Faculty Handbook of Disabilities
Among Students at Truett-McConnell College
Because of the increasing number of students with disabilities that are enrolling in a variety of courses, faculty members are requesting additional information on disability-related resources. This handbook provides this information in view of technological changes and legal mandates, including the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Truett-McConnell College addresses the need to assist students with disabilities by maintaining the Office of Support Services.
The primary mission of the Office of Support Services (OSS) is to provide to all students with disabilities an equal opportunity for independent access and participation in College programs, services and facilities. Another role involves the need to advise the College on legal commitments under the ADA and Section 504. To meet these goals we find it imperative to provide comprehensive information and assistance to students, faculty and staff on issues related to disability. This faculty handbook is one way of disseminating that information.
OSS strives to facilitate faculty expertise in adjusting approaches where disability can become a creative challenge rather than an impossible problem in the classroom. By ensuring equal access, OSS is committed to working with faculty and students to devise solutions to areas of possible question.
This handbook was designed to answer instructional questions on disability with suggested resolutions, specific topics focusing on particular disabilities, and references that address student issues beyond the classroom. We hope this framework will prove accessible for your purposes.
Faculty Handbook of Disabilities
Among Students at Truett-McConnell College
WHAT TYPES OF DISABILITIES COULD I EXPECT TO SEE IN MY CLASSROOM?
Truett-McConnell College has students with many varying disabilities interested in pursuing academic challenges. Cognitively, students with disabilities at TMC are similar to other colleges. The range of disabilities includes sensory impairments such as low vision or blindness, deafness or loss of speech, paralysis involving gross or fine motor skills, or impaired cognitive ability due to head trauma. The majority of disabilities involve attention deficit disorders, learning disabilities, and emotional disorders.
HOW DO STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES REQUEST ACADEMIC ACCOMMODATIONS OR AUXILLIARY AIDS?
Prospective students complete standard admissions application processes through the Admissions Office. Once accepted, the student will receive a Disclosure of Disability form. (Click here for the Disclosure of Disability form.) Once this form is signed and sent to OSS, along with proper documentation of the disability (i.e., either a medical, psychiatric, or psychological evaluation), an interview with the student and an OSS representative is conducted. The purpose of this intake interview is to inform the student of all policies and procedures.
ON WHAT BASIS SHOULD STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES EXPECT ACADEMIC ADJUSTMENT?
Persons with disabilities at TMC are entitled to reasonable accommodations and academic adjustments under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that states:
“…no otherwise qualified individual…shall, solely by reason of disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Combined with requirements from the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, TMC tries to provide equal opportunities for access to all programs, activities, and services for students and other persons with disabilities.
HOW WILL I KNOW IF ONE OF MY STUDENTS IS ENROLLED WITH THE OFFICE OF SUPPORT SERVICES?
A student who is enrolled with OSS will present you with an Instructor Notification Letter prepared by an OSS representative. This notification letter will list the student’s approved accommodations by the Support Services Advisory Committee. All information in this letter is confidential. Any student requesting academic accommodations without a notification letter should be referred to OSS.
AS A PROFESSOR, CAN I REVIEW A STUDENT’S DOCUMENTATION?
Information related to documentation of a disability is submitted in confidence to OSS. It is not released to others without the student’s written permission. In general, we suggest that all information related to a student’s disability be discussed with the student.
I HAD STUDENTS IN CLASS WHO DO NOT LOOK LIKE THEY HAVE ANY DISABILITIES BUT THEY TELL ME THEY DO. IS THIS POSSIBLE?
Most disabilities are not evident by observing a person. For example, an increased number of students with learning disabilities are enrolling in college. In addition, many students with health, emotional or head injury problems are in need of attention for a hidden disability.
Rather than challenge a student who tells you of a disability, listen to ways the condition affects the student’s perception of classroom adjustments. One of the most frustrating statements reported by students without obvious disabilities involves the complaint that people say the student “looks fine to me.” In many situations, a student with a severe, but not obvious disability, is required to cope with a physical handicap and also battle the attitudes of well-meaning persons who in essence have challenged their credibility.
