Faculty FAQThank you for your interest and support of students with disabilities at Blinn. Our goal is to assist you when working with this population of students by providing you with information that will help you be more effective in your classroom, as well as helping the university maintain compliance with federal disability guidelines.
Various factors account for the need for extra time on tests for students with learning disabilities. These include: a) speed of processing; b) visual perceptual deficits; c) difficulty with mechanics of syntax, spelling and punctuation; and d) reading comprehension deficits. Research (at UC Berkeley, 1991 and the University of Toronto, 1993) on the effects of extended time on exams has shown dramatic improvements for students with learning disabilities, but only marginal improvement for students without learning disabilities. Rather than providing an unfair advantage in the class, extended time for exams allows these students to demonstrate their level of mastery of the course objectives, rather than reflecting the deficits innate to their learning disabilities. In other words, it "levels the playing field."
Blinn College Disability Services is regarded as the authority to verify disabilities and determine whether a student qualifies for academic accommodations. All students eligible for accommodations have presented the necessary documentation and been verified by the ODS staff.
An individual with a disability is defined as any person who:
- "has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities (including walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, or performing manual tasks),
- has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment."
A "disability" is a condition caused by accident, trauma, genetics or disease that may limit a person's mobility, hearing, vision, speech, or mental function. A person may have more than one disability.
A "handicap" is a physical or attitudinal constraint imposed upon a person; for example, stairs, narrow doorways, and curbs are handicaps imposed upon people with disabilities who use wheelchairs.
A student must:
1. Contact Disability Services;
2. Provide specific documentation of the disability from a qualified professional;
3. Consult with a counselor in Disability Services to determine appropriate accommodations.
Disability Services staff determine the accommodations using:
- Documentation of the disability from qualified professionals provided by the student,
- Information gathered from an intake process, and information from history of the disability.
The determination of reasonable accommodations considers the following:
- Classroom or physical barriers,
- The array of accommodations that might remove the barriers,
- Whether or not the person has access to the course, program, service, job, activity, or facility without accommodations, and
- Whether essential elements of the course, program, service, job, activity, or facility are not compromised by the accommodations.
"Accommodations don't make things easier, just possible; in the same way eyeglasses do not improve the strength of the eyes, they just make it possible for the individual to see better. Accommodations are interventions that allow the learner to indicate what they know. Without the accommodations, the learner may not be able to overcome certain barriers."(Samuels, M. 1992 - Asking the Right Questions. The Learning Center, Calgary)
Accommodations are designed to lessen the effects of the disability and are required to provide fair and accurate testing to measure knowledge or expertise in the subject. Careful consideration must be given to requests for accommodations when the test is measuring a skill, particularly if that skill is an essential function or requirement of passing the course, such as typing at a certain speed or turning a patient for an x-ray. In such cases, please contact a Disability Services staff member for guidance.
The purpose of academic accommodations is to adjust for the effect of the student's disability, not to dilute academic requirements. The evaluation and assigning of grades should have the same standards for all students, including students with disabilities. For many test takers, the most common accommodation is extended time. In specific circumstances, students may also require the use of readers and/or scribes, a modification of test format, the administration of examinations orally, or an alternative time for testing. For out-of-class assignments, the extension of deadlines may be justified, especially if the student is relying heavily on support services (readers for term papers, etc.).
Students have a responsibility to give instructors and Disability Services adequate time to arrange accommodations. All Disability Services staff encourages students to identify early in the semester. Instructors can help by extending an invitation in class and in the syllabus an invitation for students to identify themselves early in the semester: "Any student who may need an accommodation due to a disability, please make an appointment to see me during my office hours. A letter from Disability Services authorizing your accommodations will be needed."
Once a student has identified to the instructor and requests disability-related accommodations authorized by Disability Services, the College has a legal responsibility to make reasonable attempts to accommodate the need, even late in the semester. There is no responsibility to provide accommodations prior to identification; for example, allowing the student to re-take exams with extended time.
