Accessibility Services FAQs for Faculty
Please know that an Accessibility Services Counselor is available to answer any specific questions or clarify any questions herein. You may call (678) 839-6428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch with the appropriate party.
An individual with a disability is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990 and the Amendments Act of 2008) as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”
Major life activities include: performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
Major bodily functions include: functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or services that receive federal assistance. Section 504 applies to Pre-K through high school, as well as private and public colleges.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, Title II, states that “public entities are not required to take actions that would result in undue financial or administrative burdens. They are required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination, unless they can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program or activity being provided.”
Title II covers all activities of state and local governments.
More students with disabilities are attending college. There is increased awareness and reduced stigma. Changes in the law in 2008 (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act) mean more students are eligible for services.
Accessibility Services work on behalf of the school and students to:
- Collect documentation meeting USGBOR guidelines (available in the USG Academic and Student Affairs Handbook) verifying a student’s diagnosis and functional impact.
- Discuss needs and prepare the Student Accommodation Report that outlines the accommodations for which students are entitled.
- Provide support services and programming to promote student success, retention, and progression towards graduation.
- Provide support for faculty.
- Meet with students and faculty together if needed to facilitate communication and provide the best possible educational outcome for the student.
Disabilities are categorized into the following:
- Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)
- Hearing impairment
- Visual impairment
- Learning disorders and/or acquired brain injury
- Physical and/or medical
- Temporary injury/illness
Accessibility Services counselors determine appropriate accommodations and create the Student Accommodation Report (SAR) that outlines the accommodations. These are licensed professional counselors who are knowledgeable concerning the impact of various disabilities and best practices for accommodating students in a college setting.
They are also knowledgeable concerning the USGBOR guidelines for documenting and accommodating various disabilities. They regularly attend trainings and workshops provided by professional organizations and others to remain current and well informed.
The student must self-identify and take action to receive accommodations:
- The student first provides documentation to Accessibility Services that meets USGBOR guidelines. Evaluations are at the student’s expense.
- Next, the student meets with his/her counselor and the Student Accommodation Report (SAR) is created and emailed to the student. The SAR has the following safety features: locked PDF, password protection, and a water mark.
- The student then emails the SAR to the instructors for the courses for which he/she wishes to utilize any or all accommodations.
- Note: Students can choose which accommodations to use on a class-by-class and case-by-case basis.
- In the email, the student indicates that he/she will follow up with a discussion to discuss accommodations.
- Note: Students ARE NOT entitled to accommodations through simply emailing the report. They MUST discuss accommodations in person, by phone, or by email.
The University System of Georgia created three Regents Centers for Learning Disorders (RCLD) to help provide services to students with learning disorders, such as learning disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, acquired brain injury, psychological disorders, and related conditions. We provide specialized assessments for these students, serve as a resource in identifying appropriate accommodations to meet their educational needs, and conduct research to increase knowledge about these disorders.
Accessibility Services does not provide higher level accommodations (such as grammar/spell check, calculator, or word/formula banks) without recommendation from the RCLD at Georgia State. Core math substitutions and foreign language substitutions for students with learning disorders must also be approved through the RCLD.
Work with Accessibility Services to meet the student’s needs by:
- Implementing the accommodations approved by Accessibility Services. Per the 2013 Office of Civil Rights (OCR) letter to Kennesaw State University, faculty cannot refuse to implement approved accommodations.
- Asking questions about the accommodations listed on the SAR if you have concerns.
- Suggesting accommodations to the student’s accessibility counselor that may meet needs specific to a course.
- Sharing with the student’s accessibility counselor when you see troubling behavior and/or academic distress.
- Being willing, to a reasonable degree, to assist the student outside of class.
- Ensuring students know about Accessibility Services. Faculty members are expected to refer students who self-disclose a disability. Per North v. Widener University, 2012, a student disclosing disability to faculty equals the student disclosing to the college. The word “disability” is not necessary to constitute disclosure.
