Frequently Asked Questions
Included in this section are common questions asked by postsecondary student services staff and administrators, along with answers to these questions. They provide a few examples of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that may be helpful as you prepare for your presentation. These and additional FAQs can be found in The Student Services Conference Room searchable Knowledge Base at www.washington.edu/doit/Conf/kb.html. You can search the Knowledge Base by student service areas or disability types to find and review frequently asked questions, case studies, and promising practices that may be applicable to your training session.
Recruiting and Admissions
The following Q&As apply to recruiting and admissions offices.
Q Must postsecondary institutions provide accommodations for prospective student visitors or their family members?
A Yes. It is the responsibility of the postsecondary institution to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure that a campus program or event is accessible to a participant with a disability. For example, prospective students and their family members who are visiting campus for a campus preview day have the right to reasonable disability-related accommodations. Visit the Knowledge Base article "How can we create more accessible campus tours?" (www.washington.edu/doit/Conf/articles?167) for a list of items that should be considered to make a campus tour accessible.
Q Should admissions office staff refer all students with disabilities to the disabled student services office?
A You should assist students with disabilities as you would other students. It is their responsibility to disclose information about their disabilities and request accommodations. Some students do not require accommodations or choose not to disclose their disabilities. Other students may have invisible disabilities (such as learning disabilities or health impairments), which may be difficult or even impossible to recognize. It is helpful for you to have information about what services the campus disabled student services office provides should a student request an accommodation, such as a sign language interpreter or materials in an alternate format.
The following Q&As apply to advising services.
Q How can I help a two-year college student transition to a four-year school?
A Fewer students with disabilities attend postsecondary institutions, and of those who do, fewer attend four-year institutions and eventually earn bachelor's degrees than their nondisabled peers. A study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (nces.ed.gov) found that two years after high school, 63% of the students with disabilities had enrolled in some form of postsecondary education, compared to 72% of the students without disabilities. Of those enrolled, 42% of the students with disabilities were in four-year schools, compared to 62% of the students without disabilities. After five years, 53% of the students with disabilities that attained a degree or certificate were still enrolled, compared to 64% of the students without disabilities. Of the students with disabilities, 16% earned a bachelor's degree, and 25% earned an associate's degree or vocational certificate. Of the students without disabilities, 27% attained a bachelor's degree, and 25% earned an associate's degree or vocational certificate.
Many two-year college students with disabilities who have the desire and potential to succeed in a four-year postsecondary program have difficulties making a successful transition.
Encourage two-year students who wish to make this transition to develop a plan for success and use resources available to them. For specific suggestions, consult Moving On: The Two-Four Step (www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/24.html) or view the video (www.washington.edu/doit/Video/24_step.html) by the same title.
Q How can students with disabilities get accommodations for the GRE, MCAT, LSAT, and other standardized graduate or professional entrance exams?
A All national testing services are required by law to provide reasonable accommodations to test takers with disabilities, and most have detailed information on their websites about how to document a disability and request accommodations. However, students must be self-advocates and get all documentation prepared well in advance. For most tests, the testing services request all documentation be mailed at least six weeks prior to the registration deadline to be reviewed for approval of accommodations.
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and Professional Assessments for Beginning Teachers (PRAXIS) tests are all part of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) testing series. Most graduate schools require students to take the GRE or GMAT (business students) exams for entrance. The TOEFL is required of students who speak English as a second language. The PRAXIS series is required for teacher certification in some states.
To find out more about requesting accommodations on any of these tests, consult the ETS Disabilities and Testing Site, which provides general information about documentation of a disability for ETS as well as links to information specific to various ETS tests.
Taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is an entrance requirement for most U.S. medical schools. To request accommodations on the MCAT, a student with a disability should consult the official MCAT website. The information on disability accommodations is in a PDF file entitled MCAT Disabilities Accommodations.
Taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is required for entrance to law schools in the U.S. Students requesting LSAT accommodations should already be registered to take the test. For information on obtaining accommodations for the LSAT, consult the Law School Admission Council—Accommodated Testing website.
The following Q&A applies to financial aid offices.
Q If, because of his or her disability, a student needs to exceed the allotted time set by the school to complete a degree, is the impact of the student's disability a consideration for an extension of financial aid?
A Financial aid directors often have professional discretion in dealing with unique situations. A student's disability can be a consideration for an extension of financial aid. The financial aid director and the disability support services person should discuss what time extension options are available given the student's unique situation.
Housing and Residential Life
The following Q&A applies to services related to housing and residential life.
Q Does the campus need to provide housing that is accessible to students with disabilities?
A Universities must provide accessible housing to students with disabilities if such housing is available to other students. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that goods, services, and activities associated with student life be accessible to students with disabilities. Students with disabilities should not be denied access to comparable housing or segregated from the general student population.
