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Frequently Asked Questions

What are my legal obligations with regards to students with disabilities?

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.

What is an accommodation?

Any modification or adjustment to policies, practices, procedures, tasks, or the environment that allows a person with a disability equal access.

What is considered a disability?

Any physical, mental health, or learning disability that limits a major life activity. Temporary medical conditions with an expected duration of less than 6 months may not be a disability.

Can I ask for verification or documentation of a student’s disability?

No, faculty should not request disability documentation. It is the DRC's responsibility to collect the documentation and communicate with the faculty the needed accommodation. It is recommended that faculty/staff do not accept documentation.

How will I know that a student has an accommodation?

Accommodations will always be communicated from the DRC to you directly (typically via email). If a student tells you about an accommodation and you have not received notice from the DRC, please ask the student to request the accommodation through their DRC Consultant.

When a student asks for an accommodation based on their disability, do I have to do it?

No. Accommodations should be reviewed by and coordinated through the DRC. Accommodations should not change an essential element of the course. We will work with you to make sure that the accommodation is appropriate for your course.

If a student requests an accommodation that I am willing to provide, do I still need them to go to the DRC?

If the student is asking for something you would do for any student then you do not need to coordinate with the DRC, but the student should be made aware of the DRC. If you would only do it because of a student’s disability then you should refer the student to the DRC.

Is a student required to tell me they have a disability?

No, students do not have to disclose that they have a disability. The decision to disclose can be a difficult one and students must have the right to make that decision for themselves. A student must self-identify as a person with a disability to receive accommodations.

Will the DRC inform me anytime a student with a disability is in my class?

No, the DRC only informs faculty when an accommodation has been requested.

How should I respond when a student tells me they have anxiety or depression?

Whether the student will need an accommodation or not, our office should be recommended. We work with faculty and students in providing reasonable accommodations and support. Most of our referrals are from faculty for students who genuinely need our services.

Can the DRC help me make my materials accessible?

Yes, we can make your documents accessible or teach you how to create them accessible from the outset.

If I suspect a student could use your support, how do I refer them without offending them?

We are aware of and are trying to change the stigma that can be associated with our office. Explain that you want the student to be successful in your course, and our office may be able helpful in figuring out why the student is struggling.

What animals are allowed in the classroom?

Only Service Animals and Service Animals in Training are permitted in the classroom. A service animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Emotional support animals, therapy animals, and pets are not allowed in the classroom. The behavior of Service Animal and Service Animal in Training should be in keeping with the student code. 

Does the DRC work with students on statewide campuses?

We work with students all over! We will set up a phone visit if they cannot make it to our office.

Can employees get accommodations?

Yes, those are requested through HR.