Parent Guide to Accessibility
Working together, we can put students first and ensure they all have the best opportunity for success. Our office provides accommodations to UC students. If you are a faculty member seeking accommodations for yourself, please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity.
We watch our kids go through enormous changes and look forward to new changes. Those first steps, their first words, reading, learning to drive, and dating, everything seems to change almost overnight.
Soon a major life change is about to take place. Your young adult is starting college. Everything may seem completely unfamiliar, both terrifying and wonderful all at once.
Once your child turns 18 years old, he is legally an adult, responsible for his own actions and decisions--and free to make them. As he leaves secondary school to enter a career in higher education, fundamental changes occur with respect to his education as a person with a disability. Any child who attends public schools has, for the most part, a legal entitlement to an education, regardless of a disability. But they are children, and as such warrant care and guidance and sometimes are separated from their peers for special attention if needed.
In higher education, your student has a civil right to have access to his education. The fundamental principle at work is the assumption of integration and that the individual student is responsible for herself and is not the responsibility of the institution. It's a distinction that can make all the difference.
We hope this page will help you to better understand some of these distinctions and provide tips on how best to support your new college student on this exciting new road.
Interpreting Federal Law
At the post-secondary level, your student continues to transition into adulthood. You give your support in a slightly different fashion. Your role shifts to the subtle hand of guidance when it comes to the process involved in your student's education.
Encourage her to take responsibility for academic concerns and limitations. Both of you should acknowledge the disability and the challenges that stem from it. This will allow her to identify areas in which she should consider accommodations to level the playing field. It will also make it easier to convey her requests for accommodations to instructors, other students, and anyone from whom they may seek assistance.
Encourage your student to register with Accessibility Resources (AR) where she will be coached on how to obtain reasonable accommodations.
College can be the first testing ground where your new student will and must be her own advocate. Expect her to develop her independence further through making the suitable arrangements to ensure success in her classes.
Unlike elementary and secondary schools, post-secondary education offers access rather than entitlement to academic programs. Most parents of a child with a disability at some time learn something about the laws that govern their child's education in the public schools. In 1975, Congress passed the
Education for All Handicapped Children Act. This act, commonly known as Public Law 94- 142, provided that any child with a disability was "entitled to a free and appropriate education" in public school systems.
That law, along with its numerous re- authorizations, reflects the nation's commitment to educating all its children, whether they have disabilities or not.
Fundamentally, 94-142 and its successors (including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 and IDEA Improvement Act of 1997) said that public schools, with your input and appropriate assessments, would determine what was most appropriate for your child's education. Then they were required to provide that education.
As a parent, you may wish it had been that easy all along, and perhaps it was. Now, however, your child has reached his majority under the law, and the rules of the game have changed. The principles of 94-142 and IDEA, including the required IEP (Individualized Education Program), no longer apply. Note: 504 Plans, under which many students are now served in high schools, are no longer valid either.
In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Modeled on section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, ADA is a civil rights law. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability as long as the person is otherwise qualified. In the case of publicly funded colleges and universities, ADA affirms the right of a student with a disability to a level playing field.
That means that a college or a university must ensure access to all students who are otherwise qualified. Access means much
more than ramps and elevators and wide parking spaces. It also means access to information and to technology. Therefore, colleges and universities must make reasonable accommodations for your student's disability, in order that he may be able to demonstrate his ability.
However, civil rights laws and the reasonable accommodations they call for are in no way intended nor are they able to guarantee success. At most, a student can expect an equal chance to do the same work as his peers.
In higher education the individual with a disability bears the burden of proof. Unlike public schools, there are no requirements for providing evaluation of individuals with disabilities. The person with a disability must provide the evidence himself. In public schools, whether under IDEA or Section 504, the school is responsible for adequate and regular assessments. This is no longer the case once a student leaves high school and attends a college or university.
A 504 Plan from a high school -- or for that matter, an IEP -- is in no way binding upon any institution or entity outside of the school in which it was developed. There are no requirements for any plan under Section 504 or the ADA with respect to higher education, employment, or other areas of public life.
Thus there are no more meetings each year with counselors, teachers, etc. There is nothing to sign.