For information and resources on how to make campus housing accessible to students with disabilities, consult the Housing and Residential Life area of The Student Services Conference Room (www.washington.edu/doit/Conf).
The following Q&As apply to distance learning programs.
Q What are some of the barriers students face in distance learning courses?
A Thousands of specialized hardware and software products available today allow individuals with a wide range of abilities and disabilities to productively use computing and networking technologies. However, assistive technology alone does not remove all access barriers. Described below are examples of access challenges faced by students and instructors in typical distance learning courses.
A student or instructor who is blind may use a computer equipped with screen reader software and a speech synthesizer. Basically, this system reads with a synthesized voice whatever text appears on the screen. He may use a Braille refreshable display that prints screen text line by line. He can use a text-only browser to navigate the World Wide Web or simply turn off the graphics-loading feature of a multimedia web browser. He cannot interpret graphics (including photographs, drawings, and image maps) unless text alternatives are provided. Printed materials, videotapes, televised presentations, overhead transparencies, and other visual materials also create access challenges for him. These barriers can be overcome with alternative media such as audiotapes, Braille printouts, electronic text, tactile drawings, and aural descriptions.
Other Visual Impairments
A student or instructor who has limited vision can use special software to enlarge screen images. He may see only a small portion of a web page at a time. Consequently, he can easily become confused when web pages are cluttered and when the page layout changes from page to page. Standard printed materials may also be inaccessible to him; he may require large print or electronic text. Individuals who are color-blind cannot successfully navigate web pages that require the user to distinguish colors.
Specific Learning Disabilities
Some specific learning disabilities impact the ability to read, write, and/or process information. A student with a learning disability may use audiotaped books. To help her read text efficiently, she may also use a speech output or screen enlargement system similar to those used by people with visual impairments. She may have difficulty understanding websites when the information is cluttered and when the screen layout changes from one page to the next.
A student or instructor with a mobility impairment may not be able to move his hands; he may use an alternative keyboard and mouse or speech input to gain access to Internet-based course materials and communication tools. Another student or instructor may be able to use standard input devices but lack the fine motor skills required to select small buttons on the screen. If his input method is slow, a person with a mobility impairment may not be able to effectively participate in real-time "chat" communications. If any place-bound meetings are required in a distance learning course, a participant with a mobility impairment may require that the location be wheelchair accessible.
Most Internet resources are accessible to people with hearing impairments because these resources do not require the ability to hear. However, when websites include audio output without providing text captioning or transcription, a student who is deaf is denied access to the information. Course videotapes that are not captioned are also inaccessible to this student. She may also be unable to participate in a telephone conference or videoconference unless accommodations (e.g., sign language interpreters) are provided for that part of a distance learning course.
A student with a speech impairment may not be able to effectively participate in interactive telephone conferences or videoconferences. However, modes of participation that do not require the ability to speak, such as electronic mail, are fully accessible.
Some attention-grabbing features of web pages include flickers. Flickers at certain rates (often between 2 and 55 hertz) can induce seizures for people who are susceptible to them.
For more information on this topic, consult Technology and Universal Design (www.washington.edu/doit/Resources/technology.html) and the Real Connections: Making Distance Learning Accessible to Everyone publication (www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Technology/distance.learn.html) and video (www.washington.edu/doit/Video/real_con.html).
Q How can I get started in making my distance learning course accessible to all students?
A Be proactive in making distance learning courses accessible. Don't wait until someone with a disability enrolls to address accessibility issues; consider them from the start. Applying universal design principles benefits people both with and without disabilities.
- Think about the wide range of abilities and disabilities potential students might have.
- In promotional publications, include information on how to request accommodations and publications in alternative format.
- Make sure media can be accessed with sight or hearing alone.
- Arrange accessible facilities for any on-site instruction.
- Be prepared to offer additional accommodations as requested.
Distance learning program administrators should adopt and enforce accessibility standards or guidelines (e.g., the Section 508 (www.section508.gov) or Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) (www.w3.org/WAI) standards for web accessibility) for their course materials and strategies. They should also establish procedures for students with disabilities to request and receive accommodations. Administrators should provide information about standards, training, and support to key staff. Course developers should use the accessibility features of authoring tools they use (e.g., Blackboard™,WebCT™) and avoid including design features that are inaccessible to students with disabilities. Standards, procedures, and support issues should be reviewed and updated periodically.
For more information, consult the Real Connections: Making Distance Learning Accessible to Everyone publication (www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Technology/distance.learn.html) and video (www.washington.edu/doit/Video/real_con.html) and IMS Guidelines for Developing Accessible Learning Applications (www.imsglobal.org/accessibility/accessiblevers).
The following Q&As apply to library services.
Q As a library employee, am I required to find research material for a patron who is disabled?
A You are required to provide access to the information and materials, but you are not required to do the research for the patron. For example, you should retrieve a requested book, but you are not required to find a book not specified.
Q How can library databases be made more accessible?
