Faculty and Staff
Click here for Faculty Guide to Accommodating Students with Disabilities
Faculty and staff play a crucial role in providing access and opportunity for individuals with disabilities. Working together, the DSO can assist you in creating a welcoming and respectful learning environment that promotes equity and fairness to all. Please feel free to contact us with questions or concerns.
The Role of the Disability Services Office
The Disability Services Office (DSO) is responsible for coordinating disability services and reasonable accommodations for students, employees and university guests, promoting disability awareness, and providing opportunities for professional development for the campus community.
As part of these responsibilities the DSO requests, reviews and maintains disability-related documents, determines eligibility for services and develops plans for reasonable accommodations. Please click here for more information about common accommodations.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that is intended to stop discrimination against people with disabilities. It applies to employers, state and local government agencies, places of public accommodation, transportation facilities, telephone companies and others. Under Title II of the ADA, public colleges and universities are required to provide auxiliary aids and services to qualified students with disabilities. Providing auxiliary aids and services is not considered special treatment, but rather an equal opportunity to participate in the services, programs or activities offered by the university. Faculty and staff play an important role in assuring institutional compliance with nondiscrimination laws.
Federal law provides the definition of a disability. Click here for more information on the definition of a disability.
Communicating with Students About Accommodations
Effective communication between faculty, staff, students, and DSO staff plays a crucial role in appropriately providing accommodations. Students will approach you early in the semester to discuss their academic needs after sending you a letter from the DSO (via email) verifying their approved accommodations. Click here to view a sample accommodation letter.
Tips for Effective Communication
- Give students the opportunity to privately discuss their need for accommodations. If a student catches you after class or in a space that does not allow for a confidential conversation, suggest that you meet in your office or find an empty classroom. It is okay to schedule an appointment to meet at a better time or location.
- Encourage students to discuss their strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the course or activity. It is important for you to know that students are not required to disclose their disability, and by law, you are not permitted to ask.
- Also, it is important to remember that each student is an individual, and different disabilities create different circumstances. Even among those with the same disability, an accommodation that works for one student may not for another.
- Most reasonable accommodations are easy to arrange. Discuss with the student how you will implement their accommodation plan (how, when, where). Invite the student to make suggestions based on his/her experiences in other courses.
- Remember that students with disabilities have a right to use their accommodations. They may not be ignored and the student should not be persuaded either overtly or covertly into not using them. Legally, this would be considered discrimination. For example, a faculty member may not say "Why don't you try the first exam to see how you do before using accommodations." Since a student may not then re-take the first test using accommodations in an effort to improve, students should be afforded their accommodations from the start.
Accommodating Disability-Related Absences
Students are expected to follow the attendance policy established by the professor in each class. However, some students with disabilities may be approved for an accommodation of consideration of "reasonable flexibility with regard to attendance due to a disability." Reasonable flexibility, in this case, means an exception to the attendance policy when educationally feasible. Click here for more information about providing reasonable flexibility with regard to attendance.
Accommodating Students Approved for Use of a Recording Device in the Classroom
According to the regulations, students with disabilities who are unable to take or read notes have the right to record class lectures only for personal study purposes. The recording of lectures is one of the accommodations specifically mentioned in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Click here for more information about audio recording lectures.
Service Animals On-Campus
As a general rule, animals are not permitted in campus buildings, except for demonstration purposes, and as allowed by the Housing and Residential Life Departments. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its 2010 amendments, however, establish that service animals shall not be excluded from university/college facilities or activities.
The ADA defines service animals as "...dogs (or miniature horses) that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities."
Examples of such work or tasks include:
- Alerting people who are deaf
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
- Reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications
- Calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack
Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a service animal has been trained to provide must directly relate to the person's disability.
Information about student disabilities is confidential. Although you may be informed of a student's disability status or accommodation needs, you may not share this information with others unless the student specifically requests you do so.
Guidelines for confidentiality include:
Never discuss or refer to a student's disability or accommodations in the presence of other students, staff, or faculty.
When meeting with a student, arrange to meet in your office or in a private classroom.
Do not ask students to disclose their disabilities. You may inquire about their difficulties, the challenges they face in your classroom or in the residence hall, or how you can help.
Always ask the student before bringing another faculty or staff member into conversations that might include the student's disability.
Email is not a secure form of communication so be careful about sending messages containing student names with disability information.
When leaving phone messages for students, don't refer to a disability. Simply leave your name, phone number and the best time to reach you.
Creating a Welcoming Environment/Universal Design in Education
The intent of universal design (UD) is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications and the physical environment more usable by as many people as possible. Using this concept in education benefits all students and all abilities.
Examples of Universal Design can include:
Include a statement on your syllabus that invites students to meet with you to discuss disability-related accommodations and other learning needs.
Utilize multiple methods to deliver content (including lecture, discussion, hands-on activities, web-based interaction, and fieldwork) to engage all learners.
Use examples that appeal to a variety of students with respect to race, age, gender, and disability.
Provide printed or web-based materials that summarize content that is delivered orally.
Face your audience and speak clearly.
Use captioned videos and ensure PowerPoint presentations and web pages are accessible (text descriptions for graphics).
Provide printed materials in an accessible electronic format.
Provide printed materials early so that students can prepare to access the materials in alternate formats.
Provide prompts during an activity and feedback after it is completed.
Provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate knowledge.