The number of students with disabilities attending postsecondary education continues to increase with each passing year. Faculty and staff need to be well-informed about the roles, rights and responsibilities postsecondary institutions have towards supporting students with disabilities. These roles, rights and responsibilities are supported by several federal laws which can assist students with disabilities the full opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a postsecondary educational experience.
From the Office of Civil Rights:
“OCR enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Title II), which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. Every school district and nearly every institution of postsecondary education in the United States is subject to Section 504 or Title II. Entities covered by these civil rights laws have an obligation to comply with legal requirements and to carry out their programs and activities in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of disability.
Institutions of postsecondary education must provide an appropriate academic adjustment based on students’ disabilities and individual needs when necessary to avoid discrimination. In providing an academic adjustment, a postsecondary institution does not have to eliminate or lower essential requirements, or make modifications that would result in a fundamental alteration of the programs or activities being offered or impose an undue burden on the institution.”
- Make Reasonable Accommodations
- Provide Access to Classroom & Materials
- Maintain Confidentiality
While it is the instructor’s responsibility to ensure that the learning environment is accessible, students must request accommodations. Instructors will find it useful to include a statement on their syllabus which directs students with disabilities about the steps they need to take to receive classroom accommodations.
In certain situations, reasonable accommodations may require modification of standard classroom approaches. The following are examples of accommodations that may be necessary to ensure equal access to education:
- Provide necessary accommodations for exam taking through the ASO
- Provide alternative ways to fulfill course requirements.
- Allow adaptive technology such as audio recorders, laptop computers and other assistive electronic devices to be used in the classroom.
- Consider alternate ways of assessing students that allows the student’s academic abilities to be measured and not his or her disabilities.
Confidentiality in the accommodation process must be maintained by all parties. Letters of accommodation should be filed in a safe place, and faculty should refrain from discussing students’ disabilities and necessary accommodations in the hearing of fellow students or others who do not have an “educational need to know.”
ASO advisors are always available to serve as a resource for faculty seeking assistance in providing accommodations to student and welcome your questions.
Faculty members have the right to:
- Maintain academic standards for courses
- Determine course content and how it will be taught
- Confirm a student’s request for accommodations and ask for clarification about a specific accommodation with ASO
- Deny a request for accommodation - if the student has not been approved for such accommodation
- Award grades appropriate to the level of the student’s demonstration of mastery of material
- Fail a student who does not perform to passing standards
Faculty members do not have the right to:
- Refuse to provide an approved accommodation for a documented disability
- Challenge the legitimacy of a student’s disability
- Review a student’s documentation, including diagnostic data
Faculty members have the responsibility to:
- Understand the laws and university’s guidelines regarding students with disabilities
- Refer students to ASO when necessary
- Provide requested accommodations and academic adjustments to students who have documented disabilities in a timely manner
- Maintain appropriate confidentiality of records concerning students with disabilities except when disclosure is required by law or authorized by the student
- Provide handouts, videos and other course materials in accessible formats upon request
- Evaluate students based on their abilities rather than their disabilities
It is important that every student be given equal access to materials and information presented in class. This should not be reduced by personal limitations. Below are examples of common in-class accommodations.
This accommodation is provided to students for many different reasons. A student with a visual impairment may request preferential seating at the front to better see the slides, overheads, or chalkboard. Students with hearing impairments may request this to better hear the instructor or to accommodate their Sign Language interpreter. A student with anxiety may request preferential seating at the back of the room for easy access to the door should they have an attack.
Note-taking Assistance, Copies of Overheads, Recording Lectures
Students may require assistance obtaining materials presented in class because of limitations resulting from their disability. These accommodations include note-taking assistance, requesting copies of the overheads presented in class, and the ability to record lectures. For most students with disabilities these accommodations are meant to supplement the student's own notes. The accommodation should not be an allowance to exempt a student from class participation or attending the class altogether. Examples of students that may require these accommodations are students with learning disabilities or physical impairments. An exception would be Deaf students or students that are hard of hearing that completely rely on note takers since they are unable to watch their Sign Language interpreter and take notes at the same time. The student's accommodations letters describes these requests as follows:
- Student will require note-taking assistance. There are several means of meeting this accommodation request. One option is to provide the student with a copy of your lecture notes and/or slides.
- Another option is to identify a student volunteer by announcing to the class that there is a student who needs the assistance of a note-taker (without identifying which student). You may want to mention that peer note-takers get paid $30 per semester for each class in which they take notes.
- Use an audio recorder during lecture. If there is a concern about the student recording during lecture, please contact the ASO to discuss.
