Academic Adjustment Policy for Students with Disabilities

The syllabus for each UALR course should include the following statement:

Students with Disabilities:
Your success in this class is important to me, and it is the policy and practice of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to create inclusive learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have a documented disability (or need to have a disability documented), and need an accommodation, please contact me privately as soon as possible, so that we can discuss with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) how to meet your specific needs and the requirements of the course. The DRC offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process among you, your instructor(s) and the DRC. Thus, if you have a disability, please contact me and/or the DRC, at 501-569-3143 (V/TTY) or 501-683-7629 (VP). For more information, please visit the DRC website at ualr.edu/disability.

The Disability Statement was approved by the Faculty Senate September 2011.

Introduction and Rationale for a Course Substitution Policy

The regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (see below) specifically address the issue of discrimination based on disability in the event that fulfilling a course requirement puts a student with a disability at a disadvantage. While the law does not require waiving a requirement and strongly encourages substituting a course or courses that provide the student with a similar experience, course waiver is also an option under the law.

One clear example is the requirement for a music appreciation course when the individual is deaf or hard of hearing. Another obvious example is art appreciation for students who are blind or have low vision. It is appropriate to continue to allow the academic departments involved, the Disability Resource Center, and the student to determine an appropriate substitute in instances such as these whenever possible. The form used for course substitutions and waivers should be completed and signed, and documentation of the disability should be kept in the student’s file at the Disability Resource Center. If an agreement cannot be reached, the following policy and procedures will apply.

Examples that are less clear are those involving students with learning disabilities. The most common course substitutions for these students across the country are for math and foreign languages. However, there may be other requests based on individual circumstances (e.g., history courses are very difficult for a student whose learning disability involves serious organizational and sequencing deficits). Complicating factors are: the wide range in types and severity of the disability; the diagnosis of the disability, which is much more complex, and often leaves some room for interpretation; and the ability in some cases to remediate through accommodations such as extended time on exams, tutoring, oral testing, extra take-home assignments, etc. Due to the complex nature of such requests, the policy and procedures outlined in this document were developed by an ad hoc committee, and based on the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

“No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely on the basis of disability, be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity provided by any institution receiving federal financial assistance.”

Regulations – Academic Adjustments:

“A recipient to which this subpart applies shall make modifications to its academic requirements as are necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate or have the effect of discriminating on the basis of disability, against a qualified disabled applicant or student. Academic requirements that the recipient can demonstrate are essential to the program of instruction being pursued by such a student or to any directly related licensing requirement will not be regarded as discriminatory within the meaning of this section. Modifications may include changes in the length of time permitted for the completion of degree requirements, substitution of specific courses required for the completion of degree requirements, and adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted.”

Analysis of Final Regulations (provided by DOE)

“This requirement does not obligate an institution to waive courses or other academic requirements. But such institutions must accommodate those requirements to the needs of individual students with disabilities. For example, an institution might permit an otherwise qualified disabled student who is deaf to substitute an art appreciation or music history course for a required course in music appreciation or could modify the manner in which the music appreciation course is conducted for the deaf student. It should be stressed that academic requirements that can be demonstrated by the recipient to be essential to its program of instruction or to particular degrees need not be changed.”

Policy

In compliance with federal regulations, it is the policy of UALR to respond to student requests for course substitution that are based on discrimination due to disability on an individual basis and in a manner that does not result in discrimination. Where requests are complex and not easily handled through the regular course substitution procedures, an established committee will review the case and make a determination.

Procedures

The following procedures are guidelines, and the committee will recognize that individual circumstances may alter them somewhat. For example, in the case of a student who is diagnosed with a learning disability after attempting a course twice or more, who has made good faith efforts to complete the course requirements, the committee may determine that the student need not attempt the course another time with accommodations.

  1. In most cases the student should attempt the course, requesting accommodations.
    1. If the student believes accommodations are necessary, the student should request a meeting with the instructor to discuss these accommodations. It is the student’s responsibility to make this request. Students are urged to inform instructors of accommodation needs as early as possible in the semester. They may choose to use a letter from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) documenting the disability and outlining necessary accommodations (see below). Any student who is unsure of potential accommodations should make an appointment with a staff person in DRC.
    2. On request from the student or instructor, a letter from DRC will confirm that the disability is documented and will outline the specific accommodations that are necessary for that student. The student must give the Disability Resource Center permission to release this information.
    3. The instructor and student will work out the details of implementing accommodations. They may choose to use the Accommodation Plan Checklist in the back of the Faculty Handbook: Teaching Students with Learning Differences and Accommodation Needs available through the Disability Resource Center.
    4. The student and instructor should continue to meet periodically for feedback on how the accommodations are working, making revisions as needed.
  2. If a good faith effort has been made on the part of the instructor and the student to accommodate for the disability, and the student still believes the required course has the effect of discrimination based on the disability, the student may request that a substitution be made. However, in some instances, because the accommodation would be so involved or time consuming that it would significantly alter the course, the student may make the request before attempting the course.
  3. Requesting a substitution:
    1. The student should make a written request to the chair of the department offering the required course, with the college dean also signing off, and if not resolved to the chair of the 504 policy committee.
    2. The request should include:
      1. the course in question;
      2. the nature of the disability and the reason for the request (the reason that taking the required course would amount to discrimination based on the disability);
      3. the student’s history with the course or subject matter, including any attempts to pass the class, whether accommodations were requested, and what accommodations were available;
      4. the student should attach documentation of the disability from a qualified diagnostician, and may attach letters or other documents supporting the request. Documentation refers to a diagnosis made by medical, psychological, education, reha¬bilitation, or other professionals qualified to make the particular diagnosis.
    3. At the department chair and dean level, the chair or dean will meet individually with the student within ten (10) days following receipt of the request. Any substitutions that are made at the department or dean level, and a summary of the specific circumstances, should be reported by the chair or dean to the chair of the 504 policy committee and the provost.
    4. If the case continues to the 504 policy committee level, the committee chair will review the request and documentation, and will set a meeting to occur no later than thirty (30) days following receipt of the request. The committee chair will invite representatives from the affected academic departments.
    5. The student will be given a minimum of ten (10) days advance notice of the meeting date. The student will be informed at this time that he or she may bring representatives knowledgeable about the disability. These representatives might be staff from the UALR Disability Resource Center or the Office of Human Relations, Rehabilitation Counselors, members of an advocacy group such as Advocacy Services, faculty members who specialize in the disability, or persons qualified in the diagnosis/treatment of the disability.
    6. The committee chair will schedule additional meetings if needed, and the committee will reach a decision based on the individual circumstances and the law.
    7. The committee chair will inform the student in writing within ten (10) days of the decision.
    8. The committee decision may be appealed to the provost within ten (10) days of notification. The provost’s decision may be appealed to the chancellor within ten (10) days of notification.
    9. Information on how to file a formal 504 complaint is available through the designated Human Relations Officer in the Office of Human Relations. Students may seek this information at any time.
In the Event the Student Has Taken or is Required by the Committee to Take the Course

