Southern Connecticut State University has the responsibility to ensure access to all qualified students, and to provide reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. The University is committed to fostering an environment that is sensitive to the diverse needs of students with disabilities, and will encourage students to develop their self-advocacy skills.
Students who are enrolled in the university and matriculated in courses are eligible to request accommodations through Accessibility Services.
Students must self identify to Accessibility Services as a student with a disability. Once this is done, they should fill out an intake form. Students must provide appropriate documentation to Accessibility Services in order to be approved for accommodations. For more information on documentation, see below.
Students must also engage in an interactive intake meeting with a staff member of Accessibility Services to review past experiences and make a determination on appropriate college level accommodations.
Please note that accommodations are not retroactive, thus it is important to self-identify and register with Accessibility Services as soon as possible.
Documentation that describes a student’s diagnosed disability and its impact is required to be approved for accommodations at the college level. Accessibility Services must be able to substantiate why the requested accommodation(s) would assist in mitigating the impact of a student’s diagnosis and provide equal access. Accessibility Services also considers a student’s self report, as well as the essential functions of the course, program or activity for which the accommodation would be utilized.
Documentation should be written by a qualified medical provider who is able to speak to the student’s condition. Providers may choose to provide this documentation signed on letter head, or they may choose to fill out one of our documentation forms. The forms are linked below, and are specific to the type of accommodation requested; alternative formats are available upon request:
- Documentation Form for Academic Accommodations (PDF)
- Documentation Form for Residential Accommodations (PDF)
- Documentation Form for Emotional Support Animal Requests (PDF)
Residential Accommodations are approved through a similar process to other accommodations. Students should self-identify as soon as possible to Accessibility services, and provide documentation to support their request. Documentation should clearly substantiate the impact of a student’s diagnosis and how the accommodation requested would provide equal access to the living environment.
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are animals that are prescribed as part of a treatment plan for a variety of diagnoses. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not consider ESAs to be service animals. Accessibility Services will review requests for ESAs on campus, and make a determination on a case by case basis.
A service animal is a dog or miniature horse that is trained to provide a service or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. The tasks performed by the animal must be directly related to the impact of that person’s disability. Services animals are permitted to accompany their handler in all locations at the University, unless the safety of the animal or others is a concern.
Services animals are not required to be registered at Accessibility Services, however we recommend students with service animals notify our office if the animal is coming to campus so that we are able to support students with disabilities as fully as possible.
Students currently registered with Accessibility Services and approved for academic accommodations are responsible for requesting their accommodation letters every semester from Accessibility Services. Accommodation letters are necessary to alert faculty to a student’s approved accommodations. Faculty are not required to provide accommodations to students without an accommodation letter.
Accommodation Letters can be requested via Accommodate, linked below. Please review the provided training materials as well to assist in this process.
Below is a list of current policies and procedures utilized by Accessibility Services. Should you need a copy in an alternate format, please contact our office.
- Occasional Absence Policy (PDF | DOCX)
- Extensions on Papers and Projects Policy (PDF | DOCX)
- Filing a Grievance Regarding an Accommodation Decision (PDF | DOCX)
Responsibilities of Faculty
Faculty have the responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities, registered with Accessibility Services. If an accommodation is requested, but an accommodation letter was not provide, the student should be referred to Accessibility services. Faculty should work closely with Accessibility services to provide support services for students in a timely manner.
Faculty cannot legally refuse to provide approved accommodations, question whether a student’s disability exists when provided an accommodation letter, or request documentation of a student’s disability. If a faculty member has questions about the appropriateness of an accommodation, or feel it impacts an essential function, they should contact Accessibility Services.
The following excerpt from Heyward, Lawton, and Associates (Disability Accommodations Digest, Sample Issue, Summer 1995) explains faculty responsibility:
Faculty members must accept that being employed by institutions that have compliance responsibilities under federal statutes and regulations means that their employment is condition upon their assisting those institutions in satisfying their compliance obligation. There is a shared responsibility because the provision of academic adjustments to students requires the participation of those who are employed to teach. Further, it is extremely important for faculty members to understand that there have been several judicial decisions in which persons who have improperly denied services, benefits, and opportunities to individuals with disabilities have been held to be personally liable for those discriminatory acts.
Faculty can enhance awareness of disability issues via meetings, lectures, and in-service workshops. Faculty members are encouraged to obtain general information regarding disabilities from Accessibility Services.
The Center for Academic Success and Accessibility Services supports the faculty’s commitment to maintaining academic standards at Southern.
In describing students with disabilities, it is important to consider the perception generated by language used. Refer to the person first, not the disability or diagnosis in order to create a more inclusive environment for all, rather than as part of a separate or unusual group. Using disability specific language before acknowledging the person creates an image of inadequacy where as a descriptive phrase like “Person who is using a wheelchair” tends to suggest an identifying attribute of a group member with a particular ability.