- Copies of instructor's overheads/PowerPoint presentations provided prior to class. This accommodation is provided at the instructor's discretion.
Teaching & Interacting with Students with Disabilities
Faculty impart knowledge to students and evaluate whether students have learned the material by creating assignments and exams that allow the student to demonstrate mastery based on course goals, objectives and the nature of the curriculum. Having an understanding of a disability and the limitations caused by that disability are essential when teaching and interacting with students whose learning styles are different from their peers.
- Students with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
- Student with Visual Impairments
- Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- Students with Health Impairments
- Students with Mental Health Issues
- Students with Physical Disabilities
- Students with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome
Students with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Often called "hidden disabilities", students with Learning Disabilities (LD's) and/or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) make up the majority of students registered with ASO. Examples of LD’s include Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Math Disorders, and Nonverbal Learning Disorders. Students are diagnosed after a battery of testing with results that indicate lack of achievement at age and ability level and a severe discrepancy between achievement and intelligence.
Examples of limitations faced by these students are:
- Inability to change from one task to another
- Difficulty scheduling time to complete short and long-term assignments
- Difficulty completing tests without additional time
- Difficulty following directions
- Difficulty concentrating in lectures
- Problems with grammar
- Difficulty delaying resolution to a problem
- Poor self-esteem
- Difficulty taking notes
- Slow reading rate
- Poor comprehension and retention of material read
- Difficulty with basic math operations
- Difficulty with reasoning
When preparing your lectures, and then presenting the materials, consider the following:
- Link previous lecture to current lecture
- Outline main points on overhead
- State class objective
- Write key terms on overhead
- Leave overheads up longer than you think necessary for you to copy
- Identify patterns of organization
- Make lectures interactive
- Make notes available on the Internet
- Maintain student attention by varying delivery approach
- Move around the room
- Summarize or draw conclusions at the end of the lecture
Commonly used accommodations for students with LD’s:
- Use of a dictionary
- Use of a computer with a spell-checking program
- Writing on the test, rather than using Scantrons
- Use of a calculator
- Copies of overheads, handouts, lecture notes
- Readers for exams
- Preferential seating
Accommodations for students with ADHD may include:
- Reduced distraction environment for testing
- Extended time for testing
- Preferential seating near the front of the class
- Mobility around campus and in the classroom
- Ability to take notes in class
- Ability to see classroom visual aids, writing on chalkboard, etc.
- Locating large-print materials
- Finding transportation
- Researching reports and short articles
- Obtaining textbooks in an alternative format and in a timely manner (audio, large print, Braille)
Student with Visual Impairments
There are two categories of visual disabilities: blindness and low vision. Between 70 and 80 percent of all persons in the United States identified as "legally blind" actually have some measurable vision. A person who is blind usually has adapted in individual ways to compensate for the lack of vision. Low vision can vary greatly due to individual situations. To be diagnosed with a visual disability, visual acuity has to be 20/70 or less in the better eye after the best possible correction. Academic limitations can be the result of constricted peripheral vision, progressive loss of vision, and fluctuation of visual acuity and may include:
Accommodations used by students who are blind or visually impaired:
- Large print or Braille handouts, signs, equipment labels
- TV monitor connected to microscope to enlarge images
- Directions, notices, assignments in electronic format
- Computers with enlarged screen images
- Seating where the lighting is best
- Audio-tape, Braille, electronic notes, handouts, texts
- Describe visual aids
- Raised-line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials
- Computers with optical character readers, voice activated computers, voice output, Braille keyboards and printers
- Extended time for testing
- Use of a reader and/or scribe for exams
Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Communication is the most common barrier between students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and their hearing peers. Many of these students use American Sign Language and not spoken English. They often identify with other people of similar upbringing and prefer to be called Deaf with a capital D. People who became deaf later in life may call themselves deaf or hard-of-hearing based on the degree of hearing loss they experience.
