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FAQ: Most Frequently Asked Questions

Most Frequently Asked Questions


Although enrollment rates of students with disabilities in higher education are increasing, some faculty and teaching staff may not be aware of the many services and supports available to students with disabilities.  In particular, instructional staff members may not always be aware of the types of accommodations available or what steps are involved in the accommodations process. The following is a list of frequently asked questions regarding the roles and responsibilities of faculty and teaching associates in providing accessible learning for students with disabilities. Although these questions address the most common of concerns, the issue of faculty responsibility is situation specific and as such can be difficult to define. We hope that you find the following questions to be a quick and useful resource guide, but we encourage you to contact Disability Services (DS) Coordinator at 801-832-2281 (Ginny DeWitt) in the START Center when you are in doubt about how best to meet the needs of a student with a disability. 

Q:  Who is responsible for determining appropriate accommodations?

A:  The Disability Services (DS) Coordinator is the person on campus who determines appropriate accommodations. The coordinator bases decisions upon documentation collected from a student with a disability and the student’s functional limitations.  Westminster ’s ADAAA Coordinator (Susan Heath) supervises the DS Coordinator.


Q:  Are all students with disabilities registered with DS?

A:  No, it is likely that many students with disabilities have chosen not to be registered with DS or they may not have met the eligibility criteria for services. In either instance, faculty are not required to provide these students with accommodations.


Q:  What would be the best way to inform students in the class that I would like to help in facilitating exam accommodations or any classroom accommodations?

A:  It is important that all faculty put a statement about how to access DS and accommodations in their syllabus. It should go something like this:

Westminster College seeks to provide equal access to the college’s program, services and activities to people with disabilities as defined by the ADAAA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  If you have a disability for which you will need accommodations in this class, please let me know as soon as possible.  You will also be required to provide documentation of your disability to Disability Services in the START Center .


Q:  Am I required to provide exam accommodations to students who have been determined to be eligible for it? 

A:  Yes.  Students with disabilities are protected by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504.  This law requires that qualified students with disabilities are allowed equal access to an education and this may include testing accommodations.


Q:  A student has asked for accommodations. How do I know the student truly has a disability and needs accommodations?

A:  You will receive an “accommodations request” letter from DS detailing the reasonable accommodations that have been approved for your course.  DS has documentation of the disability on file for every student who is registered with the office and uses services.


Q:  I have a student in class who told me that s/he has a disability, but since that time has never requested any accommodations. Am I still responsible for accommodations?

A:  No, you are only responsible for reasonable accommodations if requested. In these types of situations, however, it would be appropriate to speak to the student privately to let the student know that you welcome the opportunity to discuss reasonable accommodations and to make a referral to DS.


Q:  What are some of the types of exam accommodations available to students with disabilities?

A:  Testing accommodations are based upon the student’s functional limitations and the documentation of disability that the student has provided DS.  Some of these accommodations include but are not limited to: extra time for exams ( Westminster ’s standard is double time) a reader or scribe (a person who writes answers verbatim), a computer, an enlarged exam, an exam scanned onto a disk and use of computer (student uses voice, enlargement options, or spelling/grammar check), and a distraction-reduced space.


Q:  A student with a disability has requested that s/he take an exam at DS. How do I know that my exam will be safe and that the student will not receive an unfair advantage?

A:  DS has developed a very systematic and secure procedure for getting exams from faculty and returning them once the student has taken the exam. There are very rigid checking in and checking out procedures for exams and no student is able to take an exam with appropriate accommodations without authorization. While exams are in DS, they are kept in a locked file. As much as possible, students are monitored while they are taking exams. Testing rooms have small windows to enable the staff to periodically view the students while they are taking tests. You will be contacted ASAP if the START Center staff notice an irregularity.


Q:  I’ve been debating about what book I want to use for my class, but DS keeps asking me to select a book ASAP. Do I have to?

A:  Yes. It takes a reader at DS an hour to read ten pages of a textbook and sometimes fewer pages depending upon the technical nature of the course. Students who are print impaired have the right to equal access to their textbooks or any instruction materials when their peers receive access. They need to be able to listen to taped or scanned textbooks at the same time as others in the class. By delaying the selection of textbooks, DS may not be able to get books converted to an appropriate format in a timely fashion. This means that students may have to start the semester without access to their textbooks.

Q:  When I have a deaf student in class, am I required to have an interpreter or real time captioner in the class too? My class is very crowded and also, the students sometimes watch the interpreter instead of me.

A:  You are required by law to have what is essential for the student to have equal access to an education and this includes a sign language interpreter or real time captioner.


Q:  A student with a disability has asked me for a copy of my notes and overheads. Do I have to give this to the student?

A:  Some students with disabilities have difficulty taking notes. It is important that you assist the student in gaining access to class notes. DS may ask you to help identify a classmate who will take notes for the student.  If you feel all right about sharing lecture notes, this is also an option. Some faculty have developed website guided notes. This has been extremely helpful to many students who lack the ability to keep up the pace in taking thorough notes.  It may also be appropriate for some students to tape a class.


Q:  I have a student who is having difficulty in my class. I think this student may have a disability. What should I do to help the student?

A:  Talk privately with the student to discuss your concerns and behavioral observations. Please do not attempt to “diagnose” the student yourself.  As you talk, the student may reveal s/he has a disability. If this is the case and the student is registered with DS, suggest that the student talk to the program director. If not, please refer the student to the DS director for discussion and a possible referral to off campus assessment/evaluation.


Q:  Am I required to lower the standards of a required assignment (or any portion of my course?) because the student has a disability?

A:  No, the standards should be the same for all students; however, some students with disabilities may exhibit their knowledge, production, and other course expectations somewhat differently than their peers. For example, a student with a learning disability in writing may produce an essay exam by using a computer or scribe rather than writing out an answer.


Q:  I have a student with a disability getting behind in his/her schoolwork. This student is missing a number of classes and has not handed in several assignments. Although s/he has taken a midterm and used accommodations, the student’s grade is about a D.  Do I have a right to fail a student with a disability?

A:  The student with a disability needs to meet the same standards as other students in your class. It may be a good idea to discuss your observations with this student just as you would with anyone else in your class who is experiencing difficulty.


Q:  Do I have any recourse if I disagree about requested accommodations?

A:  Yes.  Please contact the DS Coordinator first for an explanation of the student’s eligibility for certain accommodations.  If the DS Coordinator is not able to resolve the conflict, the ADAAA Coordinator will join the discussions.