You do not have to tolerate inappropriate behavior from students – professional standards are not waived, even for disability (Halpern v. Wake Forest University Health Sciences, 2012). You are also not expected to be a mind reader! Students must express their needs and ask questions.
You are not required to do anything. It is the student’s responsibility to complete the steps to obtain accommodations. Or you can reply to the email inquiring when the student wishes to meet to discuss. Or you can contact the accessibility counselor listed at the top of the SAR so that they can contact the student.
Note: It is best to be consistent in your approach and choose one option that you will use with every student in the same situation. Also, please make sure the SAR provided is for the correct semester. Students are expected to request a SAR for each semester.
Review the Common Language for Course Syllabi. Please check back each semester for the correct statement.
You may not inquire concerning a diagnosis. The SAR will contain a brief description explaining the functional impact on the classroom and learning, but it does NOT provide a diagnosis. Many students will choose to share more information than is provided on the SAR, but they are not required to share this information with you in order to receive accommodations.
The law requires that they share diagnosis with only one identified campus entity. In the USG system, the identified office is Accessibility Services. If you feel you need more information, consider the following:
- Ask the student if there is anything he/she needs to be successful in your class or another similar open-ended question.
- You may contact the student’s accessibility counselor. The counselor may provide additional insight into the student’s functional impact beyond the brief statement on the SAR if you have questions or concerns. The counselor may also be able to provide strategies other faculty members used successfully with the particular student in the past.
You may have a student with an obvious disability who talks to you about accommodations. Please do not accommodate the student without a SAR.
Instead refer the student to Accessibility Services. Why, you ask?
- It is discriminatory to accommodate someone with a visible disability when you would not, or could not, do so for someone with a hidden disability.
- The Accessibility Services Office holds the responsibility for appropriately documenting the disability and limitations and establishing the accommodations based on this information.
Even if you believe the accommodation would be appropriate, do not provide additional accommodations without contacting the student’s Accessibility Services counselor. In this case the counselor will contact the student and set up a meeting to discuss the possible accommodation. If the accommodation meets the legal requirements, it may be approved and an updated SAR will be created.
For a few reasons:
- Providing this additional help is not an actual accommodation unless it is included on the SAR.
- The student may need this same accommodation in other courses, which means the updated SAR is needed.
- Accessibility Services Counselors are knowledgeable about the impacts of disabilities and determining what is needed to provide access, without hindering the student.
- It sets a precedent that other instructors are then legally bound to provide as well.
- You must provide the accommodations listed on the SAR.
- If you have an issue, please do not say so to the student.
- You are welcome to call the student's Accessibility Services counselor and discuss your concerns. If appropriate, the counselor will discuss with the student to determine if any changes are needed.
An example of this situation would be giving a student who is entitled to time-and-a-half on tests a take-home exam to complete overnight (when the rest of the class has to take the test during class). Why you shouldn’t do this…
- This situation creates an unfair advantage for the student with a disability. Lawsuits and OCR cases have been brought by those without a disability who have been treated unfairly in comparison to those with disabilities.
You should ask yourself if you are hindering the student from gaining the full benefit of his/her educational experience. Are you “fundamentally altering the nature of the program"?
PLEASE KNOW, there is a difference between an accommodation (determined and approved by Accessibility Services and implemented as stated on the SAR) and your decision to alter your policies and procedures. If you alter your policies and procedures for a student with a disability, you should be prepared to provide the same opportunity to other students AND it should be clearly stated on your syllabus so all students are aware.
Call the student’s Accessibility Services counselor as listed at the top of the student’s SAR. Please do not try to negotiate accommodations directly with a student.
Each SAR is developed for the individual student. While the format is the same, the content of the report will vary based on the student’s needs. The Accessibility Services Counselor will determine the appropriate accommodations based on the student’s documentation, history, and a clinical interview. Discussion with health care providers and/or family members may also take place to assist in determining the appropriate accommodations. As needed, the Accessibility Services Counselor will have documentation reviewed by the Regents Center for Learning Disorders at Georgia State.
