As classes get underway, you may be getting several notices of student accommodations from the Office of Disability Support Services. If you have never gotten one before, or have more this semester than you have in previous years, read on to get up to speed with what you need to know about student accommodations.
#1: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was amended in 2008 making many more people eligible for accommodations.
Many instructors have commented that they are getting more accommodation notices now than they did a few years ago. That may be due to the fact that more people are now eligible, under federal law, to receive accommodations in school or in the workplace. In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act was amended to describe a disability as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. It also spelled out what a major life activity is, including things like learning and reading. That means that many many more people became eligible under the law, and public schools are required to provide students who are eligible for those accommodations with adequate support.
While requests for student accommodations at UD have gone up in the past few years (from a little less than 1,000 in 2015 to over 1,800 this past year) we are still below the national average of 10% of the student body. In fact, it is much more likely that a student who received accommodations in high school will attempt to complete college without any support, rather than sign up with the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS).
#2: All UD students are required to meet the same admission standards–students with accommodations met them too.
Just because a student has a plan to receive support from DSS doesn’t mean that they are any less accomplished than the other students in your class. The university admits all students based on an identical set of academic standards. When a student takes the SAT or the ACT with accommodations, that information is not passed on to the schools who review that student’s application. A student may have chosen to disclose about their disability in their application, but the university cannot legally use that information in making decisions about admission.
#3: Accommodations aren’t automatic. Students are responsible for seeking out accommodations with DSS once they enroll at UD.
Regardless of whether a student got accommodations before they came to UD, or have decided to seek support for the first time, they must reach out to DSS through their online SAM portal.
Check out what the portal looks like here: https://andes.accessiblelearning.com/UDEL/
#4: Students who receive accommodations through DSS work closely with a DSS coordinator to make sure that their plan meets college standards.
Some students who have been on an individualized Education Program (IEP) in middle and high school or have had accommodations that are not offered at the college level, such as untimed testing. Transitioning to college coursework can be challenging for any student, and students with accommodations are given guidance from a counselor in DSS. If you get a notice from DSS about a student, you should know that the additional support the student is requesting is something that they need in order to meet your standards, and that they are legally entitled to it.
#5: Students can, and should, make decisions about themselves for themselves.
Students who have sought out help from DSS to receive accommodations in their course are making educated choices about how best to be successful in college. You may feel compelled to offer more support than is given in an accommodation request, or to assume that a student cannot complete a task within your course given their need for accommodations. It is always best to let your students make those decisions for themselves. Do not assume that just because a student has an accommodation plan that they are unable to do something. The clearer that you can be about your course requirements and the expectations that you have for student work, the better informed your students will be when they seek the support that they need.
If you are interested in discussing the potential barriers to access that students may encounter in the classroom and hear about a few creative solutions, join us for our March First Friday Roundtable, “Beyond Cost: Increasing Access to Course Materials” on Friday, March 8, from 3-5:30 PM in Gore 208. Faculty will have the opportunity to think broadly about course materials alongside colleagues from the UD Library, Museums, and Press, Academic Technology Services, and Disability Support Services.