Disability Services provides services, auxiliary aids, and accommodations for students at Athens State University with documented disabilities. At the same time, Disability Services assists faculty in their responsibilities to ensure all students have access to classroom instruction. These guidelines were created to assist you in this endeavor.
There are two legal mandates that protect students with disabilities from discrimination and ensure that they have equal access to all aspects of university life. These laws include Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States…shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Title II of the ADA
“A public entity shall make reasonable modifications in policies or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the public entity can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity.”
In our efforts to provide appropriate services, Disability Services works to make sure services are in compliance with the law. At the same time, we are available to assist you in making sure that your efforts as instructors of students with disabilities are also consistent with the law. You are welcome to contact this office at (256) 233-8143.
Responsibilities of Faculty/Staff
- Provide accommodations for students with disabilities by collaborating with the student and Disability Services. You will know that a student needs academic accommodations because a Letter of Accommodation will be sent to you. Faculty are not obligated to provide accommodations until the Letter of Accommodation is received. Accommodations cannot be granted retroactively. If the student claims to need accommodations, but does not have a Letter of Accommodation, please refer them to the Disability Services Specialist. Once you receive a Letter of Accommodation, please meet with students with disabilities regarding disability matters. If you are instructing a Distance Learning class, please e-mail the student and acknowledge that you have received their Letter of Accommodation and discuss their accommodations directly with the student. Remember to maintain their confidentiality and conduct these meetings in a private location.
- Include a statement regarding accommodations in your syllabi. The following serves as a sample statement:
“If you are a student with a disability that might require special materials, services, or assistance, you should notify your instructor as soon as possible and arrange a meeting with the Disability Services Specialist in the Career Development Center, Sandridge Student Center, at (256) 233-8143.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Disability Services is the office on campus that determines appropriate accommodations. The office bases decisions upon documentation collected from a student with a disability, the student’s functional limitations, and the student’s clarification about specific needs and limitations.
You may ask the student to provide you with a letter from Disability Services verifying that he or she has a disability. Disability Services has a file with documentation of the disability for every student who is registered with the office. The specifics of the disability may not be able to be disclosed due to confidentiality issues.
Please email the student and copy Disability Services email acknowledging that you received from Disability Services a Letter requesting Accommodations for the class and would like to review their needs for the class.
Template for body of email to be sent to the student requesting accommodations.
“I have received a letter from the Disability Services Office indicating that you are requesting academic accommodations for a documented disability. Please feel free to email me at _______________________ or call me during office hours ______________ at my campus phone __________________________ so that we can discuss the accommodations that will be most helpful to you in the Distance Learning Class _______________________________________________________________. I look forward to working with you.”
In the email it is important to give the student your contact information so you can discuss the accommodations that will be most helpful in the class.
Please be sure to keep the letter you received indicating the specific accommodations for the student for your files.
No student is able to take an exam with appropriate accommodations without authorization. While exams are at Disability Services, they are kept in a locked file. As students are taking the exam, they are monitored. Any inappropriate behaviors or exam materials are reported back to the instructor upon completion of the exam.
Talk privately with the student to discuss your observations. The student may reveal he has a disability. If this is the case and the student is registered with Disability Services, suggest that he or she talk to the Disability Services Specialist.
No. Standards should be the same for all students; however, some students with disabilities may exhibit their knowledge, production, and other course expectations differently than their peers. For example, a student with a learning disability in writing may produce an essay exam by using a computer or scribe rather than writing out an answer without the use of accommodations. The quality of the work should be the same.
The student with a disability has the same right to fail as anyone else. Their work should be equivalent to their peers. It may be a good idea to discuss your observations with this student just as you would with anyone else in your class who is experiencing difficulty.
Yes. There could be numerous reasons why a student makes a late request. Perhaps he or she could not get documentation of his or her disability any earlier and, therefore, could not initiate accommodations earlier. Some students try to take a class without accommodations but find that they aren’t doing well and need accommodations. Whatever the reason, students may make requests for accommodations any time during the semester. Accommodations are not retroactive; therefore, you must provide accommodations only at the point when a student makes a request and you and Disability Services are able to make appropriate arrangements. The student is too late if he or she reveals a disability after the completion of a class and requests deletion of unsatisfactory grades.
Suggestions for Instruction
When teaching a student with any disability, remember, you are the model for the students in your class in how you respond to the student with the disability. Encourage the student to participate in the class activities and be sensitive to the student’s needs, but do not expect less work or achievement from him or her.
Students with disabilities are bound just as all students by the university’s code of conduct and should be held to that code. If a student’s behavior becomes very disruptive or dangerous or threatening, the instructor has the option of calling campus security for assistance, just as he or she would with any other student.
