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.
Please refer to the following sections on information relating to:
OAR SYLLABUS STATEMENT
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:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR FACULTY
What laws cover a student with a disability at the post-secondary level?
Students with disabilities are protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which was revised to the ADA Amendments Act in 2008. According to these laws, “no otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States shall, solely by reason of disability, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
“Otherwise qualified,” with respect to post-secondary education, means a person who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission. Drew University does not have any special admission provisions for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities must meet all standard requirements.
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 recommended you refer them to the office.
What resources are offered through the Office of Accessibility Resources?
The Office of Accessibility Resources (OAR) at Drew University provides reasonable accommodations based on appropriate documentation. All documentation is reviewed by the OAR Director, who determines appropriate accommodations in compliance with University policy, and state and federal law.
The OAR exists to assist students with disabilities in achieving their educational goals. Our focus is on equal access to all programs and activities. The OAR provides the following resources for qualified students with documented disabilities:
- Academic Accommodations
- Housing Accommodations
- Dietary Accommodations
- Exam Proctoring
- Medical Exception Parking
- Referrals to on- and off-campus resources
Who is responsible for the accommodations?
Accommodations are a shared responsibility between the student, faculty, and the OAR. The accommodation process is designed to be collaborative and interactive. A breakdown of some of the roles and responsibilities are discussed below.
A student with disabilities has three primary responsibilities, which must be completed in order to receive accommodations at Drew University. First, the student must identify him/herself as a person with a disability to the OAR. Second, the student must provide current documentation or supporting evidence that the disability substantially limits the ability to function in a major life activity. Finally, the student is responsible for following the policies and procedures of the OAR, including sharing their accommodation letters with faculty and requesting alternative testing arrangements if needed.
If a student identifies him/herself as having a disability and presents an OAR approved accommodation letter, it is your responsibility to ensure the learning environment is accessible and the accommodations are provided. It is strongly recommended that you have available office hours in order to meet privately with these students. While students are not required to share the nature of their disability with professors, their needs as they relate to particular accommodations should be discussed so that both of you understand and agree upon what arrangements are necessary.
Once notified via the student’s accommodation letter, professors are responsible for the implementation of approved accommodations. This may include providing assistance with finding a note-taker in class, facilitating testing accommodations, or providing course materials in an accessible electronic format.
The Office of Accessibility Resources Responsibility
The OAR is responsible for reviewing documentation, determining eligibility, identifying appropriate accommodations, creating accommodation letters for the student, and arranging for contract services such as a sign-language interpreter. The OAR is available to consult with faculty regarding the implementation of accommodations, as well as to answer any questions or concerns regarding the approved academic adjustments. The OAR will also assist with the implementation of accommodations, when possible; however, it is ultimately the responsibility of the university as a whole – not just the OAR – to meet the accommodation needs of documented students with disabilities. This requires that a partnership exist between the OAR and faculty/academic departments, and resources of all of these units must be considered in meeting accommodation needs.
Understanding Accommodations for Students
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.
How do I know what I should do for a student with a disability?
Students with disabilities should register with the Office of Accessibility Resources. If the student is registered with the office, the student will be provided an accommodation letter for each class in which he/she is enrolled each semester. The student should share the letter with you and discuss the accommodations and any barriers they are experiencing. The letter will outline the accommodations that you will need to provide. The letter will not identify the specific disability; that information is private and only the student may choose to disclose to it his/her professors. If you need any assistance in working with an accommodation or in making an aspect of your course accessible, please call the OAR.
What if I suspect a student has a disability but he does not provide me with a letter from the OAR?
You should not assume a student has a disability nor should you ask if he has a disability. Both of these could be seen as discriminatory actions. You should also encourage a student who you think is challenged or struggling in your class to utilize campus resources including the CAE, OAR, Counseling and Psychological Services, etc.
What if a student asks for an accommodation that is not included in the letter from the OAR?
Contact the OAR. It is not always possible to predict the precise interaction between a student’s disability and a specific course requirement; as a result, it may be necessary to amend the accommodation letter. In consultation with you and the student, the OAR will be able to advise you as to the best academic adaptation. As a matter of best practice and guidance from the federal government, faculty should not provide any accommodation that has not approved by the OAR.
Can I get a list of students with accommodations who are in my classes?
No, this is not something we can provide. Students have the right to choose when and to whom they disclose that they have a disability. For this reason, professors must wait until they receive a student’s letter before accommodations are made. Students are strongly encouraged to meet with their professors at the beginning of each semester to discuss accommodations, but it is the student’s choice when, and even if, to do this. Accommodations are NOT retroactive. So, the student who chooses to share an accommodation letter later in the semester does not receive any accommodations for work already completed.