If you have questions or concerns about the accommodations, please contact the student’s Accessibility Services Counselor to discuss. Do not negotiate the accommodations with the student. If any changes are warranted, an updated SAR will be created for the student.
If you assume the teaching responsibilities for a class during a semester, please be sure to announce to the class that any students with disabilities will need to email their SARs to you and follow up with a discussion. Even if the previous instructor shares the SAR and insights about the student with you, you should still meet with the student.
The ADA requires accommodations for process, not content. The question to ask is, “Is there flexibility for process? Can the student gain the necessary information, learn the skill, etc. in a way other than class attendance?” Consider allowing greater weight for other assignments so that those with attendance issues can make up the difference elsewhere.
Consider the following to determine if absences will fundamentally alter a course’s requirements:
- Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method for learning?
- To what degree does the student's failure to attend class constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
- What is the method by which the final course grade is calculated?
Source: Furman University Student Office for Accessibility Services Faculty Guidelines
Accessibility Services will add an “attendance caveat” to a student’s SAR if the student’s situation/diagnosis meets the criteria for a faculty member to consider altering an attendance requirement. The caveat will appear on the SAR as follows:
- Note to Professor: Please discuss your attendance policy and assignment due dates as they pertain to the student’s condition in relation to the pedagogical requirements of the course. Immediate medical attention may not always be required for the student’s condition, but the student will always email you regarding intermittent absences and will supply medical documentation in the event of hospitalization when requesting a modification. Modifications of the attendance policy are always at the discretion of the professor.
Students with chronic medical conditions may experience symptom flares that could interfere with completion of assignments, but would not require a medical office visit. Students are encouraged to talk with their instructors if they anticipate having trouble with completion of assignments. What can you do for all students?
- Be sure your syllabus is very clear and specific.
- Provide the details of an assignment well in advance to allow students with disabilities the opportunity to start early.
- If you decide to allow an extension, be clear concerning the parameters. Extensions should not just be for those who have a disability. Other students may become ill or experience a crisis/emergency as well. Your policy for allowing extensions should be fair to all students.
This situation is very similar to allowing extensions for assignments. You may allow a make-up, but it is not required. Students are encouraged to discuss the possibility of absences while discussing their SAR so that you can plan in advance for this situation. Students, unless unable to do so, should notify their instructors if they will miss an exam or quiz.
Again, please apply your policies fairly, allowing for other students to have the same opportunity as those with a disability.
Students are instructed to schedule their testing at least a week in advance with the Testing Center, and they are told to email their instructors 2-3 days prior to the test to request that the test be sent to the Testing Center. You are not expected to provide this accommodation last minute.
You may tell the student that he/she is required to request this accommodation 2-3 days in advance. You may choose to work with this student to allow testing at the Testing Center. However, be aware of setting a precedent, not just with this student, but with others.
- Be sure when you send a test that you specify the student for whom the test is intended.
- Tests can be scanned, emailed, faxed, or hand delivered to the Testing Center. Avoid campus mail because the test may not arrive in time.
- Notify the Testing Center of any special instructions for testing, such as if using notes, books, or other assistance is allowed.
- Students will note a time limit, usually time-and-a-half or double-time as indicated on the student’s SAR. Test time is never unlimited.
- It is the student’s responsibility to schedule the test with the Testing Center. Scheduling for a student sets a precedent.
- Students needing to test at a time other than when the rest of the class is testing must confirm with the instructor that he/she can test at a different day/time.
- Students in evening classes will need to test during office hours OR test in a location secured by the instructor.
Students who are entitled to extended testing time are also entitled to this accommodation for pop quizzes or any other in-class testing. Pop quizzes create some issues:
- Other students must wait to allow for the student with a disability to finish the quiz. This process singles out the student with a disability.
