Q: What does it mean to be a person with a disability for class purposes?
A: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Amendments define a person with a disability as someone who a) has a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; b) has a record of such an impairment; or c) is regarded as having such an impairment. Major life activities may include things like breathing, walking, eating, sleeping, learning, seeing, etc. Disabilities generally fall under the categories of attentional (ADHD), learning, physical, and psychological. Therefore, some disabilities may be obvious (such as when a person has a physical disability) while others may not be apparent (such as when a person has a psychological disability). The University is required to provide accommodations to students with disabilities that will provide equal access to the educational environment. Accommodations are modifications that eliminate barriers and allow students to participate on an equal basis as other students. Accommodations do not lower academic standards or expectations, provide an unfair advantage, or alter an essential requirement of a course. Accommodations should “level the playing field” for students with disabilities. Some examples of accommodations are extended time on exams, taking exams in a distraction-reduced environment, and permission to use a note-taker in class.
Q: How are appropriate disability accommodations determined?
A: The University of Tulsa reviews all student requests for accommodations and determines appropriate accommodations through an interactive process that involves discussion with the student and possibly family, medical documentation from a licensed health care provider, and review by administrators at the University with knowledge of disability and accommodation issues. Accommodations are designed to provide equal educational access but should not provide an unfair advantage. Accommodations should not fundamentally alter an essential requirement of a course. More information can be located in the University’s ADA Accommodations Policy for Students with Disabilities.
Q: Where can I find information about administration of exam accommodations for students with disabilities?
A: Student Access distributes information by e-mail to instructors each semester. If you have questions, please contact Student Access. Additional information can also be found in the Rights and Responsibilities under Testing/Exams (page 3).
Q: What are a student’s responsibilities in the accommodation process within my class?
A: Students who have a disability and want to use accommodations must share a Notice of Required Accommodations letter with their instructor from Student Access. This letter will describe the accommodations the student has been approved to receive but will not disclose anything about disability. Complete rules that students must follow to use their accommodations are provided in the Rights and Responsibilities. A few key rules regarding exam accommodations are included briefly below:
Q: What are my responsibilities as an instructor for accommodations within my class?
A: All instructors should include a statement about disability and their willingness to work with students in their syllabus. For example, the syllabus might state after the disability statement that, “Students who qualify are requested to meet with me during the first two weeks of class to arrange for their needs.” Some students feel embarrassed about using accommodations, so knowing that an instructor is receptive can be helpful. Remember that disability information is confidential, and students are not required to disclose their disability. Instructors can encourage students to discuss their needs, but may not require that students disclose their disability. Students can choose to disclose this information, and Student Access works with students to determine whether disclosing certain information would be helpful to instructors in figuring out how to best help the student. Instructors must remain vigilant that they do not disclose to others that a student has a disability or uses accommodations, so discussions about this should not be held in front of others. Instructors are required to assist in providing the accommodations that students are entitled to receive. Students should be evaluated based on the same mastery of content as their peers. Instructors do not need to lower their academic standards, change their behavioral expectations, or provide an unfair advantage to students with disabilities. Accommodations are designed to provide equal access to educational opportunities, so alternative methods may be utilized but students will need to demonstrate the same fundamental mastery of content. If at any time you have a concern about an accommodation, please contact Student Access to discuss. A few key rules regarding accommodations are included briefly below:
Q: What accommodations are provided for temporary injuries/illnesses?
A: While a temporary injury or illness may or may not qualify as a disability, Student Access will still make arrangements to help students who experience issues like a broken arm or longer term illness.
Q: How can I design my class to be most accessible for all students?
A: Making a class accessible/inclusive should be a consideration that looks at all students, not just students with disabilities. Each student has a different learning style and different strengths and weaknesses. Many factors impact the way a person learns, such as culture, family, personality, ability, etc. Principles of Universal Design seek to provide content in a variety of ways to make sure that all students can learn effectively. For more information on making your course accessible to all students, please visit the Student Access Designing an Inclusive Classroom page.
Q: I am concerned about a student’s behavior/performance. What steps should I take?
