Lesson 02: Rights and Responsibilities
Lesson 01 | Lesson 02 | Lesson 03
Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Distance Learning Course
SUBJECT: Accommodations 2: RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The purpose of this lesson is to increase your awareness of the RIGHTS
AND RESPONSIBILITIES of the FACULTY, the STUDENT WITH A DISABILITY,
and the INSTITUTION in relation to persons with disabilities taking
courses at postsecondary institutions.
By reflecting on YOUR own course while reading the LESSON CONTENT, you
will be guided to consider possible modifications to your course. By
considering and responding to the QUESTIONS for discussion, you will
develop an awareness of the shared responsibilities of faculty,
students, and staff, and the teamwork essential to finding creative
accommodations to meet these responsibilities.
Question to REFLECT upon while reading the CONTENT
In what ways does YOUR selected course meet your RESPONSIBILITY as the
faculty member for a person with one or more disabilities?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990 PROHIBIT discrimination against persons with
disabilities and mandate the provision of reasonable accommodations to
ensure access to programs and services. REASONABLE accommodations may
include, but are not limited to, redesigning equipment, assigning
aides, providing written communication in alternative formats,
modifying tests, redesigning services to accessible locations,
altering existing facilities, and building new facilities. Reasonable
accommodations do not include personal devices such as hearing aids,
wheelchairs, and glasses. A "person with a disability" means "any
person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially
limits one or more major life activities including walking, seeing,
hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working; has a record of
such impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment."
EXAMPLES of disabilities that can impact a student in postsecondary
education include, but are not limited to, AIDS, cancer, Cerebral
Palsy, Diabetes, Epilepsy, head injuries, hearing impairments,
learning disabilities, loss of limbs, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular
Dystrophy, psychiatric disorders, speech impairments, spinal cord
injuries, and visual impairments.
Many of the conditions listed may LIMIT individuals' abilities to
perform specific life tasks. Some of these conditions are visible,
while other conditions, such as learning or psychiatric disabilities,
are "invisible." Individuals with the same diagnosis or label may
present a range of symptoms and functional limitations. For example,
an individual with Cerebral Palsy may need to use a wheelchair, may be
unable to speak, and may require a personal assistant for self
care. Another person with Cerebral Palsy may walk with a cane and
manage all personal care tasks and communication
independently. Likewise, an individual with a learning disability may
have difficulties with reading, writing, math and/or processing verbal
information. Clearly, each individual has UNIQUE NEEDS in
postsecondary education settings. In all cases, the institution has a
responsibility to provide program access to qualified students with
The DESIGN of a product, environment, or service that is flexible and
meets the needs of a wide range of users can eliminate or minimize the
need for specific accommodations for a person with a disability. [In
contrast, a mismatch between the individual with a disability and the
environment, attitudes, or society can create or exacerbate barriers.]
For example, an individual with a mobility impairment may fully
participate in most life activities if the buildings, transportation,
and facilities he uses are wheelchair accessible. However, when he
cannot accept a job or attend a class because the work site or
classroom environment is inaccessible, he is being excluded as a
consequence of an architectural barrier that prohibits
access. Similarly, captioning on videotapes eliminates the need for an
accommodation for a deaf student.
Accommodating students with disabilities in higher education is a
SHARED RESPONSIBILITY. Faculty and administrators, students, and
disabled student services staff must work together to coordinate
reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities who request
support. Coordinated efforts and support from departmental,
administrative, facilities, and other student service personnel can
also enhance the overall accessibility of the postsecondary learning
environment for students with disabilities.
FACULTY, ADMINISTRATORS, TEACHING ASSISTANTS, AND STAFF
As an EDUCATOR, your efforts can result in greater academic and career
success for the students you serve. Knowledge of legal issues,
accommodation strategies, and campus resources for students with
disabilities can facilitate this success. Studies show that faculty
members who are familiar with accommodation strategies are better
prepared to make arrangements to ensure that students with
disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in their
programs. In addition, faculty and staff who have had interactions
with students with disabilities generally have more positive attitudes
about working with these students.
DISABLED STUDENT SERVICES PROFESSIONALS
The services on campus designed to support students with disabilities
are also available to help faculty. The DISABLED STUDENT SERVICES
OFFICE on your campus is a key resource when working with students
with disabilities. It is typically the responsibility of disabled
students services staff to:
* Maintain confidential records of the student's disability.
* Recommend and coordinate accommodations (for example, sign language
interpreters, Braille documents).
* Arrange special equipment (e.g., adaptive technology, assistive
* Provide other resources/referrals for students with disabilities
(e.g., adaptive technology specialists, testing centers, counseling).
Staff should also be able to answer questions and provide details
about policies and procedures and legal and compliance issues related
to meeting the needs of students with disabilities at your campus.
THE STUDENT WITH A DISABILITY
The STUDENT WITH A DISABILITY is the best source of information
regarding his or her academic needs. Generally, students who require
accommodations in postsecondary education are responsible for
DISCLOSING their disabilities, REGISTERING with the disabled student
services office following the procedures at their campus, and
REQUESTING ACCOMMODATIONS with each instructor. The need for
accommodations depends on the students' abilities and the course
requirements. Ultimately, a student with a disability requires
alternative arrangements only when faced with a task that requires
skill that his disability precludes.
If a student informs you that she has a disability and would like to
arrange for academic accommodations, you may ask which course or
program requirements are expected to be problematic and which
strategies and campus resources might help to overcome barriers.
Many accommodations are simple, creative alternatives to traditional
ways of doing things. Sometimes, an effective solution can be found by
thinking creatively about how the learning environment can be
Here are some general suggestions for modifying the learning
environment to make your class more accessible:
* Add a statement to your syllabus inviting students who have
disabilities to discuss their needs and accommodation strategies with
you. An example of such a statement is, "If you have a documented
disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact
me as soon as possible."
* Select course materials early so that they can be procured in
appropriate formats in a timely manner.
* Ask students about successful accommodations they have used in the
* Use materials that are available in an electronic format.
* Find alternative methods of administering tests and testing
comprehension of a subject.
* Use the disabled student services available on your campus as a
Faculty, administrators, students with disabilities, and other key
personnel can also WORK TOGETHER to develop campus and departmental
plans for improving the instructional climate and access for students
with disabilities. If we continue to take time to think about how to
make our programs and courses accessible to all students we'll be
better prepared to overcome current and future academic challenges.
The law PROHIBITS discrimination against persons with disabilities and
mandates the provision of reasonable accommodations to ensure access
to programs and services. Accommodating students with disabilities in
higher education is a SHARED RESPONSIBILITY. You the faculty, the
student with a disability who requests support, and the disabled
student services staff must work together as a team to coordinate
reasonable accommodations. General accommodations presented in this
lesson are simple, creative alternatives to traditional ways of doing
QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION
SEND an email message to the group, with at least one response to the question:
In your own course, how might you encourage students with disabilities
to talk with you about their accommodations?
Your email SUBJECT line should read: Accommodations 2: RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES.
You can read answers to frequently asked questions, explore case
studies, or access additional resources at:
(c) 2001 DO-IT. Permission is granted to copy material in this email
for educational, non-commercial purposes provided the source is
acknowledged. Contact DO-IT at 1-206-685-DOIT (3648), or