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Disability Support Services

202 Wilson Hall
371 Wilson Boulevard
Rochester, MI 48309-4454
(location map)
(248) 370-3266
Fax: (248) 370-4327
[email protected]

Office Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Disability Support Services

202 Wilson Hall
371 Wilson Boulevard
Rochester, MI 48309-4454
(location map)
(248) 370-3266
Fax: (248) 370-4327
[email protected]

Office Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

room full of people seated at round tables, looking towards the front of the room

Faculty Resources

The Disability Support Services office provides many accommodations and auxiliary aids for students with disabilities. Examples include: braille books, audio books, quiet testing with reader/scribe, sign language interpreters, enlarged materials, adaptive furniture and various assistive technology and software. In order to comply with federal laws and to ensure our students receive their approved accommodations, we count on faculty to implement some of the student’s accommodations which are outlined in the faculty notification letter.

Please note that students are strongly encouraged to arrange a time to meet with their professors to discuss how the approved accommodations will be implemented. DSS staff is available to collaborate and assist in these discussions. Should the accommodations included in the faculty notification letter need to be reviewed or revised please contact DSS immediately to avoid any unnecessary delays in ensuring that the student receives the needed accommodation(s). The student must adhere to all course requirements as well as the Student Code of Conduct. Please note, all information related to a student’s disability status is strictly confidential and we remind you to use discretion with this information.

Teaching Students With
  • Characterized by persistent, severe difficulties due to inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsiveness
  • Have many problems in an academic setting, similar to students with Learning Disabilities. Examples are: slow or inefficient reading, slow essay writing, frequent errors in math calculation and the mechanics of writing. Specific to ADD/ADHD are serious problems with time management, task completion organization and memory.
  • Students with ADD/ADHD generally perform better if given a syllabus with clear expectations of tasks and specific due dates.
  • Start each lecture with a summary of the material that will be covered that day. Conclude with a review of major points.
  • Students with ADD/ADHD can “drift” during lectures. Keep materials stimulating and the format varied. If the class period is several hours, allow for breaks.
  • Student should sit away from distractions (doors, windows and noisy heaters or air conditioners.)
  • Students may miss assignments that are only given orally. When possible, give assignments in writing or in the form of handouts, Moodle, etc.
  • For large projects or long papers, the student may need help breaking down the task into parts.
  • A reduced distraction environment may be needed for the student during exams or quizzes. 
Asperger Syndrome
Students on the Autism Spectrum have a wide variety of characteristics. Whereas no two people on the spectrum are alike, this gives a general overview of working with these students. Asperger Syndrome (AS) is a common diagnosis for students on the far end of the spectrum. It is sometimes referred to as “high-functioning autism.” It is a developmental disorder that is characterized by deficits in social skills, communication, and unusual repetitive behaviors. The core features appears to be the individual’s inability to understand the thoughts, feelings and motivations of other people and to use this understanding to regulate his/her own behaviors.

Some AS students may have a sophisticated and impressive vocabulary and excellent rote memory but may have difficulty with high-level thinking and comprehension skills. They can give the impression that they understand, when in reality they may be repeating what they have heard or read. Many individuals with Asperger Syndrome are visual learners. Pictures and graphs may be helpful to them.

