Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
In compliance with the ADA, all students with a documented disability are entitled to reasonable accommodations and services to support their academic success and safety. Though a request for services may be made at any time, services are best applied when they are requested before the start of the semester. To receive accommodations and services the student should immediately contact the Disability Services Coordinator at: (502) 597-5076 or email@example.com.
Campus Safety Statement:
Emergency response information will be discussed in class. Students should familiarize themselves with the nearest exit routes in the event evacuation becomes necessary. You should notify your instructor at the beginning of the semester if you have special needs or will require assistance during an emergency evacuation.
Disability Consultation Services:
The DRC office is available to discuss your referrals, to clarify how to provide a requested accommodation, and to assist you in finding solutions to related problems. On request, the Disability Resource Center Coordinator also provides information on disability-related topics to academic departments and campus organizations. To schedule, call (502) 597-5076 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How are accommodations determined?
Upon receipt of documentation from an appropriate professional, it is reviewed to ensure that it meets DRC criteria. Guidelines exist, but specific accommodations are always set on a case-by-case basis based on the current impact of the disability. While the student is an active participant in the determination, modifications must also be reasonable and appropriate from the University’s standpoint. Prior to granting an uncommon accommodation, the professor involved will be consulted as to whether it would compromise an essential element of the course.
What types of accommodations/services are available?
Too many to list (and they are always individually determined), but here are some of the more common ones:
▪ Extended test-taking time ▪ Peer note-takers ▪ Readers for tests ▪ Note takers ▪ Electronic textbooks ▪ Student's personal attendant allowed in classroom (Personal attendants are not provided by the university.) ▪ Enlarged materials ▪ Permission to record lectures ▪ Hardcopy or online access to professors' PowerPoint slides ▪ Excused disability-related absences, tardiness, or breaks ▪ Assistive Technology ▪ Use of SpellCheck or else no penalty for spelling errors on in-class writing assignments ▪ Preferential seating ▪ Reduced-distraction testing location ▪ Course delivery alterations for students who are deaf or blind ▪ Personal Coaching ▪ Accessible parking, housing, and facilities.
What is my role in providing accommodations?
Just as with your other students, you carry the ultimate responsibility for conveying the course content and assessing the learning of students with disabilities. If a student needs to be accommodated by you, the student will provide you with a copy of the accommodations notice to sign, typically a few days prior to the start of a semester or within the first few days of the semester. Included in the notice will be the student’s name, the course number and section, and a description of the approved accommodations that you need to provide.
Sometimes students elect to attempt a course on their own (e.g., take a first exam) before requesting assistance through the DRC office; In that case you will be notified shortly after they request services. Professors are entitled to adequate lead-time to make course and test provisions, and students are informed that they cannot simply show up and expect to be accommodated on the spot. Note: rights to accommodations are not retroactive, but are effective when the student returns the signed notice to the DRC office.
If complex or time-consuming accommodations are involved (e.g., converting your instructional materials to a tactile form, enlarging handouts, etc.) the DS office will try to notify you well in advance of the start of the semester, in addition to sending a reminder notice at the usual time right before classes begin. Note: this desirable practice is limited by the actions of students who may delay qualifying for disability services or alter their class schedules at the last minute, and when teaching assignments occur relatively late.
Accommodation notices and the student's identity are to be treated confidentially and shared only to the extent necessary to provide the services mentioned. Under no circumstances should accommodations be arranged through an announcement in class. Even students whose accommodations take place inside the classroom (special seating, receipt of special materials, etc.) understandably would like to be singled out as little as possible.
Do accommodations apply in an online course (or online portions of a course)?
Yes. You will learn of any specific accommodations that you need to provide via the usual DRC notification process. However, the time to consider the overall accessibility of your course is before a demand is made on behalf of a particular student. Keep in mind that someone who is deaf or blind or has a learning disability in reading may enroll in your course at any time. Captioning audio content and verifying that posted files and linked-to sites are compatible with text screen readers is not something you'll be able to rapidly address in order to meet the legal obligation. If you need assistance with ensuring your online course is accessible, contact Kendis Smith at (502) 597-5076 or email@example.com.
I am interested in incorporating one or more emerging technologies into my courses. Are there any special concerns about accessibility?
