GUIDE TO REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS
Understanding and Accommodating Students with Disabilities:
A Description of Different Disabilities and Reasonable Accommodations
Faculty need to have a clear understanding of the possible educational
implications of specific disabilities. Students with disabilities may
require certain accommodations, and it is important that faculty be
receptive and responsive to students needs. Effective communication
between faculty, students, and SDRC staff plays a crucial role in appropriately
providing accommodations. Encourage students to discuss their strengths
and weaknesses as they relate to the course, and invite them to make
reasonable suggestions based on their experiences in other courses.
Give students the opportunity to privately discuss with you their situation,
but don't force it if they are uncomfortable. Address students naturally.
Don't assume the "spread phenomenon" which generalizes from
a single disability and assumes there are also intellectual, social,
and additional physical deficits.
The following section provides summarized descriptions
of common disabilities and some suggested accommodations, but it is
in no way complete- remember that any condition that substantially limits
one or more major life activity can be considered a disability. While
these descriptions and suggestions can be helpful when a student with
a disability is in your classroom, it is important to remember that
each student is an individual, and that different disabilities create
different circumstances. Even among those with the same disability,
an accommodation that makes a difference to one student may have little
value to another. Never assume that a student cannot participate in
a class activity or complete an assignment because he or she has a disability.
In fact, most reasonable accommodations are easy to arrange.
After reading the following section about different
disabilities and accommodations, please continue on to the section about
the Student Disability Resource Center. This section will provide specific
information about SDRCs policies and procedures for reasonable
accommodations. If you would like more information, please contact the
Student Disability Resource Center.
"A Specific Learning Disability is a disorder in one or more of
the central nervous system processes involved in perceiving, understanding
and/or using concepts through spoken/written language or nonverbal means.
This disorder manifests itself with a deficit in one or more of the
following areas: attention, reasoning, processing, memory, communication,
reading, writing, spelling, calculation, coordination, social competence,
and emotional maturity: (Rehabilitation Services Administration, 1985).
While specific learning disabilities may affect any of these areas,
deficiencies are usually limited to only one or two areas."
Students with specific learning disabilities may
exhibit some of the following characteristics (Corn, 1989):
- Slow information processing skills
- Inconsistent performance
- Difficulty recalling information
- Test anxiety
- Time disorientation
- Impaired notetaking skills
- Poor study skills
- Difficulty following directions
- Limited vocabulary
- Confusion of mathematical symbols
- Difficulty shifting from one task to another
- Poor handwriting, letter and number formation
- Difficulty aligning numbers
- Limited strategies for monitoring errors
Despite learning problems, students with learning disabilities still
have a number of talents and gifts. With support, motivation, and appropriate
intervention, they can complete a college degree.
It is important to note the effects of a Specific
Learning Disability on academic performance result from long-term retrieval,
short-term memory, processing speed, auditory, visual, and/or other
cognitive processing deficits. Students with these disabilities are
not less intelligent than other students nor are they lazy.
The student with a Specific Learning Disability may exhibit problems
in one or more of the following areas:
- Display slow reading rate and/or experience difficulty
in modifying the reading rate in accordance with the difficulty of the
- Struggle with comprehension and retention of written material.
- Have difficulty in identifying important/relevant points or themes.
- Experience difficulty distinguishing between sounds.
- Encounter difficulties mastering phonics.
- Confuse similar words, and have difficulty integrating new vocabulary.
- Encounter poor tracking skills resulting in skipped words, phrases or
lines or losing place on the page.
- Have difficulty with sentence structure resulting in incomplete sentences, inappropriate use of grammar, missing inflectional
endings, and frequent spelling errors.
- Transpose of letters, making words and sentences jumbled or unclear
- Omit or substitute sounds, especially in unfamiliar vocabulary
- Have difficulty copying correctly from written information, poor penmanship or poorly formed letters
- Have trouble with capitalization and/or spacing in paper preparation
- Encounter an inability to concentrate on and comprehend oral language
- Have difficulty expressing ideas orally and/or sequencing events properly
- Exhibit difficulty in managing more than one task at a time
- Experiences difficulty retaining a list of information
- Possess an inability to distinguish between sounds or a combination of sounds
- Have difficulty mastering basic facts that underlie other operations; can hinder math comprehension and computation if unaddressed
- Experience problems with number reversals
- Confuse operational signals.
- Have difficulty recalling the sequence of operational processes
- Experience difficulty understanding and retaining abstract concepts
- Exhibit poor comprehension of word problems and limited understanding of ratio, proportions or relative size
- Encounter reasoning deficits and inability to eliminate irrelevant data in applied problems
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ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER/ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER
Characteristics of ADD and ADHD, neurological conditions that develop
in childhood, include persistent patterns of distractibility, impulsivity,
Students with an attention deficit may have difficulty:
- paying attention in class
- staying on task
- taking exams or quizzes in a room with distractions
- organizing their written and oral thoughts or sentences
- managing time effectively
- identifying key points in a lecture or chapter.
Many students with attention deficits take medications that control
some of the symptoms, but these medications may have side effects and
do not completely eliminate the characteristics of the disorder.
Accommodations and Instructional Techniques:
- Accommodations and instructional techniques for students with attention deficits are
similar to those provided for students with learning disabilities.
