What are the rights and responsibilities of a student with a disability?

Students with disabilities have the right to equal access to courses, programs, activities, services, and facilities offered at Midwestern State University. Students are also entitled to reasonable accommodations. All information about the student’s disability is to be kept confidential. Students have the responsibility to provide acceptable documentation of disabilities and to register with for Disability Support Services (DSS) if they would like to receive accommodations. If students deem it necessary to receive accommodations and for a particular class, students have the responsibility to inform the instructor.

What are the rights and responsibilities of an instructor when working with students with disabilities?

An instructor has the right to confirm a student’s request for accommodations and to ask for clarification about a specific accommodation with DSS. Instructors do not have the right to refuse to provide an accommodation or to review a student’s documentation including diagnostic data. Instructors have a responsibility to work with DSS in providing reasonable accommodations, keep all records and communications with students confidential, and to refer a student to DSS who requests accommodations but is not currently registered. Instructors do not have to provide accommodations for students not registered with DSS.

Why does an instructor have the responsibility to make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities?

An instructor has the responsibility to make reasonable accommodations because accommodations make it possible for a student with a disability to overcome barriers enabling the student to communicate what he or she knows in the same way that glasses do not strengthen vision but help a person to see. The instructor also has a legal responsibility to provide appropriate accommodations. For more information go to the Americans With Disabilities Act website www.ada.gov.

How are appropriate accommodations for a student determined?

To determine appropriate accommodations for a student, the student must submit acceptable documentation to DSS. The Director reviews the information and determines appropriate accommodations based upon the substantial limitations of the student and the essential elements of the course.

If an instructor feels that a particular student may have a substantially limiting disability, to where should he or she refer the student?

If an instructor feels that a particular student may have a substantially limiting disability, he or she should refer the student to DSS.

What if a student with a disability is disruptive in class?

A student with a disability who is disruptive in class should be treated as an instructor would treat any student who is disruptive in class. If an instructor feels that there is a medical reason for the student’s behavior, the instructor can discuss this with the student’s Accommodations Counselor in DSS to determine if there is a solution to the problem.

What if a student with a disability is failing?

It is important for instructors to remember that providing reasonable accommodations to a student with a disability does not guarantee success in the course. Students with disabilities may not master the course material, just like any other student. Students with disabilities have the same right as other students to fail as part of their educational experience.

May I Flunk a Student with a Disability?

Yes, it is possible to flunk a student with a disability. The secret centers on compliance with the civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination. These laws mandate access to education, not guaranteed academic success. When a faculty member has done all that is required, then flunking the under-qualified student is proper and lawful. Here's a compliance checklist:

  • Stand by academic standards and freedoms. Full and equitable access to academic programs serves as the foundation to standards and freedoms.
  • Communicate clear and concise expectations for performance to your students. Care should be taken to distinguish between essential and non-essential components of the course.
  • Allow reasonable accommodations. Accommodations are changes in the way things are done and affect only non-essential aspects of a course. They are reasonable so long as course standards are not fundamentally altered.
  • Notify students of your willingness to accommodate. This can be done verbally during lectures and in writing within a course syllabus. DSS recommends both. One might say "Students with disabilities are welcome to discuss accommodations with me."
  • Consult with the student and DSS coordinators. Any student should generate his or her own requests for accommodations. Requests ought to be backed up by evidence of the need for accommodation. A sensible link between the disability's functional limitations and the accommodation requested must be supported. Some students may present written documentation; others may not. Faculty should verify the existence of the disability and need for accommodation with the student, DSS, or another authority. DSS recommends that written verification come from our office. We furnish everything relevant an instructor needs to know.
  • Permit students to use auxiliary aides and technologies which ensure access. Depending on the disability, students may use note takers, sign language interpreters, readers, scribes, and research assistants. Others may use tape recorder/players, computers, assistive listening devices, and other technologies for the same purpose.
  • When requested, provide alternatives to printed information such as Braille, computer electronic text, large print, and tape cassettes. If Internet resources and other technologies are used, then they must be as accessible to students with disabilities as they are for other students. DSS produces these alternative formats.
  • Make academic adjustments in instruction. Some students need lecturers to face the audience while speaking. Others may need written or graphic information spoken aloud or described. Adjustments such as these may be made after the student requests them.
  • Grant testing accommodations. Again, depending on the particular needs of a student, it may be necessary to extend testing times, change testing formats, test in a quiet environment, and so on. Instructors may accommodate independently or use DSS test accommodation services.
  • Regard disability-related discussions and information with the strictest confidentiality. No professor has the right to destroy program access by ignoring confidentiality.

And there you have it. If compliance checks out, flunk the student who isn't otherwise qualified. Although it is possible for any student to complain, it is another matter entirely to show discrimination when faculty have complied with the law. For more information, give the folks at DSS a call at (940) 397-4140 or email DSS Director Debra Higginbotham at debra.higginbotham@msutexas.edu

Where can I get forms and publications provided by the DSS office?

Visit the DSS Forms page (http://www.msutexas.edu/student-life/disability/index) for downloadable copies of the Faculty Guide & Testing Condition Checklist.