Examples of disability related limitations include:
- Listening to and understanding lecture information
- Taking notes in class
- Working effectively in group projects or class discussions
Commonly used accommodations are:
- Interpreters, real-time captions, FM systems, note taking assistance
- Face student when speaking
- Written directions, assignments, lab instructions
- Visual aids, visual warning systems
- Repeat questions and statements from others
- Electronic mail for communicating
- Captioned videos and transcripts of audio recordings
Students with Health Impairments
Chronic illnesses include conditions affecting one or more of the body's functions. These conditions can include, but are not limited to, the respiratory, immunological, neurological and circulatory systems. There can be several different impairments and they can vary significantly in their effects and symptoms. In general, these conditions can vary in severity and length of time, and can be very unstable. Examples of chronic medical conditions include:
- Chemical dependency
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Epilepsy/seizure disorder
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Multiple chemical sensitivities
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Renal disease/failure
Academic difficulties can include:
- Mobility around campus and in the classroom
- Taking notes in class
- Time management
Most commonly requested accommodations are:
- Note taking assistance, audio-taped class sessions
- Flexible attendance requirements
- Extra exam time, alternative testing arrangements
- Assignments in electronic formats
- Communication through electronic mail
- Absences due to symptom and doctors appointments
Students with Mental Health Issues
Psychiatric disorders may not be apparent, but they can have a dramatic impact on interpersonal and school behavior that affects the learning process. These disorders cover a wide range of conditions that may be chronic or reoccurring. With appropriate treatment many disorders can be effectively cured or controlled. However treatment, which often combines medications and psychotherapy and may effectively stop acute symptoms or halt the downward spiral in some individuals, sometimes causes additional limitations as a result of prescribed medications.
Examples of some psychiatric disabilities are:
- Major depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Severe anxiety disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Eating disorders
- Substance-related disorders
Academic difficulties can include:
- Cognitive (short term memory difficulties)
- Time management
- Fluctuating stamina causing class absences
- Feelings of fear and anxiety about exams
Accommodations can include:
- Preferential seating, near door
- Prearranged or frequent breaks
- Audio recorder, note taking assistance
- Early availability of syllabus, text
- Text, assignments in alternate formats
- Personal and private feedback
- Permit use of computer software
- Extended test taking time
- Separate, quiet room for testing
Students with Physical Disabilities
The phrase "physical disability" is used to describe a wide range of physical limitations and diagnoses, the most common of which would be someone that uses a wheelchair. Their limitations may be very severe and noticeable, or almost hidden. The most common barrier to academic success for a person with a physical disability is access. Access takes many forms, from a class assigned in an inaccessible building to the person's own limitations preventing them from taking class notes. As with all other disabilities and impairments, it is important to treat students with physical disabilities fairly. Students with physical disabilities typically are very knowledgeable of both their limitations and abilities and are accustomed to communicating their needs to others.
Examples of physical disabilities include:
- Wheelchair users
- Speech impairments
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Multiple Sclerosis
Some limitations of students with physical disabilities are:
- Difficulty writing, such as class notes and on exams
- Sitting in a standard desk
- Participating in labs where lab tables and equipment are hard to reach
- Classrooms or buildings that are not wheelchair accessible
Possible accommodations include:
- Relocating a class or lab to an accessible building
- Audio recorder or note-taking assistance
- Accessible seating or table in the classroom
- Scribe for Scantrons and/or essay exams
- Additional time for completing exams
Students with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome
College campuses are seeing an increase in the number of students who are diagnosed along the high end of the autism spectrum, with the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome or high functioning autism. They can generally be distinguished from people with other forms of autism by two areas of relative strength: more normal language function and higher cognitive abilities. These individuals may be affected in their ability to understand and respond to the thoughts and feelings of others. Please note that no two students with Asperger’s are alike in terms of how they are affected.
Below are some examples of what may be seen.
- The social behavior of persons with Asperger’s tends to be naive and peculiar.
- Many of these individuals expect all people to be good, and it is a rude awakening for them to learn that some people may try to exploit them.
- They may not understand jokes, irony and metaphors.
- These individuals may talk “at” rather than “to” people, disregarding the listener’s interest.
- They may talk too loud, stand too close and maintain poor eye contact.
- The individual usually does not accurately convey the intensity of his or her emotions until they are full blown, such that the reaction may appear to be far more intense than the situation warrants.
- Although the individual may crave social interaction, his or her unusual manner may rebuff others, leaving the individual feeling misunderstood and isolated.
- Difficulty “fitting in” with other college students (many students with Asperger’s know they are different, but have a desire to be “normal”).
- Social immaturity (interest in relationships is often appropriate for their physical developmental level, but their social developmental level lags behind).
- Lack of structure (students may not know what to do with much more free time than in high school)
- Difficulty with classes that are not within their interests (often have preoccupations and they may not see the relevance of “core curriculum” classes).
- Difficulty dealing with ambiguity and lack of problem solving skills.
- Difficulty getting a job after college (poor interviewing skills, limited knowledge of how to look for a job, lack of references).
When interacting with a student with Asperger’s:
- Use clear, specific language. Avoid slang or regional (or university) terms.
- Give specific directions.
- Find out the students strengths and limitations and advise accordingly.
