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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information see the Accommodations Process.