- What are the obligations of faculty members to students with disabilities?
- What assurances do faculty members have that the accommodations approved by the SSD Office are reasonable and appropriate?
- What is “a volunteer student note-taker” and how are note-takers recruited?
- What is meant by “a testing site with limited distractions” and how are arrangements to be made for such an accommodation?
- Do students with disabilities have the right to record class lectures?
- Under what circumstances is a student with a disability entitled to some latitude with regard to class attendance?
According to the Academic Policy Statement 811006—Disabled Student Policy, faculty members are obligated to implement and/or facilitate the accommodations indicated on the Accommodation Letters issued by the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), unless doing so would result in a fundamental or substantial alteration of essential course requirements. In the latter event, faculty members are responsible for engaging in an interactive process with the student and SSD to determine an appropriate, alternative solution. Faculty members are also required to present information on SSD services in both oral and written form to their students. A sample statement for course syllabi would read:
“Any student with a disability that impairs their academic performance should apply for accommodations with the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Office located in the Lee Drain Annex (Huntsville campus), telephone 936-294-3512 and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on the Procedure to Request Services and the General Documentation Guidelines is available from the SSD webpage.”
Faculty members are advised to refer students to the SSD Office in any of the following circumstances: a student is requesting disability accommodations without an accommodation form from SSD or is seeking a specific accommodation that is not indicated on the form; or the faculty member suspects that the student has a disability that impairs his/her performance in the classroom. In the event that an instructor has a question or concern regarding a particular accommodation or disability services, in general, he/she is encouraged to contact the SSD Director at the SSD Office located in the Lee Drain Annex, extension 4-3512 (voice 936-294-3512, TDD 936-294-3786).
The SSD Office thoroughly vets accommodation requests through its intake process. In the course of this process, the student is required to submit current medical or psycho-educational documentation of his/her disability. The documentation must be the work product of a licensed professional who is qualified to diagnose the disability in question, and it must present compelling evidence of a substantially limiting impairment. Decisions regarding accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis, as supported by the student's documentation and educational needs. The SSD staff makes every reasonable effort to observe the requirements of university policy and federal law and to maintain the standards of best practice recognized in the disability field in higher education.
A volunteer student note-taker is a student enrolled in and regularly attending the course in question who is willing to provide copies of his/her lecture notes for use by the student with the disability. This accommodation is often approved for students with disabilities that impair their handwriting, sensory and/or motor functioning, or cognitive processing. The instructor is requested to assist the accommodated student in discreetly recruiting volunteer(s) for this purpose from the class. This process of recruitment may be accomplished in any of several ways. The instructor will typically make an announcement or send an e-mail or Blackboard posting to the class, requesting, for example, that “volunteers please contact the instructor if they would be willing to provide copies of their lecture notes for another student in the class” (not to be identified by name in the announcement for reasons of confidentiality). Alternatively, the instructor may request the assistance of a particular student known to be a good note-taker. Once a volunteer has been identified, the instructor is requested to serve as the conduit of notes or, with the permission of the accommodated student, to facilitate a connection between the student and the volunteer note-taker. In the event that multiple volunteers are identified, the accommodated student may opt to receive copies of notes from two or more note-takers. It is recommended that the instructor and the accommodated student arrive at a mutual understanding regarding the specific method of recruiting note-takers, as well as arrangements for the copying and distribution of notes. The SSD Office has free NCR note-taking paper available for this purpose. In the event that a volunteer is not available, the student and instructor are encouraged to contact the SSD Director (extension 4-3512). Instructors also have the option of providing copies of their own lecture notes to students with disabilities.
A testing site with limited distractions is a private room or office (separate from the classroom) that is relatively free of ambient noise and social interaction and furnished with adequate lighting and desk space. SSD will approve this accommodation for students whose disabilities render them especially vulnerable to distractions in a testing situation. With regard to the identification of a limited-distractions test site, SSD requests that the instructor first attempt to locate an appropriate venue for the accommodated student in the academic building or department in which the class is held and to make the necessary proctoring arrangements (e.g., with a departmental teaching assistant or support staff). In the event that an appropriate venue is not available and/or proctoring arrangements cannot be made in the academic department, the Services for Students with Disabilities Office located in the Lee Drain Annex building (telephone 936-294-3512) may serve as the alternative testing venue with advance notification on the part of the student and instructor. For information on the SSD's testing procedures, as well as the testing arrangements at The Woodlands Center, see Testing Procedures for Accommodated Exams on the SSD home page.
Note: A hallway or corridor in an academic building is not considered to be an appropriate venue for the purposes of limited-distractions testing.
If the student has been approved by the SSD Office to record lectures, he/she is entitled to do so as per university policy and federal law. The Code of Federal Regulations to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (34 CFR, 104.44b) specifically prohibits recipient institutions from banning the use of tape recorders on the part of handicapped students in the classroom. This accommodation is typically approved for students with disabilities that impair their handwriting, sensory and/or motor functioning, or cognitive processing. In the event that a faculty member has a concern about the student's use of recorded lecture material, he/she is encouraged to contact the SSD Director (extension 4-3512). The SSD Director will assist the student and instructor in developing an agreement, whereby the student will provide written assurances that he/she will not duplicate or distribute the recordings and will use them only for study purposes.
Within certain limits, the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) may approve an accommodation for additional absences on the part of students with documented impairments that affect their classroom attendance. An accommodation for absences is generally approved in cases in which a student has a documented history of recurrent illness due to a disability and/or a current, disability-related need to receive medical services that may conflict with his/her academic schedule. This accommodation is contingent on the nature and purpose of the academic course in question, however, and is therefore applied on a course-by-course basis. In courses with a significant training, experiential, or performance component that is deemed essential to the goals and objectives of the course (e.g., an internship or practicum, student teaching, performing arts courses, and science labs), such an accommodation may not be applicable (or, if so, only to a very limited degree, as per the discretion of the instructor). Moreover, the time constraints of the mini-mester and Summer sessions will necessarily limit the extent of this accommodation. In most standard, lecture courses, however, it is expected that students approved for this accommodation will be afforded some latitude with regard to the instructor's attendance policy and, as a result, will not be penalized for disability-related absences, per se. The extent of such latitude is generally left to the discretion of the instructor. If, in the instructor's judgment, the number of absences accrued by a student with a disability has significantly compromised the educational process and/or effectively precluded the student from completing the essential requirements of the course, the instructor is advised to recommend a withdrawal or course incomplete. During periods of absence, students are responsible for maintaining contact with their instructors, if at all possible, and requesting arrangements for make-up exams and assignments, as appropriate. It should be noted that an accommodation for disability-related absences does not absolve the student of his/her responsibility for meeting the essential requirements of the course.
Students seeking an accommodation for disability-related absences are required to provide timely notification of their request to SSD and to present current documentation of a mental or physical impairment that affects their ability to attend class. SSD is not in a position to grant a retroactive accommodation for past absences. For this reason, students with a documented history of disability-related absenteeism are advised to register with SSD prior to their enrollment in classes. The SSD Director is available to consult with students and faculty members regarding the aforementioned issues. The SSD Director may be reached at the SSD Office located in the Lee Drain Annex building (next to Farrington) (telephone 936-294-3512, TDD 936-294-3786).
Students approved for this accommodation are responsible for obtaining Letters of Accommodation (LOA's) from SSD each semester and presenting such forms or letters to their instructors.