"Free and Appropriate Education" (FAPE), first put forth in law under special education legislation in 1975, no longer applies. Though it is still referenced as a requirement for high school under regulations governing Section
504, there are no such references with respect to higher education in any federal regulations for either Section 504 or the ADA. Rather, higher education carries with it necessary costs, and students with disabilities must pay the same as their non-disabled peers. In higher education then, FAPE is not regarded as a part of 504's nondiscrimination prohibitions. In all areas outside of public schools, nondiscrimination is accomplished by means of barrier removal, including "reasonable accommodations.”
(Note: Accommodations may not carry with them an additional charge of any kind, however.)
The term "otherwise qualified individual with a disability" carries a different connotation and subsequently greater weight and responsibility on the part of the individual than may have been the case in high school and certainly elementary school. It means that students must meet academic standards. In public schools, this refers only to the age of the individual as being appropriate for elementary or high school. In higher education, it ultimately refers to a student's academic proficiency and ability to demonstrate learning.
Integration is the order of the day. Terms such as "placement" and "least restrictive environment" are no longer valid. Placement in an environment which is restrictive or protective in any way would be a violation of an individual's civil rights and counter to the spirit of Section 504 and the ADA.
Some services provided to high school students under Section 504 may not be provided in higher education because they in fact reduce the academic standards.
Shortening assignments, for example, is viewed as compromising academic standards and therefore is not "reasonable" to request in college.
In higher education, therefore, students with disabilities must possess higher-level skills in all aspects of learning -- skills and strategies commensurate with the academic expectations in higher education and, later, professional careers. These necessitate more sophisticated strategies in many cases. Reasonable accommodations can create a level playing field, but once achieved, the student must then demonstrate her skills and knowledge adequately.
Reasonable accommodations are made in order to level the playing field for qualified individuals with disabilities. As much as possible, accommodations are designed to minimize the functional limitations of an individual in a given task.
These adjustments permit students with disabilities the opportunity to learn by removing barriers that do not compromise academic standards. Thus, wherever possible, the disability is minimized as a measure of performance in the academic environment.
This is typically accomplished with services or strategies focused on the end result rather than the means by which that result is customarily achieved.
The ADA assumes that people with disabilities have contributions to make and that they have every right to attend colleges and universities -- regardless of whether they have a disability. Thus, access means empowering students with disabilities to take
better control of their academic environment, permitting them to demonstrate their skill and knowledge. It also expects, however, that they can meet the academic standards with appropriate accommodations
When your student applies to a college or university he is required to demonstrate to admissions staff that he indeed met the admission standards for this institution. He provided his high school transcripts, college entrance scores (ACT or SAT) and any other important information about himself having a bearing on his potential to succeed and contribute to the college’s diverse campus community. Community colleges generally have “open door” policies and do not require ACT or SAT testing for admission.
Placement tests are required at community colleges for appropriate course registration.
If he has already been accepted to a college or university, then he has demonstrated that he is, in fact, a qualified individual, despite having a disability.
This is different, of course, from the way things were when your student entered public school. Whether or not you knew of his disability at that time, or whether he acquired a disability later didn't matter. There was only one qualification for entry into public school: as a child of the appropriate age, he was entitled to learn to the best of his ability.
None of us would argue that every person should be encouraged to attend college. We believe that any individual who meets admission standards should have an opportunity to earn a degree. For the most part, disability is not part of the process of determining qualifications. Following admission, we would expect that each individual would continue to demonstrate that he is otherwise qualified by meeting or exceeding the academic standards set by the institution, and he must do so whether or not he requests accommodations.
Understanding this phrase is critical to understanding the distinction between a civil right and an entitlement. Put bluntly, it's legal for a student with a disability to flunk out of college. There is no guarantee of success.
Civil rights laws do not mandate a safety net. Students with disabilities must perform at the level that their academic and professional programs expect of all students. The college or university will strive to level the playing field, but ultimately the student's work must be her own and be of a satisfactory quality.
In addition to guaranteeing civil rights to reasonable accommodations, the ADA also guarantees any individual with a disability the absolute right to refuse any accommodation. That means that AR doesn't make sure that a student requests accommodations.
