FAQ's for Faculty and Staff

FAQ for Faculty/Staff

1. How do students become eligible for services?
2. Why are college instructors required to either allow or provide exam accommodations to students with disabilities?
3. Is providing exam accommodations to students with disabilities fair to other students?
4. What do I tell other students regarding the exam accommodations for students with disabilities?
5. Do exams have to be taken in the OALA facility?
6. What is the faculty's responsibility in providing accommodations to a student who approaches the professor immediately before an exam?
7. Who is responsible for actually making exam accommodations, faculty or OALA?
8. What should I take into consideration when teaching a blind or visually impaired student?
9. What types of accommodations are available to blind and visually impaired students?
10. Do I need to do anything special for the student if I use a lot of handouts or put a lot of material online?
11. What is a "reader"?
12. What is the role of OALA in providing accommodations?
13. What are some helpful strategies for working with blind and visually impaired students?




FAQ for Faculty/Staff

1. How do students become eligible for services?
Students must provide OALA with the appropriate documentation of their disability.

2. Why are college instructors required to either allow or provide exam accommodations to students with disabilities?
Federal law (Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) mandates that both the university and individual faculty members must provide appropriate exam accommodations to students with disabilties.

3. Is providing exam accommodations to students with disabilities fair to other students?
Determination of exam accommodations is made after reviewing documentation of a disability and the effects of the disability in a test taking situation. Accommodations are determined so as to minimize the disability, not to give the student with a disability an advantage. Faculty should express any concerns regarding exam accommodations to an OALA staff who can verify the appropriateness of the requested accommodation and provide assistance to both the student and faculty.

4. What do I tell other students regarding the exam accommodations for students with disabilities?
Nothing! As a matter of fact, 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.

5. 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.

6. What is the faculty's responsibility in providing accommodations to a student who approaches the professor immediately before an exam?
The term "reasonable" is important in this situation. Students are aware of the appropriate procedures for obtaining classroom accommodations. Faculty are not obliged to provide accommodations in such a situation.

7. 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), but both OALA and faculty jointly provide the accommodations. Faculty can verify student requestes through OALA. Faculty must comply with the law by either using the OALA exam service or by providing the appropriate accommodations themselves.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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 Braille or audio 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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. Accommodaitons typically work best when OALA, students, and faculty work in concert to ensure access to all academic materials

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