General Disability Information
The purpose of this publication is to provide faculty and instructors at Penn State general guidelines for classroom academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or services for students with disabilities. The need for academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or services can range from a need to change the presentation of materials during a lecture, wearing a microphone for an amplification system to be used by the student, to providing different ways for the student to respond to exam questions. The underlying purpose of these adjustments is to enable students to be evaluated on the basis of their abilities, not their disabilities, as well as provide equal access to information in the classroom.
A frequently used term when working with a student with a disability is a reasonable academic adjustment. A reasonable academic adjustment is an academic adjustment that minimizes or eliminates the impact of a disability, allowing the individual to gain equal access and have an equal opportunity to participate in the University's courses, programs, services, activities, and facilities. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 dictates that an institution must provide reasonable academic adjustments, auxiliary aids and/or services for those individuals with a qualified disability who self identify.
To determine reasonable adjustments, auxiliary aids and/or services, The Office for Disability Services (ODS) at University Park or the Disability Contact Liaison (DCL) at another Penn State location will accept current documentation of the student’s disorder/impairment, as well as, information from appropriate University personnel regarding essential standards for courses, programs, services, activities, and facilities. A reasonable academic adjustment is one that does not require a substantial change in the curriculum or alteration of any essential elements or functions of the course, program, service, or activity. Academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or services are determined on a case-by-case basis and course–by-course basis.
Providing academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or services is not as ominous as it may sound and not all students with disabilities require adaptations or adjustments. Adaptations may result in only minor revisions or changes, or may require a search for a mutually satisfactory solution for the instructor and the student. Auxiliary aids and services are most likely paid for by the ODS.
Needs vary among individuals with the same disability, therefore, suggestions represent only general guidelines for classroom adaptations. It is important to remember that a student may have multiple disabilities that have to be taken into consideration. It should be stressed that the primary person with whom to work in making appropriate and/or necessary changes is the student with the disability as well as the disability services office. Some students may have disabilities that are not obvious when speaking with the student. Therefore, please do not assume that because you are not able to observe obvious signs of a person having a disability, that the student is not disabled. The fact that the student has a letter from ODS, means that the student has submitted documentation and is officially registered with the University as having a disability.
Arranging suitable adjustments involves a shared responsibility between the classroom instructor and the student. Students with disabilities are responsible for bringing their individual needs to the attention of the instructor as early as possible in the semester; however, students may be hesitant to make special requests. It is suggested that, early in the semester, instructors make a general announcement such as the one listed below:
“Penn State University welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. If anyone in this course has a disability, please contact the Office for Disability Services located in room 116 Boucke Building or call at 863-1807(V/TTY). If you have further questions regarding this announcement, please make an appointment during my office hours.”
Another suggestion is to put a general statement on the course syllabus. The suggested ODS Course Syllabus Statement is as follows:
Note to students with disabilities: Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic adjustments in this course, contact the Office for Disability Services, ODS located in room 116 Boucke Building at 814-863-1807(V/TTY). For further information regarding ODS, please visit their web site at www.equity.psu.edu/ods/ Instructors should be notified as early in the semester as possible regarding the need for reasonable academic adjustments.
Since many students have disabilities not readily noticeable, this announcement or statement encourages students to identify their needs early in the semester so timely adaptations can be made.
For further information regarding academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or services in higher education please contact ODS or refer to the following web sites from the Department of Education:
Auxiliary Aids and Services for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities:
Questions and Answers on Disability Discrimination Under Section 504 and Title II:
The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities Under Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973:
Disability Discrimination: Overview of the Laws:
Office for Disability Services
The Pennsylvania State University
Copyright 2006-2007 ODS
Who is a Person with a Disability?
According to rehabilitation legislation, a person with a disability is an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. Some examples of disabling conditions may include, but are not limited to:
Attention Deficit Disorder Mobility impairments
Hearing Impairments Neurological Impairments
Learning Disabilities Physical Health Impairments
Psychological Impairments Visual Impairments
Who is a “qualified person”?
A qualified person is any person residing in the United States who can perform the essential functions of the course requirements and/or employment position with or without reasonable accommodations.
What are “major life activities”?
Major life activities include, but are not limited to self care, manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
What are “reasonable accommodations”?
They are modifications or adjustments to a course, program, service, job, activity, or facility that enables a qualified individual with a disability to have an equal opportunity. An equal opportunity means an opportunity to attain the same level of performance or to enjoy equal benefits and privileges as are available to a similarly-situated student without a disability.
The University is obligated to make reasonable accommodations only to known limitations of an otherwise qualified student with a disability.
The purpose of an accommodation is to enable students to be evaluated on the basis of their abilities, not their disabilities.
Requirements of the Law
The following requirements are of major importance in regards to students with disabilities enrolled in a university setting:
Colleges must ensure accessibility of programs and activities. Architectural barriers must be removed where the program is not accessible by other means.
Students with disabilities must have the same options available to others when selecting courses and majors.
Students with disabilities must be provided with auxiliary aids and services in their academic activities.
may include interpreters available to students with hearing impairments; taped texts and readers for students with visual impairments; classroom equipment for use by students with manual impairments; and other similar actions or services.
universities need not provide personal attendants, individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature.
Reasonable modifications must be made where necessary in nonessential academic requirements to ensure full educational opportunity for students with disabilities.
may include the extension of time for completing degree requirements, substitutions of courses in non-essential degree requirements, adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted, permission to tape record lectures, and the use of guide dogs on campus.
modifications need not be made for academic requirements that can be demonstrated to be “essential to the program or instruction” being pursued or to any directly related licensing requirement.
Exams must not discriminate against a person with a disability. Tests must be carefully selected and administered to measure the student’s aptitude or achievement level only.
- Disability Services
- Various Important Disability Links
- The Rehabilitation Act
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- Reasonable Accommodations
- Policies & Procedures Exams
- Commonly Utilized Accommodations
- Rights & Responsibilities
- Procedures for Requesting Adjustments
- Establishing Eligibility
- Verification Forms
- Parking Permits
- PSU Office of Disability Services
- Guidelines for Approaching Instructors
- Discrimination & Grievance Procedures