FAQ's for Faculty and Staff

FAQ for Faculty/Staff

1. Why are college instructors required to either allow or provide exam accommodations and other accommodations in class to students with disabilities?
2. How do students become eligible for services?
3. Are all documented requests for accommodations provided?
4. Does BU always have to give the accommodation that is requested?
5. Does the inclusion of a particular type of accommodation on a student’s plan mean that it is reasonable and must be provided in every class?
6. When can a student's request for accommodations be denied?
7. Who makes this determination?
8. Is providing exam accommodations to students with disabilities fair to other students?
9. What is supposed to happen at the start of the semester?
10. What is there to discuss at this meeting?
11. Who is responsible for actually making exam accommodations, faculty or OALA?
12. Do exams have to be taken in the OALA facility?
13. What is the faculty's responsibility in providing accommodations to a student who approaches the professor immediately before an exam?
14. If a student with a disability fails to timely request accommodations, do I have to give them another chance?
15. What do I tell other students regarding the exam accommodations for students with disabilities?
16. What should I take into consideration when teaching a blind or visually impaired student?
17. What types of accommodations are available to blind and visually impaired students?
18. Do I need to do anything special for the student if I use a lot of handouts or put a lot of material online?
19. What is a "reader"?
20. What is the role of OALA in providing accommodations?
21. What are some helpful strategies for working with blind and visually impaired students?




FAQ for Faculty/Staff

1. Why are college instructors required to either allow or provide exam accommodations and other accommodations in class to students with disabilities?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) mandate that the University must provide appropriate exam accommodations and other accommodations to students with disabilities in classes and in all other University programs, unless the request falls in a set of narrow defenses. These laws apply to the School, Department, Programs and individual faculty, just as they apply to other University programs. These are civil rights laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities, and are interpreted in a manner similar to laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin or other protected characteristics. A refusal to provide appropriate accommodations is considered intentional discrimination.

2. How do students become eligible for services?
Students must provide OALA with the appropriate documentation of their disability. OALA staff evaluate all requests to ensure that the documentation supports the existence of a disability covered by the ADA and Section 504, and the need for accommodation or modification because of that disability. OALA will consult with internal and external medical practitioners where appropriate, and with the Office of General Counsel. Once OALA is satisfied, the student is eligible for the services.

3. Are all documented requests for accommodations provided?
No. Even if a student provides medical documentation supporting the need for a particular modification or accommodation, or previously received a particular service, that does not mean Baylor must provide it. For example, some services provided in secondary schools under the ADA go beyond what Baylor must do under the ADA and Section 504. Requests may also be denied by Baylor due to other defenses.

4. Does BU always have to give the accommodation that is requested?
No. Baylor can choose to provide an alternative accommodation that will be equally effective, and would impose less of a burden on the University, faculty, staff or other students. The federal agencies that enforce the ADA and Section 504, and the courts say there is a presumption that the student and the student’s heath care providers are in the best position to know what types of accommodations will be most effective.

5. Does the inclusion of a particular type of accommodation on a student’s plan mean that it is reasonable and must be provided in every class?
When a particular accommodation is listed on a student’s plan, the presumption is that it is necessary and appropriate for every class, and is a type of accommodation that Baylor considers to be reasonable. However, there may be particular classes where a particular accommodation would impose an undue burden or where it would fundamentally alter that nature of the course or requirements.

6. When can a student's request for accommodations be denied?
When an otherwise eligible student has a documented disability and need for a particular type of accommodation, auxiliary aid or service or modification of policies, procedures or practices, and there is no equally effective alternative, the request can be denied if: • If would impose an undue financial or administrative burden on the University or others. • Even with the accommodation, the student will not be able to meet the essential requirements of a program or service or would be a direct threat to the health or safety of others. • The request would fundamentally alter the nature of the program or service.