- Finishing the quiz in the instructor’s class is a possibility but not always possible.
Consider alternative ways to obtain information needed, such as using CourseDen or email to provide quizzes.
As with any accommodation, a student is expected to discuss this accommodation with you. Should a student have an accommodation for a student notetaker, you should ask for a volunteer from the class to be the note taker. DO NOT identify the student with a disability.
Students who, due to the impact of their disability, are not be able to take adequate notes during class are entitled to use Sonocent, a notetaking software on their phone, tablet or laptop. Please see Recording Lectures.
Should the student with a disability have an accommodation for a student notetaker, please take a few minutes to talk with any potential note takers and ask to see a sample of their notes. Email the student's Accessibility Counselor with the name of the note taker and the name of the student with a disability. In the email, indicate that you approve of this note taker.
Your participation in this process is vital to the student’s success. Some students will attempt to secure their own note taker, but you are a much better judge of who would be a competent student note taker.
Be aware that there is a difference between service animals and comfort (AKA emotional support) animals. Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks. You are allowed to ask a student if the animal is a service animal. You can also ask if the animal performs specific tasks to assist the student. Please remember that you may not ask the student if they have a disability. You may ask what services the animal performs. Service animals are allowed in classrooms. We ask that students register their service animals (can only be a dog or miniature horse) with our office. In this case, the animal will have its own UWG ID indicating that it is a service animal.
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are protected by the Fair Housing Act and provide emotional comfort and support. ESAs are allowed in the residence halls (if approved by Housing and Residence Life), but are not allowed in other buildings on campus, including classrooms.
If a student has recording lectures listed as an accommodation, you are expected to allow this accommodation. This accommodation is frequently given because it assists students who have concentration/focus issues, as well as those who may have physical limitations that hinder note taking.
There is an agreement form included in the SAR packet concerning recording lectures. You may also locate the Recording Lectures form on our website. You may ask students to sign this agreement form indicating they understand they can only use the recorded materials for their personal study and will destroy the recorded material when the course is completed.
- Provide instruction in a variety of ways, a multi-sensory approach.
- Make the class syllabus and required texts available by request before the start of the semester. Having required texts ahead of time allows students to obtain materials in alternative formats if needed AND to begin reading.
- Provide as much detail as possible in your syllabus concerning assignments, due dates, and your classroom policies and procedures.
- During your first class, announce that any students with a disability, or those who suspect they have a disability, should contact Accessibility Services. If students have already received an accommodation report from Accessibility Services you will be glad to meet to discuss once you have received the emailed report.
- If possible, choose a textbook with an accompanying study guide.
- Begin class with a review of the last class and an overview of what will be covered that day. At the end of class, summarize the key points.
- Highlight key points and terminology verbally and visually (charts, graphs, PowerPoints).
- Diminish or eliminate auditory or visual distractions.
- Provide assignments both orally and in writing.
- Provide adequate time for questions and discussion.
- Provide timelines and sequential steps for long-term projects.
- Provide study guides and/or review sessions.
- Test the material rather than test-taking savvy; be concise and avoid double negatives.
- Encourage study groups, visits to your office hours, and use of campus support services.
- The Faculty Handbook. It provides a concise overview of the policies and procedures relevant to faculty.
- Utilize our Barriers to Access Reporting Form to allow you to share problems such as broken door openers or other concerns.
- Each SAR contains instructional documents intended to assist both student and faculty in accommodation policies and procedures.
Students with disabilities are encouraged to share their SAR with their advisor. If a student expresses concern over taking the recommended number of hours, be open to discussion with the student and the student’s accessibility counselor.
Some students may need to avoid taking certain subjects (for example math and science) together, and some students may need to avoid evening classes.
List of Sources
- ADA Compliance: Issues in Higher Education 2014
- Disabilities Law 101: What Faculty Need to Know About Student Accommodations AAMC Coalition Webinar Series, 2015
- Furman University Student Office for Accessibility Services Faculty Guidelines