Campus compliance with the ADA is a shared responsibility and faculty members play an important role in an institution’s efforts. The ADA is a civil rights statute, ensuring that students with disabilities will have the opportunity to participate in postsecondary education without discrimination. For faculty members, providing reasonable accommodations and auxiliary aids allows students equal access to programs and services.
Accessibility and accommodations such as adaptation of materials, methods or environments to facilitate learning to all students are provided for students with disabilities to demonstrate what they learned rather than the effects of their disability. Students have the responsibility to request accommodations and services, and must provide documentation of disability conditions. Before completing the Accommodation Letter the Program Specialist carefully considers the nature of the student’s disability and how this disability may affect the student’s ability to learn, and to demonstrate achievement in the course. At times, the Program Specialist will need to consult with you, as faculty, regarding the requirements of the course before making a final determination. Accommodations are not retroactive but may be added or amended during the course of a semester. Students must request accommodations each semester specific to the courses in which they are enrolled.
Confidentiality of Student Disability Information Guidelines for Faculty and Staff
All disability related information including documentation, accommodation letters, correspondence and consultation are considered confidential and will be managed in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations. This includes electronic, paper, verbal and any other types of communication.
Maintaining confidentiality not only fulfills legal obligations but also makes students feel respected, safe, supported and protected. Disclosures of information are generally inadvertent. For this reason, a high level of vigilance to avoid unintentional but inappropriate disclosure of disability information must be maintained.
Unauthorized disclosure of student information/breeches of confidentiality can result in being in non-compliance with federal regulations. Additionally, such disclosures may violate state privacy laws and may subject the college and the individual to liability.
In addition to attention and care of documentation or written information is required, protecting the identity of a student or discussion related to a student’s disability or accommodations must be kept confidential. At no time should the class be informed that a student has a disability, except at the request of the student. Faculty should only discuss disability related requests/information or accommodations with students privately.
Do’s and Don’ts to ensure that confidential student information is kept secure:
- All information a student presents to faculty should be used specifically for arranging and implementing accommodations for assignments and in-class activities.
- Do not leave student disability information visible on your computer or in any printed format that others can see, and dispose of it securely at the end of the semester.
- Do not discuss a student’s disability status and necessary accommodations within hearing range of other students, faculty, staff or others who do not have an “educational need to know.”
- Do not send the same email related to accommodations to students as a group. Always send correspondence individually.
- At no time should the class be informed that a student has a disability.
- Discuss Accommodation Letters and logistics of implementing accommodations with students in private. Make yourself available by email, during office hours or by appointment to discuss.
- Requesting specific information about a student’s disability is inappropriate. Requesting a letter from the student’s physician is inappropriate. The Accommodation Letter is all that is needed to justify the accommodation(s).
- If a student voluntarily discloses the nature of their disability to you, even if it is obvious, do not disclose it to others.
- If a student tries to provide you with their primary disability documentation. Refuse to read or accept it and refer the student to Learning Support Services.
Please contact Learning Support Services if there are any questions or concerns regarding confidentiality of information.
Principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can help instructors create courses that provide all students with equal opportunities to learn. UDL seeks to maximize student access and participation and minimize the need for individualized accommodations.
The major UDL principles are:
- Provide multiple means of representation
- Provide multiple means of action and expression
- Provide multiple means of engagement
- Steps to an Inclusive Learning Environment
- Focus on essential course elements
- Establish clear expectations and learning objectives
- Design activities specific to the learning objectives
- Encourage self-directed learning and active learning
- Provide information using multiple methods
- Incorporate diverse assessment strategies
- Build in opportunities for feedback