Making Accommodations

Often “accommodation” is defined as something that is supplied for convenience or an act that is done to a person, often for convenience or to reconcile differences. Just to be clear, we don’t like these definitions, but all too often this is what non-disabled individuals have thought the term “accommodation” means.

For providing accommodations in higher education, such definitions do not ensure confidence in disability services staff. When we shift our lens to focus on accessibility, however, we view accommodations very differently. They are no longer about convenience but about equal access necessary for learning, attending events, and participating in programs on Hope’s campus.

Paul D. Grossman wrote an article in 2001 about accommodations in higher education titled “Making Accommodations: The Legal World of Students with Disabilities.” I encourage you to click on the link to read the article, but if you don’t have the time, the below summarizes some of the article’s highlights:

MYTH 1: Disability law is not a civil rights law. Thoughts on this may be impacted by the model of disability that informs your view, but we believe disability laws are civil rights laws. To quote directly from the article, “Those who see the connection between disability law and federal civil rights laws will find the path to understanding disability law a great deal easier to follow. We desegregate our schools to remove the stigma that comes from enforced separation and to bring all students the advantages of diversity in the classroom. ‘Academic adjustments and reasonable modifications’ and the provision of ‘auxiliary aids and services’ are important tools for desegregating institutions and extending equal educational opportunity to the disability community. These devices, commonly called ‘reasonable accommodations,’ have had a considerable impact on who participates in higher education.”

MYTH 2: Academic accommodations force faculty to lower academic standards, but in actuality, academic accommodations for courses do not change what but how students learn. For example, a student who is deaf or hard of hearing may capture lecture content by using an assistive listening device, real-time captioning, or an ASL interpreter. Students who are blind or visually impaired may use text converted to Braille, a screen reader, or a magnifier/reader. Students approved for note-taking assistance (for a variety of disability-related reasons) may use technology to take pictures of the whiteboard, to type notes, or record lectures.

MYTH 3: Academic accommodations create unfair advantages for students, but again, directly from the article: “In my experience, modifications to examinations, particularly extra time to complete them, rank first in triggering faculty concerns about treating all students fairly. The objective of providing individuals extra time on examinations is to measure what students have learned rather than the impact of their disability. When a student’s performance speed is a skill a professor intends to measure, extra time on an examination would not be an appropriate accommodation.” Still not convinced? Try out this demonstration on the Stroop Effect.

Faculty Rights and Responsibilities

We are updating the Disability Services website and have added information for faculty regarding rights and responsibilities when providing students with accommodations. You can read the entire list on the website or review a few key points below.

More updates are coming soon. Please continue to check the website for answers to your questions, or feel free to contact Disability Services.

Faculty responsibilities

  1. Trust the expertise of Disability Services staff, and provide students with accommodations as outlined. If you have a concern about an approved accommodation, contact Disability Services to discuss it.
  2. Maintain confidentiality.

Faculty rights

  1. To request academic-accommodation verification of a student’s eligibility for any requested accommodations. Disability Services is the only office designated to review disability documentation and determine eligibility for appropriate accommodations. Please refer students to Disability Services if they are seeking accommodations without proper documentation.
  2. To administer an accommodation as it is stated by Disability Services. If students believe accommodations are not meeting disability-related needs, refer them back to Disability Services.
  3. To expect the same conduct standards for each student in your course.

Disability Services Contact Information
Disability Services website
616-395-7830
ds@hope.edu

Jeanne Lindell – Head of Disability Services

Carrie Dattels – Coordinator of Disability Services

Megan Herzog – Services Assistant

Do I really need to caption my videos?

Making sure videos have captions can be confusing and time consuming for those not familiar with available options. Disability Services (DS) can assist you. If you receive notice that a student in your course needs accommodations that include captions, contact us.

How does providing captions allow access to course materials?

  • The benefit of captions to students who are D/deaf may be obvious, but if you still have questions, feel free to watch this video on the A.I. blog.
  • Silence is golden. Captions are not only useful in noisy environments to increase comprehension. Forget to bring your earbuds and shouldn’t turn up the volume? No problem–turn on the captions.

 

What if videos in class only augment information from the readings or lecture rather than provide additional information for which students will be responsible? The Office of Civil Rights has defined accessible in multiple resolutions with institutions of higher education, as meaning that in any classroom or learning situation or activity:

“Accessible” means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. A person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability. Although this might not result in identical ease of use compared to that of persons without disabilities, it still must ensure equal opportunity to the educational benefits and opportunities afforded by the technology and equal treatment in the use of such technology.” (Source: Resolution Agreement: Youngstown State University, OCR Docket No. 15-13-6002).

So now that I know I need to caption videos, what should I do? 

There are ways to manage captions regardless of the video host that is used, even if it is saved in your Google Drive.

https://support.google.com/drive/answer/1372218

Information about other platforms:

 

I still show VHS tapes in class. Can I caption videos on VHS? 

We may not have an immediate answer for this situation, but we are available to discuss how students might receive access to the information that is being shared. When updated digital technology is not available, there are still ways to provide access. Contact us. 

Essential Components of an Academic Course

Contributed by Jeanne Lindell, Head of Disability Services:

Identifying the essential components of a course or program plays a critical role in determining whether or not an individual meets all the necessary objectives and whether or not a disability related accommodation fundamentally alters a course or program.

Disability Services (DS) staff have begun talking more to faculty about essential components. So you’re looking for more information about what essential components are or how to determine them, look no further! Well, actually, please do continue reading.

Important questions to ask when assessing a course or program’s essential objectives and components include:

  • What is the purpose of the program or course?
  • What outcome variables are absolutely required of all participants?

 

Specifically for a course:

  • What academic skills must be demonstrated?
  • What percentage of the subject-area knowledge must be mastered?
  • What specific knowledge, principles, or concepts must be mastered?

 

Specifically for a program:

  • What skills or competencies will be needed in the field after                        graduation?
  • What are the requirements for licensing or professional accreditation?
  • What methods of instruction are non-negotiable, and why?
  • What methods of assessing outcome variables are absolutely necessary, and why?
  • What are acceptable levels of performance for these measures?

Essential components must be met with or without reasonable accommodations. Non-essential components are those for which alternate methods or products may be substituted. In discerning appropriate accommodations, DS staff rely on faculty to know their course’s essential components. DS staff may discuss alternate methods or products with faculty that would equally assess students’ mastery of the essential components but will allow them to demonstrate what they know. An example would be allowing an oral instead of written assessment (unless writing is itself an essential component of the course).

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This information has been adapted from Brown University’s Accessibility websitehttp://www.brown.edu/campus-life/support/accessibility-services/.

Course Syllabus Statement

The ASC encourages faculty to include a statement on their class syllabi about the procedures for obtaining disability-related accommodations. Some example statements that you can tailor to meet your needs appear below:

Hope College strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers due to a disability (including mental health and chronic or temporary medical conditions), please let me know immediately so that we can privately discuss options. To establish reasonable accommodations, I may request that you first register with Disability Services within the Academic Success Center and then arrange with me to discuss approved accommodations so that we can implement them as soon as possible. You can schedule an appointment with Disability Services in VanZoeren 261 or by calling x7830.

Hope College values diversity, inclusion, mutual respect, and full participation, and our goal is to create welcoming, inclusive, and equitable learning environments. If aspects of the instruction or design of this course create barriers to your inclusion, accurate assessment, or achievement, please notify me as soon as possible. You may also contact Disability Services within the Academic Success Center in VanZoeren 261 to discuss a range of options for removing barriers, including accommodations.

Questions or feedback can be directed to ds@hope.edu.