Academic Accommodations

"Test" as used in this context, refers to quizzes and examinations taken during the semester including final exams in conjunction with an academic class.  A qualified student with a disability must contact Disability Services to request testing accommodations as early as possible each semester as well as to review the policies and procedures for requesting and receiving services.  The student must provide Disability Services with documentation of disability that supports the student’s request for testing accommodations.  A student should discuss his/her specific needs for testing accommodations (e.g., extended time, separate location, and use of computer) with the Disability Services staff and faculty in a timely manner, for example two weeks before tests are to be administered. The student must follow these procedures in order to request testing accommodations:

Beginning of Each Semester

The student must contact the Disability Services staff to request testing accommodations as early as possible each semester as well as to review the policies and procedures for requesting services. The student must provide Disability Services with documentation of disability that supports the student’s request for testing accommodations.

The student must meet with professors to inform them of testing needs, preferably at the beginning of the semester.  If requested, Disability Services will provide the student with a form entitled, “ Niagara University Disability Services:  Course Accommodation Approval” to give to each professor outlining approved accommodation.

During the Semester

The student must notify Disability Services before each exam to schedule testing accommodations.  The student must remind professors to make arrangements to deliver exams to the Office of Academic Support (Learning Center) before the scheduled exam time.  Disability Services will administer and proctor each exam and will return the exam to the faculty member once the student has completed the exam.

Test accommodations determined on a case-by-case/course-by-course basis may include, but are not limited to:  extended time to compete exams, distraction-reduced testing location, access to a word processor or assistive technology, readers, scribes, and/or alternative formats such as oral or taped tests.

Based on documentation of disability, Disability Services will determine on a case-by-case/course-by-course basis the use of notetakers as an appropriate accommodation. Students who need this accommodation may have difficulty translating spoken information into a written format, maintaining attention needed for the completion of multitask activities, and/or writing quickly and/or legibly. Students must follow these procedures in order to request notetakers:

Beginning of Each Semester

The student must contact Disability Services to request notetaking services as early as possible each semester as well as to review the policies and procedures for requesting services. The student must provide Disability Services with documentation of disability that supports the student’s request for notetakers.

The student must provide a list of notetaker requests in writing at the beginning of each semester that notetakers are required.  A returning student who knows someone in classes or someone who is willing to take notes should identify that person to Disability Services.  If a new or returning student does not know anyone in the class, Disability Services will locate a student enrolled in the course qualified to take notes on a volunteer basis. Disability Services also will determine, under certain circumstances, if paid notetakers should be used in courses where qualified volunteer notetakers are not available.  Disability Services will provide the student with carbonless notepaper or access to a copier to make a copy of the notes.

Students with print disabilities, such as visual impairments and learning disabilities, may require textbooks and material in audio format.  Determination of need is made by Disability Services based on the appropriate documentation the student provides.

Student Responsibilities

  • Make a request for alternate print format:  Students must complete an Alternative Text Format Form at the beginning of each semester that alternate text format is required.  This information provides Disability Services with the information needed to respond to the student’s needs in a timely manner.

    Students can access audio format through an agency called “Learning Ally (http://www.learningally.org/) and/or other agencies as suggested by Disability Services to determine if required textbooks are available.  The annual Learning Ally registration fee will be paid by the state Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH), ACCES-VR, or Niagara University.  The student is responsible for the lifetime membership fee.  
     
    Students can also access audio format through Disability Services.  Disability Services will obtain the required copies of the textbooks either directly from the publisher or request permission from the publisher to convert the print into electronic text that can then be saved on a CD or MP3 file. The student will then choose from the following options for accessing audio format:

    1) Computer-generated voice read-back of text using a screen reader on his/her own computer. This option also provides visual cuing of text on a computer screen
    2) MP3 files saved on CDs. This option will allow the student to hear the speech using a media player.
     
    The final decision as to which accommodation to use is the University’s; student preference will be taken under consideration, but not necessarily determine the final decision.
  • Getting information quickly: Contact the academic department or the campus store for the title, author, and edition of the textbooks for the courses in which you plan to enroll.  This must be done as far in advance as possible. The student is expected to purchase the textbook(s). If the student has trouble obtaining this information from the course instructor, the student should contact Disability Services as soon as the delay is known. The office can then assist the student in getting this information as quickly as possible.

