Accessibility Services at Aquinas College

Faculty FAQ Regarding Accessibility Services for Students

Where do students register for accessibility services or accommodations?
Accessibility Services, located in lower Wege 103 C, is the office responsible for determining eligibility and appropriate reasonable accommodations for Aquinas students with disabilities.  We assist the college in fulfilling its legal responsibilities mandated by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended in 2008.  These laws require colleges to provide equal access to educational programs for qualified students with disabilities.  The student is responsible for being a self-advocate and discussing accommodation requests with instructors.

Who is eligible for disability services?
Any student with a significant physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities, such as;  walking, talking, breathing, learning, and performing manual tasks, is eligible for disability services.  Students requesting accommodations are required to register by submitting current disability documentation and meeting with the Director of Accessibility Services, Aquinas Accessibility Services .

Who decides what academic accommodations are appropriate for a student and how is that decision made?
The Director of Accessibility Services reviews each student’s disability documentation to determine if a condition meets the standard established by the Section 504 of a substantial impairment of a major life activity.  The documentation must also demonstrate the functional impact of this condition on the student in an academic setting.  Reasonable accommodations are approved to address the impact of the condition, taking into consideration the student’s request, past history of accommodation, and the nature of the course or degree program.  Accommodations may not fundamentally alter a course.

Are all students with disabilities registered with Accessibility Services?
No, many students either choose not to register for accessibility services or they may not met the eligibility criteria for accommodations.  Some do not need accommodations.  Others need accessibility services but choose not to use them. Faculty members are also instructed not to provide accommodations without an official accommodation letter from Accessibility Services.  If a student is struggling and you suspect a disability, please have a private meeting to refer them to the Accessibility Services office.

How do I know if a student is registered with Accessibility Services? 
Upon student request and verification of eligibility, an accommodation letter is prepared by Accessibility Services and provided to the student via email or hard copy.  Students are responsible for meeting with instructors, providing the accommodation letter and making arrangements for accommodations (such as scheduling with the testing center).  If a student requests accommodations without providing an accommodation letter, you should request a letter before providing accommodations.  However, if the disability is obvious and the request is reasonable, you should provide the accommodation while waiting for an accommodation letter.

What is an accommodation?
An accommodation is the elimination of a barrier to a program or service to enable an individual with a disability to participate on an equal basis.  Extended time for test taking, copies of notes, a distraction free setting, and real-time captioning, are examples of accommodations.  This list is not exhaustive.

What should I do if a student gives me an accommodation letter from Accessibility Services?
When a student gives you an accommodation letter and discloses that he or she has a disability, you should meet privately with the student and establish a means of providing accommodations in a timely manner that is satisfactory to you and the student.  Faculty members can also greatly support the student by asking what can be done in the course to facilitate learning and access to the class. Do not ask the student what his/her disability is.  They may volunteer that information, however they are not required to do so.

What is my responsibility for maintaining confidentiality about a student’s disability?
Information about a student’s disability status and accommodations may be shared with staff who assists with providing accommodations or services.  Faculty should not disclose the disability status of a student to classmates.  If sending an email message to students about accommodation arrangements, send individual messages or blind copy (bcc) a group of students so that their names are not disclosed to each other.  Accessibility accommodation letters should be stored in a secured location and shredded upon completion of the semester.

Who is responsible for providing accommodations?
Faculty members who have been notified by the student with an accommodation letter in a timely fashion are responsible for fulfilling classroom accommodation requests.  Occasionally, requests may come directly from Accessibility Services.  Accessibility Services will assist with accommodations that require converting materials to electronic format, arranging for note takers, extended test time and distraction free setting, loaning laptops for test taking, or providing adaptive equipment, scribes or readers during the academic year. During the spring/summer semester, faculty are responsible for providing extended test times and/or distraction free testing areas accommodations. 

What is the best way to encourage students to request accommodation early in the semester?
Place the following statement on the front page of your syllabus (rather than the last page) to show students that meeting their individual needs is important.  Also encourage students to visit the Accessibility Services office as soon as possible, even if it is just to learn about the services that it provides.

Aquinas College is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. If you need accommodations because of a disability, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Requests for accommodations by persons with disabilities may be made by contacting the Accessibility (Disability) Services Office at 616-632-2177, dsservices@aquinas.edu. The office is located in the Wege Center, room 103C.  Once your eligibility for an accommodation has been determined, you will be issued a verified letter from the Accessibility Services Office. Please present your accommodation letter to me as soon as possible in order to begin utilizing accommodations. Please note that accommodations are not retroactive.

Aquinas Accessibility Services

What is considered timely notice of the need for accommodations?
Students are advised to meet with instructors early in the semester (during the first 1-2 weeks of class) to make arrangements for accommodations.  At least two weeks’ advance notice is reasonable for test-taking accommodations.  More notice may be needed for some accommodations such as arranging adaptive transportation or interpreters for field trips.  Because students can register for services at any time during the semester, you may receive accommodation letters throughout the semester.  You need only accommodate from the time of notice.

What is my responsibility if a student appears disabled but does not request accommodations, or tells me that s/he has a medical or psychological condition?
If you observe an obvious access issue, ask the student how you can assist and refer the student to Accessibility Services for a follow-up discussion.  Students are not required to receive accommodations, and many students with disabilities choose not to use accommodations. Students who disclose a non-obvious disability and request an accommodation for the course should be referred to Accessibility Services.  Not all medical or mental health concerns are disabilities.  We will assist the student to the appropriate resources.

Should I accommodate students who have self-identified but have not given me an accommodation letter from Accessibility Services?
Unless it is obvious that a student has a disability, please do not provide accommodations without notice from the Accessibility Services office. In either case (visible or invisible disabilities,) in order to ensure that the student has a full understanding of the scope of Accessibility Services, you should refer the student to Accessibility Services.  We will help the student use the established procedure for requesting disability services.

What if I disagree with an approved accommodation for my course?
Contact the Director of Accessibility Services to discuss why you think the accommodation is not appropriate for your course.  If you cannot reach an agreement with Director of Accessibility Services, the Provost may be asked to make a final determination of the appropriate course of action. 

How are disputes resolved if a student thinks he or she is experiencing discrimination on the basis of a disability?
The Accessibility Services office will attempt to resolve a student’s disability-related concerns informally.  Students who believe they have been discriminated against and wish to seek a formal resolution must use the procedures outlined in the ADA/Section 504 Grievance Procedure