Yes. Verification of accessibility features should occur prior to choosing technologies to use in online as well as face-to-face classes (there have been legal consequences for institutions that have by-passed this important phase). Consultation with Information Technology and/or Distance Learning and/or the Disability Resource Center, will help ensure that all your students will benefit from these new tools in an "equally effective and equally integrated manner" and will keep the University compliant with federal regulations.
With so much emphasis on confidentiality and ADA legislation, must I constantly be on my guard about the legal aspects when working with a student who has a disability?
It is not in the typical nature of educators to mistreat, offend, or to exclude any student. Still, even the most naturally progressive among us are more mindful of disability issues because of those legal protections. From the other side, although informed about their legal rights, the typical student with a disability expects only what is reasonable and is not trying to catch you in a blunder. Accommodations should be provided in the manner indicated in the DRC notice, discussed with others strictly on a need-to-know basis, and consultation should be sought for any irregular situations. With advance planning and a willingness to fine-tune accommodations to fit the demands of a particular class, things tend to work smoothly.
How should I handle a student’s informal request for course accommodations?
Please refer him/her to the DRC Office first. Even though responding immediately may seem more efficient (or friendlier), acting on a student’s self-report is outside of established policy and problems can result (e.g., unwarranted or uneven treatment of students, unnecessary work for you, and it could establish an obligation for other faculty).
What if a student is worried about being stigmatized if he/she formally seeks services?
The interior door to the DRC office is identified only by its room number. Disability records are confidential and kept in a locked file cabinet in the DRC office. Receipt of accommodations is not noted on the academic transcript. Providers of accommodations are obligated to keep the identity of users confidential to the full extent possible. Please share this information with a cautious student.
Am I allowed to fail a student with an established disability?
Yes, if appropriate academic accommodations were provided yet the student did not meet essential course requirements. Accommodations must not "water down" nor fundamentally alter essential course content or the academic standards by which all students are graded. Laws exist to ensure equal access to education, not to guarantee a particular student’s success or to create an unfair advantage.
Does the student have any obligations in this process?
Yes. More self-assertion is required here than in high school. The student must make the first move by contacting the DRC office and submitting the requested documentation. At the intake session students review our policies and procedures, many of which rely upon future assertive behavior. For example, in a test-related accommodation the student must contact you by the week prior to each scheduled exam and ask when and where to report on the test date. Thus, it is the student who initiates each occurrence of this type of accommodation. In preparation for a semester-long working relationship with you, students are advised to introduce themselves during the first few days of class. To help launch this assertive process, the DRC Coordinator will have already “broken the ice” by consulting with the student.
What if I am notified of testing accommodations but the student does not come forward to use them?
He/she may have forgotten the procedure, perhaps feels intimidated, or has simply decided not to use them in your class. You might privately ask the student's intentions or inform the DRC office, although no obligation exists on your part.
Where do I turn if I am unable to provide a testing accommodation myself?
Look first to your department for someone able to proctor, read, scribe, or provide a reduced distraction location on your behalf. While Disability Services frequently coordinates testing within the DS office for students with the most complex needs, it unfortunately hasn’t the resources to widely administer accommodated testing for the campus. However, the obligation for the University does not end at that point, so do think of the DRC office as a “back-up to your back-up". Working together we will reach a solution.
I've been asked to administer my tests under "reduced-distraction" conditions. How is that possible?
Students qualifying for this accommodation are not guaranteed a location free of all potential distractions. Typically it calls for testing in a closed room with only the proctor present, a seat facing away from windows, without avoidable interruptions, music, conversation or phones.
What safeguards exist to prevent unauthorized release of materials such as supplemental notes or recordings of my class lectures? What if I am simply uncomfortable being recorded?
Accommodated students sign an agreement on file in the DRC office stating that materials are for their use only and may not be shared or sold (in a private meeting with the student you could add your emphasis to these points, if you like). Accommodations are approved by DRC when supported by documentation and a student’s particular access needs, therefore you may not deny a right to record. If your class format includes the sharing of sensitive information by other classmates or yourself that will not be included on a test, you may privately arrange a signal you will use to stop recording during just those portions.
Do I have any recourse if I disagree with the accommodations that have been approved in one of my classes?
