Working With Students With Disabilities
Students with Disabilities and the Role of Faculty
Brigham Young University is committed to compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which extends civil rights to people with disabilities and provides for reasonable accommodations. The university makes every effort to accommodate individuals with disabilities within the scope of existing laws, and this is a shared responsibility. The University Accessibility Center (UAC) recognizes that the role of faculty is critical to the university's mission, and we are committed to partnering with faculty to provide students with disabilities equal access to all opportunities at BYU and to create an environment that facilitates learning and assists students in reaching their full potential. We rely on faculty to assist our office in providing reasonable and appropriate accommodations, and we look forward to participating in an interactive process with both faculty and students.
A student who self-discloses to a faculty member that he/she has a disability and requests academic accommodations should have a letter from the UAC verifying that the student qualifies for academic accommodations. If the student does not have a letter, the instructor should refer him/her to the UAC to obtain such a letter.
Instructors who receive accommodation letters or other disability-related information from students are required to keep that information confidential from other class members and should refrain from revealing personally-identifiable information to other instructors. Also, instructors should allow the student to take the lead on the issue of disclosing personal information. Instead of asking, "Do you have a disability?" or "What is your disability?", ask questions such as "Is there any more I can know about your situation to help you?" or "What can you tell me about your learning style?"
The academic accommodations which the UAC recommends to faculty are based on the student’s documentation of disability (as provided by the student's healthcare professional) and the specific functional limitations as determined by this documentation. Faculty members should not deny an accommodation approved by the UAC without engaging with the UAC to discuss their concerns. If an instructor has questions or concerns about recommended accommodations, please contact the student's UAC coordinator at 801-422-2767.
Accommodations should be reasonable and should not alter the essential functions of a course or program. Faculty should hold accommodated students to the same academic standards as other students. No retaliation should occur for students who request and receive accommodations.
Instructors may receive accommodation letters throughout (rather than just at the beginning) of each semester, given that students may not be diagnosed with a disability, may not be able to obtain documentation paperwork, or may not realize that they need accommodations until part way through the semester.
It is not mandated that accommodations be implemented retroactively by instructors; for example, you are not required to accept late assignments that were due prior to receiving the student's accommodations letter.
If you have concerns that a student is not using his/her accommodations appropriately, please let us know.
Electronic Accommodation Letters
To access the accommodation letters of your students, click on the following link: https://saasta.byu.edu/auth/ymessage/employee/accessibility/viewLetter.php
The UAC strongly encourages students to make direct contact with their instructors to discuss their accommodations, particularly if those accommodations require coordination with the instructor (e.g., leniency with absences, reserved seating). In addition to sending their letters to their instructors electronically, students may also print out and provide a hard copy to their instructors.
Sometimes students who have sent electronic accommodation letters to their instructors may not follow up with a visit to the instructor, and possible legitimate reasons for this are as follows: 1) The student who sent the electronic letter may not actually need any/all of his/her accommodations in that particular class; 2) Although accommodations are specified in the letter, those particular accommodations may not require coordination with the instructor (e.g., note takers, alternative textbooks); and 3) The student may be waiting to see if he/she actually needs to utilize his/her accommodations in that particular class.
Instructors may want to make an announcement in their classes that they would like students with accommodations to visit with them directly (e.g., before or after class, during office hours, etc.), and instructors may want to add such a request to their syllabus. Instructors are also welcome to reach out individually to the students who have sent them letters. (The "Email Student" button at the bottom of each electronic letter may help to facilitate this.)
Icons on Learning Suite
After students grant their instructors access to their electronic letters, instructors who use Learning Suite will be able to see which of their students are accommodated students by way of accessibility icons displayed next to their names on class lists. The primary instructor will receive the letters and will be able to view the icons on Learning Suite. (For more information on viewing the icons, visit http://lsinfo.byu.edu/uac-accommodation-letters.) If instructors need to pass along accommodation letters to TAs or course coordinators, they will need to download the letters and email them or print and hand them to those individuals who have a need to know.
Faculty Syllabus Statements
The UAC recommends that each member of the BYU faculty have a statement in their class syllabus which informs the students of options for students with disabilities. The following is an example of such a statement:
“If you suspect or are aware that you have a disability, you are strongly encouraged to contact the University Accessibility Center (UAC) located at 2170 WSC (801-422-2767) as soon as possible. A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Examples include vision or hearing impairments, physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, emotional disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety), learning disorders, and attention disorders (e.g., ADHD). When registering with the UAC, the disability will be evaluated, and eligible students will receive assistance in obtaining reasonable university approved accommodations.”
Faculty may also include the following statement in their class syllabus with regard to animals in the classroom:
"Service animals are allowed in the classroom. Animals that are strictly for emotional support or comfort are not allowed in the classroom. Questions may be directed to the University Accessibility Center (2170 WSC, 801-422-2767)."
Temporary medical conditions such as broken limbs, concussions, surgery, flu, pregnancy, etc. are not usually considered disabilities. It is appropriate for students with temporary medical conditions to work directly with their professors instead of going through the UAC. However, these students may visit with a UAC coordinator to brainstorm options for handling their situation. Volunteer services provided by the UAC (e.g., note taker, exam reader/scribe) may be considered. Documentation from the treating physician will be required.