A mobility impairment is the partial or total loss of the function of
a body part as a result of a spinal cord injury, amputation, or musculoskeletal
Such impairment may result in involuntary movements,
total paralysis, and reduced levels of function in tasks that require
general trunk mobility. These mobility impairments range from the obvious
visibility of the spinal cord injury and amputation to the more nebulous
such as the chronic back disorder. Because of these variants, the educational
expectations for these students will differ greatly in relation to the
type of disability.
The student with a mobility impairment may exhibit
a problem in one or more of the following areas:
- Difficulty moving from one location to another
- Impaired writing and/or speaking due to the physical disability
- Inability to sit, stand, or walk for prolonged periods of time
- Difficulty participating in classes involving physical activity
- May need special assistance in laboratory situations
- Difficulty taking traditional paper and pencil exams
- May require additional time to move from class to class
- Do not assume that students with mobility impairments cannot participate
in an activity. Always consult with the student regarding limitations.
- Give assistance only if the student asks for it. Do not assume that
assistance is required.
- Incorporate a means by which the student can participate in group activities.
This may include adapting equipment, pairing the student with another
student, or pairing the student with an assistant.
- Check emergency exits and routes and provide assistance as necessary.
- If necessary, utilize the expertise of a rehabilitation engineering
program to adapt equipment, furnishing, tools, etc.
- Check for accessibility in and out of the classroom. Arrange for classroom
furniture such as wheelchair-height work stations, aisle widths, etc.,
to accommodate the student's needs or call SDRC to have a class moved
to an accessible location.
- Do not hang onto or lean on a wheelchair. It is often considered to
be part of the person's "body-space."
- Push the wheelchair only if asked or if you have offered and it has
- Assist the student in finding a notetaker.
- Accept tape recording of written assignments/exams.
- Give exams orally when necessary or allow extra time for students who
are able to write but who have diminished speed. Encourage students
to use a scribe or computer for exams.
- When selecting a grading criteria, consider the total competencies learned
rather than the speed with which the student complete a task.
- Allow a tape recorder for lectures and discussions.
- Allow students to alternate activities in sitting, standing, and walking.
- Be aware of emotional discomfort that often accompanies chronic pain.
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NERVOUS SYSTEM DISORDERS
Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the motor center of the brain,
which may have occurred before, during or shortly after birth. Manifestations
may include involuntary muscle contractions, rigidity, spasms, poor
coordination, poor balance or poor spatial relations. Visual, auditory,
speech, hand-function, and mobility problems might occur. Specific accommodations
are covered in the sections on visual, hearing, motor, and speech impairments.
Closed Head Injury/Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Students with closed head injuries have often been injured in an accident
that caused damage to the brain. Although the severity and symptoms
of a head injury may lessen over time, permanent damage is common. These
students often exhibit one or more of the following symptoms: short-term
memory problems, serious attention deficits, behavior problems, problems
in judgment, serious anxiety attacks, mobility impairments, and/or seizures.
Because information processing speed is often effected, additional exam
time and a notetaker are commonly used accommodations.
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease of the central nervous system,
characterized by a decline of muscle control. Symptoms may include disturbances
ranging from mild to severe: blurred vision, legal blindness, tremors,
weakness or numbness in limbs, unsteady gait, paralysis, slurred speech,
mood swings or attention deficits. Because the onset of the disease
usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40, students are likely to
be having difficulty adjusting to their condition.
Multiple sclerosis is highly unpredictable. Periodic
remissions are common and may last from a few days to several months,
as the disease continues to progress. As a result, mood swings may vary
from euphoria to depression. Striking inconsistencies in performance
are not unusual.
A seizure may be defined as an episode of abnormal motor, sensory, autonomic,
or psychic activity (or a combination of these) as a consequence of
sudden excessive electrical discharge from cerebral neurons (LipRincott
Manual of Practical Nursing, 4th Edition). Such seizures may consist
of only a brief suspension of activity (petit mal) automatic motor activity
or complex alterations of behavior, psychomotor; or a full-blown generalized
motor seizure, grand mal. Other than the occasional seizure, persons
with this disorder generally look and function like everyone else but
may experience some memory dysfunction. The educational potential for
persons who have seizure disorders is considered to be good and is not
diminished if seizures are well controlled unless serious memory deficits
Student with a seizure disorder may exhibit problems
in one or more of the following areas:
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- Brief lapses of consciousness or "staring spells"
causing disruptions in the learning process
- Side effects from anticonvulsant medication resulting in slowed reactions,
clumsiness and poor hand coordination, eye focusing difficulty, and
flatness of affect
- Increased absences if grand mal seizures are not medically well controlled
- Memory deficits due to complex partial seizures or temporal lobe epilepsy
- Clouded thinking caused by chronic seizure disorders and effects of
- Learn what to do when a Grand Mal seizure occurs.
- Allow for absences related to recovery from Grand Mal seizures.
- Recognize effects of medication on performance and allow extra time
for exams and completion of class activities.
- Remain calm and reassure other students.
- Call an ambulance when another seizure follows the first (within half
an hour or so) or when a seizure state persists for a prolonged period
of time (one-half hour). These conditions require prompt medical attention.
- Ease the student to the floor and remove objects which may injure the student.
- Do not attempt to stop the seizure nor interfere with the student's
movements. Let the seizure run its course.
- Never try to place any object in the mouth. Turn the head or body to
the side to prevent the tongue from slipping to the back of the throat
interfering with breathing.
- Do not attempt to revive a student who may turn pale, have irregular
breathing, or stop breathing. Seizure activity will diminish and they
will breathe regularly on their own.
Be supportive and reassure the student that you are there to help them.