Yes. Start by discussing your concerns with the DRC Coordinator. With further explanation you may agree that the accommodations are both reasonable and doable, but if unique aspects of your course were not fully considered, then alterations may be called for on this side. If you still feel the accommodations are inappropriate, please review your objections with your department Chair and forward any additional opinions to the DRC office.
The accommodation notice I received did not name the student's disability. Why not?
To maximize privacy, notices to professors will not routinely indicate the specific nature of a disability unless that information is essential to the delivery of an accommodation or for safety reasons. Students are encouraged to share this information with you if they are comfortable doing so and believe it would be in their interests, although it cannot be required. Accommodations being provided for your student by others (including by the DRC office) are also not disclosed in the notice.
What if I suspect that a student has an undisclosed or undiagnosed learning disability that is impacting performance in my class? Does the University offer LD testing?
This is a delicate subject. While the potential for discrimination is rarely an issue in this context, directly inquiring about the existence of a disability is not recommended. A private academic conference may give you an opening to mention various explanations for poor performance without implying that any certain one applies.
If the student initiates the subject and is receptive, of course you are free to discuss the disability issue in detail. Alternatively, you could address learning disabilities in a general way with the whole class as a follow-up to an exam, and share the DRC contact information. The University does not provide (or cover costs) for diagnostic testing, but the DRC office can refer to an agency in the community.
If a student complains about the extent of the accommodations approved by the DRC office, where should I direct him/her?
Please clarify that the student's dissatisfaction has already been discussed with DRC personnel. If the student has already attempted to discuss the matter with the DRC staff, please refer the student to the Assistant Director for Human Resources for Disability Services, Corlia Logsdon, at (502) 597-6863 in Room 429 of the Academic Services Building.
Beyond the mandates, are there any suggestions for becoming (even) more sensitive and helpful to students with disabilities?
Yes! Here are several ideas:
- Substitute "student with a disability" for "disabled student"; The first term simply refers to one aspect of the person's capabilities, while the second suggests that the whole student is disabled! Switch from "handicap" to "accessible" (e.g., accessible parking, accessible entrance) because it has a more positive connotation as well. Replace the words "wheelchair bound" with "wheelchair user" to emphasize what the chair makes possible rather than what it hampers. With practice these new terms will feel natural.
- Keep in mind that there is a range in how comfortable students feel about discussing their own disability status. Even someone with a very apparent physical disability (e.g., blind or a wheelchair user) may not appreciate being identified as an "expert" in a related discussion in an education or physiology class; At the other extreme are those who would actually feel disrespected if not asked to personally comment. Solution? Wait to take your cue from the student's spontaneous contribution in class or privately inquire about his/her position before drawing into an open discussion.
- Know the way to the Disability Services office so that you'll be prepared to direct someone: Located on the second floor of the Hill Student Center near the faculty and staff dining room. The entrance is labeled 220. The contact person for the DRC is Kendis Smith at (502) 597-5076 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Be aware of additional resources available specifically for your students with disabilities. The Disability Resource Center offers academic support, counseling, and personal coaching, but these services are driven by student request. If you find that someone you are accommodating needs additional help, privately refer him/her back to the DRC.
- Resist the (sometimes powerful) urge to interact with a student's service animal, and enforce this rule in your classroom. Privately the dog receives much affection from its owner and may be petted by anyone the owner permits, but in public it is "on duty".
- Use automatic door openers only when you need them (they wear out with use). Persons with mobility or health issues AND anyone with an armload of books or packages or pushing a handtruck or stroller absolutely should press the button. If you ever encounter an inoperable switch, please take the time to report it to the DRC office or to Facilities before it creates a barrier for someone with no other option for entering that building. The DRC office would also appreciate hearing about any other barriers or hazards you may notice on campus.
- Understand that a set of accommodations may continue to evolve after the semester is underway. Despite efforts of the DRC, obstacles (and therefore student needs) may not be entirely predictable when the notice is first generated. The interaction of the demands of your course and a particular student's limitations means that minor adjustments will occasionally be necessary. You will receive an addendum to the original notice if the change is substantial, but you are free to fine-tune the accommodations directly with the student's input at any time. Your flexibility is both needed and appreciated. Thank you!