The Rehabilitation Act (1973), the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) and its Amendments Act (2008) are the governing pieces of legislation that protect students with disabilities in postsecondary education. The intent of these laws is nondiscrimination. Institutions are required to provide appropriate academic adjustments as necessary to ensure a disabled student's equal educational access.
At Montana State University, the first step at Disabled Student Services (DSS) is to determine if a student is eligible for accommodations based on a documented disability. Current definition of a disability is a significant limitation in one or more life areas; learning is considered a life area. Appropriate academic adjustments are determined during an individual, interactive process between the student and a DSS staff member. Adjustments, such as extended testing time or note taking assistance, must address the student's limitations in an academic setting. In providing an academic adjustment, the university is not required to lower or substantially modify essential requirements for a course or program of study.
Specific questions may be directed to Disabled Student Services, 994-2824.
Recommended syllabus statement
DSS strongly encourages faculty members to put the following statement (example) in their syllabus:
"If you have a documented disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation(s), you are encouraged to contact your instructor and Disabled Student Services as soon as possible."
Ensuring Equal Access in the Classroom
- The student should meet with you during office hours and present his/her blue card which documents the accommodations that have been approved by DSS.
- Faculty and student should discuss how the adjustments/modifications will be implemented in the classroom, in the laboratory, and in the field.
- If there are potential barriers to accessing materials, activities and assessments, or if there is a safety concern, faculty should contact a staff member at DSS to begin an interactive process to consider alternatives that will allow full participation and access.
- Students with disabilities must maintain the same responsibility for their education as students who do not have disabilities. This includes following student conduct and instructional guidelines detailed at http://www2.montana.edu/policy/student_conduct/.
Instructional Materials Accessibility
Electronic materials should be as effective and usable for persons with disabilities as they are for persons without disabilities, and should be available to users with disabilities at the same time they are made available to users without disabilities. This applies to electronic instructional materials delivered within D2L or those delivered in an alternate fashion (emails, blogs, etc.) and includes electronic instructional activities (online collaborative writing; web conferencing; etc.).
Faculty share in the resposibliity to make all classroom materials accessible to individuals with disabilities. Prior to purchasing textbooks or videos, we strongly encourage faculty to check with the vendor to determine whether accessible, electronic versions of the text are available, and if the video material is captioned. DSS staff would be glad to assist with this process.
Course content posted on D2L or departmental websites should likewise be accessible for screen reading software, and video material should be captioned. For more information please visit the following guidelines: http://www.montana.edu/web/styleguide/ada/.
MSU's Center for Faculty Excellence is a quality resources for course development: http://www.montana.edu/teachlearn/.
Working with Students with Disabilities - Tips and Strategies
- Whenever possible, provide written directions, explanations and demonstration summaries to supplement orally-presented information.
- Consider posting PowerPoint lecture materials on D2L, either prior to or immediately after class.
- If using Camtasia Lecture Capture, ensure that the material is being captioned.
- Consider students with physical disabilities when planning field work or supplemental activities. These should be accessible to every student in the course.
- For some students with disabilities, iClickers are difficult to use and may not allow them to demonstrate mastery of classroom content. Provide alternative ways for students to respond.
- Hearing Impairments Deaf or hard of hearing students typically access lectures, classroom discussions and activities, and exam instructions in three ways:
- Sign Language Interpreters. DSS does not employ staff interpreters, but rather contracts with professional interpreters to provide access. You will be contacted by the student and interpreter before the start of the semester, and may be asked to provide a copy of your syllabus and the textbook , if an extra copy is available.
- Remote Captioning. You will be asked to wear a lapel microphone. The student uses his/her laptop to contact the captioning service via Skype or Google Talk, and a trained transcriptionist types the lecture content in real time. The student is able to immediately read what is being spoken, and receives a transcript of the lecture after class.
- FM Unit. Again, faculty are asked to wear a microphone which is paired with an amplification device that the student wears in his/her ear or around the neck. It is important to pass the microphone when there are questions or discussions, or to repeat the question for the benefit of the hearing impaired student.
- Blindness or Low Vision
- Many students use screen reading software that allows them to hear anything that is on the computer screen. Check with the student to ensure your materials are working properly with their software.
- New, black markers are most easily read on white boards.
- DSS can assist with enlarging materials; just give us enough notice.
- Incorporating Universal Design principles to your teaching benefits all students. For more information please go to http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Strategies/Universal/.
- DSS can consult or assist your course preparation/presentation at any time.
- The Center for Faculty Excellence is an excellent resource for faculty seeking to incorporate technology and accessibility into new or existing courses.
Service Animal Protocol
Service animals are animals trained to assist people with disabilities in the activities of daily living. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition of a service animal is: “…any…animal individually trained to do work and perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals who are hearing impaired to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items.” If an animal meet this definition, it is considered a service animal regardless of whether it has been licensed or certified by a state or local government training program. This policy differentiates “service animals” from “pets,” denotes campus locations that could be off-limits to service animals, and sets behavioral guidelines for service animals.