- Allow the student who has experienced a grand mal seizure to rest and
check their condition frequently (the student will usually be disoriented
and extremely tired).
- Do not give food or drink unless seizure activity has passed.
- Check with the Registrar or SDRC to find out who should be notified
in case of emergencies. If possible, it may be best for the student
to go home.
MUSCULOSKELETAL AND CONNECTIVE TISSUE DISORDERS
Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, and Fibromyalgia
Musculoskeletal disorders, connective tissue disorders, and chronic
degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia
affect the joints and surrounding muscle tissue. Disease activity often
results in pain, swelling, severe fatigue, and limited mobility. Flares
(sudden exacerbation of disease activity) result in debilitating swelling
and pain, occurring often and without warning. Treatment for musculoskeletal
and connective tissue disorders usually involve aggressive drug therapy
(sometimes requiring hospitalization) which may result in side effects,
making the student ill. Orthopedic interventions involving hospitalization
and surgery may also be necessary.
Regular class attendance may be impossible for the
student with musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders due to
flares and medication side effects. It may be necessary for students
to complete assignments during a time of day when their disease is less
active. Because of random flares, exams may be missed or need to be
rescheduled. Often there is also a lowered immunity which may result
in frequent illnesses. Due to limited mobility, pain, and fatigue, extra
time on exams and notetakers are commonly used accommodations.
Muscular dystrophy refers to a group of hereditary, progressive disorders
that most often occur with young people, producing degeneration of voluntary
muscles of the trunk and lower extremities. The atrophy of the muscles
results in chronic weakness and fatigue and may cause respiratory or
cardiac problems. Walking, if possible, is slow and appears uncoordinated.
Manipulation of materials in class may be difficult.
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BLOOD AND IMMUNE SYSTEM DISORDERS
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by a virus that
destroys the body's immune system. This condition leaves the person
vulnerable to infections and cancers that a healthy immune system would
normally destroy. The virus is not transmitted through casual contact.
Because of the variety of infections and other diseases to which the
person with AIDS becomes susceptible, symptoms and specific accommodations
will vary for each individual. Fatigue is common. Allowances for absences
due to illness or treatment may be necessary.
Students with AIDS may be afraid to reveal their
condition because of the social stigma, fear, and/or misunderstanding
surrounding the condition. Confidentiality should, therefore, be strictly
observed. If the issue should arise in class, you should address it
in a non-judgmental manner.
Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary disease that reduces the blood supply
to vital organs and the oxygen supply to blood cells. Because many of
the vital organs are affected, the student may also experience eye disease,
heart and/or lung problems, and acute abdominal pain. At times limbs
or joints may be affected. The disease is characterized by severe crisis
periods, with extreme pain which may necessitate hospitalization and/or
absence from class.
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Visual Disorders and Blindness
A visual disorder is the loss of visual function of such magnitude that
special aids and use of other senses are necessary to achieve performance
ordinarily directed by visual clues. Visual disorders range from the
total absence of sight to varying degrees of useful vision. Because
a student has a visual disorder, it should not be assumed that they
cannot participate in educational activities. Orientation, mobility,
and rehabilitation specialists employed by the state Division of Blind
Services can often determine special aids and/or accommodations that
facilitate integration into the classroom setting.
The student who has
a visual disorder may exhibit problems in one or more of the following
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HEARING LOSS AND DEAFNESS
Hearing loss or deafness refers to a reduction in sensitivity to sound
which may be accompanied by some loss of the adaptability to interpret
auditory stimuli correctly, even when amplified. In general, persons
born deaf tend to present the greater challenge to education because,
in addition to being unable to hear, they may have very limited verbal
communication skills. Nevertheless, educationally, persons who are deaf
have succeeded and achieved great success at every level.
The student who has a hearing loss may exhibit one or more of the following
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- For some, English, as a second language, is not as strong as their native language, American Sign Language (ASL), affecting comprehension
of written materials, test questions, speaking, and writing.
- Misinterpretation of assignments due to either interpreter mistranslation or difficulty with the language in which the assignment is written in.
- Difficulty in participating in group discussion or other small-group
activities when turn taking is not honored.
- For hearing aid users: reduced comprehension due to environmental noise.
- Dependence on visual cues.
- Inaccurate assessment of strengths and weaknesses based on standardized
- Social isolation and a sense of vulnerability due to communication
- Reluctance to ask for assistance or to have something repeated.
- Confer with student to determine the rate and volume of voice communication
which will facilitate comprehension.
- Convey your message through facial expressions, gestures, and other
- Avoid pacing, writing on the board while speaking, and speaking with
your back to the student.
- Avoid group discussions that limit the ability
for a student to read lips.
- Excessive facial hair or anything which blocks the area around your
mouth may also interfere with the student's ability to lip read.
- Rephrase a thought rather than repeat the same words if the student
does not understand.
- Check for comprehension by asking for explanation or illustration in
such a way that does not single out the student from the rest of the
- Repeat or rephrase questions and comments brought up by other class
members so that students with a hearing loss do not miss valuable portions
of class discussion.
- Consider learning basic sign language to enhance the ability to communicate
with students who use American Sign Language.
- Realize that a student with a hearing loss may prefer to communicate
electronically through email.
- Allow the student to sit in the front row or other optimum location.
- Avoid standing with your back to a window or other sources of light
as the glare makes it difficult to read lips and other facial expressions.
- Maintain enough light during films to enable the student to see an interpreter.
- Attempt to obtain films that are close-captioned.