The following characteristics are typical in an individual with Asperger Syndrome. Due to the diversity and complexity of this disability, you may not see all of these characteristics in a given student. It is important to understand these characteristics, because they can result in behaviors that are easy to misinterpret. Often behaviors that seem odd or unusual or even rude are in fact unintentional symptoms of Asperger Syndrome.
  • Frequent errors in interpreting others’ body language, intentions or facial expressions.
  • Difficulty understanding the motives and perceptions of others
  • Problems asking for help
  • Motor clumsiness, unusual body movements and/or repetitive behavior
  • Difficulty with the big picture, perseverate on the details (can’t see the forest for the trees)
  • Difficulties with transitions and changes in schedule
  • Wants things “just so”
  • Problems with organization (including initiating, planning, carrying out, and finishing tasks)
  • Deficits in abstract thinking (concrete, focuses on irrelevant details, difficulty generalizing)
  • Unusual sensitivity to touch, sounds, and visual details, may experience sensory overload
Functional Impact
  • Communication and Social Skills
  • Difficulty in initiating and sustaining connected relationships
  • Poor or unusual eye contact
  • Problems understanding social rules (such as personal space)
  • Impairment of two-way interaction (May seem to talk “at you” rather than “with you”)
  • Conversation and questions may be tangential or repetitive
  • Restricted interests that may be unusual and sometimes become a rigid topic for social conversation
  • Unusual speech intonation, volume, rhythm, and/or rate
  • Literal understanding of language (difficulty interpreting words with double meaning, confused by metaphors and sarcasm)
Teaching Tips
  • Don’t use absolute words such as “always” or “never” unless that is exactly what you mean.
  • Supplement oral with written instructions when revising assignments, dates, etc.
  • Use clear and detailed directives when referring to revisions that need to be made
  • Listing or numbering changes on the paper will provide guidelines for the student when working
  • If modeling writing rules, write them on a separate sheet for future reference
  • Keep directions simple and declarative
  • Ask student to repeat directions in their own words to check comprehension
  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Teach to generalize and consolidate information
  • Go for gist, meaning, and patterns. Don’t get bogged down in details.
  • Use scripts and teach strategies selectively
  • Make sure all expectations are direct and explicit. Don’t require students to “read between the lines” to glean your intentions. 
  • Don’t expect the student to automatically generalize instructions. 
  • Provide direct feedback to the student when you observe areas of academic difficulty. 
  • Encourage use of resources designed to help students with study skills, particularly organizational skills.
  • Avoid idioms, double meaning, and sarcasm, unless you plan to explain your usage.
  • If the student has poor handwriting, allow use of a computer if easier for the student
  • Use the student’s preoccupying interest to help focus/motivate the student. Suggest ways to integrate this interest into the course, such as related paper topics.
  • Make sure the setting for taking tests into consideration any sensitivity to sound, light, touch, etc. 
  • Use clear directives and establish rules if  student invades your space or imposes on your time, or if a student’s classroom comments or conversational volume becomes inappropriate
Writing Projects/Assignments
Information in papers may be redundant, returning to the same topic focus repeatedly. The student may be able to state facts and details, but be greatly challenged by papers requiring:
  • Taking another’s point of view
  • Synthesizing information to arrive at a larger concept
  • Comparing and contrasting to arrive at the “big picture”
  • Using analogies, similes, or metaphors
Chronic health impairments
  • Some students have chronic health conditions that may be invisible but can cause serious problems in an educational setting. Examples are: arthritis, asthma, diabetes, cancer, and seizure disorders. 
  • Symptoms of these conditions can be fluctuating and unpredictable and have a negative impact on cognitive functioning. Medication side effects can also cause problems with fatigue, stamina, concentration and focus. 
  • Students may have difficulty getting from one location to another on campus in a timely fashion. Allowing some latitude with respect to arriving late for class may be helpful.
  • Preferred seating may also be helpful. The DSS Office can provide this.
  • Due to problems associated with their illness, students may need extended time for exams and quizzes.
Deaf or hard of hearing
  • Deaf or HOH (hard of hearing) students use several methods to communicate with others. Some include: speech reading, speech, use of residual hearing, or sign language. For many people English is a second language, while American Sign Language is their first. Because of this students may make errors in written English similar to those made by foreign students.
  • Just because a student wears a hearing aid doesn’t mean the student hears well. The hearing aid only amplifies the sound. They cannot normalize a hearing loss. They are most helpful for environmental noises such as alarms and sirens. 
  • “Reading lips” skills vary from student to student. Only 30% of all speech sounds are visible on the lips. This leaves a lot of guesswork of what is being said up to the student. 
  • The terms “deaf and dumb” and “deaf-mute” are considered offensive and should not be used. Many deaf people choose not to use their own voices because they feel they will not be understood.
  • A variety of services can be made for these students through the DSS Office. Interpreters, FM systems, CART services(transcriptionist) are all examples.
  • If you have a student using either an interpreter or CART services, here are some tips:
    • Introduce yourself to the interpreter. Arrange seating positions that are good for all. 
    • Help the student arrange for note taking assistance. 
    • Provide a copy of any syllabus or handouts you might give the class to the interpreter. This will help the interpreter develop an information base for interpreting the class. 
    • During class speak normally and directly to the student, not the interpreter. If the speed of the discussion becomes too fast, the interpreter and/or student will let you know. 
    • Always ask for clarification if the student’s remarks are unintelligible from the interpreter.
Learning disabilities
  • Difficulties with basic reading and language skills are the most common learning disabilities. 
  • Learning disabilities are not the same as mental illness, autism, deafness, and blindness.
  • ADD/ADHD often occurs at the same time as a learning disability. But the two disorders are not the same thing. 
  • Students with learning disabilities have normal or better intelligence, but they have severe “information-processing deficits” that make them perform significantly worse in one or more academic area. 
  • Most students with learning disabilities report some common problems: slow and inefficient reading, slow essay-writing, problems organizing their writing, and frequent errors in math calculation. 
  • All students, not just students with learning disabilities, benefit when course materials are presented in Universal Design. These principles take into account different learning styles and attempt to present information clearly, concisely and in many different ways.
  • Students with learning disabilities are often eligible for extended time on exams.
  • Students may be eligible for note taking services. These students will need help securing a fellow classmate to serve as note taker. 