Should I waive assignments & course requirements for students with disabilities?
No. Students with disabilities should be held to the same standards as any other student. Accommodations should not alter the course or program in any substantive manner.
Do field experiences have to be accessible to students with disabilities?
Yes. Equal access must be provided to all components of a class or program even if it is not a required element. This would include labs, field trips, transportation provided by Drew University and internships.
What if I disagree with an accommodation?
Please contact the OAR at 973-408-3962 if you have any questions or concerns. If a student has self-identified, provided appropriate documentation, and has an accommodation letter, s/he is entitled under law to receive the specified accommodation(s), as long as it does not represent a fundamental alteration to the curriculum or compromise an essential requirement of the course. The OAR is happy to consult with you and discuss any concerns regarding accommodations.
What if a student discloses that they have a disability but doesn’t provide me with an accommodation form?
Please refer the student to the OAR so we can ensure that the student is qualified to receive the requested accommodation(s). Professors should not provide accommodations without consulting with the OAR.
How can I help to maintain student confidentiality?
The student with a disability is entitled to confidentiality under the law. This means that if a student with a disability happens to be in your class, you cannot mention that student by name (i.e. “Tom, here’s your test so you can go take it in the OAR Testing Center” or “We need a note taker for Katie, so I need someone to volunteer”). Also, you should not discuss the student by name with anyone else, including other faculty. It is always the student’s decision to self-disclose. The OAR is able to verify that we are working with a particular student but they are not permitted to share specific diagnostic information regarding the nature of the disability.
Accommodations and Testing
Some general information about testing
The goal of student assessment is to measure what students have learned. However, traditional assessment methods may limit the opportunity that many disabled students have to demonstrate their learning. As a result, these tests give inaccurate information on how effective you’ve been as an instructor and how successful your students have been as learners.
Consider ways to assess your students’ learning that are effective for all students. While there are many creative strategies that minimize the need for individual accommodations, the following are a few options that may fit for your class and instructional style:
- Administer tests and quizzes using a course management system where you can design untimed tests or build extended test time into the schedule for disabled students.
- Use take-home exams to assess applied concepts.
- Use group projects to both assess learning and encourage the development of collaborative skills
- Allow students to write papers outside of class to demonstrate their learning or use research papers as a part of the course assessment.
The OAR is available to assist you in exploring alternative ways to assess what your students have learned in ways that minimize the need for individual accommodations, such as extended test time.
A student says she has test anxiety. Is this a disability?
Usually test anxiety on its own does not constitute a documented disability that is protected by law. If test anxiety is part of more pervasive condition that substantially limits a major life activity, the student may be considered a person with a disability and may be eligible for services and accommodations. Students with test anxiety may also benefit from workshops through the CAE, Counseling and Psychological Services, and other campus resources.
How do I work with a student who needs testing accommodations?
It is the student’s responsibility to approach you with an accommodation letter which specifies that s/he has been approved for a testing accommodation. We ask that instructors discuss with students how the testing accommodation can be provided in their particular course.
Depending on the individual student, it may be effective for you to provide extended test time by:
- Allowing the student to test in a quiet office or a departmental conference room- tests should not be administered in the hallway outside a classroom or in a busy office with ringing phones or other interruptions.
- Testing the student in the classroom if you are able to stay after class and the room is available for the amount of extended time determined to be reasonable.
- Having a TA or department staff proctor the student in a quiet location within your department.
- Beginning the student in the classroom and allowing him or her to finish the exam after class in your office or another appropriate location if necessary.
As a service to faculty, the OAR also assists by proctoring exams in our testing center.
Why do students need extended time for tests?
The use of extended time is the most frequently used accommodation through the OAR. Extended time for testing situations is normally granted to allow the student with a disability to compensate for the limitations imposed by their disability. For example, students with learning disabilities may have difficulty with processing information and need additional time to read, understand, and respond to questions. Students with ADHD or mental health issues may have difficulty concentrating. Some students need to utilize assistive technology, which usually takes additional time.
What about quizzes and pop quizzes?
If a student’s accommodation form indicates s/he receive extended time, the instructor needs to make arrangements for the student to receive this accommodation. We suggest that the quiz be given towards the end of class which makes providing the additional time more seamless. The OAR can consult with professors regarding other options if this does not fit into the class structure.
Universal Design and Course Accessibility
What is Universal Design and why should I consider it for my classes?
Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. It benefits people of all ages and abilities.
Incorporating the principles of universal design into a class enhances the accessibility of the curriculum to a variety of diverse learners: minority students, second-language learners, returning students, students with disabilities, etc. While re-envisioning the design of a course may seem overwhelming at first, experience has shown that once faculty members experience the increase in student engagement and learning that is achieved through a universally designed curriculum, they also find that learning objectives for courses are more fully met.
How can I make my course accessible to all students?
Think about those with disabilities and other diverse groups during the planning stages of your course, program or event. How welcoming and usable is the environment for everyone who may participate?
In person resources are available through the OAR and through the Instructional Design team.
GUIDANCE ON CONFIDENTIALITY
Confidentiality is of utmost importance in handling disability related information and in discussing access to accommodations. Disability documentation is kept secure within the OAR and separate from other records, including a student’s general academic file or transcript and general employment record. The OAR records and information (including eligibility for accommodations, diagnosis, etc.) are confidential and fall under the provisions of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) and/or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”).
Once an individual is determined eligible for reasonable accommodations, an Accommodation Letter is created which outlines approved reasonable accommodations. An Accommodation Letter does not identify the person’s disability. Some individuals choose to disclose their disabilities to instructors; however, they are not required to do so. Any disability information which is disclosed must be treated confidentially. Conversations should be held in private.
The OAR can communicate with university officials on a need-to-know basis only concerning relevant information, accommodations and or services. Every student who completes registration with the OAR is asked to sign a release so that relevant information can be easily shared with third parties (including parents) when the need arises.
Conversations pertaining to a disability, eligibility and/or specifics of access to accommodations should be in private, rather than in the presence of peers and/or within the regular classroom. This includes situations where the individual’s disability is obvious.
It is appropriate to:
It is not appropriate to:
|include a syllabus statement regarding the provision of reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities in the course syllabus;||ask individuals with disabilities to raise their hands or stay after class;|
|discuss a request for or provision of accommodations in private;||discuss a request for or provision of accommodations in the presence of others;|
|ask a student who discloses a disability to you to request accommodations through the OAR and discuss what accommodations they may need;||ask what disability a person has;|
|wait until you are approached regarding accommodations by a student you suspect may have a disability;||assume a student has a disability, even if the disability appears to be obvious;|
|ask clarifying questions regarding the provision of approved accommodations.||question a student’s need for an accommodation listed in the Accommodation Letter.|
|ask a struggling student what they have used to achieve success up to this point and make referrals to appropriate campus resources (OAR, Counseling Center, CAE, etc.)||ask if a student has ever been diagnosed with a disability, or suggest testing for a disability.|
FACULTY GUIDE: RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The number of students with disabilities attending colleges and universities continues to increase with each passing year. Faculty need to be well-informed about the roles, rights and responsibilities postsecondary institutions have towards supporting students with disabilities. These are supported by several federal laws which entitle students with disabilities to the full opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a postsecondary educational experience. For further explanation of disability laws, please see the Frequently Asked Questions.
Faculty members have the right to:
- Maintain the rigor and the fundamental nature of their course content.
- Require students to demonstrate their knowledge of crucial course content.
- Determine course content and how it will be taught.
- Confirm a student’s request for accommodations and ask for clarification about a specific accommodation with DSS.
- Only provide those accommodations approved by DSS. Requests for other accommodations may be denied.
- Award grades appropriate to the level of the student’s demonstration of mastery of material, including failing a student who does not perform to passing standards.
Faculty members do not have the right to:
- Refuse to provide an approved accommodation for a documented disability, unless it compromises an essential standard of the course. In this case, the faculty member should communicate with DSS and the student in order to discuss alternative accommodations that may be appropriate.
- Challenge the legitimacy of a student’s disability.
- Review a student’s documentation, including diagnostic data.
Faculty members are responsible for:
- Providing handouts, videos, and other course materials in accessible formats upon request.
- Providing requested accommodations and academic adjustments to students who have documented disabilities in a timely manner.
- Implementing best practices in teaching to reach a diversity of learners.
- Sharing information on how students can request an accommodation. (Instructors will find it useful to include a statement on their syllabus which directs students with disabilities about the steps they need to take to receive classroom accommodations.)
- Having an awareness of campus resources available for students and faculty.
- Understanding university/OAR procedures for implementing accommodations.
- Maintaining appropriate confidentiality of records concerning students with disabilities, except when disclosure is required by law or authorized by the student.
TEACHING STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
Our colleagues at NC State University have given permission to share the following resources developed for faculty.