HOW CAN I GET STUDENTS TO REQUEST ACCOMMODATIONS IN A TIMELY MANNER?
At the beginning of the semester you could, in a discrete manner, ask for any Instructor Notification Forms to be turned in either after class or during your office hours. Furthermore, you could write a statement in your course syllabus asking OSS students to notify you in a timely manner.
HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO DISCUSS DISABILITIES WITH ME?
The best way to encourage students to discuss disability-related accommodations with you is to set up an appointment with them during office hours. Please do not ask students with disabilities to identify themselves in class in public. This information is confidential and any mention in public can be considered a violation of civil rights.
SHOULD I BE EXPECTED TO CHANGE ACADEMIC OBJECTIVES OR STANDARDS TO ACCOMMODATE STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES?
No. Students with disabilities expect equal access and opportunities, not alterations in academic expectations. Your academic requirements and course objectives should remain unchanged. Modifications may need to be made in the way a student demonstrates knowledge but not in the academic proficiency standards.
I LECTURE EXTENSIVELY. WILL THIS BE A PROBLEM FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES?
While some students benefit greatly from an organized auditory approach, some students with disabilities may require strategies to handle an extensive lecture approach.
· A student who cannot write comprehensible notes as you lecture may need to depend on a tape recorder or copies of notes from other students.
· The student may benefit from a specific outline or sequence that will be used in the lecture.
· A student with auditory-processing difficulties may need to take a brief break to avoid lecture overload if the presentation lasts for more than 30 minutes without interruption. In this situation, the student should be prepared to use a tape recorder to ensure that information is not missed.
Many instructors have found that a combined approach that includes a visual outline, either on an overhead projector, board or in handout form will help students follow a lecture.
MY CLASS INVOLVES EXTENSIVE VISUAL PRESENTATIONS USING EITHER FILMS OR PHYSICAL DEMONSTRATIONS. WILL THIS BE A PROBLEM FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES, PARTICULARLY ANYONE WITH LOW VISION?
In situations where visual material is presented without auditory descriptions, some students with vision problems could have major difficulty. If you know that visual proficiency will be required, try to advise low vision students several days in advance so they may be able to arrange to review the material before class using auditory or tactile descriptive assistance.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF A STUDENT CANNOT TAKE NOTES IN CLASS?
Students with disabilities that affect their notetaking ability can request a student take notes for them. Carbon paper and other notetaking aids will be provided by OSS. It is the responsibility first of the student to find another classmate to take notes. If the student cannot find someone or wishes to keep their disability confidential, then the instructor should ask for a volunteer. Suggested notetaker announcement:
· The Office of Support Services needs a volunteer in this class to share notes with a student this semester. Please remain after class today to learn more about this service and your involvement as a notetaker.
Students sometimes find tape recording to be more effective. We encourage students who use tape recorders to practice active notetaking/listening skills so they can remain actively involved.
WHAT OTHER ACCOMMODATIONS MIGHT BE NEEDED?
Accommodations frequently needed for students with appropriate documentation include:
· Additional time for assignments
· Extended time for tests or a separate testing area with no distractions
· Use of a tape recorder, spell checker, or calculator
· Interpreter for the deaf or hearing impaired
· Use of a word processor
HOW CAN I ARRANGE FOR ALTERNATE TESTING ACCOMMODATION?
This is the student’s responsibility. The student is to request alternate testing from OSS, at which time OSS will contact the professor for a copy of the exam. The student’s request should be made three to five days prior to the exam.
A STUDENT MAY NOT TAKE A TEST AS SCHEDULED DUE TO ILLNESS; AS THE INSTRUCTOR, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
The student should discuss this situation with you as soon as possible. OSS will reschedule the appointment if agreeable to you. If you or your student do not advise OSS of the change, the test will be returned after the missed test appointment.
