Purpose of Student Accessibility Services:
- Assist in the facilitation of reasonable accommodations for students to promote equal access
- Provide services and accommodations to students with disabilities and/or medical/mental health conditions
- Work closely with faculty and staff in an advisory capacity
- Provide equal access for individuals with disabilities and/or medical/mental health conditions
At the foundation, Student Accessibility Services is guided by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was passed July 26, 1990, as Public Law 101-336 and became effective on Jan. 26, 1992. The ADA is landmark federal legislation that provides civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities.
An individual with a disability and/or medical/mental health condition is defined by the ADA as a person who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities
- Has a record of such an impairment
- Is regarded as having such an impairment
- Could have the terminology "substantially limits" applied to them, meaning they are unable to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform
- Is significantly restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which the average person in the general population can perform the same major life activity
- Has a diagnosed and documented disability through Student Accessibility Services
- Has approved accommodations issued by Student Accessibility Services after going through the process for determining eligibility for services
- Is otherwise qualified to attend UT
- All disability-related information, including documentation and the nature of an individual's disability, is confidential information between Student Accessibility Services staff and the student unless the student chooses to reveal it
- Any explicit or implicit inference to a particular student and the disability is inappropriate
Tips that Facilitate Student Learning:
- Speaking at a clear and normal tone
- Visual aids
- Face the class
- Spatial awareness
- Learning style adaptations
- Guided lecture questions
- Study guides
- Frequent feedback
- Lecture outline/slides
- Insist that all students adhere to the Spartan Code and the Academic Integrity Policy
- Require students to present letters of accommodation from Student Accessibility Services before allowing accommodations
- May request a signed agreement from students for audio recording of lectures and modified attendance accommodations. These forms are available to the student via Accommodate by Symplicity
- Challenge accommodations that fundamentally alter the academic integrity of a course. Please contact the associate director with any concerns regarding approved accommodations
- Accommodations are not retroactive. Accommodations can only be applied to situations from the time of approval, moving forward.
- Shared responsibility for providing student accommodations with Student Accessibility Services
- Assist Student Accessibility Services with identifying appropriate accommodations for your course, when requested
- Provide reasonable accommodations when letter of accommodation has been received
- Include a Student Accessibility Services statement on your syllabus:
If there is a student who requires accommodations because of any disability, please go to the Academic Success Center on the second floor of the Jenkins Technology Building for information regarding registering as a student with a disability. You may also call (813) 257-5757 or email email@example.com. Please feel free to discuss this issue with me, in private, if you need more information.
- Consult with Student Accessibility Services whenever there is a question concerning a student with a disability
Examples of Accommodations Provided:
- Extended time on tests/quizzes
- Distraction-reduced test/quiz environment
- Notetaker, when requested
- To facilitate the notetaking accommodation, SAS utilizes a software called Notetaking Express. Notetaking Express is a web-based software where students can record the lecture and send the recording to Notetaking Express. From there, Notetaking Express has staff that listens to the recording and takes notes, sending the notes back to the student within about a day. Recordings are stored within Notetaking Express' secure servers.
- Permission to audio record class lectures
- Use of a computer for notetaking, written assignments and tests/quizzes
- Adaptive equipment/assistive technology
- Test scribe
- Exams in audio format
- Enlarged print course materials
- Modified attendance
Understanding the Accommodations Process:
The Interactive Process
Sorting through reasonable accommodation outcomes require that an “interactive process” occur to make solid rational decisions regarding a student’s accommodation needs. This process affords Student Accessibility Services with the ability to make equitable accommodation decisions that address student barriers to their education while accounting for the academic and campus standards, objectives, expectations, and/or experiences of a particular course or degree program.
In engaging in the interactive process, SAS answers each of the following:
- Is this a student with a disability…
- Who needs an accommodation is reasonable and necessary for equitable access…
- That will logically remove an unnecessary academic barrier (at the intersection of the disability and the environment)…
- Without fundamentally altering academic or campus standards?
Many accommodations will be straightforward and can happen through simple steps and basic transactions. The people who need to participate further in the interactive process will organically evolve as the respective situation unfolds. The interactive process will almost always be between SAS and the student for the first three bullet points above. When necessary, faculty and others may need to offer insight on the final two bullet points while assessing how the disability and the accommodation intersect with the environment.
The interactive process may be as simple as a conversation that starts with the student and SAS and then proceeds and concludes with SAS and the professor after the professor receives the Letter of Accommodation. The process could involve more back-and-forth with student, SAS and professor perhaps meeting together to explore options. In some cases, the department head or even academic deans or other leader will need to become involved. Overall, the process needs to play out through a good faith effort and analysis until a logical and reasonable decision has been made in which a sound outcome rational can be provided.