CREATING AN INCLUSIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
It is suggested that faculty help normalize the accommodation process and create an inclusive learning environment by announcing during the first class meeting that all students with documented disabilities are invited to meet during office hours to discuss accommodation needs and implementation. This confidential discussion should lead to an understanding between the faculty member and student as to how the academic adjustments will fit into the curriculum.
Universal Design of Instruction
Information adapted from DO-IT at the University of Washington
Universal Design (UD) means that rather than designing your facility and services for the average user, you design them for people with a broad range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics — people with a variety of ages, reading abilities, learning styles, languages, cultures, etc. Universal Design of Instruction (UDI) is the process of designing curricula that enable all students to gain knowledge and skills for learning. UDI provides supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all. Instructors should remain mindful of UD and adopt practices that respect diversity and inclusiveness, including:
Promoting an inclusive class climate
Encourage the sharing of multiple perspectives by demonstrating and demanding mutual respect. Employ teaching methods and materials that are motivating and relevant to students with diverse characteristics. Instructors should make every effort to be approachable and available to students by welcoming questions outside of class and during regular office hours.
Ensuring physical access, usability, and safety
Assure that activities, materials, and equipment are physically accessible to and usable by all students and that all potential student characteristics are addressed in safety considerations. Instructors should consider arranging instructional spaces to maximize inclusion and comfort, while also remaining mindful of student safety.
Employing a variety of delivery methods
Consider using multiple, accessible instructional methods, such as lectures, collaborative learning options, hands-on activities, internet-based communications, educational software, fieldwork, etc. Utilize visual aids that are large, bold, and uncluttered; provide instructions both orally and in printed form. Provide feedback (or arrange for peer feedback) so that work can be improved.
Incorporating accessible information resources and instructional materials
Assure that course materials, notes, and other information resources are flexible and accessible to all students. By preparing a syllabus and selecting texts early, students have the option to begin reading materials early or coordinate their conversion into an alternative format.
Regularly assess student progress using multiple, accessible methods and tools. Creating a straightforward grading rubric with clear statements of course expectations, assignment descriptions, and deadlines will minimize student’s misinterpretations. Design tests to reflect the same manner in which you teach (i.e. assure that a test measures what students have learned, not their ability to adapt to a new style of presentation).
For additional on how to modify your course to better reflect the principles of Universal Design, we encourage you to call the OAR at 973-408-3962
More about Attendance Accommodations
Federal law requires colleges and universities to consider reasonable modification of attendance policies if needed to accommodate a student’s disability. In making this determination, two questions must be answered:
1. Does the student have a documented disability that directly affects his or her ability to attend class on a regular basis? The Office of Accessibility Resources will make this determination based upon a review of documentation from the student’s physician or psychologist and provide verification in the letter of accommodation that students present to their professors.
2. Is attendance an essential part of the class? Would modification of attendance policies result in a fundamental alteration of the curriculum? Instructors make this determination in consultation with the Office of Accessibility Resources.
How to Determine if Attendance is Essential
The following guidelines, based upon guidance from The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), can be used in considering whether attendance is an essential element of a course:
• What does the course description and syllabus say about attendance?
• Is attendance factored into the final course grade?
• What are classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?
• Is the attendance policy consistently applied? (ie., Has the policy been modified for others or any exceptions made to the policy for non-disabled students, such as athletes?)
• Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students, among students?
• Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
• Does the course rely on student participation as a method for learning? • What is the impact on the educational experience of other students in the class?
• Is there content only offered in class?
• Are assignments used as class content when they are due? (e.g. problem sets reviewed as the first lecture on that content)
The accommodation should be provided unless the accommodation significantly compromises the integrity of the course as offered. Requests for accommodations for absences due to a disability should be considered on an individual and course-by-course basis. The Office of Accessibility requires that students with a disability-related need for flexibility in attendance meet with their instructors to discuss the extent to which modification in attendance policies may be reasonable for a particular class. Following this meeting, the student and instructor should have a clear understanding of what accommodations can be made for disability-related absences (e.g., extensions on assignments, make-up exams, no penalty for agreed-upon number of additional absences), and procedures for implementing them, including when/how to contact a professor. Please contact the OAR if you need assistance at any point in this process.
Considerations to Keep in Mind When Implementing a Modified Attendance Policy
• Additional absences are usually small in number.
• Make-up tests or missed work, when reasonable, have short extension windows in most cases.
• Limits are reasonable; stay away from blanket “come-and-go and submit work as you please” policies.
