Students with Disabilities FAQs
Why is it important to be aware of disability issues?
Do faculty and teaching staff have a legal responsibility to accommodate qualified students with disabilities?
Who is an "individual with a disability" under Section 504 and The ADA?
Is disability information confidential?
What academic accommodations must a post secondary school provide?
What are the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities?
Are students required to identify their disabilities or provide copies of disability documentation to faculty and staff?
How will I know if a student in my classroom has a disability?
When a student identifies him/herself as having a disability, what should I do?
What accommodations are required if a student discloses a disability after-the-fact (e.g., after failing an exam)?
What should faculty and other teaching staff do if they suspect a student has a disability?
When a student does approach me, how do I know what the student is entitled to?
Who is responsible for providing services to students diagnosed with a disability?
What is the procedure for a student needing to take an exam in the Learning Support Services area of the Loft?
What are some typical accommodations?
What if a student requests to audio tape classroom lectures?
What is involved when a student requests a note taker?
How do I handle accommodating a student with a disability accommodation letter that states spelling waived?
What if I think the accommodations stated on the accommodation plan are unreasonable?
Do I have to change my teaching style to meet a student's needs?
I suspect my advisee has a learning disability, how can I begin a conversation?
How do I know what to ask the student?
If a student isn't able to complete an exam in the allotted time I give for the class, should I suspect that the student has a learning disability?
How can I help the student who is struggling to complete an exam in time?
Should I permit the student, who is struggling with completing an exam, extended time?
Does Hartwick College provide diagnostic testing for learning disabilities?
A. All Hartwick faculty and teaching staff need a working knowledge of both the legal rights of qualified individuals with disabilities and the College's rights and responsibility to provide reasonable and effective accommodations. Hartwick College is mandated by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 to make facilities, educational and co-curricular programs, campus activities and employment opportunities accessible to qualified individuals with disabilities. Description of the federal legislation that protects students with disabilities can be found at http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Rights/Legal/.
A. Yes. Individually, faculty and staff have a legal responsibility to make sure that each course, when viewed in its entirety, is accessible (i.e., insure non-discrimination by creating equal access for qualified students with disabilities through the provision of reasonable and appropriate accommodations). Accessibility is essential and should be in the forefront of course and technological planning.
NOTE: The Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandate students' rights to accommodations and their right to file complaints (OCR) and/or lawsuits (ADA) against the College and instructors for financial reimbursement if these accommodations are not provided.
A. An "individual with a disability" is someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. "Major life activity" means functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. A person is considered to be a person with a disability if he/she has the disability, has a record of the disability, or is regarded as having the disability.
A. Yes. Disability information is confidential and should never be discussed or referred to in front of classmates or other individuals. When disclosing their disabilities, students expect that confidentiality will be maintained. Any information regarding the disability should be secured in a file that can only be accessed by those "with a need to know."
A. The appropriate academic accommodation must be determined based on the student's disability and individual needs. Academic accommodations include modifications to academic requirements and auxiliary aids and services, for example, arranging for priority registration; reducing a course load; substituting one course for another; providing note takers, recording devices, sign language interpreters, extended time for testing and, if telephones are provided in dorm rooms, a TTY in a dorm room; and equipping school computers with screen-reading, voice recognition or other adaptive software or hardware.
In providing an academic accommodation, the post secondary school is not required to lower or effect substantial modifications to essential requirements. For example, although the school may be required to provide extended testing time, it is not required to change the substantive content of the test. In addition, the post secondary school does not have to make modifications that would fundamentally alter the nature of a service, program or activity or would result in undue financial or administrative burdens. Finally, the post secondary school does not have to provide personal attendants, individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature, such as tutoring and typing. (Adapted from the Office of Civil Rights)
A. To ensure a student's right to equal access to college programs, activities, and services, students with disabilities have the same obligation as any other student to meet and maintain the college's academic and technical standards. They have the responsibility to advocate for their own individual needs and to seek information, counsel, and assistance as necessary to be effective self-advocates. This includes:
- providing appropriate documentation to the Coordinator of Disability Services in order to determine appropriate academic adjustments and services in a timely fashion
- making contact with individual faculty members to obtain syllabi and lists of course materials in order to request materials in an alternate format
- adhering to reasonable deadlines established by faculty for requests for special academic adjustments
- making themselves available to faculty or advisors to discuss concerns
- having a right to be evaluated based on their ability, not their disability
- If their disability affects the outcome of an evaluation method, they are entitled to an evaluation by alternate means. being entitled to an equal opportunity to learn
- If the location, delivery system, or instructional methodology limits their access, participation, or ability to benefit, they have a right to reasonable alterations in those aspects of the course to accommodate their disability
- being entitled to an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the academic community
- This includes access to services, extracurricular activities, and transportation at a level comparable to that provided to any student
- having a right to appeal the institution's decisions concerning accommodations. First internally, by submitting a letter to the Coordinator of Disability Services within 14 days of the incident. A meeting will be arranged within seven days including the student, the Coordinator of Disability Services and, when relevant, appropriate faculty and/or administrator to discuss the dispute. Then, if necessary, by filing a complaint with the regional Office of Civil Rights or through the Civil Court system
- having a responsibility to actively participate in the search for accommodations and auxiliary aids. This responsibility extends to working with the institution to seek financial assistance from government agencies and private sources.
