What is a disability?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a person with a disability as a person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity, (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.
What laws must colleges and universities follow in accommodating a student with a disability?
- The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in the educational setting. The ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandate an equal opportunity for otherwise qualified students in higher education.
- Faculty members should consider accessibility when selecting materials and using technology in their courses. Videos should be captioned. Textbooks and course documents should be available in alternative formats or converted into an accessible format for the student.
- Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that the University ensure our technology, websites, online courses, materials, and content are accessible. For more information on web accessibility and making course documents accessible, please visit: https://www.cameron.edu/public-affairs/web-management/accessibility.
- The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records.
- The student’s disability information is personal and treated as confidential. However, faculty members will receive information about what accommodations the student is eligible to receive.
- Because disability information is confidential, faculty members should not have conversations with a student about their disability in front of others.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
- All students are required to meet the same academic requirements and standards. A reasonable accommodation is either assistance or a modification that allows an otherwise qualified individual with a disability an equal opportunity and access to participate in the learning environment or activity.
- An accommodation is not mandatory if it would fundamentally change or alter the objective of a course or program or would pose an undue hardship or undue financial or administrative burden.
- Faculty members are responsible for accommodating students in their courses and must provide the accommodations listed for the student. If the faculty member believes an accommodation would fundamentally change the nature of their course or an assignment, please contact the Office of Student Development to discuss.
How does a student with a disability receive an accommodation?
A student must register with the Office of Student Development and provide appropriate documentation with their requested accommodations. The application is available in the Office of Student Development Room 314 North Shepler or online.
Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case. In addition to meeting with the student, the Office of Student Development reviews the documentation and the student’s specific functional limitations in the educational environment to determine reasonable accommodations.
Information about the accommodation process is included in the common syllabus, but it is also recommended that the faculty member make an announcement at the start of the semester that any student needing an accommodation in their class should contact the Office of Student Development.
How do I know if a student needs an accommodation?
- If a student needs an accommodation in a class, the faculty member will receive a letter or email from the Office of Student Development identifying the specific accommodations for which the student is eligible to receive.
- Students are encouraged to meet with their faculty members to discuss their accommodations, but the faculty member may need to speak with the student privately if they have not reached out to the instructor.
- If a student asks for an accommodation but the faculty member has NOT received official notice about the accommodation, please refer the student to the Office of Student Development.
- Similarly, if a student asks for an accommodation that is NOT listed for them, please refer them to the Office of Student Development. To provide an accommodation without verification or eligibility may give the student a right to which they are not entitled or provide an advantage over other students in the class.
- Accommodation requests are processed at any time during the academic year, so a faculty member may receive notification even well after the semester starts. We explain to the student that last minute requests (for example, for an exam accommodation for the next day) may not be feasible or reasonable.
- Please note that accommodations are not retroactive.
What if I think a student needs an accommodation but I have not received a letter from the Office of Student Development?
- If the faculty member thinks a student needs an accommodation but has not received any documentation from the Office of Student Development, they should approach the student as they would any other student having difficulties in their course. They should discuss their concerns regarding the student’s performance and refer them to the Office of Student Development or to other resources such as tutoring labs.
- Please DO NOT provide an accommodation without official notice from the Office of Student Development unless the instructor would provide a modification or assistance to any student with or without a disability.
The student doesn’t look like they have a disability. Can I ask them what disability they have to determine if they truly need an accommodation?
- It is illegal to inquire if a person has a disability. It is the student’s choice whether to disclose the nature of their disability to the faculty member.
- Some disabilities, such as learning disabilities, may not be visible or apparent. If the faculty member has received notification from the Office of Student Development about a student’s accommodation needs, the student’s eligibility has been verified and the accommodation must be provided unless it would alter a fundamental component of the course. Please contact the Office of Student Development for any questions or concerns.
What do I do if a student needs a testing accommodation?
- The faculty member is responsible for administering the exam, and students should take exams within the department. This allows students to direct any questions or issues they might have to either the faculty member or someone with course knowledge.
- In the rare occasion that a faculty member is unable to administer an exam, please contact the Office of Student Development to arrange an alternate location. If the exam is not administered within the department, the faculty member must provide clear exam instructions to the test administrator.
