Faculty Frequently Asked Questions
The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act define a person with a disability as someone who:
- Has a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity
- Has a record of such an impairment
- Is regarded as having such an impairment
Major life activities include, but are not limited to: walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, concentrating, reading, listening and/or learning. Some disabilities may be more visible than others (e.g. someone who uses a wheelchair as opposed to someone with a chronic health impairment).
An accommodation is a modification, adjustment, or elimination of a barrier to a program or service to give an individual with a disability the opportunity to participate on an equal basis. Accommodations are not designed to give the student an advantage over other students, to alter a fundamental aspect of the course, or to compromise academic rigor.
Approximately 200 students are currently eligible for academic and/or housing accommodations on this campus, however this number increases every year.
The Access Services Director is responsible for determining eligibility for accommodations and for determining reasonable accommodations. In some circumstances, accommodations may be determined after consulting with other departments and/or resources on campus.
Examples of accommodations include advance pre-registration, extended time to take a test/quiz, a quieter room for test-taking, assistance with note-taking and/or permission to record lectures. Please note that some accommodations must be put in place BEFORE the semester begins; these types of accommodations usually involve accessibility of course materials.
A student must reach out to Access Services to disclose their disability and to request accommodations. In addition to meeting with the Access Services Director for a lengthy and detailed discussion, they must provide the required documentation of their disability and establish current need for accommodations. We ask that they do this as early as possible in their academic career at Bryn Mawr.
Before the semester begins:
- Maintain confidentiality
- Respond promptly to any requests from the Access Services Director regarding course materials. Specifically, provide information on all required course materials and readings (title, author, publisher, edition, copyright date, and 13 digit ISBN number)—if notified of a need to do so—by Dec. 1 (for the spring semester) and/or June 1 (for the fall semester).
- Ensure that all materials placed on Moodle are scanned appropriately and are accessible
During the semester:
- Maintain confidentiality
- Inform all students of procedures for accessing accommodations at the beginning of the semester, preferably through a statement in the syllabus. The following is suggested:
Bryn Mawr College is committed to providing equal access to students with a documented disability. Students needing academic accommodations for a disability must first register with Access Services. Students can call 610-526-7516 to make an appointment with the Access Services Director, Deb Alder, or email her at email@example.com to begin this confidential process. Once registered, students should schedule an appointment with the professor as early in the semester as possible to share the verification form and make appropriate arrangements. Please note that accommodations are not retroactive and require advance notice to implement. More information can be obtained at the Access Services website.
Because some students with a disability may be eligible to tape record lectures—and it is state law in Pennsylvania that individuals are given advance notice that they may be recorded—professors also need to put a statement such as the following in their syllabus:
Any student who has a disability-related need to tape record this class first must speak with the Access Services Director and to me, the instructor. Class members need to be aware that this class may be recorded.
The name of the individual having permission to record should not be revealed to the rest of the class.
Provide and arrange for accommodations addressed in the Verification Form that students may give to you. Keep in mind that you are not obligated to implement any accommodation that a student may request if it is not accompanied by a current Verification Form from the Access Services Director.
The Access Services Director will prepare a Verification Form. It is the student’s responsibility to deliver this form to professors. You know students are eligible when they hand you the form.
Students are encouraged to arrange a private meeting with their professor(s) to discuss the accommodations that are listed on the Verification Form. During this meeting, professors should NOT inquire as to why a student has accommodations. Instead, use this time to ask what can be done to facilitate learning and access to the class. Discuss any implementation procedures related to the listed accommodations.
It is important that the accommodations listed on the Verification form are implemented as stated. If a professor has a concern about the impact of an accommodation, it must still be implemented as stated, but he/she should immediately reach out to the Access Services Director to discuss concerns.
Although students are encouraged to identify themselves early in the semester in order to receive academic accommodations, they cannot be forced to do so. Some students may not be aware of having a disability until they are diagnosed later in the semester. Other students may try to take a class without using accommodations for a variety of reasons, but then change their mind. In either scenario, professors are not required to retroactively provide accommodations. However, you must implement them at the point of notification (i.e., student hands you a Verification Form from Access Services). If you have any questions or concerns, contact the Access Services Director.
