May 17 was Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and in recognition Microsoft released a short film: Empower every person: reimagining accessibility. The film focuses on industry and employment, but it highlights how accessibility can drive inclusion and innovation.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Maintain confidentiality.
- 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.
- 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.
- To expect the same conduct standards for each student in your course.
Jeanne Lindell – Head of Disability Services
Carrie Dattels – Coordinator of Disability Services
Megan Herzog – Services Assistant