While coordinators rely heavily on documentation of the disability when determining accommodations, they also draw the student into a discussion of functional limitations and possible strategies. If a student doesn't request an accommodation, however, the consequences of that action belong to the student.
The student is ultimately responsible for managing her own education, understanding her functional limitations, and requesting necessary accommodations for a disability.
As adults, all students go through a process of learning about themselves. They develop the skills to self-advocate for things they may need.
It is in the development of these skills that AR can best guide the student with a disability in her educational growth. These skills are critical, because it is the student, not AR, who will approach instructors, other staff, and even other students to request the accommodations that are reasonable for her to receive. Clearly, these are the skills all students need to have when they leave college and move successfully into their chosen careers.
Again, in order to ensure a level playing field, students must advocate effectively for the accommodations they require at college. This necessitates that the student understands her disability and the ways in which it limits her functioning at the college. The limitations of the disability, not the disability itself, are the reason accommodations are recommended and provided.
In order for our office to provide the most appropriate, most reasonable accommodation, we would prefer to receive documentation that follows the guidelines listed below. Once the documentation is provided, an intake will follow to discuss the impact of the disability within the academic environment.
The following process generally applies to most students who register with AR. Specifics vary depending on the student's disability, functional limitations, and accommodations that will be requested and provided.
- Provide documentation. Documentation should include the following:
- A clear diagnostic statement that describes when and how the condition was diagnosed and provides information on the impact of the disability.
- A description of the diagnostic methods
- A description of how the conditions will impact the student within the academic or collegiate environment
- Recommendations for reasonable accommodations
- Schedule an in-take meeting. Please call the Accessibility Resources at 513-792-8625 to set up an in-take meeting at your earliest convenience.
- Meet with the Accessibility Resources Director.
- The student must be present and can invite parents, guardians, or other individuals to the meeting. If the student does not want parents or guardians in the meeting, it is his or her choice.
- At the intake meeting, a staff member records general information, looks over the student’s documentation, and suggests accommodations.
- At the meeting, we strongly encourage the student to speak up and voice any concerns.
- Through talking with the student, we have a better understanding of their academic needs.
- Pick up an accommodation form. The accommodation form is a letter from Accessibility Resources that verifies that the student is enrolled with the office and informs professors of the student’s specific accommodations. Following these 3 simple steps each term ensures accommodations and services:
- Accessibility Resources will send you an email of your accommodation form which you are to forward to your professors on the first day of each term.
- Print one copy of the Accessibility Form and ask each of your new professors to sign it. Office hours are the appropriate time to discuss your accommodations with your professor and have them sign your accommodation form.
- Return the form to AR after all professors have signed. The student and professors are encouraged to retain copies.
- Use accommodations.
- This may include registering for tests online, filing request forms for note-takers, books on tape, or other accommodations granted to the student.
- Students should also meet with staff members for more specific accommodations (i.e. interpreters, readers, scribe, etc.).
- Remember that it is at the student’s discretion which accommodations she would like to use.
Neither the Americans with Disabilities Act nor Section 504 make it incumbent upon disabilities. This is in contrast with the student's entitlement to assessment and services in public schools.
In the logic of civil rights (as opposed to educational entitlement), the individual must assert and claim her right to equal access. As such, she cannot then put the burden of proof on the institution, employer, or business. One must identify oneself as a qualified person with a disability and be prepared to provide the documents that verify that claim.
Accessibility Resources can direct you to appropriate qualified professionals when information is too old to accurately reflect the student's functioning, if the student has not been previously diagnosed with a disability or if the professional who did the assessment would not be otherwise qualified in that area. For example, a speech pathologist would not likely be qualified to assess for learning disabilities. Nor would a teacher for blind and low vision students be qualified to assess communication disorders in most cases. (Note: AR will not accept documentation if the professional making the assessment is related to the student.)
There are no "automatic" waivers in higher education. In fact, there are no waivers at all. Rather, under certain circumstances, students may be granted substitutions for some courses. But substitutions will be considered only when the student demonstrates both that she is both otherwise qualified and that the substitution removes a disability-related barrier to her academic program.
