DSS Faculty Guide: Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities

The number of students with disabilities attending postsecondary education continues to increase with each passing year.  Faculty and staff need to be well-informed about the roles, rights and responsibilities postsecondary institutions have towards supporting students with disabilities.  These roles, rights and responsibilities are supported by several federal laws which can assist students with disabilities the full opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a postsecondary educational experience.

From the Office of Civil Rights:

“OCR enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Title II), which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.  Every school district and nearly every institution of postsecondary education in the United States is subject to Section 504 or Title II.  Entities covered by these civil rights laws have an obligation to comply with legal requirements and to carry out their programs and activities in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of disability.

Institutions of postsecondary education must provide an appropriate academic adjustment based on students’ disabilities and individual needs when necessary to avoid discrimination.  In providing an academic adjustment, a postsecondary institution does not have to eliminate or lower essential requirements, or make modifications that would result in a fundamental alteration of the programs or activities being offered or impose an undue burden on the institution.”

Faculty Roles

  •     Make Reasonable Accommodations
  •     Provide Access to Classroom & Materials
  •     Maintain Confidentiality

While it is the instructor’s responsibility to ensure that the learning environment is accessible, students must request accommodations. Instructors will find it useful to include a statement on their syllabus which directs students with disabilities about the steps they need to take to receive classroom accommodations.

In certain situations, reasonable accommodations may require modification of standard classroom approaches. The following are examples of accommodations that may be necessary to ensure equal access to education:

  • Provide necessary accommodations for exam taking or provide the exam to Disability Support Services where the student can receive the accommodations needed.
  • Provide alternative ways to fulfill course requirements.
  • Allow adaptive technology such as audio recorders, electronic note takers, and laptop computers to be used in the classroom.
  • Consider alternate ways of assessing students that allows the student’s academic abilities to be measured and not his or her disabilities.

Confidentiality in the accommodation process must be maintained by all parties. Letters of accommodation should be filed in a safe place, and faculty should refrain from discussing students’ disabilities and necessary accommodations in the hearing of fellow students or others who do not have an “educational need to know.”

Disability Support Services staff are always available to serve as a resource for faculty seeking assistance in providing accommodations to student and welcome your questions.

Faculty Rights

Faculty members have the right to:

  • Maintain academic standards for courses
  • Determine course content and how it will be taught
  • Confirm a student’s request for accommodations and ask for clarification about a specific accommodation with Disability Services
  • Deny a request for accommodation - if the student has not been approved for such accommodation
  • Award grades appropriate to the level of the student’s demonstration of mastery of material
  • Fail a student who does not perform to passing standards

Faculty members do not have the right to:

  • Refuse to provide an approved accommodation for a documented disability
  • Challenge the legitimacy of a student’s disability
  • Review a student’s documentation, including diagnostic data

Faculty Responsibilities

Faculty members have the responsibility to:

  • Understand the laws and university’s guidelines regarding students with disabilities
  • Refer students to Disability Services when necessary
  • Provide requested accommodations and academic adjustments to students who have documented disabilities in a timely manner
  • Maintain appropriate confidentiality of records concerning students with disabilities except when disclosure is required by law or authorized by the student
  • Provide handouts, videos and other course materials in accessible formats upon request
  • Evaluate students based on their abilities rather than their disabilities