What is my responsibility in accommodating the needs of students with disabilities?
Individual faculty members are responsible for ensuring that their courses are accessible to students with a disability. This responsibility covers physical access to the location where the activity will occur and modifications necessary in the format or delivery of information that would make it accessible to an individual with a specific disability.
How will I know if there are persons with a disability needing accommodations in my class?
Request that individuals requiring special accommodation contact you after class or during office hours. Print this information in your syllabus. In this way you give students "permission" to approach you with their needs.
How do I know that the accommodation the student has requested is appropriate and legitimate?
The student presents to you a Faculty Notification letter, prepared by the ACCESS Coordinator. You can be assured that the student has provided the College with proof of a disability under the legal definition of the word. The type of special accommodation requested on the form would be one that has legitimacy in relation to the disability listed. A student not presenting such a form or any other type of proof of disability, whose outward appearance does not make existence of a disability apparent, can be referred to ACCESS to complete a request for service.
How can I be sure I am doing what is necessary to provide academic access?
The most successful way to ensure academic access is to discuss with the student what his/her needs are. No two students with disabilities are alike. Only a personal conference with the student in which you discuss both the course demands and the student's accommodation needs is likely to provide both parties with a satisfactory outcome. It is a good idea to put into writing what you and the student agree will be done so that there can be no confusion. If you have questions as to why the student needs a particular accommodation, feel free to call ext. 5286.
Suppose I don't agree to provide accommodation in the exact way the student is requesting it?
There is usually several ways that a student's special needs are met. All federal law requires is "reasonable" accommodation. If your way meets that criterion in light of the student's handicapping condition, you have complied with the law. However, if the objection stems from the student's use of an assistive device necessary to compensate for his/her disability (tape recorder, etc.), federal law may require that it be allowed. You may, however, require the student to complete an agreement that covers problems you envision with the device (such as not releasing the tape recording or transcription, allowing you to erase tapes, etc.).
Am I being asked to compromise academic standards or give the student with a disability an advantage?
Definitely no! If the existence of the disability has been verified, the accommodation should have the purpose of providing an equal opportunity to the student, in effect starting the student on equal footing with others. To compromise standards or "water down" the requirements would not assist the student to acquire a competitive degree. The student with a disability should fulfill all the essential course-related requirements; however, altering the format, substituting an equivalent requirement, or changing the method of meeting requirements may provide the student a more equitable chance at success.
By making certain accommodations to students with disabilities, am I not discriminating against the other students who would probably prefer such things as extended time for tests, etc.?
Technically, it may appear that preferential treatment is being given to student with disabilities; however, the objective of the legal requirement is to help the student compensate for a life function, which is not the same as that of other students in the class. Through the accommodation we attempt to provide the student with the same opportunity that other class members have without special measures. The law allows, and in fact requires, that special needs be met.
Where do I go for assistance in providing accommodations?
ACCESS, located in Student Services in the 300 Quad of the main campus, can provide information and assistance in dealing with many of the concerns you may have about accommodating students. Our office has information on many creative ways to accommodate students and can provide the instructor with information about how other institutions have solved access problems.
What specific help does ACCESS offer to faculty members?
The specific charge of ACCESS is to assist students with disabilities to matriculate; however, the program is a resource / liaison for any and all concerns that may arise in relation to students with disabilities.