A: There are many things a student may do that could raise concern, such as excessively missing class or assignments, mentioning illnesses or other problems, acting out or acting with excessive emotions, disrupting or dominating class discussion time, etc. Instructors should report such concerns on DropGuard. This is the University’s PRIMARY means of identifying at-risk students and early reporting is critical to helping students. This system is a means of support only and is in no way a punitive measure. The interventions offered by Student Access and other offices have made the difference between keeping and losing students in many cases every semester. Sometimes it may be too late to salvage a losing situation but, even in those cases, our intervention helps the student make a decision that can minimize damage to their academic record, maintain their self-esteem, and contribute to their ability to succeed at a later time. Reporting your concerns ensure that a responsible administrator will contact the student to figure out how to help. Sometimes, the best thing to do is be proactive about dealing with student behavior by including statements in the syllabus that can be referred to later. Instructors can always contact Student Access to discuss options and talk to their department chair or Associate Dean for assistance. Data from students consistently demonstrates that students appreciate and benefit from these efforts. Additionally, you as an instructor can talk directly to the student expressing your care and concern and try to make direct referrals for help if needed. Even walking a student to the department for assistance can be appropriate. Research shows that positive relationships with instructors are one of the biggest predictors of student success. Feel free to contact Student Access and Student Psychological Services for help brainstorming about talking with a student about concerns.
Q: I reported a student on DropGuard but have not heard anything back. Should I report again?
A: No. You can look on DropGuard to see if the student has been contacted by a staff member. Rest assured that your reports are all addressed by various staff members with Student Access, Academic Advisors, Athletic Student Support Services, and International Student Services. Most information students disclose and actions they take as a result of your reports is protected information under FERPA that cannot be shared with you. You are always welcome to contact Student Access or an Academic Advisor in your College to ask about a student and if contact has been made. Just know that information shared back to you will be limited. In some cases, we cc instructors on emails sent to students. This is just informational but we do not do it for all cases or instructors would be inundated by emails.
Q: What happens when I report a student on DropGuard?
A: All DropGuard reports are shared automatically with professional staff in Student Access as well as Associate Deans and Academic Advisors in each of the Colleges and Graduate School. All reports on student-athletes are sent automatically to Athletic Student Support Services (OASiS). All reports on international students are sent automatically to the International Student Services Office. Any report submitted through DropGuard will trigger multiple check-ins and contacts through email and phone calls, as well as sometimes locating students through other venues (calling parents, welfare checks, etc.). Students receive check-ins from Student Access and other staff at various points in the semester to review their progress and offer additional assistance. Through such efforts, we can ensure that students will be contacted promptly and offered assistance in a helpful, inoffensive manner. Student Access and other staff develop individualized support plans with students to assist in achieving academic and personal success. These plans take many aspects of student life into consideration, and are designed with the utmost care and concern for the student’s wellbeing. Plans are tailored by partnering with the student to establish ownership and accountability for success. Some examples of support plan items may include services such as academic success coaching and mentoring, tutoring, academic support workshops, personal counseling, application for accommodations, seeking assistance from their instructors, and referrals to various on campus and off campus support entities as needed. In cases of crisis, Student Access and other staff will coordinate wellness checks at campus residences or classrooms to locate and help students.
Q: I have a student who is missing a lot of class. How do I handle this?
A: University policy stipulates that decisions about how to handle absences in class are up to individual instructor discretion and syllabus policies. No one else can make this decision. Many instructors offer several “free” absences in class before penalties to allow for illness and other personal absences. In instances where a student is ill or has a health issue, instructors can ask to see a doctor’s note but should not ask for extensive medical details. A few departments can verify certain types of absences, but the vast majority of absences are handled by instructors directly and students should speak to instructors themselves with information about their absences:
Registrar: Issues official “excused” absences for student participation in University activities (such as
athletic events, music performances, etc.).
Alexander Health Center: Occasionally will issue notes for instructors in cases of illness requiring
quarantine with a signed release from the student. AHC does not provide “medical notes” for
illness and injury except in cases of acute illness or a public health threat. These are not “excused” absences are informational notifications to instructors only—it is still up to instructors discretion to decide how to handle the absence.
Student Access: Occasionally will send notices to instructors for hospitalization of
48 hours or more and for funerals of immediate family members (excluding grandparents). For cases of disability that can cause permanent ongoing medically-related absences, students will provide letters to instructors from Student Access describing the accommodations (that student may have ongoing health-related absences and need flexibility). These are not “excused” absences and are informational notifications to instructors only—it is still up to instructors’ discretion to decide how to handle the absence.
Department Chair or Associate Dean: To find out how the department or College handles ongoing
absences, instructors should check with their Department Chair or Associate Dean. In some cases, students should be advised to withdraw from the class or ask for an Incomplete (given at the instructor’s discretion). There are policies related to these options and instructors may consult with the Department Chair or Associate Dean to make these decisions and advise students accordingly.