- Exams may overlap the time of the regularly scheduled class exams. If a student or faculty member has a schedule conflict, arrangements should be made to take the exam before or after the regularly scheduled class times.
- Unless otherwise specified, extended time is typically one and half time for exams, in-class quizzes, in-class writing assignments and labs. Extended time does not typically apply to exams without time limits, such as take-home exams. Additionally, all students are expected to submit their assignments on time. However in some situations, it may be reasonable to make arrangements for extensions due to their disability.
- A student may also need a less-distractive testing environment. This accommodation offers a more quiet space where students have fewer distractions and can better maintain focus. Some examples may include a conference room, unused classroom, or the faculty member’s office.
- A student may need exams provided in an alternative format. Some examples might include large print, use of adaptive and assistive technology (such as a computer for essays), use of a reader or scribe, or oral exams. The faculty member should work with the student on facilitating the accommodation and contact the Office of Student Development with any questions or concerns.
What does note-taking assistance mean?
- Note taking assistance can be accomplished in several different ways. In most situations, a student can ask a peer to assist with taking notes. The Office of Student Development can provide the student two-part carbonless paper for use by the note taker.
- A student might need the faculty member’s help in finding a peer note taker. The faculty member can ask for a volunteer and indicate the notes are needed as part of a personal archive.
- The faculty member should NOT make an announcement that a particular student has a disability and needs a need taker. Notes are to be provided to the student needing the accommodation in a private and confidential manner.
- Notes are not a substitute for class attendance, and students are expected to take their own notes and use the notes from the note taker as supplementary notes.
- The faculty member may also give the student a copy of their own notes, an outline of the lecture materials or copies of presentations or Power Points. Please provide these prior to class if available. If these items are not available, they do not need to be created for the student.
- Another method of “note taking” is allowing the student to audio record lectures. The use of audio recordings or auxiliary aids as an accommodation are specifically addressed by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. The student is responsible for providing their own recorders, and the Office of Student Development also has some devices available for loan.
- Students who, because of a disability, have difficulty taking notes by hand may request permission to use a laptop or other assistive technology in class.
A student brought a service dog to class. Is this allowed?
- A service animal is an animal that is trained to work or perform a task for an individual with a disability.
- Please DO NOT ask the student to remove a service animal from the class. Contact the Office of Student Development for any concerns or questions or refer to the University’s Service Animal Policy.
- If it is unclear whether an animal is a service animal, only the following questions are allowed: (1) is the service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the animal has been trained to perform?
- Students are not required to register their service animals, so please note that a faculty member might not receive notice from the Office of Student Development that a service animal will be in their class.
- Do not ask a student about the nature of their disability or request that the service animal demonstrate a task. The faculty may not ask the student for documentation or verification of the service animal.
- A service animal can be any breed of dog (or in some cases, a mini horse), and does not need to wear a vest or other identifiers.
- The service animal must always be in the control of the owner and the owner must clean up after it. If the service animal is disruptive, the faculty member may ask the student to leave the class.
A student needs special seating or needs to sit in a specific area of class. What should I do?
- If a student needs a different chair or table for their class as an accommodation, the Office of Student Development will make arrangements with the Physical Facilities Department for this to be provided.
- Please help ensure that only students who receive these accommodations utilize those chairs or tables. The letters we provide to the faculty can help verify who needs a different chair or table as an accommodation. If a student indicates they need a special table or chair but an accommodation is listed for them, please refer them to the Office of Student Development.
- The Office of Student Development may also be able to provide a courtesy accommodation for a different chair or table in certain circumstances, such as for pregnancy or if a student is injured and uses crutches.
- Please do not remove any of these chairs or tables from the room as Physical Facilities places these where needed and tracks them.
- Some students may need to sit in particular places of the room, such as in the front row or near a door.
- For some students, remaining in the same position for long periods of time can exacerbate symptoms of the disability, and they may need to alternate sitting and standing. Similarly, some students may need to briefly step out of class to attend to medical needs. Students should move around or leave class in the least disruptive manner possible.