One of the roles of the Office of Accessibility Resources (OAR) is to provide support for faculty, administrators and staff to ensure that students’ academic accommodations are recognized and implemented.
What is a Disability?
A person with a disability is any person who:
has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more activities of daily living, including learning; has a record of such an impairment; is regarded as having such an impairment.
It’s the Law!
Students with disabilities are protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. According to these laws, “no otherwise qualified person with a disability shall, solely by reason of disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of any public entity.”
Section 504 and the ADA are very specific regarding confidentiality issues. Students voluntarily affiliate themselves with the Office of Accessibility Resources. The law permits dissemination of disability-related information on a “need-to-know” basis only. Therefore, when we alert faculty, we are permitted to disclose only the existence, not the nature, of a disability and what accommodations are necessary to equalize access to learning for that student. Asking intrusive questions of the student or discussing the student’s disability with others, no matter how well-intentioned, is a violation of federal law.
It is the responsibility of the student to disclose a disability, document the disability and limitations caused by the disability, and request accommodations. The Office of Accessibility Resources has very strict guidelines regarding disability documentation. It must come from a qualified professional and must contain all the data we need to determine appropriate academic accommodations.
It is the responsibility of the faculty to provide appropriate accommodations to students who have provided a current letter of accommodation. Additionally, it is the responsibility of the faculty to assure the confidentiality of all information regarding students with disabilities and discuss with the Office of Accessibility Resources any concerns related to the accommodation(s) or arrangements that have been requested by the student during.
What are Accommodations?
Accommodations are modifications made to minimize the discriminatory effects on learning for students with disabilities. The request must be reasonable, appropriate, and timely. Such an accommodation is not meant to lower the standards for academic performance. Rather, the accommodation makes it possible for the student to learn the material and for the instructor to fairly assess the student’s mastery of the material.
Why Do We Need the Office of Accessibility Resources?
Although it may seem simpler to just accommodate students directly without the involvement of the Office of Accessibility Resources, that approach can be risky. The Office of Accessibility Resources has the expertise to ascertain whether a request is appropriate and reasonable. If you provide an accommodation without proper documentation, other students can challenge your treatment as preferential. Also, by providing an unsubstantiated accommodation, you may set a pattern under which a student can claim to be “considered as having a disability” under the law. Therefore, when students approach faculty about disability issues, it is strongly recommend you refer them to the office.
It is recommended that all instructors include the following statement on their syllabus and make reference to this several times throughout the semester to create a welcoming environment for students with disabilities to disclose and request accommodations.
“Your experience in this class is important to me.
If you have already established accommodations with the Office of Accessibility Resources (OAR), please provide me a copy of your accommodation letter at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.
If you have not yet established services through the Office of Accessibility Resources (OAR), but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are encouraged to contact OAR. OAR offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.
Although a disclosure may take place at any time during the semester, students are encouraged to do so early in the semester, because, in general, accommodations are not implemented retroactively.”
Office of Accessibility Resources contact information:
Location-Brothers College, Room 119B
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Testing at the OAR
The OAR offers faculty the option of having their tests proctored in our testing room. In that setting, we are able to provide a distraction-reduced environment, extended time, and/or the use of technology which may be necessary to accommodate the student. We are always willing to assist you with test proctoring, or you may make your own arrangements, as long as the accommodation needs of the student are met. At no time can the OAR or the student dictate where an exam must be taken or under whose supervision. Individual instructors have the choice of providing necessary accommodations or referring the student to the OAR.
Faculty Guidelines for Alternative Test Arrangements