- Provide better lighting for the student who is visually dependent and
cannot add reliable auditory cues to the available visual information.
- Avoid placing a person who already has a substantial hearing loss in
a noisy environment as it assaults their vibratory sense. (These persons
should use ear protection to prevent further hearing loss).
- Be aware that room acoustics and environmental noise need to be considered
for a student using a hearing aid.
- Uncarpeted floors, bare plaster walls, ceiling, heating, and cooling
fans create noise and echoes that lower the effectiveness of the hearing
- Inform the person with a hearing loss by touch or signal to evacuate
the building in case of an emergency.
Accommodations and Instructional Techniques:
- Provide a detailed syllabus and lecture outline/written overview.
- Use good quality visual media (i.e. board, overhead projector, or handouts)
to highlight key concepts when lecturing.
- Supply a list of technical terminology and unfamiliar words or terms.
- Post notice of class cancellations, assignments, etc., in writing to
- Announce reading assignments well in advance.
- Provide all assignments in written format; be available for further
- Provide a study guide for text and encourage study groups, peer tutoring,
and study labs; prepare study questions for review sessions.
- Encourage use of accommodations recommended by the SDRC such as notetakers
and extra time for exams.
Tips for Using an Interpreter:
- Direct questions and conversation to the student, not the interpreter-
remember that the interpreter is voicing for the student when they speak
- Avoid words like this and that- be
as descriptive as possible.
- Be aware of the time that it takes to process information from one language
to another- dont speed through lecture material.
- Provide the interpreter a list of technical terms and unfamiliar vocabulary
to facilitate ease of interpretation
- Notify interpreter of schedule changes or class cancellations in advance.
- Do not expect interpreters to assume other duties; they are in the classroom
for the student's benefit.
- Recognize that finding a qualified interpreter can be difficult. Even
after every effort is made, occasionally the SDRC is unable to find
an interpreter to cover a class. Remain flexible and avoid penalizing
the student for lack of available interpreters.
Hearing Aid Tip:
- Hearing aids amplify sound in a noisy environment; a student should
turn off the aid to prevent discomfort. Instructors need to indicate
when the aid should be reactivated.
In recent years, the number of students with psychological disabilities
such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and panic disorders, post-traumatic
stress disorder, personality disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder,
and schizophrenia has increased on campuses across the nation. While
advances in medications and psychiatric treatment have significantly
improved the quality of life for people with psychiatric disabilities
and enabled these individuals to pursue higher education, unfortunately
society's stigmas about psychological disabilities persist. Learning
more about psychological disorders and communicating effectively with
those who live with these disorders is the first step in erasing these
When a student with a psychological disability is in your class:
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- Remember that he/she may be on medication(s) that
cause physical and/or mental side effects.
- Behaviors which vary from the norm may be an indication that the student
is experiencing a recurrence of symptoms and is in need of intervention.
- Be aware of any behavioral changes or disruptive behavior and contact
the Dean of Students department and/or SDRC if an incident occurs. Although
disruptive behavior is rare, it is probably a sign that an individual
needs professional psychiatric intervention.
- Be sympathetic and respectful of the possibility that the student may
be embarrassed to discuss the details of his/her disability.
- Accommodations are often similar to those needed by students with learning
disabilities, such as extended test time, notetakers, and time extensions
- Be aware that a student with a psychological disorder may be receiving
ongoing treatment; therapeutic medications that affect performance and
speed may play a factor in student accomplishments.
- Realize that although students can assume full responsibility for their
thoughts, feelings and actions, empathy from the instructor is appreciated.
- Encourage students at the beginning of each term to discuss with you
any modifications that will facilitate their learning. Additionally,
discuss medications they are taking and side effects that may occur.
- Identify any symptoms of stress the student feels should to be noted.
Although less common among the students who register with the Student
Disability Resource Center, the following disabilities represent Symptoms
of the following disabilities and the types of interventions required
may resemble those covered elsewhere in this manual. It is important
to discuss with the student both the manifestations and the required
conditions of the disability.
Because cancer can occur in almost any organ system of the body, the
symptoms and particular disabling effects will vary greatly from one
person to another. Some people experience visual problems, lack of balance
and coordination, joint pains, backaches, headaches, abdominal pains,
drowsiness, lethargy, difficulty in breathing and swallowing, weakness,
bleeding or anemia.
The primary treatments for cancer--radiation therapy,
chemotherapy, and surgery--may engender additional effects. Therapy
can cause violent nausea, drowsiness, and/or fatigue, affecting academic
functioning or causing absences. Surgery can result in amputation, paralysis,
sensory deficits, and language and memory problems.
Chemical Dependency is a condition of physiological and/or psychological
dependence on any of a variety of chemicals, such as illegal drugs,
some prescription drugs and alcohol. Individuals who are recovering
from drug and alcohol abuse or who are in treatment programs to assist
with their recovery are covered by anti-discrimination legislation and
are eligible for college services for students with disabilities. These
students may experience psychological problems such as depression and
anxiety. They may exhibit poor behavioral control, and if they are using
medication as part of their treatment, they may experience undesirable
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly
use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches, and
other food into energy. Although most students with diabetes do not
need accommodations in the classroom, in some cases students may need
additional breaks during an exam or long class period to eat or take
Gastrointestinal disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn's
disease are characterized by symptoms of abdominal inflammation and
discomfort or pain, usually in the lower abdomen (although the location
and intensity are variable, even at different times within the same
person), and altered bowel habit, chronic or recurrent diarrhea, constipation,
or both in alternation. Although gastrointestinal disorders can flare
up due to stress, they are not caused by stress or any other psychological
condition. Be sensitive to the fact that students with these types of
disorders may be embarrassed about discussing their disability. Typical
accommodations include extra time on exams to allow for restroom breaks.
