What is meant by the term “individual with a disability”?
Any individual who has:
- a physical or mental impairment which significantly restricts one or more major life activities of such individual;
- a record of such an impairment; or
- is regarded as having such an impairment
Who is considered to be a “qualified individual with a disability”?
A qualified individual with a disability is one who, with or without reasonable modifications to the rules, policies, or practices, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity. Educational institutions are not required to either “lower academic standards” or “fundamentally alter” programs or services to accommodate students with disabilities.
What is considered to be a “major life activity”?
Functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working are examples of major life activities. A major life activity includes the operation of a major bodily function (e.g., cellular, neurological, reproductive and immune systems) and is not limited to those which are central or of primary importance to individuals’ lives. An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
What does the term “significantly restrict” mean?
Impairments must significantly restrict a major life activity for a physical or mental condition to rise to the level of a “disability”. Factors that need to be considered include:
- the nature and severity of the impairment,
- the duration or expected duration of the impairment, and
- the actual or expected permanent or long-term impact of, or resulting from, the impairment.
How does the University learn of a student’s disability?
It is the responsibility of the student to inform the University through the AccessAbility Services (AAS) office of any disability if the student is requesting a reasonable accommodation. AAS will require the student to provide current medical documentation to substantiate the existence of the disability. An AAS staff member will assess each student’s individual needs, and refer the student to other University resources, as appropriate.
Current and/or Prospective Student Questions
Who do I contact if I need accommodations for my disability(ies)?
Students should contact AccessAbility Services (AAS) by visiting AAS located on the Midtown Campus in White Hall, Room 005, by phone at (203) 837-8225, by TTY at (203) 837-3235, or email at email@example.com.
I received accommodations in high school or I had an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). Can I use the IEP as documentation?
The IEP is a valuable resource of information, but it cannot be used as documentation of the disability. Please refer to our Documentation Guidelines for further information regarding appropriate documentation.
I received special education (IDEA) or 504 services in high school, how are these services different in college?
Colleges are required to provide reasonable accommodation that may be necessary for equal access to a student’s education. They are not required to design special programs for students with disabilities or have Individualized Educational Plans (IEP’s).
If I am a student with a disability, will AAS seek me out to provide services like my counselors did in high school?
No, it is the student’s responsibility to seek out services through AAS.
What role do my parents and/or family play in the process?
Students who are 18 years old or older are legally recognized as adults. In this case, the student is responsible for their own accommodation requests and disability-related decisions. Students will need to sign a release to allow AAS to talk with their parents/family members. However, students are encouraged to have an open dialog with their parents.
How do I request accommodations from AAS?
- Complete an Accommodation Intake Form.
- Obtain appropriate documentation of your disability. (see Documentation Guidelines)
- Submit the Accommodation Intake Form along with supporting documentation to AAS. Information can be submitted by fax, mail, e-mail or in person. To allow for processing prior to classes, the Accommodation Intake Form should be submitted at least 4 weeks prior to the start of the semester.
- You will be contacted through WCSU e-mail or phone by the Director informing you on your next steps or to schedule a student intake meeting. You can schedule a meeting by calling the office at (203) 837-8225, by TTY at (203) 837-3235, or by stopping by the office located in White Hall room 005.
- After meeting with the Director and being approved for accommodations, it will be your responsibility to request accommodations each semester by contacting the office prior to the start of classes. Preferably two-three weeks before the start of the semester. Accommodations are not retroactive and are not automatically put in place.
Do I have to do anything else if I sent my documentation in with my application to Western?
Yes. Your documentation needs to be provided directly to AAS along with a completed Accommodation Intake Form. Do not assume that a copy of your documentation was forwarded from Admissions or Health Services to AAS. It is your responsibility to submit this information directly to AAS.
What accommodations and/or services can be made?
Reasonable accommodations are made once the Accommodation Intake Form and appropriate documentation is received and an intake meeting has been conducted. Some examples of accommodations include extended time on exams, reduced distraction testing location, and the use of a computer for written exams. Services can include academic coaching on topics such as time management, organization and stress management. Coaching sessions are provided through one-on-one and group instruction on a first come first served basis by appointment.
Is there a separate cost for these services?
No. Any WCSU student can register to use AAS services free of charge.
Where do I go for support if I have a temporary disability?