A. Students are not required to divulge the nature of their disabilities or provide faculty and staff with copies of their disability documentation. Students requesting accommodations are only required to provide a letter from the Coordinator of Disability Services that they have a documented disability on file.
Q. How will I know if a student in my classroom has a disability?
A. It is each student's responsibility to self identify him/herself to you. If s/he does not, you are not required to make any accommodations, and cannot be held liable for discriminatory behaviors. It is not appropriate to come out and ask if a student has a disability. A suggested way to open conversation would be to include in your syllabus an open invitation for all students to discuss particular learning needs. If you suspect that a student has a learning disability, you could ask the student if there is anything s/he would like to discuss that would help you to understand their learning style.
A good way to facilitate open communication with your students is to include an ADA statement on your syllabus. Please feel free to use these statements as you see fit.
Another good way to communicate with your students it to ask open-ended questions similar to those found below. These types of questions may lead students to self disclose a learning disability.
- Is there anything else that I need to know about you and what you need to maximize your learning?
- What type of resources do you need to be a successful student?
- What do you need to take care of yourself as a student?
- How do you know when you are not managing your schedule well or meeting your academic responsibilities?
- Is there any other staff member you trust that I should talk with to maximize our relationship and your support network?
- What type of strategies work for you?
- What do you need to perform at your best in class, in a testing situation, and outside of the classroom?
A. Interaction with students with disabilities is similar to any other student. However, be aware that when students self-identify as having disabilities, it is frequently because they will require an accommodation and not all students with disabilities are at ease with this process. Listen to what they have to say and ask questions only about how and if the disability will impact them in the class and about the accommodations they may be requesting.
Students must register with the Coordinator of Disability Services in order to have their requests for disability accommodations verified. Students requesting disability accommodations who have not already done so should be informed and referred directly to the Coordinator of Disability Services in order to establish their eligibility for disability accommodation.
A. Consistency in standards for all students is the guide for response to such requests. If exceptions are not made for other students after-the-fact, none are required for students with disabilities. However, if exceptions are made for other students, requests such as this must be considered.
A. Do not tell a student you think he/she has a disability. Approach him/her as any other student having difficulty in a class. Inquire about what might be impacting the student's progress in the class. A student with a disability will likely disclose at this time, if the difficulties are disability related. Refer the student to the Coordinator of Disability Services if he/she discloses a disability, or indicates he/she suspects a disability. If neither of these scenarios occurs, we recommend providing the student with a list of campus resources, including the services provided for students with disabilities.
A. Any student seeking accommodations within the classroom must be registered with the Coordinator of Disability Services. Once this is done, s/he will receive an accommodation letter that spells out exactly what s/he is entitled to. This is how you will know. If they don't provide an accommodation letter, chances they are not registered or met with the Coordinator of Disability Services. Anything the student asks for beyond the accommodation letter has not been approved by the Coordinator of Disability Services . Direct your questions to the Coordinator for advice and recommendations.
A. The professor of any given class is responsible for providing accommodations to the students in his/her classroom; however, the Coordinator of Disability Services can help. Learning Support Services offers assistance to faculty in areas of high need such as exam proctoring in a separate location. If you need assistance providing accommodations, contact email@example.com.
A. First of all the student would have needed to submit to the instructor a copy of the accommodation request letter and then the student would need to bring a lavender colored, Test Scheduling Form to be completed by the student and the instructor. This Test Scheduling Form needs to be turned into the Learning Support Services staff 3 days prior to a scheduled exam. To insure the integrity of the instructor's exam we ask that specific instructions concerning the exam procedure be noted on the form. For instance: how long does the class have to complete the exam, or whether it is an open book exam. It is advised if an exam is given to the student to bring to the Loft that the instructor seal the exam in an envelope with their signature written across the sealed area. It is preferred not to give it to the student.
