The DRC works with individuals, faculty, and staff to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in University programs, services, and activities. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) is available to assist faculty in the delivery of services and materials needed for classroom or field experiences. Utah State University is committed to the full participation of students with disabilities in University programs. The center helps individuals with disabilities overcome barriers that could otherwise limit their academic, professional, and personal potential. These barriers may be architectural, attitudinal, or related to University programs. The DRC provides direct services and coordinates with other state agencies and University programs to ensure equal access.
Each student served by the DRC is required to submit documentation from a qualified professional, who must clearly state the nature of the disability and the limitations presented by the condition. This information is used in determining which services and accommodations should be provided to the student. Accommodations are determined on an individual basis and may vary, depending on the nature and purpose of the course. Accommodations include, but are not limited to, readers, scribes, extended testing time, interpreters for the deaf, course modification, alternatives to print media (braille, large print, audio, or CD format), assistive technology, relocation of classrooms, and others as indicated by the specific disabling condition.
University responsibilities to individuals with disabilities are mandated by two main pieces of federal legislation. They are Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Both are civil rights statutes aimed at preventing discrimination against individuals on the basis of their disability. It is the policy of USU to comply with the fundamental principles of nondiscrimination and accommodation set forth in both of these laws.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was the first law to specifically address the needs of students with disabilities. It states in part:
No qualified student with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any ... postsecondary education program or activity ... [Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, 84.43]
An institution shall make such modifications to its academic requirements as are necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate or have the effect of discrimination on the basis of handicap, against a qualified handicapped applicant or student ... 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. [Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, 84.44]
The ADA was passed in 1990 to support and supplement existing disability laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. ADA legislation seeks to assure equal access for persons with disabilities in the areas of education, training, and employment. The mandates of the ADA apply to all institutions of higher education, regardless of the receipt of federal funds.
Under the ADA, a person with a disability is defined as any person who:
- has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities,
- has a record of such impairment, or
- is regarded as having such an impairment.
The ADA also provides clarification of the Section 504 phrase “otherwise qualified” individual with a disability, as one whom either: “…with or without reasonable modification to rules, policies, or practices, the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity.”
In summary, these laws hold four very important implications for educators:
- Students with disabilities have the right to be in higher education. Once a student with a disability has met the University entrance or admission criteria, with or without the use of accommodations, he or she has the same right as any other student to the educational experience. Just like any other student, those with disabilities are responsible for determining their own level of success.
- Once they are enrolled, students with disabilities have the right to access all of the programs, both academic and nonacademic, that are available to other students. Instructors cannot refuse to work with a student simply because they know he or she has a disability or because they are concerned that having a disability would prevent him or her from being successful. Furthermore, students with disabilities should be held to the same set of standards and criteria as students without disabilities.
- Students with disabilities are eligible for accommodations that relate to their disabilities. Instructors need to be prepared to make adaptations or reasonable accommodations to their procedures and practices so that students with disabilities are able to do the same things that other college students are required to do. This may include altering or making changes in the delivery of lecture or course materials, or in the assessment of knowledge, in order to counter the effects of the disability.
- Students with disabilities have a right to confidentiality.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines reasonable accommodations as the provision of services, such as interpreters, note-takers, extended time on examinations, architectural access, program modification and other adjustments, which accommodate for the limitations presented by a documented disability. Providing reasonable accommodations in the classroom happens through an interactive process between the student, the instructor, and the DRC.
Neither Section 504, nor the ADA, requires universities to lower their academic standards or substantially alter the essential elements of their courses or programs to accommodate students with disabilities. The requirement to provide reasonable accommodations is designed to afford equal access for students with disabilities.
Only DRC staff are authorized to review disability related documentation and make determinations about eligibility for accommodations. Students desiring accommodations in classes should request those accommodations through their DRC Accessibility Consultant. Instructors who receive accommodation requests directly from students should consult with the DRC or refer the student to the DRC. Students who have not registered with the DRC are ineligible for accommodations. The DRC will communicate to instructors regarding accommodations that have been approved for their course. If an instructor feels that a recommended accommodation is not appropriate in their course he or she should communicate that to the DRC.
Although students are encouraged to state their needs for accommodation early in the semester, a qualified student must be allowed to request accommodations at any point in a semester. Accommodations are not retroactive. While a student may request accommodations at any point in the semester the accommodation is only implemented from that point forward.
Disability information and a students use of accommodations is confidential. A student requesting accommodations must disclose to their instructors the fact that they are registered with the DRC but they should not be asked to disclose the nature of their disability. Students may elect to tell instructors information about their disability but they should not be asked to do so. The DRC will not disclose the students disability. Instructors should take care not to disclose the fact that a student has a disability or uses accommodations to others.
Please refer students who identify themselves as students with a disability or request an accommodation. Reasonable accommodations are determined through an interactive process with a DRC consultant. Faculty or staff members may be asked to participate in the discussion as needed. Accommodations are not allowed to change the essential function of the course, and the DRC consultant is happy to work with faculty regarding this aspect.
If students are experiencing academic difficulty in your course, please refer them to the DRC. A number of students have not been identified as a student with a disability until college age, and their difficulty may be an indication. The DRC can help identify possible reasons, consult those who suspect they may have a disability, provide options for support, and discuss if accommodations may be appropriate. Accommodations are not retro-active, therefore, a proactive approach is recommended.
Students that have a temporary disability may also be referred to the DRC. We provide limited services to students with temporary disabilities, and documentation on the duration of the impairment may be required.
Please note that students are not obligated to contact us, accommodations are free, and all information is confidential. We are located in the basement of the University Inn, just east of the TSC.
Principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can help instructors create courses that provide all students with equal opportunities to learn. UDL seeks to maximize student access and participation and minimize the need for individualized accommodations.
The major UDL principles are:
- Provide multiple means of representation
- Provide multiple means of action and expression
- Provide multiple means of engagement
- Steps to an Inclusive Learning Environment
- Focus on essential course elements
- Establish clear expectations and learning objectives
- Design activities specific to the learning objectives
- Encourage self-directed learning and active learning
- Provide information using multiple methods
- Incorporate diverse assessment strategies
- Build in opportunities for feedback
Creating Accessible Course Materials
USU is committed to making sure that all students are able to access this course. Students who have, or suspect they may have, a disability that will require accommodations in this course should contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) as early in the semester as possible (University Inn # 101, 435-797-2444, firstname.lastname@example.org). The DRC will work with you and your instructor to arrange for accommodations.