AccessAbility Services works with students on a case-by-case basis to determine if accommodations are reasonable for temporary disabilities. Students are encouraged to follow the same process identified above to request accommodations. Students who are out sick due to a virus or cold for more than five days should contact their professors and Health Services. Health Services will then contact the student’s professors once they receive information regarding the student’s illness.
Are accommodations put in place automatically each semester once I am approved for accommodations?
No. You are responsible for requesting your accommodations each semester through Accommodate. This is accomplished online at https://wcsu-accommodate.symplicity.com/students.
- Enter user name and email password
- Select the “Accommodation” tab at the top left of the screen.
- Select “Semester Request” from the drop down options.
- To make a request for this semester, select “Request Accommodation” button.
- Select your first accommodation and semester. Your classes will then populate. Check off what classes you need the accommodation in. To request more than one accommodation, use the “Request Additional Accommodations” button to select each type until all your request are reflected on the form.
- Once the Accessibility Accommodation Request is complete, select Submit.
Accommodations become effective as soon as your accommodation letter is emailed from AAS to your professors. Students are then responsible for following established AAS guidelines and procedures for receiving individual accommodations outlined in their letter. Students should follow up with their individual professors through email or in person to confirm that they received the accommodation letter. Accommodations, even if approved, are not retroactive and are not in effect until the student requests the accommodation letter and the letter is emailed to the professor.
If I am eligible for testing accommodations, what are the policies I should know about?
Students are required to discuss with their faculty members if they are able to provide them with their accommodations in class prior to each time quiz/exam. It is recommended students take their tests in class with their accommodations if possible, as the professor is available to answer any questions. If the professor is unable to provide the student with their testing accommodations, the student can choose to take the test in class without accommodations or sign up to take the test at AAS. The following process must be followed to take a test at AAS:
- One week prior to a test, discuss with the professor if they are able to accommodate you in class.
- If they are not able to and AAS needs to proctor a test, sign up to take the test within AAS by completing a Test Scheduling Form (TSF).
- AAS proctors tests during regular office hours, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:15 p.m..
- Students must take tests during the scheduled time of the course unless the instructor and Director of AAS approve an alternate time.
- Students approved for additional test accommodations, such as scribes, readers, computers, and/or other assistive technology will need to request these accommodations when scheduling.
Test Scheduling Forms must be received by AAS one week prior to the quiz/exam. Late requests for test proctoring may not be accommodated. For additional information regarding testing accommodations, please refer to the Testing Accommodation Request Policy & Procedure.
Do I have to register with AAS to get a HPX activity waiver?
Students who have a disability and are unable to participate in the activity portion of HPX should complete an Accommodation Intake Formand provide medical documentation to request an accommodation. This information should be submitted to AAS. Students will then meet with the Director to determine if there are any reasonable accommodations that can be made to the activity portion of HPX. Students will be required to complete the lecture portion of HPX.
I was registered with AAS but took a few semesters off. Do I need to bring new documentation in again or have another intake?
AAS keeps documentation from registered students (students approved for accommodations) for seven years after their last office contact, semester completed, withdrawal and/or graduation. After seven years, information is shredded. If you have not been in attendance for more than seven years, you will need to provide updated documentation and submit a new request for accommodations through an Accommodation Intake Form. For students who have been in attendance during the last seven years it is recommend that you meet with the Director to discuss office policy/procedure changes and learn ways that the office can best assist you. Depending on the disability, a documentation update may be requested to determine current educational impact of the disability.
How do I resolve service delivery problems?
Students are responsible for contacting AAS as soon as a delivery problem (e.g., professor not providing accommodations, notes from a notetaker are incomplete) are discovered. Students can do this by calling 203.837.8225 or by emailing Elisabeth Werling Morel, AccessAbility Services Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do I do if I believe I have been discriminated against?
Discrimination in programs and services due to a disability is prohibited at Western Connecticut State University and is a violation of state and federal law. To file a complaint of discrimination because of a disability, contact Carolyn Lanier, Executive Assistant to the President/Chief Diversity Officer, University Hall 214, at 203.837.8277 or email@example.com. Please note that the discrimination complaint procedure does not replace and is not a substitute for other established university procedures such as judicial, grade appeal, housing, public safety, or other such policies and procedures. Students with disabilities are held to the same standards and must follow established policies and procedures as other students at Western Connecticut State University.