Disability can be both visible and invisible. Examples of visible disabilities can include a person in a wheelchair, a person with affected gait, or psoriasis. Invisible disabilities include depression, anxiety, ADHD, or Learning Disabilities. Try to consider that you may not be able to ‘see’ the disability, but it is just as real and impactful as those you can. Refrain from telling students “You don’t look like you have a disability” or “Don’t worry, your disability won’t affect you in my class. You don’t need accommodations”. Phrases like those can invalidate the student’s identity, and create an environment where they don’t feel comfortable accessing the services they have a right to. While these can be well intentioned, please note that it is up to the student whether or not they want to access their accommodations in any course.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Center for Academic Support and Accessibility Services if you would like more information.
Disorders that fall under this category can include: dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and AD(H)D. While these disorders cannot be ‘cured’ there are several strategies that can help support students who identify with this category in the classroom:
- Clearly identify expectations, grading, learning outcomes and other ‘particulars’ of the course in advance
- Summarize the key points of lectures, and what each course will focus on
- Give assignments both orally and in writing to avoid confusion
- Facilitate the use of tape recorders by allowing all students to record lectures for later use, or provide the recording to students via blackboard
- Announce reading assignments that were not previously assigned so that students who use text to speech software have time to get materials converted. It can take as long as four weeks to convert one document.
- Double space whenever possible
When designing multiple choice tests, avoid the use of negative statements. Also, limit the number of choices. Research supports that providing three possible answers to a multiple-choice test offers a valid measure of material mastery (Sechrest, Kilstrom, Bootzin, 1993)
Below are general strategies designed to support individualized reasonable accommodations in the classroom, to ease the accessibility of course instruction, materials and activities:
- Arrange seating in a circle or semi-circle to give students the best advantage to see all class participants
- Write down important information and dates shared aloud whenever possible
- Try to always face the class while speaking, and try to stay away from windows to assist those who lip read
- Repeat other student’s comments or questions, especially those in the back of the room. Acknowledge the person making the comment by name so that the student who is hard of hearing or deaf can focus on them for better understanding
- If the student utilizes interpreter services, try not to block the view of the interpreter, and acknowledge the student directly rather than to the interpreter. For more information on working with an interpreter, please contact CASAS directly.
- If you provide any digital media, please be sure to caption all materials. Captioning can be provided through the Center for Educational and Assistive Technology at any time.
A major barrier to students with visual impairments is the amount of printed materials that confronts them on a regular basis, like readings, journal articles, syllabi, course packs, posters, and exams. Additionally, the use of visual mediums like videos and overhead projectors adds to the volume of visual material that those with visual impairments must have access to in another way:
- If a student has a service animal in class, they are not required to notify the instructor ahead of time. Many students do, or go through Accessibility Services to notify the faculty as a curtesy. Service animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and are permitted in any space their handler occupies. If you have questions specifically related to a service animal, please feel free to contact CASAS directly
- Choose any course materials as early as possible so that the student is able to request and receive their texts in alternate formats from the CEAT Lab as early as possible to be ready for the start of the semester.
- Provide as many handouts digitally as possible. Students may need to enlarge documents, use a larger font or use screen reading software. While Alternate formats can be provided through the CEAT Lab, they can take a few weeks to process and may not be readily available for a student to access any other way
- Encourage students to utilize the CEAT lab when appropriate. They have software and hardware designed for students with visual impairments that can be useful in a variety of situations.
Physical and Chronic Health Disabilities
A wide range of conditions falls into this category that may limit mobility and/or energy. This can include: musculoskeletal disabilities, amputations, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Lyme disease. While the degree of disability varies, it is important to recognize that some students may have difficulty getting to or from class, performing in-class, or taking notes.
Physical class access is one concern for those using wheelchairs or crutches. Faculty should be aware that mobility impaired students sometimes encounter unavoidable situations that may cause them to be late to class. Students may require more travel time between classes and are often dependent on elevators or indirect but accessible routes. For these reasons and more, occasional tardiness by students with mobility impairments may be unavoidable.
Auditorium and theater style classrooms may present difficulties unless there is a large enough flat floor space in the front or rear of the room for a mobility device. There must also be an entrance to and from that level, and some seats that are easily reached without stairs. Classrooms with tables are more accessible to students rather than traditional style desks, as long as they are at least 27.5 inches tall. CASAS will handle any request made for accessible furniture.
Mental Health Disabilities
Mental Health disorders are one of the largest populations of students registered with Accessibility Services at Southern. Diagnoses that fall into this category include but are not limited to: bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety (generalized and specific), and borderline personality disorder, among others. Accommodations are always disclosed via a student’s accommodation letter sent via Accommodate.
While many of the accommodations provided for other types of diagnoses can support students in this category, it is important to consider that many students who identify here often have to deal with the additional impact of stigma and disbelief on their disability.
If a student discloses either their diagnosis or diagnostic category please remember that this is privileged information shared with you in confidence. Please do not repeat, disclose or question the student’s diagnosis. If you have questions about supporting a student with a mental health diagnosis, please feel free to reach out to CASAS directly.