You are not obligated to implement any accommodation that a student may request if they do not have a verification form. Inform the student that they need to contact Access Services. Additionally, it is very important that you follow up by contacting Access Services yourself, either by phone or email, and share the student’s name and contact information. The Access Services Director will reach out to the student.
Implementing Specific Accommodations
Generally, professors are asked to make an announcement to the class (without using the student’s name) via Moodle or during class time about the need of a student in the class to have assistance with note-taking. (Please note that the Verification Form will contain suggested wording.) When a student comes forward to volunteer for this task, professors should forward the student to the Access Services Director for further explanation and information. Professors should actively recruit a student for the task of note-taking; this may mean that more than one announcement needs to be made or, perhaps, that the professor must directly ask a specific student to take on the task.
Since Bryn Mawr does not have a testing center, it is a professor’s responsibility to arrange for these accommodations. Each department tends to handle this slightly differently, depending on what building they are using for classrooms. It is best to consult with your Department Chair and/or the Academic Administrative Assistant for specifics regarding these procedures.
Confidentiality is key. It is best not to discuss exam accommodations with other students. Discussing any information regarding a student’s disability in the presence of other students can not only create an uncomfortable situation, it can create a legal one.
Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, institutions of higher education may not deny equal access to the institution’s programs, courses and activities. For a variety of reasons, some students are not able to take adequate notes during class. Recording lectures is a legitimate auxiliary aid and cannot be denied by a professor, once the Access Services Director has determined it is necessary for equal access; we cannot deny aids that have the effect of limiting the participation of a student with a disability. Know that if/when the Access Services Director determines that tape recording a lecture is a reasonable accommodation, confidentiality is explicitly explained to the student and they are asked to sign a Confidentiality Agreement. Students who fail to abide by the Agreement would be subject to disciplinary action.
Text-to-speech software is software that will read appropriately scanned material to the student, often using a synthesized voice. Students with reading disabilities, vision disabilities, attention difficulties and/or certain chronic medical conditions are often much more successful at understanding/remembering what they have read when they have this sort of support to assist them with reading the volumes of material that must often be read for college.
However, in order for the software to work, print material must be appropriately scanned. Therefore, one very important step is to make sure that all of the documents posted to Moodle that are required reading for your class are appropriately scanned. For specifics on how to do this correctly, please review Making Course Materials Accessible, which will be sent to you by the Access Services Director. Additionally, professors have access to a Document Converter, which can assist them with preparing accessible documents and/or the scanning tool provided through Read and Write. A graduate assistant(s), working at the direction of the Access Services Director, is available to provide professors with some assistance in making documents posted to Moodle accessible, if these documents are provided well in advance of the start of the class.
The Access Services Director will assist you with ensuring that any textbook you require for your class is accessible with text-to-speech software if you provide the title, author, publisher, copyright, edition and 13 digit ISBN number by June 1 for the fall semester and Dec. 1 for the spring semester. Such deadlines are crucial because the work for making textbooks accessible is outsourced and can take as long as 6-8 weeks to be returned to the College. If accessible materials are not available at the start of the class, then you will not be able to use such readings with any student in your class.
Professors are encouraged to adhere to accessibility guidelines in preparing all course material, for every class that they teach, regardless of whether there is an immediate, known student who requires such material. It is far easier to be proactive than to be reactive.
Students with disabilities should be held to the same standard of conduct as any other student. Please contact the Access Services Director and/or the student’s dean for assistance.
Broken bones are not a disability. While the Access Services Director is happy to consult and share information, supports and/or resources, Verification Forms are not necessary. In most cases, the student’s dean will work with a professor and the student to determine what supports could be put into place until the break has healed.
Concussions lasting less than six months are again, not a disability, although many supports typically used by students with a disability may also be appropriate for a student with a concussion. Again, the Access Services Director is happy to share resources and suggest supports. However, the College’s Medical Director and the student’s dean are vital to supporting the student in recovery for a concussion; the Medical Director and trainer/team doctor in particular determine appropriate and reasonable accommodations for students with concussions.