7. Who makes this determination?
Under Baylor procedures, the initial determination of whether a accommodation will be provided is with the Director of OALA, who is also the University Section 504 Coordinator for student issues. If there is disagreement over whether or how accommodation will be made in a class, OALA will initially attempt to facilitate a discussion and resolution between the faculty and student, which will sometimes involve discussions between OALA, the faculty member and the appropriate Department Chair or Dean, and where appropriate consultation with OGC. If there is an internal disagreement between OALA and the appropriate Dean, or a student challenges a decision by OALA, that matter is referred to the Provost for a final decision.

8. Is providing exam accommodations to students with disabilities fair to other students?
Yes. The purpose of all accommodations or modifications are to "level the playing field" and provide an equal opportunity. Accommodations on exams are provided so that the examination results accurately reflect the individual’s aptitude or achievement level, or whatever other factors the examination purports to measure, rather than reflecting the individual’s impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills. The determination of exam accommodations is made after reviewing documentation of a disability and the effects of the disability in a test taking or other type of evaluation situation. Accommodations are determined so as to minimize the effects of the disability, not to give the student with a disability an advantage. Faculty should express any concerns regarding exam accommodations to an OALA staff member who can verify the appropriateness of the requested accommodation and provide assistance to both the student and faculty.

9. What is supposed to happen at the start of the semester?
First, the student must request their list of accommodations, which is accessed online. Second, the student is to provide that list to the instructor of any class where they may need accommodations, and ask to meet with the instructor. OALA strongly encourages a face-to-face meeting, and instructors can choose to require students to make an appointment rather than discuss by phone or email.

10. What is there to discuss at this meeting?
A student being approved for an accommodation does not necessarily mean it will be needed in every class. This is an opportunity to review the syllabus and the instructor’s expectations or policies and practices. For example, where exams are take-home, there is no need for a quiet space or extra time on those exams. For students with visual or other disabilities that may need alternative formats, this is an opportunity to discuss the process. During review of the syllabus the student or instructor may identify requirements of the class that may require other accommodations, or that the student may not be able to meet, where OALA needs to be contacted. It is not appropriate for an instructor to question or challenge the disability or need for accommodation in general. If a faculty member is concerned about how particular accommodations apply to a class, or with the student’s understanding or representations, the faculty member should contact OALA.

11. Who is responsible for actually making exam accommodations, faculty or OALA?
Both. The OALA staff has been given the responsibility of determining appropriate exam accommodations (based on documentation and individual situations),. Depending on the nature of the accommodation, both OALA and faculty may jointly provide the accommodations. Faculty can verify student requests through OALA. Faculty must comply with the law by either using the OALA exam service or by providing the appropriate accommodations themselves.

12. Do exams have to be taken in the OALA facility?
No. Faculty may choose to accommodate the student within their facility. It is the student's responsibility to make arrangements with the faculty member prior to the exam date. As long as the students required accommodations are met, it is not necessary for the student to take the exam at OALA. OALA will work with the student and faculty member to accommodate students within the OALA facility when necessary.

13. What is the faculty's responsibility in providing accommodations to a student who approaches the professor immediately before an exam?
Students are aware of the appropriate procedures for obtaining classroom accommodations. It would be rare for a faculty member to be able to make a modification on the spot. The most common exam accommodations "extra time" or a "quiet testing area" need to be arranged in advance. Faculty are not obliged to provide accommodations in such a situation.

14. If a student with a disability fails to timely request accommodations, do I have to give them another chance?
No. Accommodations are not retroactive. For example, students who choose to take a test without accommodations or without following procedures do not have a right under the ADA or Section 504 to repeat that exam with accommodations-unless you would give that same right to retake an exam to other students. But a student who misses an exam due to a medical reason, and timely notifies the instructor, should have a right to make up the test, even if they had not been pre-approved for an attendance accommodation.

15. What do I tell other students regarding the exam accommodations for students with disabilities?
Nothing! Confidentiality is of extreme importance, so you should refrain from discussing any information regarding a student's disability in the presence of other students and/or faculty without the students consent.