  • Encourage students to seek clarification and additional assistance whenever necessary or appropriate. 
  • Common classroom behaviors: spells incorrectly, difficulty reading, difficulty listening to a lecture and taking notes at the same time, trouble following directions, difficulty with open ended questions on exams, weak memory skills, poor grasp of abstract concepts, misreads information, trouble with math computation, demonstrates delayed processing speed. 
Visual impairments
  • Visual impairments come in varied states of impairment. Ranging from total blindness, inability to read standard print, poor navigation without guide dog or a cane. These students may also experience significant fluctuations in their day to day activities.
  • Largest barrier is access to the written word – on the blackboard, textbooks, feedback on homework and tests. Written information should be provided in an alternative format.
  • Examples of accommodations are extended time for tests/quizzes, large print, audio texts or braille. Audiotape recordings of lectures, note takers, and talking calculators are also accommodations frequently used. It is important to discuss the students preference as a format one student uses may not be appropriate for another student.
  • Most visually impaired students use some form of assistive technology.
  • Identify yourself when beginning an interaction with a student with a visual impairment. Make sure the student knows when you are leaving. Use your normal tone and volume of voice.
  • In group discussions, establish rules which will help student follow the discussion flow. Have students identify themselves before speaking.
  • Students with visual impairments may feel it difficult to contribute to class because the lack of information about facial expression and body language makes it hard to judge when to speak. 
  • If a student uses a guide dog, do not interact with the dog. The dog is working. It may become distracted and excited at the attention when it needs to be calm and focused on its work.
  • If it is ever appropriate to guide a visually impaired person, ask first. Offer your arm so that the person can follow you, rather than pushing the person in front of you.
  • Allow preferred seating so the student can hear clearly what is being presented and see as much as possible.
  • Provide course materials, including text books, in advance – so the student has time to prepare the materials for their use. Converting a textbook to an electronic version takes time.
  • Use verbal descriptions of concepts and specific language rather than words like “this” or “here” which require visual information. Slow your pace when referencing a handbook or textbook as it gives the student time to find the information.
  • With DSS support, allow tape recordings of lectures, note takers, or computers during lectures. 
  • Talk with the student about how they would like feedback on their work. Comments on work are an important part of the learning process – you could discuss verbally or in an accessible written form their performance. 
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • TBI’s may produce a diminished or altered state of consciousness, which results in an impairment of cognitive abilities or physical functioning. Can also affect communication skills, perceptual reasoning, psychosocial issues, and behavioral and/or emotional concerns.
  • Characteristics include: emotional, behavioral and/or social problems, difficulty with generalizing and integrating information, varying levels of memory, physical impacts, inconsistent patterns of performance and uneven cognitive deficits, and a shifting neurological profile.
  • Every Traumatic Brain Injury is different, with different effects on the individual.
  • Common academic supports for an individual with A TBI are:
    • Tutoring
    • Computers
    • Calculators
    • Possible alternative assignments
    • Note takers
    • Detailed syllabus
    • Preferred seating in the classroom
    • Tape recording of lectures
    • Alternate testing environment
    • Lower class load
Psychological disabilities
  • Some students have psychological disabilities such as depression, bi polar disorder, or severe anxiety.
  • Every case is different, but, there are some commonalities in the academic experiences of students with psychological disabilities. These students report difficulties with focusing, concentrating and needing more time for exams.
  • The ability to function effectively on a daily basis may fluctuate. Some days students may experience an increase of their symptoms. 
  • Medications can help, but may have side effects that can contribute to a student’s academic problems.
  • Please make every effort to make students feel comfortable if they choose to disclose their psychological disabilities to you. 
  • Some psychological disabilities may cause students to become disoriented or lack physical stamina.
  • Because of side effects of medications, as well as general symptoms, students with psychological disabilities may need extended time for exams or note taking services.
  • For disability relates reasons, these students may sometimes have to miss class, or even leave the room in the middle of a class. The student will be responsible for the content of any lecture missed, but they will appreciate your helping them fill in the gaps. 
Mobility impairments
  • Students with mobility impairments may not be able to raise their hands to participate in class discussions. Make eye contact frequently with these students to see if they wish to contribute to the discussion
  • A wheelchair is part of a person’s personal space. No one should lean on it, touch it, or push it. If possible, be seated when talking to a person in a wheel chair, so the student does not have to look up at you. This also lessens the likelihood of the student feeling intimidated with you above them looking down.
  • Be compassionate. For reasons, many times, not under their control, these students may be late to class. It can be difficult to move from one location to another due to architectural barriers, poor public transportation, or campus issues.
  • Classroom furniture and equipment may need to be changed for a student with mobility impairment. Special chairs, lower tables, are examples. 
  • Not all mobility impairments are constant and un-changing. Some students experience flare ups or relapses requiring bed rest or hospitalization. In most cases, students are able to make up missed work, but they may need extra time. 
  • For students with limited manual dexterity, they may need extra time on exams and quizzes. Using a computer, scribe or handwriting may be necessary.
Fundamental Alteration
Fundamental Alterations/Essential Functions of a Course
Pursuant to the Federal Rehabilitation Act, Oakland University will make reasonable modifications to its academic requirements as are necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate or have the effect of discriminating, on the basis of disability, against a qualified disabled applicant or student; provided however, that no modifications will be made to requirements essential to the instruction being pursued by such student or to any directly related licensing requirement.  Reasonable modifications may include changes in the length of time permitted for the completion of degree requirements, substitution of specific courses required for the completion of degree requirements, and adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted.  Similarly, pursuant to the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Oakland University will make reasonable modifications in polices, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability; provided however, no modifications will be made that will fundamentally alter the nature of the services, program, or activity.