Electronic Text or “Etext” or Audio Format

  • If students prefer audio format, they should contact Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RDB&D) and/or other agencies as suggested by Disability Services to determine if required textbooks are available.  The annual Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic registration fee will be paid by the state Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH), Vocational and Education Services for Students with Disabilities (VESID), or Niagara University.  The student is responsible for the lifetime membership fee.  
  • If students prefer electronic text or “etext” they should give the bibliographic information to Disability Services.  Disability Services will obtain the required copies of the textbooks either directly from the publisher or request permission from the publisher to convert the print into electronic text and then save the text on CDs.  The student will then chose from the following options for accessing audio format:  1)  Computer-generated voice read-back of text using a screen reader on his/her own computer.  This option also provides visual cuing of text on a computer screen, 2)   Computer-generated speech saved on CDs.  This option will allow the student to hear the speech using a portable CD player.
  • The final decision as to which accommodation to use is the University’s; student preference will be taken under consideration, but not necessarily determine the final decision.

Conversion Deadline

The deadline for converting textbooks into electronic text is at least two weeks before the student needs the first reading assignment.  When course materials are delivered to Disability Services with less than two weeks’ notice, Disability Services will inform the student how much of the material can be converted in the time available.  Although every effort will be made to accommodate student needs, Disability Services cannot guarantee conversion of materials without two weeks’ notice.

Defective Materials

If for any reason a CD or assistive technology is defective, the student should contact Disability Services immediately.  Disability Services will investigate the problems and suggest solutions as soon as possible.

Copyright Issues

Because Disability Services does not have copyright clearance for books, the university cannot distribute CDs to students unless they own a print copy of the material.  Students who use electronic materials MUST sign a contract indicating that they owe a print copy of the textbook, are using the materials in order to access their textbooks, and will NOT duplicate the materials in any way.

Returning CDs

The student will return all CDs borrowed from Disability Services by the end of the semester.

Recognizing that the nature and severity of a documented disability may preclude learning in specific courses even with reasonable accommodations, the University will permit the substitution of another course or a modification of the course as an accommodation in some instances.  The University will not waive or substitute any course or requirement, which is found to be an essential component of the academic program. The petition process should begin as soon as there is strong objective evidence (e.g., previous documented difficulties) that the student will be unable to fulfill the requirement.  Students must follow the following procedures in order to request a course substitution or modification.
 

Student Responsibilities

  • The student must initially contact Disability Services to review the procedures for a course substitution or modification.  
  • The student must request, in writing, a course substitution or modification from the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean, and Department Chairperson and must include the reasons for the request and prior experiences with the subject matter as appropriate.
  • The student must provide Disability Services with current, relevant, and comprehensive documentation of disability from qualified professionals. A complete case history is also required to document the student’s history of problems in the subject area from high school until the date of petition.  This case history should include a) the names and description of courses, as well as grades, indicating the student’s attempt(s) to master the subject matter as appropriate and b) OPTIONAL, BUT RECOMMENDED: letter(s) from high school and/or college personnel attesting to the student’s effort and diligence in attempting to master the subject matter as appropriate.

Disability Services Responsibility

Disability Services must provide a written report to the student’s Dean and Chairperson detailing the impact of the student’s disability-related functional limitation(s) and how the functional limitations(s) may or may not impact the student’s performance in the course in question.

Dean/Chairperson Responsibility

The Dean of the student’s college, upon consultation with the Department Chairperson, must review the student’s petition for a course substitution or modification and report by Disability Services in light of the essential requirements and technical standards of the program in question.  If the requirements for the course are determined to be essential to the program, then the Dean will deny the student’s request.  If the requirements for the course are determined not to be essential to the program, then the Dean will approve the student’s request.  IN EITHER CASE, the Dean will forward the student’s request for substitution, Disability Services’ report, and the Dean’s justification for his/her decision to the Vice President for Academic Affairs for a final decision.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Responsibility

The Vice President of Academic Affairs, upon reviewing the student’s request for substitution, Disability Services’ report, and the Dean’s justification for his/her decision, will make the final decision.  The student will be notified of the final decision by the Vice President for Academic Affairs in a timely manner.  

