this accommodation will be audio recording the lecture. If they refuse to provide consent, by using this guest lecturer, RRC is in conflict with being able to provide an accommodation that is legal and binding. If the guest lecturer does not provide consent to be audio recorded, the college should seek a different guest lecturer.

Additional Notes

  • There are times that students who are eligible to receive audio recording as an accommodation, as per their documentation, choose not do so for various reasons. There may be courses this will be critical for, and other courses it may not be worthwhile (dependent on the format of the courses). This is the student’s choice since they are entitled to the accommodation should they wish to access it. 
  • If a student that is not identifying as a student with a disability wishes to audio record, they would need to seek the instructor’s permission and that arrangement would not involve Student Support Services. If a program wished to develop a permission form for this purpose based on the RRC policy around audio recording, they would be free to do so. 
  • A student who requests to audio record lectures based on having English as Second Language, would not be a considered a student with a disability based on language and the discretion of audio recording would be at the discretion of the instructor or program.