Questions Regarding Varying
Disabilities, Impairments and Disorders
WHAT ARE LEARNING DISABILITIES? I HEAR SO MUCH CONFLICTING INFORMATION, I AM NOT CERTAIN I UNDERSTAND THE TERM?
“Learning disabilities” is a term that describes a heterogeneous collection of difficulties related to the reception, process or expression of information that is not the result of lack of intelligence, past experience or sensory difficulty. Different schools of thought consider the origin of learning disabilities to be in either the interaction between an individual and the environment or in a neurological disorder within the learner.
For purposes of protection under federal legislation, students who have documentation supporting the presence of difficulty with receiving, processing or expressing information could be considered to have a learning disability. For purposes of your academic course requirements and expectations, students should be expected to meet all requirements although modification may be necessary in areas involving the time required or the manner of presentation, word processed as contrasted to handwritten for example.
WHAT TYPES OF DIFFICULTY COULD I EXPECT IN CLASS?
1. Auditory Processing
· Many students with learning disabilities have a history of difficulty with auditory processing. Students who have difficulty processing extensive auditory information may have problems accurately and consistently understanding lecture material. In some severe situations, a student may not be able to follow simple directions regarding an assignment, for example, without repetition, notes or speculation.
· Although a student may be very articulate in the use of vocabulary, the same student may be unable to accurately sequence a series of words or digits. This can generate frustration and confusion when a student diligently works on incorrect assignments or challenges an instructor for requiring information discussed previously, but not recalled.
· In foreign language classes, auditory processing difficulties are particularly problematic for students who need to memorize words, translate into another language, and process information simultaneously.
2. Visual Processing
· Some students may have difficulty processing extensive visual data quickly and efficiently. This may include diagrams or overhead presentations but could also include interpretation of texts. Students can sometimes miss essential parts of directions printed on a page or they may require extensive time to read articles presented in class.
· A student with visual processing difficulties may need more time to review information or may require auditory input to “comprehend” the data. By the time a student successfully gains admission to a university, personalized compensating techniques usually have been developed.
3. Expressive skills
· Although a student may be most articulate orally, written work may suggest a severe discrepancy. Spelling or grammar errors along with frequent omissions in written work suggest the need for added proof reading and word processing. Students who continue to have difficulty with handwritten assignments may do better in activities where extended time is allowed and the work can be prepared on a computer with appropriate grammar and spell checking features. On occasion, students may need to use a voice output system to “hear” their writing in order to catch errors. These difficulties do not suggest the presence of inability to learn the subject matter; however, they do indicate the need for innovative ways to write.
· Orally, some students may be unable to express their ideas fluently and quickly. If the same students have adequate writing skills, they may be able to demonstrate academic proficiency. It is important for instructors to recognize that poor verbal performance may be the result of language processing difficulty rather than intellectual incapacity.
SHOULD I EXPECT A STUDENT WITH WRITING PROBLEMS TO DO TERM PAPERS?
Yes, if this is part of your standard course requirements, you should expect the same from a student with writing difficulties. Given the opportunities to use word processing and editing programs, a student with a writing problem should be able to organize and appropriately complete written assignments. On rare occasions, it may be necessary to recognize the need for a student to take more time to complete extensive written assignments to an acceptable academic level but the requirement itself should be expected to be fulfilled.
HOW DO STUDENTS WITH AUDITORY MEMORY PROBLEMS COMPENSATE IN LECTURE CLASS MATERIAL?
Many students who have difficulty with memory will use audiotape recorders so they can replay information later. Often the same students may request a copy of a classmate’s notes so they can check and compare their notes with those of a person who has the comprehensive notes.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF A BLIND STUDENT ATTENDS MY CLASS?
If a student introduces the issue of blindness or low vision, you should discuss techniques the student has found helpful in the past for learning. Notetaking, testing, print formats, preferences for seating and assistance should be included. If the course requirement has extensive visual components, explore alternatives.
Students who have low vision may use large print or regular print materials with magnification. Please be certain that handouts are clearly printed so that clarity can be preserved if necessary. Use white paper with black print for maximal contrast. If you are using word processing for preparing handouts, you may want to prepare a large print copy using font adjustment commands.