NOTE:  The student has the opportunity to grieve the Vice President’s decision following the University’s 504/ADA Grievance Procedure. Any student who receives approval for a course substitution or modification is expected to fulfill the University’s specific course requirements according to his/her college’s guidelines.

Any substitution or modification is valid only for the curriculum in which the student is matriculated at the time of petition.  Change of academic program or institution renders the action void.

Auxiliary aids include interpreters, or other effective methods of making orally delivered materials available to students who are deaf or hard of hearing; readers for students with visual impairments; classroom equipment adapted for use by students with manual impairments; and other similar services or equipment.

Definitions:

  • Qualified Interpreter:  an interpreter who, via a video remote interpreting (VR) service or an on-site appearance , is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.  Qualified interpreters include, for example, sign language interpreters, oral translators, and cued-language translators.
  • Video remote interpreting (VR) service:  an interpreting service that uses video conference technology over dedicated lines or wireless technology offering high-speed, wide bandwidth video connection that delivers high-quality video images. 
  • Qualified reader:  a person who is able to read effectively, accurately, and impartially using any necessary specialized vocabulary.

While funding for accommodations to ensure equal access is available from Niagara University, funding for auxiliary aids is often the responsibility of state vocational rehabilitation agencies.  However, some students with disabilities may not be eligible to be clients of the vocational rehabilitation agency.  These state agencies also set limits on the amount of assistance they provide for auxiliary aids.  The University does not provide prescription devices, or devices and services of a personal nature.

The need for auxiliary aids and services is deemed appropriate by the Disability Services based on the documentation provided by the student.  The student must follow these procedures in order to request auxiliary aids and services:

Beginning of Each Semester

The student must initially contact Disability Services to request auxiliary aids and services as early as possible each semester. The student must provide Disability Services with documentation of disability, which supports the need for auxiliary aids and services. Disability Services will then determine which auxiliary aids and services are appropriate accommodations. The student must meet with professors or administrative personnel to inform them of needs, preferably at the beginning of the semester. If requested, Disability Services will provide the student with a Course Accommodations Approval From to give to the professor or to campus personnel outlining approved accommodations.

Students may be encouraged to apply for funding from outside sources such as Adult Career and Continuing Education Services (ACCES)

Niagara University expects its students to attend class regularly.  Attendance requirements specific to each course are outlined in course syllabi.  However, the University will consider on a case-by-case basis, attendance modifications for students with disabilities who have documented medically-related conditions (episodic in nature) or other reasons why their disability may make it difficult for them to fulfill typical attendance requirements.  The outcome may be different from student to student, class to class, and even from faculty member to faculty member, depending on the student’s documented disability, how it impacts attendance, AND in light of the significance that attendance plays in the course itself (interactive class discussions, lab, practicum, etc.).  In some cases, if the student isn’t attending class on a regular basis s/he may not be able to do well or get the full benefit of the class. In these cases, accommodations, such as incomplete grades and/or course withdrawal, should be considered by the student.

Faculty need to understand that students with disabilities have the right to ask for this type of accommodation if their disability impacts attendance.  Due to the nature and severity of the disability, the student may miss class to receive necessary medical treatment or to recover from a flare up of the condition.  However, if regular attendance is essential to the course and/or curriculum or if the number of accommodated absences becomes excessive, then the student will be asked to consider alternative accommodations (e.g., a grade of incomplete or course withdrawal).  Note that the extension of deadlines for assignments due or arrangements for making up tests and exams missed during an absence are NOT included in this assigned accommodation and must be negotiated individually with faculty as the need arises.
Procedures:

  1. The student will meet with each of his/her faculty within the first two weeks of each semester or as soon as the condition is known, to discuss his/her situation and to discuss and clarify the class attendance policy with regard to meeting the course requirements.
  2. A student with a disability who feels that he/she will have difficulty attending classes specifically because of his/her disability must make a request for an attendance accommodation from Disability Services at the beginning of each semester or as soon as the condition is known.  
  3. The student will be required to provide documentation which supports the request for an attendance accommodation.