How do I define what are the essential functions or requirements of a course/program?

The basic principle is that the student could be excluded if he/she can’t perform the essential functions and/or meet the essential requirements of the program – and particularly if he/she can’t perform them safely. 

It isn’t up to one particular faculty member to decide what those requirements are. The decision making process includes the following elements:
  • The decision is made by a group of people who are trained, knowledgeable and experienced in the area;
  • The decisions-makers consider a series of alternatives as essential requirements; and 
  • The decision will be a careful, thoughtful and rational review of the academic course/program and it’s requirements.
  • The process will include consideration of a variety of factors such as the nature and purpose of the course/program, whether the standard is required in similar courses/programs in other institutions, whether the standard is essential to a given vocation or occupation for which the course/program is preparing students, and whether the standard is required for licensure or certification in a related occupation or profession. 
Once the requirements are established, the program must consider whether each particular applicant or student with a disability can meet them, with or without accommodations (and accommodations don’t have to be provided if they would be a fundamental alteration of the requirement or program). 

For example, if a student says he/she cannot perform fine motor tasks due to a disability, then one must determine if those tasks are an essential function or requirement in order to participate in the program, as determined through the process described above? Or is it the sort of thing that others can do for the student or help he/she do without fundamentally altering the nature of the program? Can he/she perform the other tasks that are essential to the program? It is also important to look at safety. Has the student been observed having difficulty performing the tasks safely? 

Similarly, if the concern is about whether or not the student can perform certain tasks safely, the program must have sufficiently specific information about the individual student on which to base the decision. The safety concern cannot be speculative or remote. A determination as to the student’s ability to safely participate must be individualized and objective, and it must be based on reasonable and current medical knowledge and the best available medical evidence. 

