What laws cover a student with a disability at the post-secondary level?
Students with disabilities are protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which was revised to the ADA Amendments Act in 2008. According to these laws, "no otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States shall, solely by reason of disability, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
"Otherwise qualified," with respect to post-secondary education, means a person who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission. Seton Hall University does not have any special admission provisions for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities must meet all standard requirements.
What services are offered through the Office of Disability Support Services?
Disability Support Services (DSS) at Seton Hall University seeks to foster an inclusive learning environment for all students. To this end, DSS provides reasonable accommodations based on appropriate documentation. All documentation is reviewed by a DSS Administrator, who determines appropriate accommodations in compliance with University policy, and state and federal law.
Disability Support Services exists to assist students with disabilities in achieving their educational goals. Our focus is on equal access to all programs and activities. DSS provides the following services for qualified students with documented disabilities:
- Academic Accommodations
- Housing Accommodations
- Exam Proctoring
- Medical Exception Parking
- Referrals to on- and off-campus resources
Who is responsible for the accommodations?
Accommodations are a shared responsibility between the student, faculty, and DSS. The accommodation process is designed to be collaborative and interactive. A breakdown of some of the roles and responsibilities are discussed below.
A student with disabilities has three primary responsibilities, which must be completed in order to receive accommodations at Seton Hall University. First, the student must identify him/herself as a person with a disability to the DSS Office. Second, the student must provide current documentation or supporting evidence that the disability substantially limits the ability to function in a major life activity. Finally, the student is responsible for following the policies and procedures of DSS, including sharing their accommodation letters with faculty and requesting alternative testing arrangements if needed.
If a student identifies him/herself as having a disability and presents a DSS approved accommodation letter, it is your responsibility to ensure the learning environment is accessible and the accommodations are provided. It is strongly recommended that you have available office hours in order to meet privately with these students. While students are not required to share the nature of their disability with professors, their needs as they relate to particular accommodations should be discussed so that both of you understand and agree upon what arrangements are necessary.
Once notified via the student's accommodation letter, professors are responsible for the implementation of approved accommodations. This may include providing assistance with finding a note-taker in class, facilitating testing accommodations, or providing course materials in an accessible electronic format. For more information, please see Faculty Guide: Rights and Responsibilities.
Disability Support Services Responsibility
The DSS staff is responsible for reviewing documentation, determining eligibility, identifying appropriate accommodations, creating accommodation letters for the student, and arranging for contract services such as a sign-language interpreter. DSS is available to consult with faculty regarding the implementation of accommodations, as well as to answer any questions or concerns regarding the approved academic adjustments. DSS will also assist with the implementation of accommodations, when possible; however, it is ultimately the responsibility of the university as a whole - not just DSS - to meet the accommodation needs of documented students with disabilities. This requires that a partnership exist between DSS and faculty/academic departments, and resources of all of these units must be considered in meeting accommodation needs.
Understanding Accommodations for Students
How do I know what I should do for a student with a disability?
Students with disabilities should register with the Disability Support Services. If the student is registered with our office, the student will be provided an accommodation letter for each class in which he/she is enrolled each semester. The student should share the letter with you and discuss the accommodations and any barriers they are experiencing. The letter will outline the accommodations that you will need to provide. The letter will not identify the specific disability; that information is private and only the student may choose to disclose to it his/her professors. If you need any assistance in working with an accommodation or in making an aspect of your course accessible, please call the DSS Office.
What if I suspect a student has a disability but he does not provide me with a letter from DSS?
You should not assume a student has a disability nor should you ask if he has a disability. Both of these could be seen as discriminatory actions. You should also encourage a student who you think is challenged or struggling in your class to utilize campus resources including ARC, DSS, CAPS, etc. If you are uncertain of where or how to refer a student, refer him to the Dean of Students Office; they will explore options with the student.
What if a student asks for an accommodation that is not included in the letter from DSS?
Contact DSS. It is not always possible to predict the precise interaction between a student's disability and a specific course requirement; as a result, it may be necessary to amend the accommodation letter. In consultation with you and the student, DSS will be able to advise you as to the best academic adaptation.
As a matter of best practice and guidance from the federal government, faculty should not provide any accommodation that has not approved by DSS.
Can I get a list of students with accommodations who are in my classes?
No, this is not something we can provide. Students have the right to choose when and to whom they disclose that they have a disability. For this reason professors must wait until they receive a student's letter before accommodations are made. Students are strongly encouraged to meet with their professors at the beginning of each semester to discuss accommodations, but it is the student's choice when, and even if, to do this. Accommodations are NOT retroactive. So, the student who chooses to share an accommodation letter later in the semester does not receive any accommodations for work already completed.
Should I waive assignments & course requirements for students with disabilities?
No. Students with disabilities should be held to the same standards as any other student. Accommodations should not alter the course or program in any substantive manner.
Do field experiences have to be accessible to students with disabilities?
Yes. Equal access must be provided to all components of a class or program even if it is not a required element. This would include labs, field trips, transportation provided by Seton Hall and internships.