A. Most students requesting classroom accommodations at Hartwick College are entitled to extended time on exams, and/or separate location. There are some students who need supplemental notes or use of a word processor for essay exams. Others may need a spell check, use of a calculator, books on tape, or alternative print formats such as books on tape or e-text so text can be read through a screen reader.
A. Any student may ask an instructor to tape record lectures, however, it may be an academic accommodation for a student with a qualifying disability.
As part of the process for evaluating the appropriateness of audio taping a particular class lecture, it would be necessary for the Coordinator of Disability Services to gain more information from the instructor about the format of the class, the impact of a tape recorder present in class and the acoustic environment of the classroom. In classrooms that are generally made up of student/instructor discussions, audio taping may not be necessary or even acoustically appropriate. In that case it would be more appropriate to obtain supplemental notes from the instructor, or another student in class.
The Coordinator of Disability Services will discuss with the student the advantages and disadvantages of recording class lectures and the process of integrating their own note taking when reviewing taped lectures.
In the event that audio taping is the best mode of obtaining the lecture information for the student, the use of the accommodation of audio taping class lectures is subject to the following conditions:
- Audiotapes of class lectures are only for the student's personal use in study and preparation related to the class.
- The student may not share these audiotapes with any other person, whether or not that person is in his/her class.
- The student acknowledges that the audiotapes are sources, the use of which in any academic work is governed by rules of academic conduct for his or her School or College.
- The student agrees to destroy any audiotapes that were made when they are no longer needed for his/her academic work. Students who have been granted permission to audiotape class lectures as an accommodation must agree in writing to abide by each of these provisions. Permission forms to audio tape class lectures can be obtained through and returned to the Coordinator of Disability Servcies. The instructor will receive a copy of the permission form completed by the student.
A. The request for a note taker is generally processed with the Cooridnator of Disability Services. After a determination is made that the course format warrants the student to receive supplemental notes, then the Coordinator of Disability Services will proceed to secure a student who would qualify to have their notes photocopied. During the determination and/or securing process it might be necessary to contact the instructor for further information and assistance. There are instances where the instructors provide the student with lecture notes/outlines or the notes are available on blackboard. Most accommodation requests are handled confidentially. There are occasions when the student might approach a potential note taker. Instructors are notified when a student is requesting a note taker in their class. Since receiving notes is an accommodation, based on the student attending the class, it is important for the Coordinator of Disability Services to be notified if the requestor is not attending the class regularly.
A. Currently on the accommodation letter form there is an option for the Coordinator of Disability Services to check off: Waive spelling or handwriting for in-class/impromptu evaluations if Spell Check is not available.
The following information attempts to clarify why this accommodation is an option and how you, as an instructor, could implement this accommodation.
The core deficit in a reading disability typically involves word decoding resulting from poor phonemic awareness or poor knowledge of letter-sound relationships. The core deficit in a writing disability, sometimes referred as dysgraphia, is the inability to understand the relationship between letters and sounds, appropriate word choice, mechanics of letter formation, grammar and punctuation.
Rational for providing an accommodation:
In order to effectively assess a student's knowledge of the course material without penalizing the student's functional limitation in spelling, a reasonable accommodation would be to permit the student to use a spell checker or word processor during essay/short answer exams.
We are obligated under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the American Disabilities Act not to discriminate against qualified students with disabilities and to provide reasonable academic accommodations.
If an instructor typically take off points for misspelled words during an exam, the following accommodation would be appropriate for those students with learning disabilities that qualify for use of a spell check or spelling waived when access to a spell check is not available:
If a spell checker is not available during an exam or pop quiz, then one method to accommodate the student with this disability/accommodation is to grade the exam accordingly except, circle the misspelled words and return the exam to the student to correct and return to you within a day or two (be specific when and write it on the exam). Any words returned corrected results in points given back to the student and any words not corrected remain with those points deducted.
Challenges: What if a student in enrolled in a course/program where correct spelling is essential, such as a Nursing Program?
In courses where spelling is essential due to a safety issue, like the Nursing program, one college decided that the student would not be penalized for minor spelling errors where it is evident what word or medication the student meant. However, if a spelling error did or could impact safety, that was a problem and points were taken off. The student worked very hard on learning to spell medication names. The student carried a clip board in clinical with the common medications listed on a small list taped to the clipboard.
In the evident that a complaint is filed with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for a college being non compliant to providing accommodations, OCR is very favorable towards colleges where sincere effort and collaboration has been attempted to provide reasonable accommodations to students who qualify under the ADA and Section 504.