Although faculty are not required to excuse absences, it may be appropriate
to allow attendance flexibility.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Multiple chemical sensitivity is typically the result of exposure to
dangerous chemicals, causing the person to become hypersensitive to
chemicals in an everyday environment like cleaning products, pesticides,
petroleum products, tobacco products, perfumes, inks, and other scented
products (University of Minnesota, 1996). Accommodations include limiting
exposure to everyday chemicals, tape recording lectures, books on tape,
and providing an assistant to perform some activities when exposure
to chemicals is necessary (such as lab or library assistance).
Many students have chronic breathing problems, the most common of which
are bronchial asthma and emphysema. Respiratory problems are characterized
by attacks of shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing, sometimes
triggered by stress, either physical or mental. Fatigue and difficulty
climbing stairs may also be major problems, depending on the severity
of the attacks. Frequent absence from class may occur and hospitalization
may be required when prescribed medications fail to relieve the symptoms.
A growing number of college students experience abnormalities during
sleep that lead to a diagnosis of a sleep disorder (i.e. narcolepsy,
etc.). Some sleep disorders can cause the individual to inadvertently
and suddenly fall asleep at an inopportune time (i.e. in the classroom),
which may be mistaken as a lack of interest or disrespect for the class
or professor. Sleep disorders can also disrupt normal sleep patterns
and cause an overall disruption in body rhythms. Encourage open communication
so that any misperceptions or concerns can be addressed. Accommodations
include extra time on exams and notetakers.
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Speech impairments range from problems with articulation or voice strength
to complete voicelessness. They include difficulties in projection,
as in chronic hoarseness and esophageal speech; fluency problems, as
in stuttering and stammering; and the nominal aphasia that alters the
articulation of particular words or terms. Permit students the time
they require to express themselves, without unsolicited aid in filling
in any gaps in their speech. Don't be reluctant to ask the student to
repeat a statement.
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Some students may experience temporary disabling conditions that impair
their ability to perform essential functions in a course. The most frequent
types of temporary disabilities that require accommodations are injury
to the hand that the student writes with and any injury that prevents
a student from sitting or walking for long periods of time. Accommodations
will depend on the nature and severity of the temporary disability.
Although temporary disabilities are not covered under disability legislation,
the SDRC assists students who need accommodations due to a temporary
condition (i.e. notetakers, writers for exams, or van service).
The Student Disability Resource Center
The Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) serves as the primary
advocate for students with disabilities who attend FSU. While the Center
is responsible for overseeing the provision of reasonable accommodations
for students, it is the responsibility of the entire University community
to provide access to educational programs and facilities. Staff members
of the SDRC serve as advocates for students with disabilities, encouraging
and empowering them to be advocates for themselves. The staff will also
assist faculty and other members of the University community in becoming
familiar with the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act so that they may
comply with such legislation. In order for faculty and staff to understand
their role in providing reasonable accommodations, the following information
about SDRCs purpose, policies, and procedures was developed.
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The Student Disability Resource Center requires documentation from all
students who request accommodations based on a disability. This documentation
is kept COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL. Information regarding students with
disabilities will only be given on a need-to-know basis or when state
and/or federal laws require release. If a student requests accommodations
from a faculty member, he/she will give that faculty member a letter
from the SDRC (see Faculty Letter Example) confirming that they are
registered with the Center. Student Disability Resource Center staff
can only discuss accommodation issues with faculty. Any additional information
will remain confidential unless the student gives express written permission.
Faculty should not discuss any information about a student with a disability
with anyone except SDRC staff or their department chair. If you have
any questions or concerns about confidentiality, please contact the
Student Disability Resource Center at 644-9566.
Faculty and Staff
Rights and Responsibilities
FSU faculty and staff have the right to:
require students with disabilities to provide proof of registration with the Student
Disability Resource Center (see Faculty Letter Example).
expect that students with disabilities will communicate their requests
for accommodations in a timely manner.
uphold standards for courses and expect that, with or without accommodations,
students with disabilities will complete the same or equal course requirements.
FSU faculty and staff have the responsibility to:
ensure that reasonable accommodations are arranged,
provided, or allowed.
provide information and materials in alternative formats upon request.
treat all students with the same fundamental fairness.
follow the confidentiality guidelines and laws outlined in this document.
make students with disabilities aware of procedures for securing accommodations
by including a statement in their syllabi (see Syllabi Example).
Suggested Language for Syllabi for Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities needing academic accommodations should:
Register with and provide documentation to the Student Disability Resource
Bring a letter to the instructor from the SDRC indicating you need academic
accommodations. This should be done within the first week of class.
This syllabus and other class materials are available in alternative
format upon request.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is the SDRC?
In response to the
growing number of college students with disabilities, many campuses
across the nation established offices to handle requests for accommodations
and hired professionals knowledgeable about disability-related issues.
At Florida State University, the Student Disability Resource Center
(SDRC) serves as liaison between students, faculty, and staff on disability
concerns, arranges accommodations for students with disabilities, and
ensures that FSU is in compliance with federal and state laws. The SDRC
is located in 108 Student Services Building.
How Does a Student Qualify for Services?