• Students are not required to provide doctor’s notes for absences covered under this accommodation.
• The accommodation does not cover non-disability related illness (such as flu) or other non-medical reasons as to why student is absent.
What Else Can Instructors Do to Support Students with This Accommodation Request?
When a class is missed due to a disability-related absence, it may also be reasonable to allow a make-up or postponement of an assignment (such as a paper, exam, or quiz). In certain courses, it may be appropriate to consider an alternative assignment, reading, or project to make up for missed class discussion or projects. Even if attendance and participation are deemed as fundamental to the learning, instructors might find creative ways to grant this accommodation without compromising the pedagogical integrity of the course. For example, consider a student with a physical disability who needs to miss every other Friday of his first semester writing course because of a biweekly medical procedure. Typically, each Friday of the semester involves small group discussion with students critiquing each other’s’ papers. To make up for the missed class, the student with the attendance accommodation might be required to meet with a tutor in the university writing center to review drafts of papers.
OCCASIONAL EXTENSION OF ASSIGNMENTS ACCOMMODATION
All students are responsible for fulfilling the essential requirements of all courses/programs/degrees, including meeting completion dates for assignments. However, some students have disabilities which can impact their ability to complete assignments by the due date, including, but not limited to, students whose conditions are episodic in nature, conditions that change and result in problematic symptoms, and conditions that require hospitalization.
Most assignments/papers have established due dates which are provided via the syllabus in advance. Students are expected to proactively work on assignments and manage their time with consideration given to potential challenges related to the impact of their disability and other class assignments/coursework requirements. Various factors can impact assignment completion, for example some due dates are announced with little advance notice, or unexpected exacerbation from a disability may occur.
The Office of Accessibility Resources may provide approval for an occasional extension as listed on a student’s Accommodation Letter. Generally, approval for a per extension provides the student up to two additional days to turn in an assignment. Approval for an extension does not automatically apply to all course assignments nor is it intended to be applied retroactively. An extension does not permit unlimited extensions and students remain accountable for all academic activities (assignments, assessments, required readings, etc.) and evaluation standards specified on the syllabus.
It is not reasonable or expected for faculty to fundamentally alter, waive or lower essential course requirements, academic standards, or educational experiences/outcomes when attempting to accommodate extension requests. The OAR may be consulted regarding course-specific adjustments.
Students requiring extensions for all assignments should explore options such as a Course Load Reduction. Unexpected illness or injury, recent diagnosis, onset or change in condition may warrant a withdrawal from a course or when indicated, an incomplete grade.
In consultation with the OAR, instructors often can find reasonable, equivalent options for students to complete essential course requirements without compromising course standards. These options are individually tailored in response to the impact of the disability, the course requirements, and the instructor’s expectations.
The syllabus should include: an explanation of course goals and objectives, the name of the text and any other materials required of each student, the instructor’s office hours, an explanation of how the grade is to be determined, and an explanation of any additional reading, papers, projects and examination which the instructor expects to give or assign. The purpose of advance notice is to allow students to work proactively on their assignments.
Some options that may be considered to assist in the completion of assignments:
- provide the student advance notice of future assignments and expected completion due dates.
- ask student to submit everything completed by the completion deadline with a small extension on what remains to be completed
- assign an incomplete grade to allow an opportunity to fulfill course requirements.
- allow student to complete the remainder of the course through independent study.
Essential Course Requirements
In general, a two-day extension on an assignment would not constitute a fundamental alteration to a course; however, the OAR encourages instructors to consider the following questions for each course when determining if established due dates are essential:
- What does the course description and syllabus indicate regarding late work or completion deadlines?
- Are the due dates arbitrary or are they essential to course requirements?
- Would an extension (or multiple extensions) fundamentally alter the course?
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon timely completion of assignments as an essential method of learning?
- Does timely completion of assignments constitute a significant component of the learning process?
- To what degree does a student’s failure to submit timely completion of assignments constitute a significant loss of the educational experience for other students in the class?
The ultimate decision regarding due dates and the resulting influence extensions would have on the course is at the discretion of the instructor after a comprehensive examination of the essential course requirements. However, when due dates are believed to affect course integrity, instructors must consult with the OAR to determine what course-specific adjustments may be applicable.
- Proactively work on assignments and manage their time with consideration given to potential challenges related to the impact of their disability and other class assignments/coursework requirements.
- As early as possible, request for an extension to the instructor each time one is needed.
- Contact the OAR if there is any concern after discussing the extension arrangement with faculty.
- Submit assignment by new due date.