A fundamental alteration review may become part of the interactive process. A fundamental alteration occurs when implementation of the accommodation would change the essential aspect of the academic experience (program or course) such that the academic objectives cannot be achieved as designed and/or the academic expectations would be significantly altered or lessened for a disabled student.
In a fundamental alteration, implementation of the accommodation would cause any of the following (not exhaustive):
- It becomes impossible to accurately assess the individual student’s learning, knowledge and coursework relative to the required course, program or degree goals, learning objectives and essential elements.
- It becomes improperly easier for a student to fulfill the mandatory elements or learning objectives by substantially modifying or removing academic standards required of all other students for the course, program or degree achievement.
- Implementation would become an administrative or financial burden.
- Implementation would pose a health or safety risk to the student with a disability or others within the academic setting.
Accommodations are more likely to be fundamentally altered if academic standards are logically impacted without identifiable alternatives to equitable access. Common academic standards include:
- University academic requirements.
- Degree requirements.
- Course requirements.
- Learning objectives.
- Technical standards for specific programs.
- The need for grades and evaluative measures.
- Decisions on how to evaluate students in the classroom.
Once an academic standard is established, students must meet the criteria with or without reasonable accommodations. If an accommodation changes how a standard can be met but does not modify the standard, the accommodation will likely be reasonable. If the accommodation implementation modifies the standard overall (such as attendance modification not being reasonable for a music class) or at a certain threshold (such as no more than two absences for a music class), then it may very likely be an unreasonable accommodation. Other options need to be assessed when practical. While the facilitation of most accommodations will not result in a fundamental alteration, institutions can determine that certain accommodations within certain courses and program experiences are fundamental so long as a careful, thoughtful, and rational review of the academic program and its requirements exists.
Factors to be considered in determining whether an academic standard is an essential include (not exhaustive):
- The nature and purpose of the program and course.
- The relationship of the academic standard to the functional elements of the program and course.
- Whether the academic standard is required for licensure or certification in a related occupation or profession.
- Whether the requirement is consistent with similar programs at other educational institutions and with relevant national and expert guidelines; If not, is there any unique justification for a requirement that other educational institutions do not generally adopt?
To determine whether an accommodation fundamentally alters the nature of a course, faculty who teach or who have taught the course should be able to identify the essential academic standards of the course, the requirements that go to the very nature of the subject matter, or requirements that are of the utmost importance in achieving the course, program, or degree objectives. The syllabus document serves as the initial checkpoint for this assessment. What exists in writing carries more weight than what is stated. From the reviewer’s perspective, too many faculty fundamental alteration claims fall apart during the syllabus review.
While not an exhaustive list, potential questions to ask to assess whether a fundamental alteration may be in play:
- How is the standard or expectation communicated in program materials and course materials (usually the syllabus) through outcomes, learning objectives or other end goals?
- What essential requirements for the course and program provided to
- students in writing?
- What are the unique qualities of the course in relation to its overall objectives, and how does this align with the program in which the course is required?
- What are the specific requirements that individual instructors believe are fundamental to teaching the course/program and assessing student learning and performance?
- Would a specific accommodation invalidate these requirements or lower the expectations held of students relative to the requirements, and how if so?
- Will the requested accommodation lower the academic standards of the course/program? How will the standards be reduced if so?
- Why was the specific academic standard (such as a presentation) chosen for the course? How does this align with the curriculum or program's bigger-picture learning objectives?
- Why is the standard the instructor believes will be lowered important to the course/program?
- Has the program or professor modified the standard in other student situations? If yes, how is the current situation different?
SAS will lead the fundamental alteration process, engaging with other relevant members of the institution as needed. Ideally, mutual decisions are made. The depth of the dive into determining fundamental alternation will vary based on the situation. In some cases, a fundamental alteration can be identified within a few rounds of communication. In other instances, substantial exploration is needed to make an informed decision.
Most accommodations will not result in a fundamental alteration. In potential fundamental alteration situations, accommodation alternatives can often be identified. A smaller subset of the collective SAS accommodation matters will be classified as an actual fundamental alteration.
Testing Center Process Chart
Have a student in your course who is approved for exam/quiz accommodations through SAS? Use the chart below to gain insight into how the Testing Center processes exam/quiz requests once a student makes a request to take their exam/quiz with their approved accommodations:
Want to be more involved with disability issues at UT?
- Become a part of the Accessibility Committee - we are a committee made up of faculty and staff who meet twice a semester and discuss hot topics in the disability world as well as campus disability issues and concerns
- Share your thoughts with the associate director regarding any questions or concerns you may have about Student Accessibility Services
Student Accessibility and Academic Support
Student Accessibility Services
Academic Success Center, 2nd Floor, Technology Building