- Get to know the student so he/she will feel comfortable coming to you with problems.
- Help connect students to academic advisor or other professional who can be a resource.
- Set explicit guidelines for classroom behavior.
- Don’t be surprised if parents are involved.
- Communicate with the student's Accommodations Counselor in Disability Services if concerned about behaviors.
Universal Design (UD) is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. The intent of UD is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities.
Universal Design of Instruction Examples
- Create an environment that respects and values diversity. Put a statement on your syllabus inviting students to meet with you to discuss disability-related accommodations and other learning needs.
- Assure that all classrooms labs and fieldwork are in locations accessible to individuals with a wide range of physical abilities and disabilities.
- Use multiple modes to deliver content (including lecture, discussion, hands-on activities, Internet-based interaction, and fieldwork).
- Provide printed or Web-based materials which summarize content that is delivered orally.
- Face the class and speak clearly.
- Use captioned videos.
- Provide printed materials in electronic format.
- Use accessible Web pages (text descriptions of graphics).
- Provide printed materials early so that students can prepare to access the materials in alternate formats.
- Create printed and Web-based materials in simple, consistent formats.
- Provide effective prompting during an activity and feedback after the assignment is completed.
- Provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate knowledge.
- Make sure equipment and activities minimize sustained physical effort.
FAQs: For Instructors
What are the rights and responsibilities of a student with a disability?
Students with disabilities have the right to equal access to courses, programs, activities, services, and facilities offered at Reinhardt University. Students are also entitled to reasonable accommodations. All information about the student’s disability is to be kept confidential. Students have the responsibility to provide acceptable documentation of disabilities and to register with Academic Support Office (ASO) if they would like to receive accommodations. If students deem it necessary to receive accommodations for a particular class, students have the responsibility to inform the instructor, to deliver the accommodations letters that verify their approved accommodations, and to participate in the discussions about how their needs can be met.
What are the rights and responsibilities of an instructor when working with students with disabilities?
An instructor has the right to confirm a student’s request for accommodations and to ask for clarification about a specific accommodation with ASO. Instructors do not have the right to refuse to provide an accommodation or to review a student’s documentation including diagnostic data. Instructors have a responsibility to work with ASO in providing reasonable accommodations, keep all records and communications with students confidential, and to refer a student to ASO who requests accommodations but is not currently registered. Instructors do not have to provide accommodations for students not registered with ASO.
Why does an instructor have the responsibility to make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities?
An instructor has the responsibility to make reasonable accommodations because accommodations make it possible for a student with a disability to overcome barriers enabling the student to communicate what he or she knows in the same way that glasses do not strengthen vision but help a person to see. The instructor also has a legal responsibility to provide appropriate accommodations. For more information, go to the Americans with Disabilities Act website www.ada.gov.
How are appropriate accommodations for a student determined?
To determine appropriate accommodations for a student, the student must submit acceptable documentation to ASO. The Documentation Review Committee reviews the information and determines appropriate accommodations based upon the substantial limitations of the student and the essential elements of the course.
If an instructor feels that a particular student may have a substantially limiting disability, to where should he or she refer the student?
If an instructor feels that a particular student may have a substantially limiting disability, he or she should refer the student to ASO.
What if a student with a disability is disruptive in class?
A student with a disability who is disruptive in class should be treated as an instructor would treat any student who is disruptive in class. If an instructor feels that there is a medical reason for the student’s behavior, the instructor can discuss this with the student’s ASO advisor to determine if there is a solution to the problem.
What if a student with a disability is failing?
It is important for instructors to remember that providing reasonable accommodations to a student with a disability does not guarantee success in the course. Students with disabilities may not master the course material, just like any other student. Students with disabilities have the same right as other students to fail as part of their educational experience.
Where can I get forms and publications provided by the ASO office?
Visit the ASO Forms page for downloadable copies of common forms. Instructors may also want to review the online Faculty Guide.
Am I required to put a disability statement on my syllabus?
The ADA legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. Therefore, it is mandatory for a course syllabus to have a disability statement such as this:
Reinhardt University is committed to providing all students equal access to learning opportunities. Academic Support Office is the campus office that works with students who have disabilities to provide and/or arrange reasonable accommodations. Students registered with ASO, who have a letter requesting accommodations, are encouraged to contact the instructor early in the semester. Students who have, or think they may have, a disability (e.g. psychiatric, attention, learning, vision, hearing, physical, or systemic), are invited to contact ASO for a confidential discussion at 7707205567. Additional information is available at the ASO website.
For more information:
Academic Support Office
Director of Academic Support