When I applied for services I gave you a copy of my documentation. How can I obtain a copy of my documentation?
A written, signed, and dated request for documentation is needed along with a photo id. Students can obtain the Authorization for Release of Disability Documentation at AAS. Students submitting the request through email will have to provide a written request and indicate they are signing electronically. Once the request for documentation is received, AAS will provide a copy of the documentation to the student through the requested format (mail, email, fax, in-person). Please provide 3-5 business days for processing. Students who have changed their name will need to provide proof of name change.
How long do you keep my record for?
Files for students who are registered with the office (approved for accommodations/services) are maintained for five years from date of graduation or date of last enrollment. Accommodation Intake Forms are maintained for 2 years for a student who requests accommodations by completing an Accommodation Intake Form but fails to provide documentation. Documentation is maintained for 2 years for documentation received on behalf of a student but the student fails to submit an Accommodation Intake Form or does not attend WCSU.
Family Members and Prospective Student Questions
What services can you offer to my student who is planning to go to WCSU?
Reasonable accommodations are made once the Accommodation Intake Form and appropriate documentation is received and an intake meeting has been conducted with AAS. Accommodations are not determined until a student is accepted and enrolled at WCSU; however, AAS recognizes that learning about the accommodations/services offered by an institution can help in the decision making process. While AAS will not identify the specific accommodations, we can certainly indicate what may and will not be available. Some examples of accommodations include extended time on exams, reduced distraction testing location, and the use of a computer for written exams. Services can include academic coaching on topics such as time management, organization and stress management and/or assistive technology instruction. Coaching sessions are taught through one-on-one and group strategy instruction.
What role can I play in my student’s education? Can I have access to grades, class schedule etc.?
Students who are over the age of 18 and enrolled in a postsecondary institution are legally recognized as adults and academic and/or disability information cannot be shared with the parent/guardian without written consent from the student. Student are responsible for their own accommodation requests and disability-related decisions. However, students are encouraged to have an open dialogue with their parents/guardians. AAS will discuss disability related information with parents if a signed authorization for release of information by the student. Parents should contact the Registrar’s office to obtain information on non-disability-related information (enrollment, grade information, and academic standing). Information will only be released from the Registrar’s office with appropriate authorization.
Can I schedule a time to meet individually, one-on-one, with a Learning Specialist to discuss AAS and the support available at Western?
AAS provides monthly sessions for prospective students and family members. It is recommended that students and family members attend one of these sessions. After attending such session, if the student would like to meet individually with AAS staff then a prospective student meeting can be made by calling the office at (203) 837-8225. AAS requires the student to schedule the meeting.
My student is graduating from high school and may not meet all the requirements to get accepted into WCSU. Can AAS help with getting accepted into WCSU?
No. AAS does not assist students in getting accepted into WCSU. The Admissions Office does have a “9-credit” option which allows students to take three courses as a non-matriculated student. Students who successfully pass all courses with a C or better will be reconsidered for the following semester. Students are encouraged to discuss this option with Nicole Kullberg, Assistant Director of Admissions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (203) 837-9007. Students must apply and be entered into the “9-credit” option and sign a contract with Admissions.
Could my student receive accommodations for taking the math and/or writing placement exam?
Students who submit an Accommodation Intake Form and provide appropriate documentation that determines that accommodations are necessary can take the math and/or writing placement with accommodations in AAS. Math and writing placement tests can be taken Monday – Friday between the hours of 8:30am-3:30pm but must be arranged in advance with Elisabeth Werling Morel, AccessAbility Services Director. To request to take a placement test with accommodations, students should follow the accommodation request process listed above and contact Elisabeth Werling Morel, Director to discuss placement testing dates. She can be contacted at (203) 837-8225 or by email at email@example.com.
My student is registered with AAS and is failing classes. What types of assistance do you provide?
AAS is available to assist students who voluntarily come to the office for assistance. Assistance can include self-advocacy training, academic coaching (time management, study strategy instruction, and organization), and writing assistance. Students are encouraged to set up a meeting to meet with a Learning Specialist as soon as the semester begins. In addition, AAS works to refer students to available campus resources such as the Tutoring Resource Center, Math Clinic, Writing Center, Career Services, and Counseling Services. Please note: Students are required to request their accommodation letters at the beginning of the semester. Accommodations are not retroactive.