Talk with the student about your concerns regarding his or her performance. If the concern seems disability-related, ask if he or she has ever received assistance for a disability. If it seems appropriate, refer the student to Disability Services to apply for services. Whether to self-identify to Disability Services is the decision of the student; however, to receive accommodations, disclosure to Disability Services with proper documentation is required.
If the student has never been evaluated for a learning disability and/or Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Disability Services will provide a list of local resources where the student may be screened or tested.
To receive interpreter services the student must contact Disability Services at least two weeks before the semester begins, place a request for interpreting services for the upcoming semester, and provide a current schedule. This process must be followed so that we can efficiently provide services and accommodations on the first day of class. If a student makes any changes to his/her course schedule, he/she must notify ODS immediately. ODS will have two weeks from the date of written notification to provide services for any changes to class schedules already in place.
For outside class requirements, such as field trips or other assigned activities, as well as meeting with professors during office hours, students should request an interpreter from Disability Services.
Remember the no-call /no-show policy applies to Interpreter Request assignments as well.
Some adaptations in presentation style may be helpful when using a sign language interpreter. The interpreter will let you know if you need to slow down your rate of speaking or if they need you to repeat any information. A desk copy of the book is especially helpful for the interpreter when the class is using examples or doing exercises from the text. Please realize that if students are looking at the interpreter, they cannot be reading a book, writing, or taking notes; a pause for the students to finish their task may be required before continuing the lecture.
Interpreters are bound by the code of ethics developed by the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, which specifies that interpreters are to serve as communication intermediaries who are not otherwise involved.
When an interpreter is present, speak directly to the deaf or hard of hearing person rather than to the interpreter, and avoid using phrases such as "tell him" or "ask her."
Speak normally, noting that there may be a lag time between the spoken message and the interpretation.
When referring to objects or written information, allow time for the translation to take place. Replace terms such as "here" and "there" with more specific terms, such as "on the second line" and "in the left corner."
In a conference room or class environment, the deaf student and interpreter will work out seating arrangements, with the interpreter usually located near the speaker.
Inform the interpreter in advance if there is an audiovisual element in a presentation, so arrangements can be made for lighting and positioning.
In sessions that extend longer than one hour, the interpreter may require a short break to maintain proficiency in interpreting.
Students should let you know at the beginning of the semester if they will need assistance during an emergency.
Students who are blind or have low vision may need a "buddy" to assist them exit the building.
Some students with head injuries or psychiatric disabilities may become confused or disoriented during an emergency and may also need a "buddy."
Students who use wheelchairs should NOT use the elevator.
Disability Services encourages students with seizure disorders to inform their instructors about what should be done if a seizure occurs during class time. Some students request that campus police be called immediately; others request action as listed below. Seizures happen when there is a sudden electrical discharge in the brain. Each individual has a unique reaction. A seizure can result in a relatively slight reaction, such as a short lapse in attention, or a more severe reaction known as a grand mal, which involves convulsions. Seizure disorders are generally controlled by medication, so the possibility of a seizure in the classroom is rare. If one does occur, the following actions are suggested:
- Keep calm. Ease the student to the floor and open the collar of the shirt. You cannot stop a seizure. Let it run its course and do not try to revive the student.
- Remove hard, sharp, or hot objects that may injure the student, but do not interfere with his or her movements.
- Do not force anything between the student's teeth. Turn the student's head to one side for release of saliva.
- Place something soft under the head. Make sure that breathing is unobstructed, but do not be concerned if breathing is irregular.
- When the student regains consciousness, let him or her rest as long as desired.
- To help orient the student to time and space, suggest where he or she is and what happened. Speak reassuringly to the student, especially as the seizure ends.
- The student may be agitated or confused for several minutes afterward. Do not leave the student alone until he or she is clearheaded. Ask whether you can call a friend or relative to help the student get home.
- If the seizure lasts beyond a few minutes, or if the student seems to pass from one seizure to another without regaining consciousness, contact campus police. This rarely happens, but when it does, it should be treated immediately.