HOW DO BLIND STUDENTS TAKE NOTES OR TESTS?
Blind students learn techniques for notetaking as a survival skill. Specifically, many students with vision difficulties will use tape recorders or type notes in class using a laptop computer. If you use overhead or chalkboard notes, you will want to discuss ways the student finds most helpful to keep pace with classmates. In some situations, the student may want to have a print copy of board notes from another student.
For testing, students with vision problems present the opportunity for creative thinking. Depending on the type of test involved, students may be able to work independently if given alternate presentations such as computer disk, audiotaped or large print version of the test.
ARE THERE OTHER THINGS I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT TEACHING PRESENTATION TECHNIQUES AND CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT THAT WILL AFFECT LEARNING FOR A STUDENT WHO IS BLIND?
Frequent use of slides, videos and written information should be augmented with verbal descriptions. Although visual input is extremely helpful for most learners, persons without sight depend upon listening to develop a better image of material. In situations where a person was born blind, use of certain concepts such as color hold little meaning. Conversely, a person who loses sight later in life can use memory of visual images to better understand information. Some people without sight use tactile stimulation to better comprehend information.
Do not assume that a person who is blind will need physical assistance to move to a seat in class. Most people who are blind have practiced travel patterns so they can accurately find their way to classes. If your class routine requires frequent seat changes for small discussion groups, for example, try to be sensitive to the need for a person who must learn and relearn seat locations frequently. It may be appropriate to privately ask the student if assistance is desired in these situations.
WHAT IF I SAY SOMETHING OFFENSIVE SUCH AS “DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN?”
This metaphor is part of the language, do not feel the need to apologize or rephrase your every statement for fear of offending a person with a disability. You may be surprised to hear a blind student respond “Yes, I see what you mean.”
HOW CAN A STUDENT WHO IS DEAF GET INTERPRETER OR OTHER SERVICES?
Office of Support Services arranges interpreter services for students and acts as a referral for College offices that need those services.
HOW CAN A DEAF PERSON HEAR WHAT I SAY IN A LECTURE CLASS?
Deaf students and students who are hard of hearing have a variety of ways to comprehend spoken language in the classroom. Depending on the situation, students may use a combination of techniques including lip reading, sound amplification, sign language interpreting and “real time” captioning.The deaf student is the person who can best explain the ways that communication can be most clearly presented.
WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT THE USE OF INTERPRETERS IN CLASS?
A student who is deaf or has a hearing loss in your class will require accommodation and understanding. An American sign language interpreter may be scheduled for your class. There are a few things to be considered:
· In most situations, the interpreter will sit or stand near you so the student will be able to watch you and “read your words” at the same time.
· If the student or the interpreter does not understand something you say, particularly in the beginning of the semester, you may be asked to repeat or restate information.
· To enhance your communication with the student, watch the student but listen to the voice of the interpreter. If you address the student and not the interpreter, you should have better communication flow. The interpreter is a communication facilitator. It is not appropriate to address student-directed questions to the interpreter if the intention is to discuss something with the student.
· In classes where a single interpreter is working for more than a half-hour, try to permit a brief pause of at least five minutes for rest opportunities. In classes extending more than one hour, this is particularly important and gratefully appreciated. Switching activities, rather than stopping class could help to relieve interpreting strain.
· If you have a meeting with the student outside the regular class time, please advise OSS to arrange interpreter service. Advise OSS if you are not planning to have class or intend a change in location, such as a field trip. Since interpreters are hired on an hourly basis, planned changes could help reduce costs and permit better use of interpreter skills. At least a 24 hour notification is needed.
· On occasion, interpreters will request a desk copy of texts that are being used so they can be better able to learn course-specific vocabulary. If an interpreter requests text material for your class, OSS will contact you to ask your assistance in locating a copy.
WHAT IS THE APPROPRIATE TERM TO USE WHEN DESCRIBING PERSONS WHO DO NOT HEAR?