Faculty Member Questions
What are the implications of the ADA for higher education institutions?
Students with disabilities must be afforded an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from all postsecondary education programs and activities. That includes any course, course of study, or activity offered. Academic requirements may need to be modified, on a case-by-case basis, to afford qualified students with disabilities an equal educational opportunity.
If a student verbally informs me about a disability, am I automatically required to provide accommodations?
No. Accommodations should only be provided after receiving an official electronic accommodation letter prepared and sent by AAS. If an electronic accommodation letter is not sent to you, please refer the student to AAS.
I have a student in my class who needs extended time, can AAS administer the test?
AAS is available to assist professors in proctoring student tests. AAS proctors tests between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 4:15 P.M. Monday through Friday. Students are responsible for contacting their faculty members to determine if they are able to accommodate them in class. When a faculty member is unable to provide the accommodation in class, AAS can proctor the test. Students will discuss the plan with the faculty member one week before the test and complete an AAS Test Scheduling Form (TSF). Once AAS receives a TSF form from a student, the professor is notified through WCSU email to coordinate test information.
How do I know if there is a student with a disability in my class?
You may know if you have a student with a documented disability in your class if you receive an electronic accommodation letter sent to your WCSU email account from AAS. Accommodation letters are typically created at the beginning of the semester and are emailed to you and the student receiving accommodations. Although students are asked to request their accommodation letters early, they are not required to do so and can request an accommodation letter at any time. Accommodations are not retroactive and become effective once you receive the accommodation letter. Students may also self-disclose a disability directly to you. AAS discourages providing accommodations in the absence of an official electronic accommodation letter. If the student does not present you with an accommodation letter, please refer the student to AAS to request accommodations.
What information should be included in my syllabus pertaining to students with disabilities?
Students with Disabilities: AccessAbility Services engages in an interactive process with each student and reviews requests for accommodations on an individualized, case-by-case basis. Depending on the nature of the functional limitations of the student’s documented disability, he/she may be eligible for academic accommodations. AAS collaborates with students and their faculty to coordinate approved accommodations and services for qualified students with disabilities. If you have a documented disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact AccessAbility Services (AAS) as soon as possible. You may contact AAS by calling (203) 837-8225 (voice), (203) 837-3235 (TTY) or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Detailed information regarding the process to request accommodations is available on the AAS website at www.wcsu.edu/accessability. If your request for accommodation(s) is approved and you request accommodation letters, an accommodation letter will be emailed to faculty members. (Note: Student request for accommodations must be filed each semester and accommodations are not retroactive.).
Do I have to provide the accommodations listed in the accommodation letter?
Yes. AAS is the University department charged with the responsibility of determining reasonable and appropriate accommodations for students based on disability documentation. The accommodations identified on the accommodation letters provided to the student have been determined reasonable based upon Federal law.
What do I do if one of my students has requested accommodations that I believe will alter the essential components of my course?
Accommodations based on a disability are intended to provide “equal access ” by removing barriers to the learning process. Accommodations are intended to “level the playing field ” between students with disabilities and students without diagnosed disabilities. If you believe a specific accommodation will fundamentally alter the essential components of the course, you should continue to provide the accommodation and contact AAS Director, Elisabeth Werling Morel, as soon as possible to discuss your concerns. Based upon Federal law, you must be able to show that the approved accommodation fundamentally alters your curriculum and thus the accommodation cannot be made. If this is determined, then an alternate accommodation determined by AAS will need to be put in place that will meet the needs of the student. Until an alternate accommodation is determined, the student is to use the approved accommodation. The Director will work with you to navigate the Federal law and how to best accommodate the student in class.
It is important to understand that an instructor may not forbid a student’s use of an accommodation if that prohibition limits the student’s participation in the school program. Section 504 specifically states: “A recipient may not impose upon handicapped [sic] students other rules, such as the prohibition of tape recorders in classrooms or of dog guides in campus buildings that have the effect of limiting the participation of handicapped [sic] students in the recipient ‘s educational program or activity”. Many times, faculty members are concerned with the use of a tape recorder/device in their classroom because it may infringe on their freedom of speech or potential copyrighted material. In order to protect both students and instructors, all students approved to tape record lectures will sign an audio agreement. As an instructor, it is important to remember that under the ADA, if appropriate academic accommodations are not provided to the student, you and the University can be held liable.
