WSU Disability Services Faculty Training
What Every Faculty and Staff Member Should Know about Disability Services
WSU’s mission and Amplified strategic plan includes an equity-minded framework that welcomes all learners, including students with disabilities. Review these goals and practices as you plan for and work with students with disabilities.
Objectives and Policy/Procedure
Every faculty should be aware of two major objectives for working with students with disabilities, and the policies that the institution has in place to ensure compliance with federal and state laws.
- Provide accommodations and modifications for qualified students with disabilities. Communicate frequently about accommodation needs (see PPM 3-34); and
- Prevent harassment and discrimination of students on the basis of disability (see PPM 3-32). Please take time to review these policies and procedures, and get to know the campus resources that may support you in these obligations.
Disability Services has faculty-specific training and resources on their website. Please reach out to Disability Services staff for any questions about working with students with disabilities or improving accessibility of course materials.
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The Basics: Students Rights and Responsibilities
Contact Disability Services for focused, in-depth training to avoid the common pitfalls in these areas:
- Students must continue to be qualified for programs/activities.
- Students may need adjustments to accommodation plans when transitioning from academic to clinical/practical settings.
- Faculty must be able to enforce professional and technical standards.
- Faculty and staff must manage health and safety concerns.
- WSU must maintain access and accommodation requirements at clinical/practical sites.
- Have equal access to all educational and institutional materials and activities.
- Receive reasonable, necessary, and appropriate accommodations in a timely manner.
- Maintain the rights to file a grievance.
- Self-identify to the university and follow established institutional procedures for requesting accommodations.
- Provide documentation according to institutional guidelines and meet ADA eligibility qualifications through Disability Services.
- Notify Disability Services of any difficulties involving their accommodations.
- Include a statement to the following effect on every course syllabus:
If you require accommodations or services due to a disability, please contact Disability Services (DS) in room 181 of the Student Services Center (Ogden campus) or room 262 Building D2 (Davis Campus). Disability Services can arrange to provide course materials (including this syllabus) in alternative formats upon request.
Faculty should also make verbal announcements of this statement in class with an indication of willingness to make accommodations at the recommendation of Disability Services.
- Meet privately in person or via Zoom with any student who requests an accommodation. Do not request any confidential medical or disability information. Request that the student provide verification from Disability Services. Do not inquire about disability. Any information about the disability that the student may disclose to you is confidential. These details may be discussed with Disability Services, but otherwise should remain confidential.
- When a student provides an accommodation verification letter from Disability Services, schedule time to discuss their specific needs confidentially. Read the letter. Consider the requests. Faculty are not expected to lower expectations or evaluation standards, but MUST consult with Disability Services prior to denying any request. Faculty must provide effective and timely access to course materials and accommodations so that students have equal opportunity for participation.
- Make specific arrangements for students’ accommodation needs related to testing, notetaking, seating, alternative format materials, computer access, lab procedures, clinical placement, etc. Do not require students make these arrangements or otherwise manage accommodations alone. Contact Disability Services.
- If you or the student are uncertain about proper procedures or solutions, contact Disability Services.
Helpful Guidelines for Faculty
- Remain open to accommodations, adjustments, or modifications. Partner with Disability Services and communicate often.
- Maintain your role as an educator, rather than a medical provider or diagnostician. Even if you are a trained expert in disability or medicine, you should refrain from acting in this role when you are a faculty member. Refer to Disability Services.
- Emphasize that students with disabilities are welcome in all programs and activities.
- Respond appropriately to disclosure.
- Communicate clearly and respectfully.
- Follow up communication in a timely manner.
- Reassure students that they are in a welcoming, inclusive environment.
- Vigilantly maintain confidentiality. Do not reveal students’ names or accommodations to others, including the other students in the class. Use “Bcc” if emailing multiple students with disabilities.
- Refer students to ALL appropriate offices. If students are experiencing academic difficulty, but do not report a disability, refer (in writing) to academic support. If students report a disability, refer (in writing) to Disability Services.
- Copy Disability Services staff when following up on referrals after students self-identify.
- Reiterate that students with disabilities are treated the same as their peers.
- Discuss accommodations with students in private (even if the student engages in public area).
- Always provide approved accommodations, but be cautious about providing supplemental or “on the fly” accommodations.
- Ensure testing accommodations such as extended time, minimal distraction, rest breaks, etc. are in place on time.
- Use accessible format documents and videos. Disability Services, WSU Online, and Stewart Library staff can assist with this.
- Invite Disability Services specialists to visit and train faculty, staff, and clinical/practicum partners.
- Ensure that the program expectations and competencies in classroom, online, and in clinical/practicum sites are articulated clearly and shared openly.
- Evaluate students with disabilities in line with their peers.
- Asking students to self-disclose disabilities.
- Role confusion by engaging in dialogue around disability specifics (e.g., diagnosis, treatment and prognosis, educational strategies for coping with disability).
- Discouraging students from registering with Disability Services.
- Questioning students about the specifics of their disabilities in order to clearly understand their limitations.
- Questioning whether a student “really needs” an accommodation.
- Condescending to students with disabilities with statements such as, “We’re so happy you accepted our offer of admissions. We had another handicapped student here and he was an exceptional student” or “I have a disability too, and I can handle this without accommodation” or “Other students with disabilities have done great without any help.”
- Using terminology such as “suffers from” or “confined/restricted by.”
- Referring to “special accommodations” or “accommodated learner.”
- Questioning accommodations with statements such as, “They’re not going to get extra time in the ‘real world.’”
- Threatening to “out” the student, with statements such as, “If I’m writing you a recommendation letter, I’ll need to include the fact that you used accommodations.”
- Using commonplace, though potentially offensive phrases such as, “the blind leading the blind,”or “they don’t have a leg to stand on.”
- Patronizing students with disabilities with statements such as, “I reviewed the feedback from your first test/observation and I’m amazed at what you’ve been able to accomplish despite your limitations.”
- Trying to show that you “get it” with statements such as, “I’m totally OCD about my files.”
- Minimizing the student’s disclosure of their disability with statements such as, “You have a disability? Which one? It must be mild!” or “I’m sorry you’re anxious, but don’t worry because everyone who is new at accounting/nursing/teaching/engineering (others) is anxious.”
- Challenging students’ right to accommodation with statements like, “You’re too bright to need this. You don’t have a disability.”
Adapted from Communication 101: Best Practices for Communicating with Students Around Disability Related Needs and Guidelines for Faculty Who Work with Students with Disabilities https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0
This video includes:
what you can do to make your classes more accessible
things to think about while planning your class
when it is appropriate to refer students to Disability Services
info on accommodation verification letters