Access and Accommodations
The Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) located in 110 Administration (404-727-9877) determines whether a student qualifies as an individual with a disability through a rigorous evaluation of documentation of the disability, considering the functional limitations resulting from the disability and relating these to the accommodations needed to promote access and inclusion. It is through this office that the formal process of disclosure, registration, determination of appropriate accommodations and referral to resources originates. Having a diagnosis of a medical, sensory or cognitive condition does not necessarily indicate that there is a disability. It is the limitation that results from the diagnosis that is considered when determining whether an accommodation is warranted.
It is the responsibility of the individual to disclose to the institution. This is an important difference between legislation that governs students prior entrance into post-secondary institutions. Accommodations are not granted retroactively so many individuals with longstanding and well-understood disabilities do register in order to receive the accommodations that will grant them the access and support needed.
Instructors receive notification of the accommodations appropriate to their courses in the form of a letter or email communication and then acknowledge receipt and understanding of their role in providing the accommodation. This is an important first step in assuring that the institution is meeting its responsibilities. The instructor is charged with providing the accommodation as designed by the OAS office. If there is a concern or question about delivery of the accommodation, the ADSR office should be consulted and alternatives will be discussed.
For guidance on the law and “dos” and “don’ts” for instructors, see http://www.apa.org/pi/disability/dart/legal/ada-basics.aspx. The information provided by the American Psychological Association for instructors of individuals with disabilities protects you, the instructor, and the institution.
Questions often arise regarding students who are requesting “accommodations” but have not registered with the OAS office. These requests may be based on temporary illness or emergence of a condition that could qualify them as a “person with a disability.” Some examples are emotional problems that emerge in the late adolescent-early adult period, medical conditions, accidents and injuries, and previously undiagnosed cognitive disabilities.
See Common Disability Scenarios for information about how to handle disability-related situations that occur frequently in the classroom.
What are “accommodations?”
Accommodations under the ADA are adjustments in some aspect of instruction, programs and services aimed to provide access for individuals who have qualified based on documentation of need as established by the guidelines of the institution. These are not designed to provide unfair advantage or to increase opportunity for success. Course standards and essential learning outcomes must be maintained so it is important that these are carefully outlined on the syllabus.
Typical accommodations are:
- Extended testing time (not unlimited) as determined through documentation
- Distraction reduced testing location
- Peer notetaker
- Preferential seating
- Print materials altered for accessibility
- Audio or visual capture of classroom lecture (recorded lectures, PowerPoint slides)
- Consideration for absences (as possible depending on nature of essential features of learning outcomes