    Note that the impact of the disability on attendance will likely have to be episodic in nature for the request to move forward.  If the student’s absences become excessive, then the accommodation may necessitate the need to explore grades of incomplete or withdrawal from a course or the university. Documentation will be held in Disability Services and will be considered confidential. 
  4. Disability Services, in consultation with appropriate campus professionals (e.g., Counseling Services, Health Services), will review/evaluate the documentation as needed to determine if the student has provided justifiable disability-based reasons for requesting consideration of attendance requirements.    
  5. If the student’s request for an attendance modification is supported by his/her documentation of disability, Disability Services will contact each of the student’s faculty members individually to determine how an attendance accommodation may impact the student’s ability to access the essential requirements of each class.

    Specifically, Disability Services will ask each faculty member for:
    • established attendance policies for the class.
    • the importance of attendance/participation to the learning process/curriculum. 
    • More specifically, each faculty member may be asked to answer the following questions:
    NOTE:  The following questions are from an OCR Letter of Finding in 1996 which helped to define the questions to ask regarding the definition of “essential course requirements” when attendance is an issue.  (Letter of Finding from the Office for Civil Rights to Cabrillo Community College in California [Case No. 09-96-2150; OCR Region IX, 1996]).  The answers to these questions helped OCR determine whether attendance was indeed essential to the course in question and if it could be accommodated.
  6. a. Is there regular classroom interaction between the instructor and students and among the students themselves?
    b. Do student contributions in class constitute a significant component of the learning process?
    c. Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method of learning?
    d. To what degree does a student's failure to attend class constitute a significant loss of the educational experience of other students in the class?
    e. What does the course description and syllabus say regarding attendance?
    f. What is the method by which the final course grade is calculated?

    In the final analysis, the faculty member needs to determine how much attendance leeway can be allowed without altering an essential feature of the course and/or curriculum.
                  
    The exact number of absences that may need to be accommodated may fluctuate from student to student based on the disability and its exacerbations during any given semester.  Again, the determination of what is “reasonable” at any point in time depends on the impact of the student’s disability and the essential nature of class attendance. 

  7. At this point, Disability Services will consider the student’s request, all documentation, input from faculty, and make a determination on the student’s request.

If an attendance accommodation is found to be reasonable, the student and Disability Services must complete the "Disability Attendance Accommodation Approval" form for each class, the student must take them to each of his/her faculty for signature and return them to Disability Services.  Disability Services will distribute the copies of the signed forms to the student and to each of the designated faculty. This form provides an explanation of both the established boundaries of the accommodation and the responsibilities of both faculty and student in carrying out this accommodation. In addition,   

  • Unless designated in writing by the faculty, the student is responsible for any material covered or work done in or outside of class during the disability-necessitated absences AND must adhere to all scheduled deadlines for class assignments and tests.
  • The extension of deadlines for assignments due or arrangements for making up tests and exams missed during an absence are NOT included in this assigned accommodation and must be negotiated individually with faculty as the need arises. 
  • If the student has missed a deadline due to a disability-related absence, the student, as soon as he/she is able, should contact the faculty to discuss the possibility of making up the missed work.
  • No special accommodations will be provided for any absence not due to the documented disability.
  • Attendance accommodations are not standard but are individually tailored to the student’s documented needs, the course requirements, and the faculty’s expectations. If students cannot meet the attendance requirements with or without a reasonable accommodation, withdrawal from the course may be the only option to avoid academic penalty.

If at any point during the semester, the faculty member believes that the student’s absences from class threaten the academic integrity of the class or the accomplishment of established learning objectives, the faculty member should contact Disability Services immediately.  After consulting with the faculty member, Disability Services will contact the student to review his/her current situation regarding absences from class and reevaluate the attendance accommodation.   As needed and as appropriate, Disability Services and faculty  will determine if other accommodations (e.g., grade of incomplete, course withdrawal) may  be more appropriate given the student’s needs at that time.  
 
If it is determined that it is not possible to consider the attendance accommodations because attendance is an essential requirement of the class, then the student will be informed and will be given the opportunity to discuss other accommodation options with Disability Services including incomplete grades, course withdrawal, and/or withdrawal from the university.