Is the student required to provide an accommodation letter each semester even if I have been presented with a letter in a prior semester?
Yes. Accommodation letters must be requested by the student and created for the student each semester. AAS will generate a new accommodation letter after receiving the students request each semester based on current disability documentation and the student’s current accommodation needs (which can change based on the requirements of a particular class).
Doesn’t giving the student accommodations allow them to receive “special privileges”?
No. Providing accommodations should not be regarded as giving students an advantage or “special privileges”, but rather as minimizing the impact of the student’s disability to the greatest extent possible. Institutions are not required to make changes in the requirements of participation in a program or a substantial change to an essential element of the curriculum. The intuition has the right to set academic standards and in order to deny a request must prove that a requested change to the curricular requirement would create a substantial change in an essential element of the course or program. The burden of proof lies with the intuition.
Am I allowed to request documentation of a disability from a student?
No. Documentation of a disability should only be provided to AAS. Faculty can only request that the student provide a current accommodation letter from AAS.
What do I do if a student tries to give me their documentation:
Refuse to read the documentation and refer the student to AAS located in White Hall Room 005.
Why doesn’t the accommodation letter include the nature of the student’s disability?
The confidentiality of a student’s specific disability diagnosis and details of their disability are guaranteed under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). AAS is the official University department charged with receiving and interpreting student disability documentation, determining the existence of a disability, and determining appropriate accommodations. Students cannot be expected or required to disclose the details of their disability; however some students may feel comfortable discussing their disability with you as it relates to your course. Should you contact AAS to discuss a student please know that AAS is not able to give details about the disability unless the student has signed a written consent. If a written consent has been provided, AAS is more than happy to discuss teaching strategies.
When is a student required to request accommodation letters?
A student can request electronic accommodation letters from AAS at any time during the semester. Accommodations should then be provided from that point forward in the semester. Accommodations are not expected to be applied retroactively.
What can I do to make the classroom environment open to students with disabilities?
Many of us have had little or no contact with people with disabilities. It is important to remember that people with disabilities are just that, people first. Here are a few easy to remember tips:
- Make a general announcement regarding your availability to assist students. Add a disability statement to your course syllabi.
- Ask questions rather than make assumptions. For example, asking a student with a mobility limitation if they would like assistance with navigating the campus and what kind of assistance would be helpful is preferable to asking them if they can open a door or doing it for them.
- Don’t label or stereotype. Not everyone who has a disability is the same. It is important to look at the person first and not lump everyone together into the same category. This is also important when addressing accommodations. Not all students with a learning disability will need extended time; not all people with visual impairments will utilize Braille. Everyone is an individual with individual needs.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. If you need assistance in working with a student with a disability, please contact AccessAbility Services.
What if I am unsure how to handle a situation with a student with a disability?
First ask the student. He/she is the best source of information about their disability. Second, contact AccessAbility Services. Keep in mind that any information the student shares with you about the nature of their condition or disability should be kept in confidence. In addition, unless the student has signed a release AccessAbility Service is unable to release the nature of their disability to faculty members.
What do I do if I suspect one of my students has a disability that interferes with their academic performance?
When talking with the student, discuss their academic struggles as is specifically relates to your course. It is appropriate for the faculty member to reference these difficulties and suggest that the student contact the academic support services available. Faculty members should refrain from discussing a specific disability with a student or questioning if they have a disability, rather faculty members should refer students to all academic support services, in addition to AccessAbility Services. You can refer students to AAS located in White Hall Room 005. They can also call (203) 837-8225 for additional information.
A student in my class is presenting some behavioral concerns, what do I do?
Schedule a private meeting with the student during office hours or after class to address the behavior. Be as direct and explicit about the behavior as possible. If you believe the behavior is related to the student’s disability and would like teaching suggestions and classroom strategies please contact Elisabeth Werling Morel, Director of AAS at (203) 837-8225 or email@example.com. If the behavior does not change after addressing the behavior with the student, contact your department chair. The department chair will work with you to determine possible next steps which may include a meeting with you, the student, and the department chair. In some cases, the Dean of Students may meet with a professor and student at the recommendation of the Department Chair.