Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is a reasonable accommodation?
A. " Accommodations" is a term coined from disability and employment legislation, and it refers to any modifications that need to be made for a person or within an environment to minimize the discriminatory effect of a person's physical, emotional, or learning disability. The provision of the accommodation should not cause undue burden on the setting or the institution. Individual academic accommodations are not specifically mandated by law; the idea is that the accommodation match the individual need of the student and does not change the essential requirements of the role of student. The student should be able to perform in the role of a student with or without the accommodation; the accommodation should have the effect of reducing the handicapping effect of the disability in the academic environment. The goal of reasonable accommodations has been referred to as "leveling the playing field" for people with disabilities. For a person with physical disability, this might mean having a translator or allowing seeing-eye dogs in a classroom. For a student with a psychiatric disability, it might mean taping lectures or having an exam proctored.
Q. How are academic accommodations created? Do they have to request them?
A. It is the student's responsibility to request the accommodation. The right to an academic accommodation is triggered by a letter from the student's physician, psychologist, or other licensed professional. Students are responsible for providing appropriate documentation of their disability. This documentation must include a statement of the diagnosis of the disability or condition, and it must include information related to the limitations resulting from the disability. A representative from Disability Services will then meet with the student to review the documentation and to develop reasonable and effective accommodations that would best meet the student's individual needs. The accommodation should be such that it prevents the disability from interfering with the student's performance and it should be something that can be reasonably provided. Communication with faculty and other WVU at Parkersburg service providers occurs only with written permission of the student. The faculty members are notified of the need for authorized accommodations through letters provided by the Disability Services Office. Failure of the student to communicate his/her needs to the Disability Services office and faculty members in a timely manner can lead to an inability to provide the requested accommodations.
Q. How would faculty members know when they are providing "accommodations" or when they are accommodating or going too far?
A. A basic rule of thumb is that the student should be able to meet the core requirements of the course without adjustment. Faculty do not change the curriculum for the course or modify assignments to the degree that they alter the core requirements. For example, giving extended time or advanced notice to a student would not be altering the requirement of learning course material, and therefore are within reason. The academic accommodation should not create an undue burden on faculty or the institution.
Q. Who else in the school can faculty members tell about the student's disability and under what circumstances?
A. A student's right to privacy and confidentiality regarding information about his/her disability is protected under the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The very fact that a student has a disability is confidential information and therefore can only be shared if the student gives written permission (in the form of a signed release of information).
Q. Can a faculty member tell other teachers or students about a student and look to them for suggestions?
A. No, specific information about students' disabilities is confidential and cannot be shared without a student's written permission. General information about disabilies, academic accommodations, and classroom strategies can be shared, and issues can be discussed provided the student's anonymity is absolutely protected. Otherwise, faculty refer to the Disability Services office for assistance and refer other teachers there as well.
Q. Who can I go to for help with all the questions I have?
A. If you have questions concerning academic accommodations or disabilities, you should go to the Disability Services office. Cathy Mutz (424-8320) welcomes questions and suggestions from faculty and students. Please feel free to contact her at any time. If she is not available, Pam Clevenger (424-8378) will be happy to arrange a meeting or telephone contact. Violet Mosser is the contact person for Disability Services at the Jackson County Center (372-6992).
West Virginia University At Parkersburg
300 Campus Drive
Parkersburg, WV 26104
(304) 424-8378 or 1-800-WVA-WVUP, ext. 378
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