What is the Disability Support Services (DSS) Program?
The DSS Program ensures equal access for students with disabilities by determining what accommodations are reasonable and appropriate. The DSS Rehabilitation Specialists teach students with disabilities about their rights and responsibilities, encourage self-advocacy, and promote empowerment. Furthermore, specialists teach students strategies for academic success, including test-taking strategies, study skills, note-taking strategies and anxiety reducing techniques.
What is “504”?
The Rehabilitation Act (1973), Section 504, Subpart E – Post-secondary Education, states that qualified persons with disabilities may not be denied, on the basis of their disability, access to any program or activity offered by an institution of higher education that receives federal financial assistance.
How does 504 differ from ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (1990), Title III extended this mandate to include private institutions. Under ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, an individual with a disability is a person who: (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity; (2) has a record or history of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1991).
What does 504 require at postsecondary institutions?
Essentially, 504 and ADA require that colleges and universities make those reasonable adjustments necessary to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability. The adaptation is specific to the individual student. For example, it may be necessary to allow a student with a learning disability to have extended time on an exam or to allow lectures to be tape recorded when a disability impairs a student’s ability to keep up with the instructor. Classes enrolling students with mobility impairments may have to be rescheduled to buildings that are more accessible. The ADA and 504 are not designed to ensure success but are designed to ensure equal access.
Does 504 mean lower academic standards?
No. Nothing in the language or the intent of Section 504 alters the freedom of an institution of higher education to lower academic requirements and standards.
What constitutes a disability and how does the DSS Office know whether a student is disabled?
The law states that students are responsible to make their limitations known and provide the disability services office (DSS) with the necessary documentation from an appropriate expert that the disability exists before any classroom accommodation need be provided.
What is my responsibility?
As a faculty member, you are responsible for providing the requested accommodations in the classroom.
What are the students’ responsibilities?
The student is responsible for declaring his/her disability at the DSS Office, providing you with the Instructor Notification Form from the DSS Office which requests the accommodations, requesting that tests be scheduled at the testing center, making an appointment to take the test, notifying DSS if an accommodation is not being received, and attending class regularly (unless there is a disability that interferes with regular class attendance).
How will I know if there are students with disabilities needing accommodations in my classroom?
The student will give you an Instructor Notification Form from the DSS Office. You will be asked to sign the form and keep a copy. This form will provide you with the necessary accommodation(s) for the student.
What do I do when I receive an Instructor Notification Form from the student?
Read the form, sign it, keep the copy, discuss the student’s needs with the student in a confidential setting, and provide the necessary accommodations.
Can I ask the student about his/her disability?
DSS Rehabilitation Specialists encourage students to discuss their needs/accommodations with you; however, some students may be hesitant to do this. We ask that you respect students’ privacy and not ask them questions about their disability. If you feel you need to know the student’s disability in order to ensure equal access in the classroom, call the Rehabilitation Specialist, and if she has a consent for release of information form signed by the student in the student’s file, and if she feels this information is necessary for you to know to accommodate the student, she will release the student’s disability information to you.
How can I be sure I am doing what is necessary to provide academic access?
As long as you provide the accommodations listed on the Instructor Notification Form, you are doing what is necessary to provide academic access.
Suppose I don’t agree the accommodation is necessary? Can I contact the DSS Office to find out more about a student’s disability?
You may contact the DSS Office. The DSS Rehabilitation Specialist will provide you with information concerning the student’s disability as it relates to the student’s academic needs.
Suppose my discipline requires some specific competencies and technical abilities that cannot be altered?
Physical or technical requirements and special academic proficiencies which cannot be waived or altered and which every student must demonstrate in order successfully to meet licensing, certification or accreditation requirements should be listed in the catalog and on the course syllabus. This method allows a student to know in advance whether or not he or she will be able to complete a degree in that field. If specific requirements cannot be modified or waived, please immediately speak with the DSS Rehabilitation Specialist.
How should I handle a student’s disability information?
Please handle requests for accommodations with the utmost confidentiality. Make every effort to preserve the student’s privacy and treat the student with the same dignity and respect you would any student. If you are soliciting a class volunteer to take notes for a student, this should be done without identifying the student with the disability.
Where do I go for assistance in providing accommodations?
Feel free to come to the DSS Office if you have any questions or concerns regarding an accommodation. You may also wish to consult with your instructional division's dean.
What should I do if a student comes directly to me to discuss her/his disability and requests accommodations?
Before providing any accommodation, please direct the student to the DSS Office. The Rehabilitation Specialists will make the determination as to what accommodations are appropriate and reasonable based on the documentation provided by the student.