Rights and Responsibilities
Accommodating students with disabilities in engineering is a shared responsibility. Faculty, students, and disability 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.
As an educator, your efforts can contribute to 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.
The services on campus designed to support students with disabilities are also available to help faculty. The disability student services office on your campus is a key resource when working with students with disabilities. It is typically the responsibility of disability students services staff to:
- Maintain confidential records of the student's disability.
- Recommend and coordinate accommodations (e.g., sign language interpreters, Braille documents).
- Arrange special equipment (e.g., assistive listening devices).
- Provide other resources/referrals for students with disabilities (e.g., assistive 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 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 disability and registering with the disability student services office following the procedures at their respective campus. Each student is also usually responsible for requesting accommodations with each instructor.
Students with disabilities who desire academic accommodations must register with the disability student services office and provide proper documentation of their disabilities. This office will determine the accommodations, if any, that are reasonable for the student. Many students with disabilities do not identify themselves as having a disability because they do not feel that they need academic accommodations. 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 her disability precludes.
It is important to remember that information about a student's disability should usually be kept confidential. Even if a student has disclosed a disability to you as his instructor or to other officials of the institution, this personal information should not be shared with others without his permission.
The federal government has made it clear that postsecondary institutions must provide reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified students with disabilities to ensure access to educational opportunities. To learn more about accommodations, visit our Accommodations page.
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.
Universal design is "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." When designers apply universal design principles, their products and services meet the needs of potential users with a wide variety of characteristics. Universal design principles can be applied to many products and services, including instruction. To learn more about how to do this, read about Universal Design (link).
For more information about Rights and Responsibilities, visit The Faculty Room.