Q. What if I think the accommodations stated on the accommodation plan are unreasonable?
A. Accommodations that the Coordinator of Disabiltiy Services approves are supported by federal legislation; to insure that the student has equal access to learning. If you question the accommodation letter for any particular student, please contact the Coordinator of Disability Services .
A. For the most part, no. The majority of the time, the accommodations provided will assist the student in such a way that it will not disrupt your teaching style; however, there are some exceptions.
Some exceptions to this rule have been made at Hartwick College over the past few years; instructors who had a student with hearing loss faced the students while speaking, avoiding speaking where the student could not see the instructor's face; a student in an anthropology class had a documented learning disability which gave him great problems with showing his knowledge in a multiple choice format, so his professor agreed to use essay questions to test him.
Again, accommodations such as note takers, attendants, enlarged overhead copies, in class exercises handed out ahead of time, etc. not only meet a student's specific needs, but help your class and teaching style remain, for the most part, unaffected. The Universal design approach to designing course instruction benefits the learning styles of all students. More information can be obtained through the Ohio State University, Universal Design for Learning: Elements of Good Teaching Web site: http://telr.osu.edu/dpg/fastfact/undesign.html.
An instructionally accessible learning environment can be created implementing any of the following suggestions:
- Use advance organizers, graphic organizers, scaffolding, supplemental instructions.
- Provide online- course syllabi, test information, alternative readings, lecture notes.
- Provide a range of approaches for students to demonstrate mastery of the material and competence in the subject.
- Give assignments both orally and in written form.
- Speak clearly and slow down if you speak quickly or have an accent.
A. As good practice you could ask all your advisees, "Before we begin, would you like to share with me any personal information which might assist me in choosing the best schedule for you. For instance, some students disclose that they have a condition that might affect how they learn. If that applies to you it might be helpful for me to know this before we select courses."
If a student has already been to the Disability office and has requested accommodations, a copy of the letter to classroom instructors would have been sent to the advisor for the student's file. Usually a copy of the accommodation letter is only sent once to the advisor unless there has been an advisor change. Please keep the accommodation letter in the student's advising folder. If there is a copy of the accommodation in the file, knowing that would give you greater freedom to be more specific in asking about specific needs. The type of disorder or disability is usually not stated in the accommodation letter. The student may choose not to discuss their needs with you.
A. If a student does disclose his/her disability, consider asking the following questions: How will your disability affect your performance in the classroom? What specific areas are difficult for you? What considerations should I keep in mind when helping you arrange your schedule?
A. Not completing exams may be caused by a number of reasons. For instance, the student may be taking too long on one question and not pacing themselves, may not understand the question, or does not know the answer and is trying to formulate one that sounds good. You should never assume that a student has a disability or infer that a student has a disability because this might potentially violate privacy laws and may be misinterpreted by the student and borderline harassment. If a student discloses a disability to you, then you are free to discuss implications of the disability and how to accommodate and support the student's learning environment. If you have a question on how to handle a certain situation, we encourage you to contact the Coordinator of Disability Services.
A. Whether to permit the student a few extra minutes to complete the exam is your decision. After the exam, it might be a good opportunity to discuss the test taking procedure and find out what was problematic during the exam. During the one-on-one conversation, you could offer pacing techniques, tips on how to take certain test formats, study strategies... There are many online resources on tips for studying and test taking. Here are two websites: www.howtostudy.com and www.testtakingtips.com. Our on-campus resources to assist with testing anxiety are the Counseling Center and Learning Support Services in the Loft. The Loft has numerous study skill handouts. The Writing Center in Clark could assist the student with essay writing techniques.
A. Whether to allow a student, who has not disclosed a disability and doesn't have an accommodation letter, additional time on exams is your decision. It might depend whether you are assessing their knowledge of the material or the automaticity of knowledge in a given time. Some courses prepare students for future exams, like MCAT, where there is a specific format and time limit for the exam. In that case, the instructor may choose to simulate that exam here. In any case, a student with a disability with testing accommodations would be granted extended time on exams at the college level.
A. No, Hartwick College does not provide this service. Students would need to see a licensed professional who conducts diagnostic evaluations for learning disabilities or ADD. The Loft has informal inventories, such as a study skill checklist, learning questionnaire, learning style inventory and ADD self-report scale. Students can use these inventories to help identify problematic areas in learning, studying, concentration, reading, writing and test taking. Then students can seek out appropriate resources to address these areas of concern.