What is my responsibility in accommodating students with disabilities?

Academic departments (and the individual faculty members) are responsible for ensuring that their programs are accessible to students with a disability. This responsibility covers physical access to the location where the activity will occur and appropriate accommodations necessary in the format or delivery of information, making it accessible to an individual with a disability. The College has procedures in place to deal with situations that might arise in the area of degree plan accommodations and substitutions of classes. Guidelines requiring access come directly from the ADA.

How will I know if there are individuals with a disability needing accommodation in my class?

Students who are eligible for accommodations will be given an accommodation letter from the Counselor of the Office of Disability Services. The letter will state the accommodations the student might need in the class. It is the responsibility of the student to discuss those accommodations with the instructor.

You may state in your syllabus that BC offers accommodations for students with a disability through The Office of Disability Services. Request that individuals requiring accommodations contact you after class or during office hours. Students who have a disability and would like classroom accommodations must register with the Office of Disability Services, Phil Robertson, located in the Counseling and Testing Department. Instructors are not able to provide accommodations until the proper process has been followed.

Do I have to give accommodations to a student just because they ask for one? Is the letter necessary to give accommodations?

An instructor is not obligated to give accommodations to a student without a formal request. The request proves that documentation of the disability is on file and the accommodations are appropriate. Giving students accommodations without proper documentation on file may seem like a nice thing to do for a student but can lead to a precedent being set by the instructor that could cause future difficulties.

How do I know that the accommodation the student has requested is appropriate and legitimate?

If a student presents an Accommodation Request letter, prepared by the ODS, the instructor can be assured the student has provided proof of a disability under the legal definition of the word. The accommodations requested will have legitimacy in relation to the student's disability.

Can I be sure I am doing what is necessary to provide academic access?

The most successful way to ensure academic access is to discuss the student's needs with them. No two students with disabilities are alike. A personal conference with the student to discuss both the course demands and the student's accommodations is best way to provide both parties with a satisfactory outcome. It is a good idea to put into writing what you and the student agree will be done so that there can be no confusion. If you have questions as to why the student needs a particular accommodation, feel free to call the Counselor of the ODS. Remember, some things cannot be discussed with faculty without the student's written permission and anything discussed must be kept confident.

Suppose I don't agree with the accommodation in the exact way it is requested?

There are usually several ways to ensure that a student's accommodations and equal access is met. Federal law requires a reasonable accommodation. If there is another way to make the accommodation and ensure equal access you have complied with the law. It is advisable to discuss the changes considered with both the Counselor of ODS and the student. It is not advisable to make changes without consent of the student. If the objection has to do with the use of an assistive device necessary to compensate for a disability (digital recorder, etc.), federal law may require that it be allowed.

Am I being asked to compromise academic standards or give the student with a disability an unfair advantage?

No. If the existence of the disability has been verified, the accommodation should have the purpose of providing an equal opportunity to the student, in effect starting the student on equal footing with others. To compromise standards or modify the requirements would not assist the student to acquire a competitive degree.

The student with a disability should fulfill all the essential course-related requirements; however, altering the format, substituting an equivalent requirement, or changing the method of meeting requirements may provide the student a more equitable chance at success. 

By making certain accommodations for students with disabilities, am I discriminating against other students who might also profit by such allowances as extended time for tests, etc.?

Technically, it may appear that preferential treatment is being given to students with disabilities; however, the objective of the legal requirement is to help the student compensate for a life function which is not the same as that of other students in the class. Through the accommodation there is an attempt to provide the student with the disability the same opportunity that other class members have without special measures. The law allows, and in fact requires, that accommodations be met.

Where do I go for assistance in providing accommodations?

The ODS Counselor can provide information and assistance in dealing with many of the concerns regarding accommodating students. While the office is not budgeted to fund in-class aides or assistance, information on creative ways to accommodate students can be provided. Information about how other institutions have solved access problem is available.

Exactly what does the law say in regards to academic auxiliary aids or adaptations?

Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-112 and subsequent regulations) have several sections which deal specifically with academic accommodations. Part 104.43, Treatment of Students, states: 

No qualified handicapped student shall, on the basis of handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjects to discrimination under any academic, research, occupational training,...counseling,.. physical education,...or other postsecondary education program or activity. The regulations further state that students must be educated in the most integrated setting appropriate to the individual's needs.

Part 104.44, Modification of Requirements, states that modifications must be made to academic requirements to ensure that they do not discriminate against a qualified student with a disability.

Academic requirements which can be demonstrated to be essential to the program of instruction being pursued [i.e. to the degree] or to any directly related licensing requirements are not considered discriminatory. Modifications such as changes in the length of time permitted for the completion of degree requirements, substitution of specific courses required for the completion of degree requirements, and adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted may be necessary.

The regulations further state that tape recorders, guide dogs, braillers, interpreters, note takers, or other aids or adaptations which may be necessary to provide equality of access may not be prohibited from the classroom. Course examinations or other evaluations must be provided by methods or in formats which will best ensure that the results of the evaluation represent the student's achievement in the course, rather than reflecting the impairment.

The regulations state that auxiliary aids or adaptations must be provided to ensure participation of students with impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills in classroom instruction or to ensure that such students are able to benefit from the instruction. These may include taped textbooks, readers, interpreters, note takers, typewritten transcripts, adapted equipment, or other effective methods of making classroom presentations accessible to the student.

The institution has flexibility in choosing the methods by which the aids will be supplied and can opt to use resources already available through state vocational rehabilitation agencies, private charitable organizations, textbook taping services, etc. Within the classroom, partnering the student with a classmate for lab situations and using volunteer note takers, etc., are legitimate methods of making accommodation. It is not necessary to provide attendants, individually prescribed devices, or readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature.

Can faculty refer students for assistance?

Brazosport College faculty can often see the results of learning problems experienced by students in their classrooms. Sometimes a student with a diagnosed disability (physical, psychological or learning) does not know about ODS or that services can provided. Sometimes, however, especially in the case of a learning disability, the student has not been diagnosed. For example, in the case of returning students, learning problems could have been persistent in their academic backgrounds but general knowledge about learning disabilities is a relatively recent development and the reason for their learning problems has not been identified. In all these cases, the Brazosport College can make a referral to the ADA. Brazosport College does not provide diagnostic testing, but there are referrals to both state and private agencies that might assist.

What is the college's policy on accommodations for individuals with a disability?

In accordance with Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Brazosport College endeavors to make reasonable adjustments in its policies, practices, services and facilities to ensure equal opportunity for qualified persons with disabilities to participate in all educational programs and activities.