If your office is not in an accessible building, make appointments in places that are accessible. Consider weather conditions if a student is late for class or a meeting.
Since students with disabilities vary so much, ask them about instructional strategies that might be helpful to them. Students do not have to tell you the nature of their disability. Some will choose to tell you, but many may choose not to discuss the specifics of their disability. What they have been instructed to do is self-advocate and make requests for accommodations. Some will want to discuss their disability and not request accommodations. Accommodations may not be needed in every class. Please note that, although a disability is invisible, Disability Services has documentation that verifies the disability. The functional impact of an invisible disability may be just as impactful in an academic setting as someone with a more visible disability.
For obvious reasons, students who are deaf or hard of hearing have tremendous obstacles in an academic setting. Disabilities affect different students in different ways. For example students who are deaf or hard of hearing are not all alike. Some students can read lips and others cannot; some communicate orally and others use sign language, gestures, writing or a combination of methods. Students who have some usable hearing may use a device to a amplify sounds; in class they may rely on hearing aids alone, or they may use an “assistive listening device.” When students are using assistive listening devices, instructors may be asked to wear cordless lapel micro transmitters.
The following suggestions may improve the academic situation for students who are deaf or hearing impaired:
- Always speak directly to the student, not the student’s sign language interpreter.
- During class discussions, ensure that no more than one person speaks at a time. When a member of the class asks a question, repeat the question before answering.
- Use visual aids whenever possible, such as a blackboard, power point or handouts.
- Loss of visual contact may mean loss of information. Unless a student is using a sign language interpreter, be sure that the student has visual contact with you before you begin lecturing. Avoid giving information while handing out papers or writing in the board.
- Place a simple lesson outline on the board.
- Write homework assignments on the board to include due dates and other important information.
- Provide seats in the front of the classroom so students with hearing impairments can get as much from visual and auditory clues as possible.
- When reading directly from the text, provide an advanced copy and pause slightly when interjecting information not in the text.
Some students have disabilities that are not easy to see, but can cause many obstacles in an educational setting. Students can be disabled by chronic illnesses such as Asthma, Arthritis, Diabetes, HIV, AIDS, Cardiopulmonary Disease, Cancer, Chronic Fatigue, Immune Deficiency Syndrome, and seizure disorders to name a few. They can also be disabled by medical conditions that cause intense and continual pain: for example, repetitive stress injury, post-surgery injury, and back problems. Symptoms of all these conditions can be unpredictable and fluctuating. Students with chronic illness or pain may have limited energy and difficulty walking, standing or sitting for a long time. Their pain, and/or side-effects of medications, may cause them to become dizzy or confused, making it hard for them to pay attention in classes, complete out of class assignments, do library research, and stayed focused during exams.
The following suggestions may help you work effectively with students who have disabling medical conditions:
- Medical conditions, including medication side effects may cause problems with fatigue and stamina, which may have a negative effect on concentration during a test or exam. For this reason students with medical conditions may need extended time on exams.
- Students with some medical conditions may become dizzy or may lack physical stamina. This may cause them to be unable to get from one building to another or from one campus to another quickly. For these reasons, a student may be late getting to a class. Please be patient when this happens. If tardiness becomes a problem please notify Disability Services.
- Adaptive seating may be needed for students with physical disabilities. Students who use motorized wheelchairs may need a different style desk. When you have a student with this need in you classroom, please make sure no other student sits at the adaptive desk during that class time. If the necessary seating is not in place, please notify the Maintenance department.
- Instructors in courses requiring field trips or internships need to work with their students to make sure they are able to travel easily to these locations. For example the student may need assistance with transportation. Disability Services can help with these arrangements.
- Some students experience recurrence of a chronic condition requiring bed rest and/or hospitalization. In most situations students are able to make up the incomplete work but they may need extra exam time.
Physical disabilities have many causes: for example, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT), to name a few. Students with physical disabilities will use many different ways to mobilize themselves around campus. Some will use wheelchairs or scooters, others will use crutches, canes, braces and walkers.
The following information may help you better understand the needs of a student with a physical disability.
- Students who have upper body limitations will have note takers or tape recorders with them to get the class notes. Extra room may be needed for them in the front row of the classroom.
- Students with upper body limitations have difficulty raising their hand in class. Discuss with the student how you will recognize they wish to contribute to the classroom discussion.
- A wheelchair is part of a person’s personal space. No one should touch it, lean on it or try to push it without being given permission by the owner. A space in the classroom will need to be made to fit the wheelchair. Most classrooms should have the proper seating/desk already in place. If this is not true in your classroom, contact the Maintenance department to take care of this problem.