A Principles of universal design should be employed in making library databases more accessible to patrons with disabilities. "Universal design" means that rather than designing your services and facility for the average user, you design them for people with a broad range of abilities and disabilities. The following questions can help database developers design library databases that are universally accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.
- Can the library's electronic resources, including online catalogs, indexes, full-text databases, and CD-ROMs, be accessed with a variety of adaptive computer technologies, such as screen readers and speech synthesizers?
- Do electronic resources with images and sound provide text alternatives or information to these formats?
- Are speech output systems available to patrons with low vision, blindness, and learning disabilities?
- Is the library's web page designed in an accessible format (i.e., clear navigation paths, thoughtful use of color, consistency, and simplicity)?
- Do collection development policy statements specifically state that electronic products should be evaluated for accessibility as part of the purchasing process?
- Are librarians prepared to assist patrons with electronic resources that they cannot access by providing research consultations or materials in other formats?
- To what extent are keyboard equivalents available for all mouse functions?
For more information on this topic, consult Equal Access: Universal Design of Libraries (www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/equal_access_lib.html) and Library Services for People with Disabilities Policy Passes (www.ala.org/PrinterTemplate.cfm?Section=Issues&Template=/ContentManagement/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=25981).
The following Q&As apply to career service units.
Q Who is responsible for providing accommodations for student interns?
A The employee or intern is responsible for providing personal accommodations, such as hearing aids, wheelchairs, and personal attendants. In most cases, it is the employer's responsibility to provide on-site job accommodations for an employee who has a disability. It is sometimes possible for the employer to receive tax credits and incentives for doing so. In some cases, the school may loan the student and the employer the necessary adaptive technology for the length of the internship experience.
Q Who is responsible for providing accessible transportation to a postsecondary student's internship or co-op?
A The policy regarding transportation should be the same for students with disabilities as it is for students without disabilities. It is most often the case that students arrange their own transportation to and from internships. In this case, the student services office may be able to assist with this process. If the student is a client of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), he or she might also ask their VR counselor for assistance.
For more information about accommodations in the work setting, consult Finding Gold: Hiring the Best and the Brightest (www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Careers/gold.html).
The following Q&A applies to computer labs.
Q What are the main features of an accessible computer lab? A Designing a lab that is universally accessible begins with the physical environment of the facility. Considerations for making a computer lab facility more accessible include the following:
- Make sure doorway openings are at least 32 inches wide and doorway thresholds are no higher than 1/2 inch.
- Keep aisles wide and clear for wheelchair users. Have protruding objects removed or minimized for the safety of users who are visually impaired.
- Make sure all levels of the lab are connected by a wheelchair accessible route of travel.
- For students with mobility impairments, make sure there are procedures in place for retrieving materials that may be inaccessible.
- Make sure ramps and/or elevators are provided as an alternative to stairs. Elevators should have both auditory and visual signals for floors. Elevator buttons should be marked in large print and Braille or raised notation and easily reachable by wheelchair users.
- Locate the lab near wheelchair-accessible restrooms with well-marked signs.
- Service desks need to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Provide ample, high-contrast, large print directional signs throughout the lab. Mark equipment in the same fashion.
- Provide study carrels, hearing protectors, or private study rooms for users who are easily distracted by noise and movement around them.
- Have wrist rests available to those who require extra wrist support while typing.
- Keep document holders available to help those users position documents for easy reading.
The following Q&A applies to registration offices.
Q What types of accommodations might college students with disabilities need during the registration process?
A With a universally designed (consult Universal Design: Principles, Process, and Applications at www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Programs/ud.html) registration process, students with disabilities should be able to access web-based registration functions without accommodations. Some students with disabilities benefit from priority registration. For example, a student with a mobility impairment could select course times and locations to allow adequate passing time between classes on a large campus. A student with a health impairment could secure classes during specific time periods when the impact of health-related issues (e.g., fatigue) is minimal. Students who need to procure textbooks in alternative formats also benefit from early registration. Clear procedures related to registration for students with disabilities, how to request accommodations, and the timely distribution of this information are important to include in key registration documents.
Tutoring and Learning Centers
The following Q&A applies to tutoring and learning centers.
Q What are some specific study skills that benefit students with learning disabilities?
A Students with learning disabilities and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder who participated in a study at Virginia Commonwealth University identified the following study skills as helpful to their success in postsecondary education:
- Writing strategies
- Proofreading strategies
- Color-coded information
- Test-taking strategies
- Time management strategies
- Organizational strategies for reviewing research articles
- Videotaping for self-evaluation
- Role-playing practicum exam questions
These strategies were considered helpful in the context of other supports, which included academic accommodations, the development of self-advocacy and personal skills (e.g., understanding their disability and its impact on learning), and the use of technology.
Source: Assisting LD students to overcome personal issues helps them succeed. Disability Compliance for Higher Education, 2004. volume 9, issue 9.