Academic Adjustment Policy for Students with Disabilities

In compliance with federal regulations, it is the policy of UA Little Rock 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. Students who wish to request academic adjustments because of a disability should consult the academic adjustment procedures, which are printed in the UA Little Rock Student Handbook, or contact Disability Resource Center 501.569.3143.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

“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.”

Introduction and Rationale for a Course Substitution Policy

The regulation for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 specifically addresses 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, 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 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. 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.

Regulations – Academic Adjustments/Rehabilitation Act of 1973

“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 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 U.S. Department of Education)

“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.”

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 and 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.
    • 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 Disability Resource Center documenting the disability and outlining necessary accommodations. Any student who is unsure of potential accommodations should make an appointment with a staff person in Disability Resource Center.
    • On request from the student or instructor, a letter from Disability Resource Center will confirm that the disability is documented and will outline the specific accommodations necessary for that student. The student must give Disability Resource Center permission to release this information.
    • 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 UALR Faculty Handbook: Teaching Students with Learning Differences and Accommodation Needs available through Disability Resource Center.
    • 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:
    • The student should make a written request to:
      1. The chair of the department offering the required course, with the dean of the college also signing off.
      2. If not resolved, make request to the chair of the 504 Policy Committee.
    • The request should include:
      1. The course in question.
      2. The nature of the disability and the reason for the request (the reason 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 a medical, psychological, education, rehabilitation, or other professional qualified to make the particular diagnosis.
    • At the department chair and dean level, the chair or dean will meet individually with the student within ten (10) class 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 504 Policy Committee chair and the vice chancellor/provost.
    • 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.
    • The student will be given a minimum of ten (10) class 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 Disability Resource Center or the Department of Human Resources, 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.
    • The committee chair will schedule additional meetings if needed, and the committee will reach a decision based on the individual circumstances and the law.
    • The committee chair will inform the student in writing within ten (10) class days of the decision.
    • The committee decision may be appealed to the vice chancellor/provost within ten (10) class days of notification. The vice chancellor/provost’s decision may be appealed to the chancellor within ten (10) class days of notification.
    • Information on how to file a formal 504 complaint is available through the Department of Human Resources. 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 Disability Resource Center and a student representative from the Disability Resource Center Advisory Council. Committee members will serve for a period of two (2) years.

Committee Responsibilities

Committee members will be responsible for having an understanding of the law requiring course substitution 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, i.e., the issues will not be identical for two students 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 the 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.

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 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 that 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.

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 substitution requests in writing to the department chair, 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 Disability Resource Center to be necessary in order to equalize opportunity for success, the instructor is responsible for implementing those accommodations.

The instructor will use as resources information from the student, from Disability Resource Center staff, and from the UALR Faculty Handbook: Teaching 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 instructor should contact Disability Resource Center at 501-569-3143. The instructor should also call if concerned about whether the student has a disability that would require the accommodation.

Publication of Procedures

Procedures will be publicized in appropriate student handbooks and through offices such as Disability Resource Center, Office of the Dean of Students, the Department of Human Resources, the Office of the Provost, and other appropriate offices.