Although current terminology supports the idea of “person first” when discussing a disability, the use of “deaf” to describe persons who prefer to be identified as a member of a community of persons who use visual or signed rather than verbal language may be preferred. In other words, someone may wish to be considered deaf whereas someone else may want to be considered a person who is hard of hearing. Most deaf students prefer the term “hearing impaired.” Terms such as “deaf and dumb” or “deaf mute” are not considered appropriate descriptors of persons who do not hear or speak.
I HAVE A DEAF STUDENT IN CLASS WHO SPEAKS VERY CLEARLY. HOW CAN THAT HAPPEN?
Some people who are hard of hearing or deaf have learned to speak although they may not be able to hear. When speaking with a deaf person be certain to face the person and speak clearly with nothing blocking your face. Shouting does not help.
I HAVE A STUDENT IN MY CLASS WHO USES A WHEELCHAIR. WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT OF THIS STUDENT RELATIVE TO OTHER STUDENTS IN CLASS?
In general, students who use wheelchairs should be expected to meet course requirements like other students. In situations where your class is held in a room with fixed seating, it may be necessary to be certain that space is available for the student to maneuver the chair without impacting others.
I HAVE A STUDENT IN MY CLASS WHO HAS A SEVERE STUTTERING CONDITION. SHOULD I CHANGE MY COURSE REQUIREMENTS FOR THIS ONE STUDENT?
Students who have stuttering or other speech difficulties that do not allow public speaking may need creative alternatives to traditional course requirements although the intent of the requirement should not necessarily be eliminated. In some situations, students have used edited tapes for presentation assignments. Other students have been able to interact with instructors and classmates using e-mail or other on-line services in courses that are constructed within such formats. On occasion, students with severe difficulties in public speaking are able to arrange office or telephone conversations with instructors so their understanding can be demonstrated.
WHAT PARTICULAR CONCERNS COULD I EXPECT FROM STUDENTS WHO HAVE CHRONIC HEALTH PROBLEMS?
In general most students with chronic health problems will try to schedule classes around potential problem times. For example, students who have difficulty waking early will try to arrange for afternoon classes. People who have regular hospitalization treatments may schedule classes on “off days.” On occasion, there may be times when a student is unable to attend class because of health problems. In these situations, with medical verification, it may be necessary to understand that unexpected or prolonged absences may result.
SHOULD I GRADE A STUDENT WITH A HEALTH PROBLEM DIFFERENTLY?
No. Students with chronic health difficulties are expected to complete course requirements appropriately to receive passing grades for a course. Although it is necessary that the student completes requirements for grading, accommodation such as extended time to complete course requirements may be necessary. In situations where class attendance is a component of grading and the student has legitimately been unable to attend class because of ill health, instructors may want to review policies. Reasonable alternatives or suggestions that the student revise course planning schedules by taking a course at another time when absence may be less problematic my need to be considered.
GENERALLY, WHAT KINDS OF EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS COULD I EXPECT TO SEE IN MY CLASSES?
Most students with emotional disorders do not present themselves as disruptive. On the contrary, withdrawal and anxiety may be more symptomatic of behaviors among persons with severe and chronic emotional disabilities. Several disorders may affect the ability to focus, to learn or to demonstrate knowledge in consistent ways. In most situations, students with such difficulties may be hesitant to discuss their concerns although doing so could help to make the course experience more meaningful for all involved. It is an unusually rare occurrence where a student with an emotional disorder will disturb or disrupt a class.
WHAT TYPES OF ASSISTANCE WOULD STUDENTS WITH EMOTIONAL DISABILITIES EXPECT?
In many situations, students with emotional difficulties require stress reduction help during testing. The testing experience is stressful for everyone but much more so for many persons with anxiety or emotional disorders. Students who have difficulty with stress may need the opportunity to take a test in a more relaxed setting where the chance to observe others complete tests in less time is eliminated.
Students who express concerns about emotional problems need the professional understanding of instructors who are able to project a sense of appreciation for the problem. It is not the responsibility of instructors to assume the role of counselor or therapist.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: ALS, “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system.