The assessment must take into account the nature, duration and severity of the risk; the probability that the potentially threatening injury will actually occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices or procedures will sufficiently mitigate the risk. Moreover, the decision cannot be motivated by unfounded fear, prejudice or stereotypes. 
The basic principle is that the decision be based on objective information and not on assumptions. Students can have these decisions reviewed by University administrators. The DSS Office is available to assist with this process and to help answer any questions.
What Constitutes a Fundamental Alteration?
A fundamental alteration is a change that is so significant that it alters the essential nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations offered.

Auxiliary aids, accommodations, and services provide a modification to the academic environment, but cannot lower requirements of a course, program, or event. Although students, employees, and campus guests with disabilities can choose courses, academic programs, or events as any other person chooses, people with disabilities are strongly encouraged to explore the learning outcomes of the course and/or programs prior to enrolling or engaging in this pursuit. The provision of reasonable accommodations and services due to disability cannot fundamentally alter the nature of the course, program, or event.

There are some situations where adjustments in teaching method or testing may not be required because they could be considered fundamental alterations. 

Situation: A student taking a class in small engine repair who has limited use of his/her hands asks to take a written test instead of actually repairing an engine.
Reasonable Accommodation or Not? The student’s request would not be accommodated if the essence of the course is to actually repair the engine, not talk or write about it.

Situation: A student tells you that s/he cannot complete writing assignments, with or without accommodations. The student requests that writing assignments not be included in his/her grade.
Reasonable Accommodation or Not? If submitting writing assignments is an essential requirement of the class (for example, in English Composition) there would be no legal mandate to comply with the student’s request to exclude those assignments from the grade.

Situation: A student wants to take all tests at home, although tests are usually administered at the college, or insists on taking tests only as open-book, although other students are not given that choice.
Reasonable Accommodation or Not? Although a student’s disability may require extended time or administration of tests at a distraction-reduced site, it would not be appropriate for a student to request that all tests be administered as take-home or open book tests. There are many other situations where adjustments in teaching method or materials may be required because they would not fundamentally alter instruction.

Situation: A blind student enrolls in a math class and requests that the instructor verbalize what s/he is writing on the board or overhead.
Reasonable Accommodation or Not? The faculty member would be legally required (as well as ethically obliged) to make an adjustment in presentation of course material by verbalizing what is written on the board or overhead. Pointing and referring to “this” and “that” as written on the board would not give the student with a visual disability equal access to the instruction. An added benefit is that verbalizing material rather than just writing it can assist all students because the information presented is more explicit.

Situation: A blind student who reads braille requests to have handouts a few days in advance of the class session so that they can be prepared in alternate format.
Reasonable Accommodation or Not? DSS will take class handouts and braille them. But to do that, we need at least 2 days lead time. Thus, the instructor would be expected to provide the handouts to the student in a timely way so that DSS can braille the material and the student can have equal access to the class material at the same time as his/her peers. It would not be sufficient merely to distribute the handouts in class that day and tell the student, “This is the way I teach.”

Situation: A student with a visual or reading disability requests that the instructor provide information about the textbook that will be used in an upcoming semester.
Reasonable Accommodation or Not? Faculty are expected to meet the bookstore deadlines for textbook adoption. This is not an accommodation as such, but timely textbook adoption is critically important for students with visual or reading disabilities.

If a student registers with our office and if electronic text is considered an appropriate accommodation, DSS works with the student to procure the e-text. However, that process may take a long time. Timely textbook adoption (i.e. meeting the deadlines established by the bookstore) gives DSS time to contact the publisher and arrange for e-text, or if that isn’t available, to scan the book. Delayed textbook adoption impedes that process, thus depriving the student of access to the textbook material.

Many situations involving accommodations are not so cut-and-dried. That is why DSS is available to discuss accommodation issues with you. If you are not comfortable with an accommodation request, please call us so that we can discuss it with you.

“Accommodations for Students with Disabilities” – pamphlet from Individual Accommodation Model (IAM), University of Kansas.
Note Takers
As a faculty member, your role in the Note Taker process is an important one in ensuring the timely delivery of this accommodation. The DSS office appreciates the effort made by the faculty in assisting with the recruitment of a Note Taker.

