What is Disability Studies?

Disability Studies is an academic discipline that approaches disability from an interdisciplinary perspective and uses multiple theories to define disability and understand the disability experience. Disability Studies programs are being formed at universities nationwide and at all levels of scholarship. There are undergraduate minors and majors, as well as masters degrees, certificates of advanced studies, and PhDs available in this new field.

What are my institution's responsibilities regarding the care of students' service animals?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 service animals should be welcome in campus buildings. This includes residence halls and dining facilities. However, the sole responsibility for controlling, keeping, feeding, and otherwise caring for any service animal rests with the individual with a disability who is using the animal's services.

Must student clubs and organizations provide accommodations to allow students with disabilities to participate?

Yes. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit discrimination against students with disabilities. Student clubs and organizations are covered by this legislation and should assure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their programs, activities, and events.

Is it appropriate for me to ask a postsecondary student what type of disability he has?

If a student does not disclose a disability to you, it is generally not appropriate for you to inquire about a possible disability. If a student requests an accommodation, you may ask the student to present appropriate documentation from the campus disability student services office or other designated entity to verify that he has followed your institution's policy for requesting and receiving approval for accommodations. As a staff or faculty member in a postsecondary institution, you are required to provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities who request them.

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?

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.

How can principles of universal design be used to construct a computer lab?

It is important to design the facility for users with a wide range of abilities and disabilities (e.g., visual, mobility, and hearing impairments; learning disabilities). Getting input from students with various disabilities about how to set up the computer lab can help ensure that specific student needs are met. Make sure that the computer lab offers access to equipment and software and to electronic resources. It is also important that staff are trained to work with students who have disabilities and understand how to use adaptive technology within the lab.

Do campus tutors have to write or type work for students with disabilities?

The role of a tutor is typically to help students understand single problems or concepts that have been presented in class. Students need to come prepared to ask specific questions about the material. Writing tutors assist students with the writing process, but they usually do not write or type papers for students. If writing and typing papers is the responsibility of individual students, this rule should apply to students with disabilities as well.

Are drivers responsible for assisting students with disabilities by carrying personal items such as books and backpacks or helping them enter a building by opening doors?

The job of a "driver" is typically to provide transportation. Students with disabilities who are unable to open doors or carry books and backpacks should use the services of a Personal Care Attendant, also called a Personal Care Assistant (PCA). When a PCA is needed, students can often work with Vocational Rehabilitation State Offices to obtain this accommodation.

Are campuses required to provide tutoring for students with disabilities throughout their college career?

Some colleges and universities provide tutoring to the general student population. In this case, the tutoring center and its materials should be accessible to students with disabilities. In addition, staff and volunteers should receive training about working with students who have disabilities. If tutoring is not provided to all students on campus, it is unlikely to be required as a "reasonable accommodation" for a student who has a disability. Consult your disabled student services office or legal counsel regarding a specific case on your campus.