Remember that ADA provides for reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Under ADA, however, it is not reasonable to lower the academic standard. Therefore, requests for substitutions must be accompanied by convincing documentation supporting the claim. Your student would need to meet with an accommodation coordinator to discuss her specific situation.
Meeting with an accommodation coordinator regarding this does not mean the request will be granted.
No. Please do not send documentation to the admissions department. All documentation should be sent to the Accessibility Resources, 9555 Plainfield Rd, Muntz Hall Room 112L, where it will be placed in our prospective file. Upon being admitted to the University of Cincinnati, selecting classes, and sending in documentation of their disability, your student should call AR to set up an intake meeting. Please see the “Registering with the Accessibility Resources” section above for more detailed instructions about registering with AR.
Documentation can be scanned and emailed (firstname.lastname@example.org), faxed (513-792-8624), mailed or dropped off in person. Information provided to our office will be saved in our prospective file and shredded according to university policy.
Once your student enrolls in a post-secondary institution, whether he is 18 years old or not, he becomes the sole guardian of all records maintained by that institution. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1976 (FERPA), the student has the right to access his own records upon written request. The parent or guardian does not share that right. This means that parents do not have legal access to their student's grades, transcripts, or any information concerning the services he is being provided through Accessibility Resources. This information is confidential.
However, the student may sign a written release of information which gives the institution the right to disclose his records to his parents. The only time a student's record may be disclosed without written consent would be to comply with a subpoena or in an emergency situation where the health and safety of the student or another individual is threatened.
AR coordinates and provides accommodations for academic programs and events. Services may be individualized to address a specific functional limitation.
AR services are optional and students may select one or more services to best accommodate their functional limitations.
Experimentation with accommodations is encouraged. Some accommodations may have qualifying factors so that not all students may be eligible.
Some examples of AR services include scribes, note-takers, assistive technology, interpreter services, relocation of classes to accessible facilities, and various other accommodations.
First and foremost, the student should be persistent.
Face-to-face exchanges between students and instructors are the most fruitful. It is critical that communication between the student and instructor results in the provision of appropriate accommodations. For example, students are encouraged to hand the instructor the accommodation form that AR provides. This is best accomplished either before classes begin, or at the latest during the first week of classes. This introduces the student and her requests for accommodations early. Students will likely need to talk with instructors more than once a semester, so the first face-to-face meeting is very important.
Communication is the key to successful implementation of services. Students have a number of options open to them in the event that communication with instructors does not result in receiving accommodations. Students should stay in touch with their Accommodation Coordinator to discuss all their options. The Accommodation Coordinator is a person inside the AR office that student may meet with to discuss concerns.
The Accessibility Resources suggests the Math, Writing, and Science Labs for tutoring needs. Tutoring is not an accommodation but can be easily accessed at the UC Blue Ash.
Yes, if he or she would like accommodations. Your student will need to follow the procedures mentioned earlier to register with our office. This includes providing documentation that explains the diagnosis, academic impact, and specific recommendations for the student. Sometimes a student’s file may be faxed to our office from his or her previous institution. Please contact your child’s previous university to see if this is possible.
No, your student does not need to register again, but your student does need to set up a meeting with our staff to discuss procedures on main campus. Many times the policies and procedures differ slightly from campus to campus. To ensure your student knows what to expect and how to obtain his or her accommodations, please call our office to set up a meeting 513-792-8625.
The Accessibility Resources is able to provide some temporary academic accommodations for students with temporary injury or illness. The student still needs to provide documentation that shows the diagnosis, academic impact, and recommendations for accommodations. The student should contact AR to set up a meeting to discuss his situation. Also, accommodations are not retroactive. For example, if a student missed eight weeks of class but did not contact professors or AR to set up accommodations, AR cannot grant accommodations for the previous weeks.
No. The Accessibility Resources does not have the authority to issue parking permits for any students; only Parking Services can fulfill this request. All parking questions and requests should go to 513-792-8625.
Pamela Goines - Director
John Kraimer - Program Director
Muntz Hall | Room 112L
(Far right corner of computer concourse)
Hours: Mon-Fri 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.