If the student has not attempted the class in question, or has not attempted the class with modifications made to accommodate the disability, the committee may decide on a case-by-case basis that the student should attempt the class with modifications before the committee will proceed further with a decision on course substitution.

If the committee requires the student to attempt the class, or if the student has already attempted the class, and the committee later determines that a substitution is appropriate, the student may be retroactively withdrawn from the course, and grades will be deleted from the transcript.

Composition of the committee

A committee whose members are trained and knowledgeable about current disability law, including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, Subpart E – Postsecondary Education, (and who do not object to the concept of course substitution on principle) should be established to handle substitution requests on a case-by-case basis.

The committee shall be a standing subcommittee of the Faculty Senate, and shall consist of five (5) members appointed by the Faculty Senate president, to include a staff person from the Disability Resource Center and a student representative from the Disability Resource Center Advisory Council. Committee members will serve for a period of 2 years (the staff person from the Disability Resource Center may continue to be the same staff person beyond this term because of the small number of staff).

Committee responsibilities

Committee members will be responsible for having an understanding of the law regarding course substitutions and its purpose.

Committee members will be responsible for looking at each request on a case-by-case basis. The assumption is that each student is uniquely individual. Students within a common disability category shall not be assumed to have the same needs and circumstances as do others in that category (e.g., the issues will not be identical for two people who are visually impaired).

Committee members will be responsible for taking a fact-finding, problem-solving approach. The committee chair will be responsible for determining which persons from the academic departments in question, who are not members of the committee, should be involved in the individual case (e.g., chairs from academic departments in the student’s major field and the department responsible for the course in question). Those asked to be present in an individual case will not be voting members of the committee, but rather representatives of their departments providing information to the committee. The committee chair will also coordinate the scheduling of the meeting(s) and inform the student of the committee’s decision. All participants will be responsible for ensuring all records and discussions are kept confidential (refer to the section on confidentiality below).

Student responsibilities

The student, in most cases, will be required to make a good-faith attempt to take the course. If the student is required by the committee to take the course, the student will be responsible both for exploring possible accommodations that could improve the likelihood of success in the course and for requesting these accommodations from the instructor.

The student will be responsible for making substi¬tution requests in writing to the chair of the department, the dean of the college offering the required course, and the chair of the 504 policy committee, in that order, progressing to the next level only if the request is not granted at the previous level. It is not necessary for the student to have a specific course in mind as an appropriate substitute for the required course prior to making the request.

The student will be responsible for providing documentation of disability and other materials pertaining to the request that the committee deems necessary.

Faculty responsibilities

Any time a student with a disability requests instructional classroom or testing accommodations in a course, and those accommodations are determined by the Disability Resource Center to be necessary in order to equalize opportunity for success, the instructor is responsible for implementing these accommodations.

The instructor will use as resources information from the student, from Disability Resource Center staff, and from UALR’s Faculty Handbook: Accommodating Students with Learning Differences and Accommodation Needs, available at Disability Resource Center.

If the instructor questions the need for an accommodation, or is unclear after talking to the student as to how it should be implemented, the next step is to call the Disability Resource Center (569-3143). The instructor should also call if concerned about whether the student has a disability that would require the accommodation.

Confidentiality and procedures for handling confidential information

Information about a student’s disability is confidential. When the student provides documentation of disability at the department, college, and committee levels, the student will sign a form indicating consent to release the specific information to the necessary department, college, and committee members. This information may not be shared, either orally or in writing, with any parties beyond those directly involved in the proceedings and decision making. The student may request that all documents be returned to the student or to Disability Resource Center at the conclusion of the case. It is suggested that documents be passed out at the beginning of committee meetings and returned to the committee chair at the conclusion of each meeting, making the chair the only person responsible for ensuring they are kept in a manner in keeping with the legal right of the student to confidentiality. Faculty who are making accommodations in the classroom, whether written documentation is provided or not, must also be aware that the student’s signature indicating consent to release confidential information, and to whom, is needed.

Publication of procedures

Procedures will be publicized in appropriate student handbook, in the Undergraduate Catalog, and through offices such as the Disability Resource Center, the Office of Campus Life, the Office of Human Relations, the Provost’s Office (This website is maintained by the Provost’s Office), and other appropriate offices.

(The Academic Adjustment Policy was approved by Faculty Senate on March 15, 1996.)