16. What should I take into consideration when teaching a blind or visually impaired student?
Each student is different and there is a wide variety of accommodations that may need to be arranged; one individual may use a cane or a seeing-eye dog, while another may need enlarged-print copies of course materials and have to sit at the front of the classroom in order to see the professor. For this reason, blind and visually impaired students are encouraged to submit medical documentation to OALA as early as possible and to remain in close contact with the office so that their individual needs can be assessed. Once this has occurred, the appropriate reasonable accommodations will be made and notification will be provided to you by the student.

17. What types of accommodations are available to blind and visually impaired students?
Unless they are newly blind, most college students will already have developed a range of techniques for accessing visual materials. Not all blind people read Braille, but OALA does have a Braille printer available for any individual who wishes to make use of it. Increasingly, blind and visually impaired people are making use of adaptive technology. They make use of devices such as talking calculators, computer programs with speech-output such as JAWS or Kurzweil, and adapted electronic writing tablets with speech-output which make taking notes easier. Some students may also use a note-taker in class, usually a fellow student who takes particularly detialed notes or types their notes on a laptop. In same cases, a reader may retype or scan handwritten notes so the student can utilize screen reading software and listen to the notes through a computer.

18. Do I need to do anything special for the student if I use a lot of handouts or put a lot of material online?
If you utilize many handouts in your class, it would be extremely helpful to contact OALA about getting the materials in advance so they can be translated into an accessible format. Keep in mind that if a blind student comes to class and the instructor has decided spontaneously to give a handout, that student will not have access to the information during class. When dealing with posting materials on websites, it would be best to have multiple versions of the files that are being used to ensure the highest level of accessibility. Blind students will most likely be using screen reading software that can access the website, but the program might not be able to read the material posted depending on the file type. If the student couldn't access the file, emailing a MS Word file to the student could help.

19. What is a "reader"?
Some blind and visually impaired students will have another student assisting them with important tasks such as picking up books from the library, scanning course materials and editing written work for errors in punctuation and formatting. These assistants are called "readers" because before the advent of speech-output computer technology, the reader would actually be making recordings of themselves reading books aloud. Nowadays, most readers spend a lot of time organizing books and articles and scanning them into a computer equipped with speech-output software. A blind student enrolled full-time will often need more than one reader becuase of the volume of work involved with this process. The readers are students with a work-study allotment who are hired by OALA, which oversees their progress and facilitates communication between the readers, the blind or visually impaired student and professors.

20. What is the role of OALA in providing accommodations?
OALA works with blind and visually impaired students on a case-by-case basis to ensure they receive all reasonable accommodations necessary. As mentioned above, each student will have their own abilities, strategies and skills and because of this, they are encouraged to remain in close contact with our office. In cases where the student desires to work with readers, OALA arranges this and monitors their progress. If a student requires particular adaptive technology programs or hardware, OALA can evaluate the request and procure the needed items.

21. What are some helpful strategies for working with blind and visually impaired students?
Most blind and visually impaired students have their own strategies for learning, but professors can help in many ways. If a student is working with a reader to get course materials scanned into a speech-output or text enlargement equipped computer, it is extremely helpful if the professor provides a reading list and course packet several weeks before the semester begins. Similarly, if there are going to be any classroom handouts or last minute additions to the coursework, a student who relies on readers will need some time to prepare. For situations such as tests, field trips, and study abroad, the student and professor may need to make special arrangements and these should be discussed with the OALA office on a case-by-case basis. Courses with an extremely visual component, such as film studies or art history, are not immediately out of the question for a student with a visual impairment, as there are many ways to appreciate the visual arts and to learn about their history. In fact, a blind or visually impaired student may open up our perspective on subjects such as art appreciation, film-making, etc. OALA can also reach out to other univeristies for additional techniques on working with this student population and visually oriented classes. Additionally, instructors who have blind or visually impaired students in their classes are encouraged to consult with OALA regarding implementation of accommodations whenever there is uncertainty about an accommodation, or other more general questions. Students can also be very helpful in determining how best to make something accessible because frequently, they have a high level of knowledge about their condition. Accommodations typically work best when OALA, students, and faculty work in concert to ensure access to all academic materials.

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