Process for identifying a Note Taker:
  • Make announcement (Do not reveal the name of the student with the disability)
    • Suggested announcement: “There is a student in the class who will need to utilize the use of a Note Taker or the semester. Would someone want to share their notes with this student?”
  • If no one volunteers, make another announcement:
    • “This is a paid position of $150 for the semester. The stipend is awarded at the end of the semester upon satisfactory completion of note taking assistance.”
Once the Note Taker has been identified:
  • Introduce the Note Taker to the student so they can decide how delivery of notes will occur.
  • Inform the Note Taker to come to the DSS office IMMEDIATELY to:
    • Provide the name of the student they will be taking notes for.
    • Complete paperwork to insure payment for services. 
Responsibilities of the Note Taker:
  • Provide students with clear and legible notes on the lecture/class discussion.
  • Provide notes to the student in a timely manner.
  • You do not have to provide notes to a student if they do not attend class.
  • Notes can be provided in the following ways:
    • Use the DS copy machine
    • Type and email notes to the student
    • Use NCR paper (carbon paper) – DSS will provide
The students and staff of the Office of Disability Support Services appreciate the time and effort required of the instructor in helping the DSS student in identifying a Note Taker. If you have any questions regarding this process, please do not hesitate to contact the DSS office at (248) 370-3266.
Faculty/Student Responsibilities
  • Should introduce themselves to faculty during the first weeks of classes and deliver Faculty Notification Letters.
  • Should visit their instructors regularly, if needed, for help with school work.
  • Are entitled to confidentiality always, in front of peers and faculty.
  • Must provide DSS current documentation in order to receive accommodations. 
  • May be eligible for a range of academic accommodations.
  • Are guaranteed certain rights under federal law.
  • Should try to solve conflicts with professors first, before all else.


  • Could encourage early disclosure by including friendly language in syllabi. 
  • Are the students biggest resource and should project an approachable demeanor.
  • Should never reveal a student’s disability to anyone, at any time. 
  • Should direct any students (not registered with the DSS Office) to the DSS Office
  • Must accommodate those students who are approved by the DSS Office.
  • Should contact DSS if mediation assistance is needed or desired. OR if they have any questions or concerns.

When Faculty Are TOO Accommodating!
By: Jane E. Jarrow, Ph.D.

Most faculty members in higher education today understand the legal and educational imperatives that mandate equal access to students with disabilities through academic accommodation. Sometimes, though, problems arise from faculty who are readily prepared to provide appropriate accommodation - it is their accommodating nature that can get them, the institution, and (sometimes) the student into trouble!

Most institutions have established a clearly articulated policy as to who holds the documentation of disability, what steps a student must take to declare their need for disability-related accommodations, and how that information is communicated to faculty. But what of the student who says, “I don’t want to go through the disability services office. I want to advocate for myself and work directly with faculty and negotiate my own accommodations.” Regardless of why students choose to go this independent route (and there are both good and bad reasons for taking such a stance), the faculty member who agrees to disregard institutional policy and honor accommodation requests directly from the student may not be doing anyone a favor!

Personal Jeopardy: Faculty members who work directly with students, discuss the disability, (possibly) look over the documentation, and agree to accommodation may be establishing themselves as the “gatekeepers” without meaning to do so. If the faculty member agrees to provide accommodation “x” and not accommodation “y” and later the student maintains that he/she was not appropriately accommodated, it is the faculty member’s decision that is subject to question and the faculty member who could conceivably be held responsible for violating this student’s civil rights. The faculty member who agrees to provide accommodations without institutional authorization for a student with one disability (for example, LD) but is less familiar and comfortable with another disability (for example, ADD) and sends that student back through channels for official documentation could be opening himself/herself up for charges of discrimination, intimidation, or harassment. Faculty members who conscientiously try to make life easier for the student by allowing the student to bring the documentation directly to them may gain access to confidential information to which they should not be privy. For all these reasons, it would be best for faculty not to be drawn into the collection of disability documentation or the decision-making regarding accommodation.

