Understanding Disability at Ohio University
At the beginning of the 2012-2013 academic year, the Office of Disability Services has record of over 870 current students with a disability. The type of disability students experience is diverse and often not visibly apparent. This diversity in Ohio University students is one reason why there is no perfect formula or consistent prescription for accommodating a student with a disability – each student’s situation is considered individually. The staff of ODS recognize that this may be confusing for faculty, so we hope the following information can provide some general understanding.
Each of the students registered with the Office of Disability Services has met the same university admissions criteria and must meet the same academic requirements for completion of their degree with or without the use of reasonable accommodations. If faculty have a concern about the impact of an accommodation on the objectives of a particular course, the faculty member should initiate contact with the student’s DS Advisor to reach a resolution.
While discussing access for students with a disability is good practice, there are also federal laws which guide the reasonable accommodation process. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the recently passed ADA Amendments Act of 2008 require public institutions that receive federal funds to provide full and equal access to physical facilities, programs, and services (including learning).
The ADA defines disability as: a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, or learning; b) a record of having such an impairment; or c) being regarded as having such an impairment. This definition includes obvious physical disabilities as well as a broad range of hidden disabilities such as psychological disorders, chronic health impairments (such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), cancer, HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, and learning disabilities.
At Ohio University, ODS has the responsibility for determining eligibility and reasonable accommodation in accordance with the ADA. DS Advisors make these determinations based on medical, mental health, or educational documentation that provides insight about the physical or mental condition and, in particular, the way in which the condition may impact a student’s functioning. The Advisor then meets with an eligible student to discuss what reasonable accommodations can be implemented to help compensate for the impact of the disability. While DS Advisors cannot predict the objectives of every course, we work to assure that accommodations do not compromise course objectives or academic integrity of a degree.
Once a student has registered with ODS, they have the option each semester to request Letters of Notification which they can provide to faculty. The letters verify the accommodations available to the student and many may be clearly understood. If there are questions regarding the expectation or application of an accommodation to their specific course, faculty are encouraged to ask the student for clarification or may contact the student’s DS Advisor. Once you receive the Letter of Notification it is your responsibility to implement accommodations.