Disability FAQs for Faculty

What is a Disability?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) a person with a disability is one who:

  1. Has a condition which substantially limits their ability to function in a major life activity;
  2. Has a record or history of such an impairment; or
  3. Is regarded as having such an impairment. (P.L. 101-336, Sec.)

Major life activities include, but are not limited to, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks.

These impairments may be present among people with learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, chronic health impairments, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, asthma, physical disabilities, sensory impairments, or other conditions.

The ADA definition is an inclusive definition that tends to capture both the largest and broadest estimate of people with disabilities. It describes a disability as a condition which limits a person’s ability to function in major life activities – including communication, walking, and self-care (such as feeding and dressing oneself) – and which is likely to continue indefinitely, resulting in the need for supportive services.

What services does Disability Support Services (DSS) provide for students with disabilities?

DSS reviews all student documentation and determines if it fulfills Arcadia’s guidelines for receiving academic accommodations. We coordinate accommodations for eligible students each semester, on a course by course basis with regard to each student’s unique academic needs.

We work individually with students as “academic coaches,” educating them about study strategies and time management. Additionally, we refer them to other academic support services on campus such as tutoring, the Math Lab and Writing Center.

We individually consult with instructors when there are concerns about a particular student’s needs.

We refer students to other professional services on and off campus when appropriate.

What are academic accommodations?

Academic accommodations are a means to level the playing field for students with disabilities. Academic accommodations are not an advantage or a gift.

Do students with learning disabilities get special consideration during the application process?

No. Students with learning disabilities or any other disabilities have the same rigorous standards of admission that our Arcadia University students are subjected to, and they are expected to meet the same standards of performance as all students.

How are appropriate accommodations determined and who makes these decisions?

Students requesting academic accommodations are asked to submit reports and evaluations that comply with Arcadia University’s guidelines for documentation of a disability. The Disability Support Services staff—in collaboration with the student—determine appropriate accommodations. Accommodations are based on student strengths and weaknesses, academic history and diagnosis.  They are reflective of student need in combination with individual course demands.  This process works best as a collaborative effort between faculty, the student and the Disability Support Services professionals. 

What are some typical accommodations for students with disabilities?

Accommodations are determined on a case-by case scenario. Accommodations may include: extended time on tests, audio texts, note-takers, audio recording lectures, use of laptop computers or tablets, use of word processors or spell-checker, or sign language interpreters.

Are all students with disabilities receiving academic accommodations?

No, some students choose not to disclose their disability to Disability Support Services or they may not meet the eligibility criteria for accommodations. In either instance, faculty does not need to provide these students with accommodations; however these students are encouraged to access the supportive services that Disability Support Services provides.

A student has asked for accommodations. How do I know the student truly has a disability and needs accommodations?

The accommodation letter verifies that your student has gone through the intake process with Disability Support Services and has submitted appropriate reports documenting a disability. Students with disabilities are encouraged to provide their professors with a letter of accommodation from Disability Support Services within the first two weeks of the semester. This letter will list the specific accommodations your student is requesting. Along with disability documentation, copies of accommodation letters are confidential and are kept in locked files in Disability Support Services.

Am I required to provide exam accommodations to students who request it?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ensures equal access to education to all qualified students. Exam accommodations must be provided to these students.

I provide extended time on tests for all of my students. Isn’t this an accommodation for those students with disabilities?

No. The reasonable accommodation of extended time for testing means time and ½ or double time. Extended time for the entire class is not an accommodation for students with testing accommodations.

I have a student in class who told me that s/he has a disability, but since that time has never requested any accommodations. Am I still responsible for accommodations?

No, you are only responsible for reasonable accommodations if requested.  If a student discloses a disability to you, your legal obligation is to direct that student to Disability Support Services located in Knight Hall.

Does providing accommodations give the student with a disability an unfair advantage over other students?

No. The purpose of academic accommodations is to minimize the impact of the disability on the student’s performance. Accommodations assure equal opportunity and equal access to students with disabilities.

Once I am notified of a student’s disability, with whom can I share this information?

Disability-related information is considered to be medical information.  Its confidentiality is to be treated in the same manner, following the need-to-know restrictions.

A student with a disability has requested that s/he take an exam at OAD. How do I know that my exam will be safe and that the student will get no unfair advantage?

Disability Support Services has developed a systematic and secure procedure for getting exams from faculty and then returning the completed exams to them. There are very rigid checking in and checking out procedures for exams, and no student is able to take an exam in the Disability Support Services without authorization. Exams stored in the Disability Support Services are kept in a locked file during the night. All students are proctored while taking exams. The testing room has a small window to enable the staff to periodically view the students while they are taking tests. If more than one student is taking the same exam in the Disability Support Services testing room, a proctor is always present throughout the testing period.

What would be the best way to inform students in the class that I would like to help in facilitating exam accommodations or any classroom accommodations?

It is important that all faculty put a statement about accommodations in their syllabus. The following is a suggestion as to how this statement should read: “Any student who feels s/he may need an accommodations based on the impact of a disability should contact the Office of Academic Development at 215-572-4033. You may also send an e-mail to holdrenj@arcadia.edu or duffyk@arcadia.edu or come to Knight Hall, Room 142 to request reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities."

What should I do if I suspect a student has a disability but I have not been notified?

If you suspect that a student has a disability, tread softly as this is a very sensitive topic. Discuss your observations and concerns with the student in private. Focus on the student’s performance.  Ask the student if she/he has ever received supportive services in high school.  Recommend that s/he meet with the Office of Academic Development Director, Disability Specialist or Disability Coordinator to recommend strategies facilitating academic success and to assist with their implementation.

Is it appropriate for a faculty member to request documentation from a student? What about doctor’s notes regarding student absences?

No. Documentation is confidential information that is to be kept in a locked file in Disability Support Services. Students with “Considerations” regarding medical flare-ups and possible excessive absences should not be required to provide documentation or doctor’s notes to their professors. This documentation will be placed in a locked file in Disability Support Services. Any questions or concerns regarding absences should be directed to the Disability Support Services professionals.