Institutional Jeopardy: The student who provides documentation to a single faculty member (who accepts and acts on that documentation) may be able to make a legitimate case for saying the he/she informed the institution of the disability and the need for accommodation. The faculty member should not be discussing the information that has been shared (because of issues of privacy and confidentiality), and yet the student may be expecting to receive similar consideration and accommodation from other faculty on the basis of having provided the documentation to someone in authority at the institution. If it is not made clear that the institution has not been “notified” until the documentation is provided and requests are made from such-and-such an office, the institution may not be in a position to defend itself from charges of discrimination by neglect for a student who does not receive accommodation by others within the institution. Or consider this scenario - Professor A accepts the documentation and provides accommodation without going through channels, as do Professors B and C, and then Professor D says, “I will provide accommodations when I receive proper notification from the disability services office that this is appropriate.” Professor D looks like the villain for following the rules! More distressing, however, is the possibility that the institution may be facing some very real difficulties if the disability services office determines that some of the accommodations that Professors A, B, and C provided were not warranted by the documentation and does not prescribe those same accommodations for Professor D to provide.

Student Jeopardy: Students with disabilities will still have those disabilities after they leave the postsecondary environment. Whether they choose to go on to graduate or professional school or seek a place in the world of work, chances are that if they needed accommodations to successfully function in higher education, they may need accommodation in their future endeavors as well. More and more often, those settings beyond the postsecondary experience are ready and willing to provide accommodations on the basis of verification from the higher education institution that those same accommodations have been provided during the student’s postsecondary career. If the student has no record of having been served by the institution - if the student was never on file in the disability services office and received all of his/her accommodations through individual discussion with faculty - that student will have no official history of being regarded or served as a person with a disability and may have a much more difficult time establishing the claim to accommodations in the future.

Faculty Resources For Online Learning
  • For the student continually emailing you (possibly multiple times a day) expressing concern: Consider telling them the frequency of which you check your email and the time frame they should expect for a response; it may help to include this information in your syllabus. Many students see email as an instant messenger and unrealistically expect a response instantaneously.
  • Students navigating the online courses: Students have access to the Student Guide for Online Learning. Remind the students that The DSS office also has resources such as a scanner and printer available to students Monday through Friday from 8a-5p should the need arise.  In addition, students who maybe in need of a laptop may contact the Student Technology Center Technology Loan Program
  • For the student struggling with an online format: Tips that we provide are to communicate with your instructor, be aware of the course expectations, create a work space that fosters a learning environment, utilize resources, set a schedule particularly for asynchronous classes, and collaborate with peers and professors.
  • For the student requesting changes to your current course structure: DSS students cannot make this demand based upon their disability and will need to follow your current plan. Consider using succinct language, to explain that the way in which you have your course designed will continue to provide the academic content that is required for successful course completion.
  • On-campus resources remain open and are available to assist students:

o   Disability Support Services

o   The Writing Center

o   Academic Success Center

o   OU Counseling Center

  • Accommodations are still being provided. Extended testing times can be adjusted in Moodle. DSS continues to accept testing appointments (for students whose accommodations allow for this) on-campus Monday through Friday from 8a-5p.  Keep in mind, a student who is enrolled in an online course whose peers take online exams can not be told they have to test on-campus unless all students are told they have to come to campus to take a test.  Additional information created through e-Learning and Instructional Support regarding proctoring can be found here: Proctoring Guide.  
  • A student with a hearing disability is enrolled in my course.  Faculty have been will be contacted if a student with a hearing disability is enrolled in their course.  Interpreters have been provided guest accounts and added to Moodle for each course they cover so that they can provide remote services to the students. 
  • A student has an accommodation for a note-taker.  Since the course content is online and available for students to go back to at any time throughout the semester, many students are not requesting and using this accommodation as they have in the past.  However, if a student is still requesting a note taker, the same process can be followed by identifying a note-taker in the class and having them contact our office for further direction.  Notes can be shared electronically.  
  • I have heard from many students that they feel the workload has significantly increased. I have informed students to speak with their faculty member regarding this concern, but also that each faculty member is setting up their course to the best of their ability and incorporating content that is necessary to complete the course. This could be another case of fear of the unknown (seeing the expectations and becoming overwhelmed) and things will start to feel more manageable for them once they acclimate.  I have also reminded students to think about the number of hours they would have been in an in-person course, as well as the work required outside of class which typically equates to what is being expected in an online course.  
  • In regards to students questioning withdrawals from courses: If during the semester a student reaches out requesting a withdrawal solely based on the online format, consider referring the student to DSS or the Dean of Students