Enhancing Accessibility in Post-Secondary Education Institutions
Academic Accommodation Process
For many students with disabilities, access to effective and timely academic accommodations is integral to their educational success. PSE institutions have successfully utilized the following processes to provide access to and deliver these accommodations.
- As it is important that students with disabilities register early with disability services, allow new students to register at the same time they are applying to the college/university. Encourage students with disabilities to register with disability services even if they do not feel they need accommodations.
- Have applications direct students to a disability service website, or to the disability service office, where they can obtain information regarding available services and eligibility criteria. Ensure detailed guidelines are provided on what documentation is required and how to submit it. When assessments are required, provide information on funding options.
- Instruct students to contact the disability office as soon as they receive their acceptance letter and include a brief reference to this in all acceptance letters.
- It is important to continue outreach to the student population so that those who may not have self-identified as having a disability during the application process are still aware of available services.
- All students registered with disability services should meet with an advisor to discuss their accommodation needs; this is typically done once students receive their course schedule. Provide early registration services to students who require more time to arrange for accommodations.
- Students and their advisors will develop an appropriate Accommodation Plan that specifies the services and equipment required to fulfill the necessary in-class, testing, instructional, and out-of-class accommodations.
- Advisors will help students fill out the necessary forms to obtain accommodations and assist them in applying for any funding the student may require.
- Provide comprehensive forms for students to complete when requesting specific services and consider developing “packages” on common accommodations for particular disabilities which would include information and the application form. Include information on required documentation and assessments, both in hard copy and on-line. Whenever possible, provide the option to submit requests electronically.
- Provide clear and explicit deadlines for when students must submit their documentation, submit requests and/or meet with their advisor. However, try and be flexible as unforeseen circumstances may arise.
- It is important to respond to requests in a timely manner. This includes requests for accommodations but also for requests for appointments and general inquiries. If staff is unable to reply immediately, acknowledge the receipt of the request and provide a reasonable timeframe when it will be addressed. Ensuring students receive their accommodations in a timely manner is a high priority.
- While students are responsible for meeting to discuss their accommodation plans, disability services should help remind them of the required process. Develop a mailing list and send out important date reminders to registered students. Another option is to have a detailed calendar available online which highlights key dates and deadlines.
- Allow returning students who do not require changes to their accommodation plan to register on-line. If students are required to have their accommodation plans signed by their instructors, the plans can be generated electronically and sent to the student who will get the signatures and return them to the office. This will be convenient for most students and help alleviate the workload of disability advisors.
- Ensure that students have an outlet to which they may appeal in the event there are disagreements on the provision of accommodations. Any Appeals Committee should be knowledgeable on the subject matter and impartial.
- The question of who should contact course instructors regarding necessary accommodations can be difficult. While it is important for students with disabilities to act as their own advocates, it can be stressful and burdensome for some students. There are a few options in this situation:
- Provide students with disabilities with letters for each of their instructors; the letters would outline the necessary accommodations. Students may choose to meet with their instructors in the first couple of weeks to discuss the accommodations and have the instructor sign-off on the plan. Students would then return a signed form to disability services. Disability advisors would only intervene if students encountered difficulties with instructors. This kind of process may be difficult, however, at a school with a lot of part-time faculty members.
- Disability services could deliver copies of students’ accommodation plans directly to instructors and, at this time, could also direct them to faculty resources. After this initial contact, students could identify themselves to their professors and discuss any necessary follow-up.
- Instruct students with disabilities to follow-up and communicate with their instructors to ensure timely implementation of accommodations. If necessary, disability advisors should be available to meet with instructors and clarify the accommodation services.
- Disability advisors should conduct follow-up meetings with students, particularly new students, to ensure the accommodations are meeting their needs.