Angela and Academic Advising: A Case Study on Accessing Standard Campus Services


My name is Angela and I am a sophomore at a small suburban college. I use a wheelchair for mobility. I am planning on changing majors and need to work with an academic counselor to help plan my courses for spring quarter.

Access Issue

I went to a new academic counselor in the business department. I told him that I was seeking advice for my courses and future academic planning, but he said he was unable help me. He immediately referred me to the disabled student services (DSS) office.

Whom do I work with on campus to secure accessible venues for meetings and events?

Typically, counselors in a disabled student services office or campus Americans with Disabilities Act coordinators have the knowledge and expertise to assist with identifying the policies and procedures, as well as available campus resources, to ensure that students with disabilities have access to campus-sponsored events and meetings that are held on or off campus.

Who should pay for accommodations that allow students with disabilities to participate in student clubs and organizations?

Each campus should establish and publish policies and procedures that inform student organizations and clubs about the appropriate department or office designated to assist with funding and arranging accommodations such as sign language interpreters and alternate document formats. Some institutions cover costs associated with these accommodations through a central budget so that funds are shared by the institution as a whole rather than by each campus unit.

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.

How can a financial aid office make services accessible to a student who is blind or has low vision?

First, the financial aid office can assure that the facilities are safe for a student who is blind or a student with low vision to navigate. Make sure that walking paths in public areas are unobstructed; minimize clutter and protruding objects. Second, make publications, forms, and applications used in the financial aid process available in accessible formats, such as large print, Braille, and an accessible version.