Students With Disabilities - A Handbook for Faculty

Student on a wheelchair enjoying a conversation with fellow student

In answer to questions and inquiries about students with disabilities, the members of the Disability Services Committee of the Greater Cincinnati Consortium of Colleges and Universities (GCCCU) pooled information from the disability service providers at each of its institutions to publish this handbook. We hope that university and college faculty, administrators, and staff will find the contents informative and useful for reference.

The Laws and Disabilities

In Title V, Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Public Law 93112) a disabled person is anyone with a physical or mental disability that substantially impairs or restricts one or more of such major life activities as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, working, or learning. The Americans with Disabilities Act of l 990 (ADA) upholds and extends the standards for compliance with Section 504. This comprehensive civil rights act provides protection for individuals with disabilities. As defined by the ADA, a disabled person is someone who:

  • has a physical or mental impairment
  • has a record of such impairment
  • and/or is regarded as having such an impairment

In addition to visible disabilities, such as persons who are blind, deaf, or use a wheelchair, the definition includes people with invisible disabilities. These include psychological disorders, learning disabilities, and chronic illnesses. The state statutes also prohibit discrimination on the basis of handicap in higher education.

Under ADA, all institutions of higher education (either public or private) must comply with government policies, procedures, and employment practices that impact the treatment of students. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, institutions must also make appropriate and reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities to ensure accessibility to academic activities (courses and examinations) and non-academic activities (admissions and recruitment, admission to programs, academic adjustments, housing, financial assistance, physical education, athletics, and counselling).

In order to be granted protection under Section 504 and ADA, students must selfidentify to the university or college, provide current and comprehensive documentation concerning the nature and extent of the disability, and articulate their needs to the disabilities service provider on campus.

Your Role in Assisting Students with Disabilities

Assisting students does not mean lowering standards and expectations. A grade should reflect the student's academic performance with due allowance for adjustments. The following are guidelines for working with students with disabilities:

  • Take early and gentle initiative in seeking an ongoing dialogue with the student about the ways in which you can be supportive. Often the student with the disability can be your best resource.
  • Announce at the beginning of the first class and include in course syllabus this statement: "If you have specific physical, psychological or learning disabilities and require accommodations, please let me know early in the semester so that your learning needs may be appropriately met."
  • Your campus office that provides services to students with disabilities is an excellent resource. If a student requests accommodations, refer him/her to this office to co-ordinate all requests.
  • Review your institution's emergency procedures so that you respond appropriately when assisting students with disabilities during an emergency.

All students are ultimately responsible for their own academic achievement. Each student must be responsible for class attendance, assignments, and all other course materials. It is up to the individual student to seek outside help and to utilize agreed upon classroom adjustments.

Information from pamphlets distributed by the American Council on Education (ACE), One Dupont Circle, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 200231193.