- Be aware that a student may choose to transfer out of their wheelchair into the seating in the classroom.
- Please understand that for reasons beyond their control students with severe physical disabilities may be late to class. Some are unable to move quickly from one location to the next due to congestion on campus, congested elevators, or bad weather conditions. Please discuss with the student how you would like them to handle coming into your class late. If tardiness becomes a chronic problem please report this to the OHS.
- Not all physical disabilities are constant and unchanging. Some students may experience setbacks or relapses requiring bed rest or hospitalization. In most cases, the student will be able to complete their work, but they may need extra time.
- Students who have limited fine motor skills (difficulties writing or pain while writing) may need extended time for tests and exams.
Students who are visually disabled vary considerably. Some have no vision, others can see large shapes and some can read standard print if magnified. Depending on their disability, they use a variety of accommodations and equipment. Most students who are visually disabled will need extended time for tests, exams and projects and will use readers at these times. Like many students with disabilities, students who are visually disabled are at a disadvantage academically. They can hear lectures and discussions but are often frustrated by textbooks, chalkboard diagrams, overhead projectors, films, maps, printed exams. Most students who are visually disabled take advantage of technology. Computers can enlarge print, read the text on the screen aloud, scan books and articles, and convert print to Braille. Portable note-taking devices, talking calculators and tape recorders may also be used.
- The following are suggestions on teaching students who are visually disabled:
Before the semester begins have your reading list available. Some of your students will need time to order the books on tape alternative text for the course.
- Students who are visually disabled should be allowed to sit in the front of the classroom, if desired, to be able to hear clearly and see as much as possible.
- When using a projector, provide students who are visually disabled a printed copy of the material. Talk to the student ahead of time to know what size print should be used.
- Allow students to use a tape recorder or a note taker.
- Read aloud any material you print on the chalkboard board.
Students with learning disabilities have normal or better intelligence, but they also have severe “information-processing deficits” that make them perform significantly worse in one or more academic areas (reading, writing, math) than might be expected, given their intelligence and performance in other academic areas. Though all learning disabilities are different, students with learning disabilities report some common problems, including slow and inefficient reading; slow essay-writing, with problems in organization and the mechanics of writing; and frequent errors in math calculation.
The following suggestions may be helpful in working with students who have learning disabilities, and also those who have head injuries:
- Students with learning disabilities may also take longer to complete assignments, so it is particularly important to provide a detailed syllabus at the beginning of the class. The syllabus should list all assignments and due-dates.
- If possible, provide frequent opportunities for feedback: for example, weekly quizzes on assigned reading, instructor review of early drafts of essays, error-analysis of tests. If a student’s written exams seem far inferior to the student’s classwork, the two of you can meet during your office hours for a discussion of the exam questions. This discussion will give you a better idea of what the student really knows and how you can help the student produce better exams or other written work.
- Encourage students to contact you in order to clarify assignments. You might suggest that students re-phrase the assignment and send the re-phrased version to you via e-mail. You can then reply via e-mail, confirming that the student has understood the assignment or correcting misunderstandings.
- Be sensitive to students who, for disability-related reasons, may be unable to read aloud or answer questions when called on. If students make you aware of these difficulties, you and the students can discuss other ways they can meaningfully participate in class sessions: for example, volunteering comments or making short presentations.
- Compose exams in a way that makes them accessible for students with learning disabilities:
- Make sure that exams are clearly written or typed, in large black letters or numbers, with spaces between lines and with double or triple spaces between items. To avoid visual confusion, avoid cramming too many questions or math problems onto one page. Print questions on only one side of the paper.
- Group similar types of questions together: for example, all true/false, all multiple-choice, all short-answers. Leave several spaces between multiple-choice items.
- Permit students to circle answers in the test booklet rather than darkening circles on a Scantron sheet.
- Allow students to use extra paper in preparing answers to essay questions. (Encourage the students to turn in preliminary outlines or scrawled notes with the completed exam bluebooks.)
- Suggest that math students use graph paper (or lined paper turned sideways) to ensure neatness and avoid confusion when performing math calculations.
Emergencies such as fires and tornadoes occasionally occur as well as emergency drills. Instructors and staff should develop a plan of action if they are aware that they have a student with mobility, visual, or hearing limitations in their classroom. Ultimately, the person with a disability is responsible for his/her own safety in an emergency situation, but it is important that classroom instructors play a role in student evacuation. For further information regarding Emergency Procedures, refer to Athens State University’s Health and Safety Manual.