Commonly Asked Questions
What does Disability Acommodations do?
Disability accommodations are intended to provide "reasonable accommodation(s)" in legal terms, or in common language, a "level playing field" for students with a disability for them to compete academically with their peers. Providing accommodations for students with a disability is required by federal statute and it is not an option. Failure to comply with these regulations has been the grounds for numerous lawsuits brought against institutions of higher education; in some cases, specific instructors have also been sued.
A "disability" has been defined as any impairment in function which limits normal performance and includes physical disabilities (such as being wheelchair-bound), learning disabilities (such as dyslexia or dysgraphia math disorder), or other mental health disorders (such as ADHD, severe depression, and anxiety disorders, etc.). All disability claims must evidence the diagnosis by a physician, psychologist, or other health-care professional. This diagnosis is based upon codified standards of practice (e.g., CD-10 or DSM-5).
The university does not provide healthcare professionals for disability assessment. Any fees associated with testing or diagnosis must be paid by the student.
What does that mean?
Accommodations must be provided to students who meet the criteria. Instructors who offer special treatment for students, however intended, are, in fact, providing accommodations—and are liable for legal action. The university recognizes only one Disability Accommodations officer at the Main Campus: Dr. Michael Ellison. A "Letter of Accommodation" issued by that person tells each instructor the proper methods of providing accommodations for any student.
Who is responsible to provide accommodations?
It is the responsibility of the student holding a Letter of Accommodation to present it to an instructor in order for any accommodation(s) to be extended. Instructors should not attempt to provide accommodations to a student without a Letter of Accommodation from one of the Disability Accommodations Officers. Providing such ad hoc accommodation(s) may place an instructor at legal risk, and may contribute to a misunderstanding on the students’ part that all university instructors should provide such ad hoc measures.
Once an instructor has received the Letter of Accommodation, it is the responsibility of the instructor to implement the accommodation(s) listed in the letter. These Accommodations are provided by the professors and may be utilized in the classroom, Academic Success Center testing area, or another space provided and approved by the professor. Remember, a "reasonable” accommodation means just that and "reasonable" does not have to be, nor can it be, perfect.
Why must instructors be sensitive to this issue?
Since it is a matter of federal law, all persons with a disability must receive accommodation(s). Instructors who have failed to implement mandatory disability accommodations have been sued. In general, the university's attorneys will represent the institution in any lawsuit. Instructors who have been named as defendants in lawsuits usually are advised to retain legal-council, at their own expense, to protect their own personal interests—a financially challenging undertaking for most instructors. In this arena, litigation avoidance is simply prudent thinking for instructors.
How is a disability accommodation claimed?
Persons with a disability should contact Vernesa Perry, Dissability Accommidations Coordinator, with written documentation of a disability. In some cases, students are referred to one of several testing sites where, at their expense, a battery of tests is performed to establish a diagnosis. Only diagnosed disorders receive accommodation. Students who fail to supply data with a diagnosis are refused accommodation(s).
In other cases, students erroneously attempt to provide help and testing data to instructors or staff directly without receiving an official Letter of Accommodation. In no case should instructors or staff allow students to proceed further without first securing an official Letter of Accommodation. All accommodation letters must originate from Dr. Michael Ellison. This protects university personnel from providing accommodations without institutional sanction.
What disabilities are most common?
Learning disabilities are the most common in all educational settings. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects as many as 10% of all adults, in some studies, and comprises about 50% of accommodations at Wesleyan for both undergraduate and graduate students. Accommodations for ADHD typically include:
- Time and one-half (1.5X) for all in-class assignments, including exams. Exams to be conducted in as quiet and distraction-free a setting as is possible.
- The remaining 50% of accommodations include those for Math Disorders, physical limitations such as impaired vision, etc.
What about course waivers or substitutions?
In some cases, a course may be waived for a physically disabled student (e.g., wheelchair-bound), while in other cases a course substitution is authorized (Logic substituted for College Algebra). However, if MTH 1302 is a prerequisite it cannot be substituted.
What about placement tests?
Since the purpose of placement tests are to accurately enroll students in the appropriate course, given their current level of performance, accommodations are not required. In this context, for example, providing time and one-half (1.5x) for the exam is inappropriate. However, once the student has been appropriately placed, accommodations, such as extra time (if officially authorized), are then extended to allow the student to compete with peers.
What if I have other questions?
For further assistance, please contact:
- Vernesa Perry, Disability Accommodations Coordinator – firstname.lastname@example.org 817-531-5814 / 531-4826 Library, Room 127 Academic Success Center
- Dr. Michael Ellison, Director of Disability Service – email@example.com, 817-531-7565, Graduate Counseling Programs Faculty Offices, #114, 3106 E. Rosedale Street, Fort Worth, TX 76105
- Texas Wesleyan University Community Counseling Center – 817-531-4826, 3110 E. Rosedale Street, Fort Worth, TX, 76105