What are the laws mandating academic accommodations for students with disabilities?
The first federal civil rights legislation for people with disabilities was Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (usually just called section 504). This law describes specific protections from discrimination for people with disabilities as well as outlines appropriate and reasonable services for students with disabilities in postsecondary education, e.g., academic accommodations, auxiliary aids, etc. In 1990, Congress passed a second law known as The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law added further support to Section 504 and set in place additional protections from discrimination for people with disabilities in such areas as employment, public transportation, public communication, systems and facility accessibility. Additionally, Washington State passed a state law in 1994 that is referred to as The Core Services Bill (House Bill 2327) . This law specifies 16 different types of accommodations that college students with disabilities should be offered if supported by a documented disability related need. The Center for Disability Services plays an active role in ensuring that the College programs and facilities are in compliance with the above stated laws.
What Are Academic Accommodations?
Academic accommodations, sometimes referred to as "Academic Adjustments," are services that are put in place to give students with disabilities equal access to education. Accommodations are individualized to each student, and are based on the way their disability impacts them academically. Examples of types of accommodations include but are not limited to: notetaking services, text in alternative format, Sign Language interpreters, use of adjustable chairs or adaptive technology, large print materials, and exam accommodations including additional time or the use of a computer. View an Overview of Accommodations and how you can help implement these in your classroom.
What is the Instructor's Role in the Provision of Accommodations?
The provision of academic accommodations is a team effort between the student, the instructor, and the CDS office. The CDS office writes an individualized "Faculty Letter" for each student that is directed towards instructors and describes the academic accommodations that have been approved for that student. It is the student's choice as well as their responsibility to present this letter to their instructors. However, if any accommodations are needed from the instructor, they must provide the instructor with a copy of their faculty letter. Students needing their text in alternative format may need to gather information from their instructors prior to the beginning of the quarter in order to assure that accommodations can be implemented before the quarter begins. In some instances, accommodations, such as the use of an adjustable chair in class, may be put in place for a student without involving the instructor.
It is helpful if instructors include a statement in their course syllabi such as:
"If you are working with the Center for Disability Services office on campus, or have a disability that impacts you academically please contact me as soon as possible to discuss academic accommodations."
This statement will serve as a reminder for students already receiving services, and lets other students in the class know that there is an office where they can go if they need accommodations. If a student who is not receiving services approaches you regarding accommodations, please refer them to the CDS office as soon as possible so we can explain documentation requirements and the process for establishing services through the CDS office.
What about Confidentiality?
Information regarding a student's disability must be kept confidential. Simply sharing the fact that a student receives services through the Center for Disability Services office discloses the fact that they have a disability. Information regarding a student receiving services, or the types of services provided, should not be shared with anyone else on campus (unless their assistance is needed to implement their accommodations and it is necessary for them to have the information). Some students may choose to disclose specifics in regard to their disability, while others may choose not to provide that information. Students are not required to disclose specifics regarding their disability, so please respect their privacy. Since any student receiving services through CDS must provide documentation regarding their disability, they have already disclosed the specifics to the appropriate place on campus. If you need to discuss specifics related to the student's accommodations throughout the quarter please hold the discussion privately rather than in front of other students. Discussing a students' exam accommodations in front of other students also breaks their confidentiality. Confidentiality regarding student's information including disability related information is covered under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) or WAC 478-140.
Do I have the right to know what type of disability a student has?
No – students are not required to disclose their disability to you, and the CDS office may not be able to discuss specifics regarding the student's disability. However, the CDS office can inform you if the student is working with the CDS office and can discuss whether or not accommodations are appropriate for the student. If you have a student in your class who is experiencing difficulties or is displaying disruptive or inappropriate behavior that you feel may be related to a disability, please contact the CDS office to discuss possible solutions.
What if I disagree with the academic accommodations recommended for the student?
Accommodations may not be considered reasonable if they would "fundamentally alter the nature of the course or program curriculum." Please note that students' accommodations are legally mandated, and therefore an accommodation should not be denied without first consulting with the Center for Disability Services. Because many accommodations are put into place before the quarter begins, we are not always aware of the nature of the course. Therefore, if you feel that an accommodation would fundamentally alter the curriculum, please contact the CDS Director to discuss other modifications that may work for both you and the student.
Are students who receive academic accommodations receiving special privileges?
No, the implementation of accommodations does not give students special privileges and should not be viewed as such. Students with disabilities are given accommodations in order to help them overcome barriers caused by their disability that may prevent them from learning. These accommodations level the playing field and provide access, but do not guarantee success. Students with disabilities have the same academic expectation as other students. It is not expected or appropriate for an instructor to lower their standards of grading or coursework to allow a student with a disability to receive a passing grade.
What if I am unsure of how to handle a situation with a student with a disability?
If possible, try to discuss the matter with the student since they are the best source of information regarding their disability. However, be sure to maintain confidentiality during the conversation. Discreetly requesting an office visit with the student would be a good idea. If you are still unsure of how to handle the situation, contact the CDS Director. The CDS office is here for you just as much as for the student.
Who pays for accommodations?
Everett Community College is legally mandated to provide appropriate accommodations at no cost to the student. The College cannot place a limit on expenditures for auxiliary aids or services or refuse to provide the service if it is too costly or if the College believes that other providers of these services exist.
What are my responsibilities concerning field trips?
Students with disabilities are entitled to participate in field trips or other events and accommodations must be offered to the student. Limited funding from the state is provided; however, it is not enough to cover all expenses. If Everett Community College provides transportation for other students on the field trip, you must also offer accessible transportation for students with disabilities. The student has the right to accept or refuse the offer. If the transportation is not offered by Everett Community College, the CDS office may still be able to arrange accessible transportation for the student. In any event, please notify the CDS office of the field trip well in advance so that accessible transportation can be arranged.
There is a student in my class whom I believe may have a disability, but they have not brought me a faculty letter. What should I do?
You may find it helpful to make the following announcement during the first class session: "Any student who feels that he or she may need an accommodation for any type of disability should make an appointment to see me during my office hours." This approach preserves the student's privacy and also indicates that the instructor is willing to provide assistance.
If a student does not approach you after making this announcement, you can still meet with the student in the privacy of an office visit to discuss their performance in your class the same as you would with any other student having difficulties. At this point, you can discuss some of the difficulties the student is having and brainstorm possible solutions. The student may disclose that they have a disability if they feel their academic performance is disability-related. In this case, you should refer them to the CDS office. If the student does not mention a disability, it is best to focus on possible solutions or study strategies that may help them succeed in your class.
I have a student in an online class who needs extra time on a test. Can they still use Canvas?
Yes! Please contact eLearning for instructions on how to set this up.