Aphasia: loss of symbolic formulation and expression affecting the ability to speak or comprehend resulting from brain trauma.
Attention Deficit Disorder: condition including inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. In adults, difficulty initiating and sustaining attention or focus is pervasive.
Auditory Processing: the ability to accurately and consistently transform verbal information into understandable data.
Auditory Sequencing: the accuracy in recalling information in the specific order it was presented.
Bi-Polar Disorder: condition where person alternates between feeling of euphoria and depression.
COPD: chronic pulmonary disease-disorders that involve the inability to expire air completely and rapidly from the lungs.
Cerebral Palsy: a group of non-hereditary, congenital disorders characterized by inadequate control of motor function ranging in severity to include mobility, speech and language or motor control.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome: a degenerative and progressive atrophy of the muscles of the motor nerve cells.
Chrohn’s Disease: Chronic inflammation of the intestinal wall where ulcers may form. Symptoms include persistent diarrhea, nausea, rectal bleeding, and spasms of abdominal pain.
Dwarfism: a condition involving disproportional short stature; contrasted with standard proportions of short statured midgets.
Dyscalculia: difficulty in performing mathematics.
Dysgraphia: difficulty with motoric components of writing.
Dyslexia: problems with reading; word recognition, pronunciation, interpretation or understanding in spite of prior experience.
Dysnomia: difficulty in recalling, retrieving or remembering words or names.
Hard of Hearing: a condition involving limitations in the quality of sound able to be recognized.
Hemophilia: a inherited disorder of the blood characterized by deficiency in clotting factors in plasma.
Hodgkin’s Disease: disorder of the lymphatic system reducing the ability to fight infection.
Impulsivity: behavior pattern characteristic of quick or impetuous actions without thought, planning or consideration of resulting consequences.
Learning Disabilities: varied group of difficulties related to perception, process or expression of information not related to poor intelligence, experience, or sensory disorders.
Mental Illness: a vast range of disorders including many neuroses, psychoses, charaterologic and organic conditions that interfere with a person’s capability to develop and function.
Mental Retardation: situation characterized by significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period.
Muscular Dystrophy: a group of chronic, progressive, degenerative conditions characteristic of wasting of the muscles that often affects respiration, heart and motor ability.
Multiple Sclerosis: a chronic, disabling condition of the central nervous system resulting in numbness or tingling in affected areas. Periods of loss of motor control and blindness can occur.
Myasthenia Gravis: a neuromuscular disease characterized by weakness and abnormal fatigue in the muscles, most frequently around the eyes, face, neck and throat.
Narcolepsy: condition evident with an uncontrollable need to sleep for short periods occurring suddenly during the day.
Para/quadriplegia: inability to move some or all body parts as a result of spinal cord injury.
Perception: the ability to process or use information received from the senses.
Perseveration: organically-based difficulty stopping or changing an activity.
Personality Disorder: a condition characterized by a set of inflexible, maladaptive personality traits that inhibits social function.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: phenomenon where the victim of catastrophe reexperiences stress events in flashbacks or dreams.
Pre/post-lingual Deafness: description of deafness relative to the learning of language.
Retinitis Pigmentosa: a hereditary disorder of the eye resulting in dystrophy of the cells in the retina causing blindness.
Schizophrenia: episodic or chronic conditions characterized by severe distortions of reality resulting in inappropriate anti-social behavior, hallucinations, and disturbances.
Sleep Apnea: sleep disorder characterized by difficulty with simultaneous breathing and sleeping.
Spina Bifida: a birth defect in the development of the vertebrae resulting in a wide range of orthopedic, urinary-tract and spinal cord conditions.
Spinal Cord Injury: disorders resulting from disease or trauma that affects many body systems.
Tourette’s Syndrome: a neurologically-based condition symptomatic of facial tics, barks, jerks, or uncontrolled verbal utterances.
Tunnel Vision: a condition that allows only a small spot of vision in the immediate center of the visual field.