What if I disagree with an accommodation?
Please contact DSS at 973-313-6003 if you have any questions or concerns. If a student has self-identified, provided appropriate documentation, and has an accommodation letter, s/he is entitled under law to receive the specified accommodation(s), as long as it does not represent a fundamental alteration to the curriculum or compromise an essential requirement of the course. DSS is happy to consult with you and discuss any concerns regarding accommodations.
What if a student discloses that they have a disability but doesn't provide me with an accommodation form?
Please refer the student to DSS so we can ensure that the student is qualified to receive the requested accommodation(s). Professors should not provide accommodations without consulting with DSS.
How can I help to maintain student confidentiality?
The student with a disability is entitled to confidentiality under the law. This means that if a student with a disability happens to be in your class, you cannot mention that student by name (i.e. "Tom, here's your test so you can go take it in the Disability Services" or "We need a note taker for Katie, so I need someone to volunteer"). Also, you should not discuss the student by name with anyone else, including other faculty. It is always the student's decision to self-disclose. DSS is able to verify that we are working with a particular student but we are not permitted to share specific diagnostic information regarding the nature of the disability.
Accommodations and Testing
Some general information about testing
The goal of student assessment is to measure what students have learned. However, traditional assessment methods may limit the opportunity that many disabled students have to demonstrate their learning. As a result these tests give inaccurate information on how effective you've been as an instructor and how successful your students have been as learners.
Consider ways to assess your students' learning that are effective for all students. While there are many creative strategies that minimize the need for individual accommodations, the following are a few options that may fit for your class and instructional style:
- Administer tests and quizzes using a course management system where you can design untimed tests or build extended test time into the schedule for disabled students.
- Use take-home exams to assess applied concepts.
- Use group projects to both assess learning and encourage the development of collaborative skills
- Allow students to write papers outside of class to demonstrate their learning or use research papers as a part of the course assessment.
DSS is available to assist you in exploring alternative ways to assess what your students have learned in ways that minimize the need for individual accommodations, such as extended test time.
A student says she has test anxiety. Is this a disability?
Usually test anxiety on its own does not constitute a documented disability that is protected by law. If test anxiety is part of more pervasive condition that substantially limits a major life activity, the student may be considered a person with a disability and may be eligible for services and accommodations. Students with test anxiety may also benefit from workshops through ARC, services through CAPS, and other campus resources.
How do I work with a student who needs testing accommodations?
It is the student's responsibility to approach you with an accommodation letter which specifies that s/he has been approved for a testing accommodation. We ask that instructors discuss with students how the testing accommodation can be provided in their particular course.
Depending on the individual student, it may be effective for you to provide extended test time by:
- Allowing the student to test in a quiet office or a departmental conference room- tests should not be administered in the hallway outside a classroom or in a busy office with ringing phones or other interruptions.
- Testing the student in the classroom if you are able to stay after class and the room is available for the amount of extended time determined to be reasonable.
- Having a TA or department staff proctor the student in a quiet location within your department.
- Beginning the student in the classroom and allowing him or her to finish the exam after class in your office or another appropriate location if necessary.
As a service to faculty, DSS also assists by proctoring exams in our testing center. If this option is better for both the student and instructor, students must initiate the process by completing an online form on the DSS website. More detailed information regarding DSS testing policy and procedure can be found on our website here.
Why do students need extended time for tests?
The use of extended time is the most frequently used accommodation through DSS. Extended time for testing situations is normally granted to allow the student with a disability to compensate for the limitations imposed by their disability. For example, students with learning disabilities may have difficulty with processing information and need additional time to read, understand, and respond to questions. Students with ADHD or mental health issues may have difficulty concentrating. Some students need to utilize assistive technology, which usually takes additional time.
What about quizzes and pop quizzes?
If a student's accommodation form indicates s/he receive extended time, the instructor needs to make arrangements for the student to receive this accommodation. We suggest that the quiz be given towards the end of class which makes providing the additional time more seamless. DSS can consult with professors regarding other options if this does not fit into the class structure.
Universal Design and Course Accessibility
What is Universal Design and why should I consider it for my classes?
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. It benefits people of all ages and abilities.
Incorporating the principles of universal design into a class enhances the accessibility of the curriculum to a variety of diverse learners: minority students, second-language learners, returning students, students with disabilities, etc. While re-envisioning the design of a course may seem overwhelming at first, experience has shown that once faculty members experience the increase in student engagement and learning that is achieved through a universally designed curriculum, they also find that learning objectives for courses are more fully met.
How can I make my course accessible to all students?
Think about those with disabilities and other diverse groups during the planning stages of your course, program or event. How welcoming and usable is the environment for everyone who may participate?
Begin by thinking about course content and then design. There are several online resources to help you get started.
- Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment
- Quick Facts: Accessible Instructional Materials
Accessibility Quick Guide (shared with permission from NC State University)
In person resources are available through the DSS Office and through TLTC Instructional Design team.