Only the SDRC can determine who is eligible for
services based on a disability. Students can register for services by
making an appointment with a SDRC and presenting documentation. Students
with learning disabilities must provide a psychoeducational evaluation
done by a licensed psychologist in the past three to five years, and
students with other types of disabilities must provide a detailed letter
from a physician, psychologist, or specialist in the area of their disability
that includes a diagnosis of the disability, how it impacts them in
an educational setting, and suggestions for appropriate reasonable accommodations.
If a student requests accommodations, but is not registered with SDRC,
please refer them to the SDRC before any accommodations are provided.
How should I let students know that they need to
talk to me about their accommodation needs? Can I require that they
discuss accommodation needs at the beginning of the semester?
The best way to communicate your desire to discuss
accommodation needs with a student is to put a statement in your syllabus
(see Syllabi Example). Although it is easier if the student discusses
their accommodation needs at the beginning of the semester, you cannot
deny accommodations if the student chooses to disclose later in the
semester. However, you are also not obligated to allow a student to
re-do any assignment or test for which they did not receive accommodations
if you did not know they have a disability. The SDRC encourages registered
students to give a faculty letter to each of their professors during
the first week of class.
What should I do if a student tells me that he/she
has a disability and requests accommodations, but does not have any
Tell them that they need to be registered with SDRC
and provide a faculty letter to you before you can provide any accommodations.
You are under no obligation to provide accommodations until the student
gives you a copy of the letter. A student who is unaware of the procedures
for obtaining accommodations may try to give you a copy of their documentation.
Ask them to take their documentation to the Student Disability Resource
Center because it is SDRC's responsibility to determine if a student
is eligible for services.
I have a student in my class that I suspect may
have a learning disability. Does the SDRC conduct evaluations to determine
if a student has a disability?
No, the SDRC does not conduct evaluations, but we
would be happy to talk to the student and give them a referral for testing.
How will I know which accommodations a student is entitled to?
Generally speaking, most students with disabilities
are entitled to extended test time and a notetaker (see Description
of Services for more information). Arrangements for tutors, readers,
and writers are made between the student and SDRC, but the student may
request help when trying to locate someone to provide this assistance.
Address any questions about accommodations to the student first, but
contact SDRC if necessary. Depending on the type of disability the student
has, other reasonable accommodations may be appropriate. Please contact
the SDRC to discuss specific accommodation requests
What should I do if I feel that the accommodation(s)
a student asks for is/are unreasonable?
Consult with SDRC before you agree to or refuse
any accommodation. Instructors can be held personally liable for refusing
to accommodate a student with a disability so be sure to seek assistance
from SDRC before making any decisions about a request for accommodation
that may seem unreasonable to you. Accommodations should be fundamentally
fair, reasonable, and related to the student's disability.
How much "extended time" on an exam is appropriate?
It depends upon
the nature and purpose of the exam (i.e. Is the time it takes to complete
the exam an essential component of the student's score?), but most students
do not need beyond double time. The SDRC does not limit the amount of
time a student is allotted for an exam. If you have questions about
extended test time, please contact SDRC.
Isn't it unfair to other students in the class when
students with disabilities receive extra time on exams?/p>
Although it may seem that students with disabilities
are getting an unfair advantage when they receive more time than students
without disabilities, this is not the purpose or result of extended
testing time. Depending on the student's disability, extra time on exams
is necessary for a variety of reasons. Studies that examined the effects
of extra time on exams indicated that when students without learning
disabilities are given extra time, there was no significant effect on
their exam score, but when students with learning disabilities were
given extra time, their scores improved significantly (citation).
If a student will be taking tests with accommodations
through SDRC, where will the test be given and who monitors its administration?
Students who sign up to take an exam with SDRC will
take it in the SDRC Testing Lab at the same time the class takes it
(unless you give permission otherwise). Please see the section on alternative
testing procedures for more details.
Are class absences considered a reasonable accommodation?
You are not required to excuse absences that occur
after the student has surpassed the number of absences that are specified
in your syllabus, particularly if class attendance is considered an
essential part of receiving a grade for the course. However, in some
cases, it may be reasonable to excuse a student from class if they have
a documented disability-related reason for missing class. You should
review a students request for excused absences on a case-by-case
basis and consult with the SDRC if you have questions or concerns.
What should I do if my class is assigned to an inaccessible
location or a student needs modified furniture, such as an accessible
desk or an orthopedic chair?
Notify SDRC immediately so that the classroom location
can be changed and/or any modified furniture can be moved into the classroom
as soon as possible.
Can students without disabilities who need extra
time on exams (for example, a student whose native language is not English)
use the SDRC Testing Lab?
While it may seem logical that students without
disabilities who just need extra testing time should be allowed to use
the SDRC Testing Lab, this service can only be used by students registered
with SDRC. Because SDRC receives funding based on the number of registered
students with disabilities, providing services and resources to students
without disabilities could result in serious problems. Questions about
extra test time and students without disabilities should be directed
to the head of your department.
How will I know if a student needs a notetaker in my class?
The student should give you a faculty letter from
SDRC (see Faculty Letter Example) requesting that you make an anonymous
announcement asking the class if anyone is willing to be a notetaker.
Complete instructions for assisting students with finding a notetaker
are on the faculty letter. The notetaker and the student who is registered
with SDRC should meet privately after class to discuss the arrangements.
Notetakers can earn servscript points for taking notes. The SDRC will sign off on volunteer
hours that can appear on their transcript. Please include this information
as part of the anonymous announcement because it often helps in the
recruiting of notetakers. If you have any questions regarding notetakers,
please contact SDRC at 644-9566.
