What is the Office of Accessibility Services?
The Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) provides appropriate and reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Our office is a compliance office and is responsible for ensuring that our organization adheres to government regulations and avoids missteps that could result in hefty fines, legal ramifications and reputation damage. We also serve as a resource to faculty and staff and work to provide training opportunities, advisement, and consultation on equal access, compliance, delivery of equitable services, universal design, and other disability-related issues. Our office provides opportunities and resources that will facilitate the development of self-advocacy, self-efficacy and adaptive skills in our students to overcome barriers that a disability may present.
What is an accommodation?
Accommodations are modifications to conditions that would otherwise cause a student, because of a disability, to be at a disadvantage relative to students without a disability in their access to the university’s programs for students. Reasonable accommodations provide equitable access to programs or facilities and do not fundamentally alter the essential nature of a course or academic program. Course content and objectives cannot be modified.
How will I know that a student requires accommodations?
The student will provide you with a Letter of Accommodation (LOA) via email and/or in-person and you will be requested to acknowledge the same via email to our office. The Letter of Accommodation (LOA) is a confidential document that provides a written statement of the academic accommodations to which a student registered with the Office of Accessibility is entitled. The LOA describes both in-class accommodations and test/exam accommodations. The accommodations are intended to equalize the opportunity of students in meeting essential program and/or course requirements. The accommodations listed on the LOA are based on specific disability-related academic needs.
What are some examples of accommodations?
Examples of accommodations may include, but are not limited to, extended test time, a separate, distraction-reduced test location, assistive technology, note-sharing services, a test reader, a test scribe and/or the use of computer for testing, preferential seating, ASL interpreter, and enlarged print. Other accommodations specific to the student’s disability must be requested and approved. All accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis.
How do I know if an accommodation is reasonable?
The accommodations that a student has been approved for by OAS are deemed reasonable. If there is a question regarding reasonableness of a specific accommodation for a specific student, please contact the OAS at your convenience to discuss.
Are accommodations retroactive?
No, accommodations are not retroactive. Accommodations only become active when the Letter of Accommodation is presented to the faculty member.
Can I ask students to disclose their disabilities to me?
No. Please do not ask students to disclose their disability/diagnosis to you. It is the student’s right to maintain that information as confidential, and we take our responsibility to protect their confidentiality seriously. The only way that you may be aware of the student’s disability/diagnosis is if it is voluntarily offered to you by the student. Section 504 and the ADA are very specific regarding confidentiality issues. The law permits dissemination of disability-related information on a “need-to-know” basis only. Therefore, when we alert faculty, we are permitted to disclose only the existence, not the nature, of a disability and what accommodations are necessary to equalize access to learning for that student. Asking intrusive questions of the student or discussing the student’s disability with others, no matter how well-intentioned, is a violation of federal law.
How do I approach a student who is having a difficult time in class and I suspect may have a disability?
There are several approaches you can take with the student who is having difficulty in your class:
- Request a private meeting with the student. Communicate your concerns and ask the student to offer their thoughts and ideas with regard to working together to assist the student with the successful completion of your course
- Offer the student campus resources to aid with making improvements. Discuss and provide contact information for the tutoring center, writing center, success coaches, and/or OAS as options to look into
- Submit a KUBIT referral. Faculty are encouraged to submit KUBIT referrals regarding students of concern. No concern is too big or too small for submission and if needed, the student will be connected with OAS
What do I do if students ask for an accommodation that is not on their accommodation letter?
Please refer the student to OAS to request an additional accommodation or ask them to submit a supplemental request using Accommodate. You may also reach out to our office with any questions you may have.
Does information regarding student accommodations and disabilities have to remain confidential?
Yes. Professors must maintain complete confidentiality.
What do I do if a student’s accommodation allows for class absences?
If a student has a consideration for absences accommodation, this means that OAS has documentation to support that the student may need additional absences beyond what the professor allows. Any student with this accommodation is encouraged to attend all classes. In addition, the student is instructed to follow the consideration for absences procedure developed by OAS to come up with a contingency plan with the professor in the case where absences become an issue. Ultimately, the professor has the final say regarding if and how absences will affect a student’s grade.
How can I accommodate pop quizzes?
