Guide to Students with Disabilities

General Information

Here at Bethel we are committed to providing an environment where all students have the opportunity to equally participate in the academic experience, including students with disabilities. Students with disabilities have rights as determined by federal and state laws which require institutions to provide reasonable accommodations for the student’s disability in order to afford an equal opportunity to participate in the college’s programs, courses, and activities. 

Faculty members, who play an integral role in the process, should work closely with the DRS office rather than informally provide accommodations. If a student makes reference to having a disability, please refer them to DRS.

The information contained in this guide has been presented as a resource to help faculty members, administrators, and staff understand their vital role in accommodating students with disabilities and to address common questions about working with these students.

An individual with a disability is:

  • Any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the person’s major life activities (such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working).
  • Any person who has a record of, a history of, or who has been classified as having a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more of the person’s major life activities.
  • Any person regarded or perceived as having such impairment. This may encompass the following:
    • any person who is regarded as having such an impairment that may not substantially limit major life activities, but that is treated by others as constituting such a limitation.
    • any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitudes of others toward such an impairment.
    • any person who actually has no impairment, but is treated by others as having such impairment.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended through the Rehabilitation Amendments of 1992 (Rehab Act), and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (HF II 19) establish criteria and offer guidance regarding the provision of services to students with disabilities in post-secondary education. While the scope and specific language of each of these laws differ, their goal in the higher education setting is the same: to provide meaningful access to the educational services offered by colleges and universities so that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate.

Faculty are strongly encouraged to include on their syllabus a statement directing a student to DRS in order to make it clear to a student that it is their responsibility to get the accommodations process started.

What exactly is an accommodation?

An academic accommodation is defined as any alteration in the usual manner of teaching, demonstrating, or evaluating a course objective, that enables a qualified student with a disability to have an equal opportunity to participate in the educational experience. 

How do you determine accommodations?

The particular accommodations that a student utilizes will depend upon his or her particular characteristics and needs, as well as the demands of the course and learning environment. Accommodations are developed from the individual student’s documentation that is provided to the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). Two students with the same disability may qualify for and be eligible to receive different accommodations.

Am I being fair to other students by granting one student an accommodation?

Appropriate accommodations do not compromise the essential elements of the course, nor do they weaken the academic standards or integrity of the course. Accommodations simply provide an alternative way of accomplishing the course requirements by eliminating or reducing disability-related barriers. The goal of accommodations is to provide a level playing field, not an unfair advantage.

When do I have to comply with a student’s request for accommodations?

The law provides the student with a disability the right to request accommodations from the college once he or she has provided the college with appropriate documentation. In some cases Bethel University allows for temporary services ( Provisional Accommodations) while a student is in the process of obtaining documentation of a disability. The documentation is kept by the DRS office and is held in a confidential manner. The college asks that the student discuss her or his disability with DRS staff and follow their process for communicating with the faculty. When you receive the request for accommodations, you should honor it.

What happens if I do not provide the formally requested accommodation?

The student can take legal action against you and/or the institution. Denial of accommodations could be considered a violation of a student’s civil rights. Colleges and universities cannot discriminate against qualified people with disabilities in recruitment, admission, or treatment after admission. If you have concerns about a particular accommodation request you should discuss it with DRS director.

How do I know if a student is “faking” his or her disability?

DRS has policies and procedures for the documentation needed for each disability. It is the job of those offices to determine eligibility for accommodations. Faculty members should not expect to see diagnostic information.

A student came to me in the middle of the semester and said she or he has a disability, but I never knew that. What do I do?

In the college setting, the student with a disability is responsible for requesting and initiating all disability-related services and accommodations. An instructor should immediately refer the student to the DRS office. An instructor should not provide accommodations on her or his own. Accommodations can begin as soon as a student has contacted one of those offices.

How can I encourage the student to talk to me about her or his disability?

Each student has the right to determine when, and if to disclose the nature of her or his disability to the faculty. We know that communication is important and we encourage students to discuss their learning needs, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Some students, especially those with hidden disabilities, such as psychological or learning disabilities, may need time to feel comfortable to discuss their disability. Some students may never choose or need to discuss their disability.

Why does DRS staff ask me to choose a textbook for my class in the fall? It’s two months away, and I can’t decide right now.

Students whose disability impacts their reading may receive an accommodation for their course reading materials (textbooks, handouts, syllabi, lab manuals) to be in an accessible format. Formats include cassette tape, Braille, large print, e-text, or scan and read access. Advanced planning is essential in the provision of alternate format print materials. Depending upon the particular format, it can take up to 8 weeks for a taped text and 3 or more months for a Brailled document.

I have a student with a disability who is behind in the assignments. This student has not done well on the exams. May I fail the student if she or he does not earn the required points to pass the class?

A student with a disability should be held to the same standards as any other student in the class. You may wish to contact DRS and discuss your concerns, and you would certainly want to talk to the student just as you would with any other student.

  • Feel free to contact DRS for more information about these disabilities:
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Communication Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia)
  • Psychological Disabilities
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Bethel University has the responsibility to:

  • uphold and maintain the academic standards set forth by the institution.
  • determine the appropriate standards in developing, constructing, remodeling, and maintaining facilities in accordance with the laws of the State of Minnesota.
  • evaluate students and applicants on their abilities and not on their disabilities.
  • provide reasonable and appropriate academic accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or services for students with disabilities in a timely manner.
  • maintain and uphold confidentiality of records and communication concerning individuals with disabilities, except where disclosure is required by law, authorized by the individual, or necessary in light of the accommodation required.
  • ensure that courses, programs, services, activities, and facilities, when viewed in their entirety, are available and usable in the most integrated and appropriate settings.

Bethel University has the right to:

  • Identify and establish essential elements and technical standards, abilities, skills, knowledge, and standards for courses, programs, services, activities, and to evaluate individuals with disabilities on this basis.
  • Request and receive recent and appropriate documentation from a qualified professional through the DRS office , that verifies and supports requests for accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids and services.
  • Consult with the student in making the final determination regarding the selection of effective, appropriate, and reasonable academic accommodations, adjustments, and/or services. Bethel University reserves the right to make the final decision regarding which accommodations will be provided.
  • Deny a request for accommodations if the documentation does not identify a disability according to Section 504/ADA, fails to verify the need for the requested services, or is not provided in a timely manner.
  • Refuse to provide any accommodation that is inappropriate or unresonable, including any that:
    • Pose a direct threat to the health and safety of the individual requesting the accommodation or of others.
    • Constitute a fundamental change or alteration of an essential element of a course or program.
    • Pose undue financial or administrative burden on the institution.

Common Accommodations and Services

Accommodations may include:

  • Scanned exams
  • Extended time exams
  • Readers for exams
  • Scribes for exams
  • Notetakers in class
  • Recorded or electronic textbooks
  • Access to adaptive technology (such as speech recognition software and scanner/screen readers)

For more information see the Accommodations Process.

Disability Specialists provide:

  • Determination of appropriate accommodations
  • Individual support
  • Instruction in learning strategies and compensatory techniques
  • Help with time management and organizational skills
  • Academic advising.