If a student asks for help finding a tutor, what
should I do?
SDRC does not provide tutors, however, we encourage students to talk with their departments for listing of tutors.
If students with disabilities receive so many accommodations
in college, how will they ever "make it" in the "real
The fact is that millions of persons with disabilities
are "making it" in the "real world" with very few
accommodations that are of little or no cost to their employer. Although
most jobs have deadlines, employees are usually given a reasonable amount
of time to complete a task and are given access to a wide variety of
resources. With a few exceptions, most work environments are very different
from conditions in a college course. Of course, people with disabilities
may have some limitations that make it difficult or impossible for them
to perform certain tasks, but don't ever assume that a person with a
disability cannot complete an assignment or participate in a course.
Always discuss the situation with the student first, but contact SDRC
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Description of Services Available to FSU Students With Disabilities
Although you may not have to become directly involved in providing some
types of accommodations to students with disabilities, it is a good
idea for you to become familiar with the services that FSU offers through
the Student Disability Resource Center. The use of any accommodation
must be supported by the student's documentation and approved by an
SDRC staff member. The following are descriptions of more common accommodations
provided by the University, but depending upon a student's situation,
other reasonable accommodations may also be considered.
Extra Time on Exams/Quizzes
For a variety of reasons, students with disabilities
often need extra time to complete exams or quizzes. Students typically
use time and a half or double time to complete
exams. If you have questions about extended
test time, please contact SDRC.
Alternative Testing Locations/Isolated Testing
As with extended test time, there are a variety
of reasons that a student with a disability will need an alternative
testing location. Attention and distractibility problems or the use
of a reader and/or writer are the most common. The Student Disability
Resource Center provides an excellent, state-of-the-art, alternative
testing location in SSB 108. One small classroom and several smaller
rooms were designed to accommodate the testing needs of students with
various types of disabilities. Testing is monitored by SDRC staff, and
students are not allowed to use any class materials without the instructors
consent. The FSU Academic Honor Code is strictly enforced and students
are video recorded while taking exams. Please read the Alternative Testing
Procedures section in this guide and on the back of each exam sign-up
sheet for further details.
Again, there may be a variety of different reasons
that students with disabilities will need note-takers. The most common
reasons include auditory processing deficits, attention deficits, or
physical limitations that impair the ability to write. If a student
needs a note-taker, you will be informed by SDRC through a faculty letter
memorandum (see Faculty Letter Example) and asked to make an anonymous
announcement in class asking for a note-taker. The SDRC will sign off on volunteer hours that can appear on
their transcript. Please include this information as part of the anonymous
announcement because it often helps in the recruiting of note-takers.
Students with disabilities who need a reader and/or
writer for exams due to a mobility or learning disability will be assisted
by an SDRC staff member in the SDRC Testing Lab. Readers/writers for
other course requirements will be arranged by SDRC or the Division of
The University is not required
to provide tutoring, but we encourage instructors to share a list of qualified tutors to our students thereby providing them with access to arranging that service for themselves.
Assistance with Study/Organizational/Time-Management Skills
A graduate assistant at the SDRC is available to
meet one-on-one with students who need help with study, organizational,
and/or time-management skills. If you feel that a student with a disability
in your class could benefit from this service, please encourage them
to schedule an appointment with the graduate assistant.
Interpreters for Students with Hearing Impairments
Postsecondary institutions are required by law to
arrange and pay for interpreting services for students who qualify for
this service. This includes any class that the student is enrolled in
and any program sponsored by the University. Students who use interpreters
inform SDRC of their class schedules and the SDRC makes arrangements
for an interpreter to be present at every class meeting. Students who
do not use interpreters may use an assisted listening device (see Technology
section for more information).
Some students with physical, visual, and hearing
disabilities are placed on priority registration to allow students to
adequately space their classes due to mobility issues.
Students with temporary or permanent physical disabilities
may be eligible to use the Universitys Accessible Van. Please
refer any students that may need this service to the SDRC.
Students with disabilities can receive accommodations
on the CLAST exam by contacting SDRC and the CLAST office before they
sign up. Typical CLAST accommodations include extended time and readers/writers.
Section 240.152 of the Florida Statutes provides
for the reasonable substitution of admission requirements to a state
university, community college, or postsecondary vocational institution
for any person with a disability. Students with disabilities who are
admitted to a state university, community college, or postsecondary
vocational institution are eligible for reasonable substitution for
any graduation requirement, requirements for admission into program
of study or upper division where such a substitution does not significantly
alter the nature of the program (F.S. 250.153). Examples of this may
include substitution for or waiver of math or foreign language requirements
for some students with specific learning disabilities. Waivers and/or
substitutions for sections of the CLAST examination are also possible.
BOE Rule 6C. 6018 provides specific requirements for implementation
of these statutes. Students with disabilities must request a substitution
of course requirements through their academic dean and provide documentation
supporting their request.
Quiet Study Areas for Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities can use the SDRC student
lounge or small rooms in SDRCs computer lab to study and/or meet
with their tutor. Strozier Library also provides rooms.
Alternative Testing Procedures
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Because alternative testing locations and extended testing time are
common accommodations among students with disabilities, Student Disability
Resource Center (SDRC) has developed procedures for organizing these
accommodations. The following is a general summary of these procedures,
but they are subject to change. Please note that only students with
documentation on file at the Student Disability Resource Center are
able to use the testing lab. The SDRC employs a full-time professional
staff member to coordinate and monitor exam administration. Typically, the SDRC
Testing Lab is open Monday through Friday from 8-5:00, however, SDRC has extended hours during finals. If you have any questions about alternative testing, please call
the SDRC Exam Coordinator at 645-1853.