Please consider the following recommendations for pop quizzes in your course:
- It is always encouraged that if faculty are able to provide testing accommodations to a student for a pop quiz, (i.e. a separate testing space not in the classroom, extended time before, during or after the class period, etc.) to do so. This is the best course of action for a pop quiz
- If the faculty member is unable to accommodate the student in the classroom and would like to utilize OAS for support, it is encouraged that the faculty communicate with students who have testing accommodations at the beginning of the semester (or before the pop quiz occurs) to discuss a plan of action for pop quizzes
What is the policy for use of the testing center?
If a student has a time relevant accommodation, it is the student’s responsibility to inform the professor of this accommodation, provide the professor with an Adaptive Testing Cover Sheet, and email the OAS office as soon as possible to schedule the exam. The OAS office requires at least a seven to ten day notice for scheduling; no last minute appointments will be accepted. Additionally, it is the professor’s responsibility to email the cover sheet and the exam to our office no later than two business days in advance.
What do I do if I believe that an accommodation will affect my course?
If you believe that an accommodation will affect your course, please contact the OAS. You may also want to discuss your concern with the student so that all parties are on the same page.
What if I do not agree with the accommodations granted to a student by the Office of Accessibilities?
Professors are encouraged to speak to the OAS office should they have any concerns or questions regarding the appropriateness of reasonable accommodations.
Does a student have to use their accommodations in class?
Students may choose when to use and/or not use their accommodations.
If a student has a note-sharing accommodation, do I have to take the notes for them?
(This accommodation will soon be supported with note-sharing software.) If a student has note-sharing as an accommodation, it is likely that they will have a note-sharer assigned thorough OAS for the semester, or the student will use note taking software. This does not mean that the student does not have to take notes; the notes provided by a volunteer student note-sharer are supplemental only. Notes are only shared when the student is present in class; no notes should be shared if the student is absent.
If a note-sharer cannot be found, OAS will typically ask the professor to make an announcement to the class (without including the name of the student who is need of notes) or help us identify a student who the professor recommends that we can reach out to individually. In addition, if the faculty has power-point presentations available to all students, this can assist the student if there is not a note-sharer for the class. If a note-sharer is still not found, OAS may offer the student an accommodation for recording lectures to give the student full access to the lecture material with the ability to complete the notes on their own outside of class.
Can I fail a student with a disability, or give the student a poor grade?
Yes, students with disabilities can (and do) fail courses and sometimes receive low grades. The laws mandate access to education, not guaranteed academic success. If a faculty member provides reasonable academic accommodations and the student does not meet the course requirements, then failing a student is proper and lawful. Here is a compliance checklist:
- Stand by academic standards and freedoms, which include full and equitable access to academic programs
- Provide verbal and written notice to your students of your willingness to accommodate
- Communicate clear and concise expectations for performance to your students
- Distinguish between essential and non-essential components of the course
- Respect requests for reasonable accommodations
- Permit students to use auxiliary aides and technologies that ensure access (examples: note-sharers, sign language interpreters, readers, scribes, tape recorders, etc.)
- Assure that your course materials, whether printed or electronic, are accessible and available in alternative formats (examples: computer electronic text, large print, internet, audio, Braille) when requested. OAS can assist you with these formats. Additionally, the Learning Commons on the Union Campus has tutorial videos on content conversion
- Consult with the OAS office if you have questions regarding accommodations
- Keep student disability-related information strictly confidential
How should I handle a disruptive student who has a disability?
Faculty should work closely with the Office of Accessibilities to address disruptive behavior that may be related to a student’s disability. Faculty should understand that while they are required to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities, they are not required to tolerate behavior that is substantially disruptive to their ability to teach and to other students’ ability to learn. Indeed, students with disabilities should be held to the same code of conduct as all other members of the campus community.
What if I have questions?
Although it may seem contradictory to some that OAS’s goal is to team with faculty to accommodate the student that is our true mission. We do advocate for the students, but we are also available to consult with and assist faculty in meeting the University’s legal responsibilities to students with disabilities, so please call on us to:
- Answer any questions you may have about the accommodation process
- Mediate disagreements between students and faculty regarding disability accommodations
- Proctor your exams in our testing center
- Talk to your class(es) about disability-related issues
- Discuss new and different ways to accommodate students
Contact OAS using the information listed below:
Main Office Line: 908-737-4910
Location: Downs Hall, Room 122, Union Campus