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.
“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.”
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:
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:
Faculty members do not have the right to:
Faculty members have the responsibility to:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, he or she should refer the student to ASO.
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.
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.
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.