HOW FACULTY LETTERS & EXAM SHEETS WORK
Students who are registered with SDRC and deemed
eligible for extended test time or an alternative testing location should
present you with a Faculty Letter. If they need these accommodations,
they should discuss them with you at the time they present the letter.
Example Faculty Letter
Students are responsible for filling out an Exam Sign-Up Sheet, getting
it signed by their professors, and bringing the sheet back to SDRCs
Testing Lab at least 5 days before the test is given in the class. A
separate Exam Sign-Up sheet must be filled out for each exam. You MUST
sign this sheet before an exam can be administered at SDRC.
Tests are kept in a locked cabinet until the student comes to take it.
You must give written permission for the student to use any course materials.
Students are monitored by the Exam Coordinator and a video recorder
during the test. The Universitys Academic Honor Code is strictly
enforced and any alleged violations of the Code will be reported to
Students will not be allowed to start an exam 20 minutes or more after
the start time indicated on the Exam Sign-Up sheet without your permission.
Students will not be allowed to start an exam before the time indicated
on the Exam Sign-Up sheet without your permission.
Tests will be returned by email, blackboard, fax, or campus mail as
soon as possible after the student finishes. You may also pick up exams
from the SDRC Testing Lab. If you have questions about the Testing Lab,
please come to SSB 108 or call 645-1853. You are always welcome to stop
by the SDRC for a tour of the testing facility.
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Advances in technology have had a significant impact on the educational
experiences of students with disabilities, helping them become more
independent. It is important that you become aware of some of the technological
devices that students with disabilities may use in your classroom or
to complete assignments in your course. Most of this equipment is located
in the SDRC Computer Lab in the SSB 108 or available for check-out through
Assistive Listening Devices
Some students with hearing deficits may choose to
wear some type of assistive listening device, such as an FM system,
to amplify voices and sounds in the classroom. These systems usually
require the speaker to use a microphone while the listener wears a receiver.
Closed Captioned TV (CCTV)/Enlargement Systems
Students with visual impairments may use a CCTV
(which displays a magnified image on a video screen) or other enlargement
devices to increase the size of average print. CCTV's are available
at the SDRC and in the library.
Voice Recognition Programs
Voice recognition programs allow hands-free dictation
and commands for word processing programs. Dragon Naturally Speaking,
a voice recognition program, is available in SDRCs computer lab.
Screen readers allow students to hear text as they
type in a word processing program or go back to hear what they have written
in a computer generated voice. A popular screenreader, JAWS, is located
on several computers in the SDRC computer lab and other locations on
Screen enlargers magnify the output on a computer
screen. A screen enlarging program, Zoomtext Plus, is available in the
SDRC computer lab.
Reading machines scan text put on a flatbed scanner
and read the text in a computer generated voice. Some of these devices
also tape the read material for later use. The SDRC computer lab houses
two reading machines.
Other pieces of equipment, such as modified computer
mice, large monitors, magnifying glasses, variable speed tape recorders,
and Franklin spellers are also available upon request. Computers with
a variety of different programs, such as Microsoft Word, WordPerfect,
and internet access, are also available in SDRCs computer lab.
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Alternative Print Formats
If you receive a request from a student for information in an alternative
format, the SDRC would be happy to assist you. The Center has several
pieces of equipment and software that can create alternative formats
of printed material.
Braille Embosser (printer)
Students who read Braille may request that some
or all class handouts and exams be put in Braille. If a student approaches
you with this request, SDRC can arrange for documents to be put in Braille,
as long as adequate time is given (usually 2-3 days).
Many students with disabilities who need an alternative
format of printed materials prefer to receive this information in an
electronic format (on disk, CD, or as an email attachment). You should
make arrangements to provide the student with any Powerpoint presentation
materials that are shown in class before the class begins.
Some students with visual impairments may ask you
to enlarge materials from the class. If a student asks for large print
materials and you do not have access to a copy machine that enlarges
print, please contact SDRC. Also be aware that some students with learning
disabilities and visual impairments may not be able to fill out scantron
Students with disabilities may use an audio-cassette
recorder for a variety of reasons, including taping class lectures or
assignments. If a student requests a copy of class materials on audio-tape
and you need assistance making arrangements, contact SDRC.
Books on Tape
Some students with learning disabilities or visual
impairments receive books on tape from Recordings for the Blind and
Dyslexic (RFB&D). Students who use books on tape may ask you for
book information the semester before they are enrolled in the class
because book delivery often takes several weeks. The Student Disability
Resource Center also scans books to C.D if RFB&D does not have the book.
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Faculty and Staff Training and Development
Florida State Universitys Student Disability Resource Centers
staff is committed to sharing general information about students with
disabilities with the FSU community. This includes individual consultations
or group training sessions designed to provide opportunities for faculty
and staff to engage in dialogue about providing accommodations to students
with disabilities and have their questions answered. If you are interested
in arranging a departmental training session or an individual meeting,
please call the Student Disability Resource Center at 644-9566.
Important Phone Numbers
Student Disability Resource Center 644-9566
Student Disability Resource Center exam fax 644-7164
Student Disability Resource Center Testing Lab 645-1853
Dean of Students Department 644-2428
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