The Catholic University of America

ADA Guidelines

Answer Guide to Self-Audit Checklist

Reasonable Accommodations Checklist Questions 35-49

35. What is the process utilized for verifying disabilities, including temporary disabilities that may or may not qualify under the ADA? Is the Office of Disability Support Services utilized in every instance?

A threshold determination must be made by the Office of Disability Support Services as to whether or not the person requesting accommodations has a disability. Disability means, with respect to an individual, "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such impairment" (28 C.F.R. Sec. 35.104). A qualified student with a disability means an individual who, with reasonable modifications if necessary, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of the services or the participation in programs or activities provided by the school. An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.

The ADA sets forth a minimal compliance level that must be met by the university to ensure that students with disabilities are offered full access to the program. It does not mean the university is precluded from taking steps to assist a person with a temporary injury, and to accommodate that person as a courtesy or matter of policy, even though not legally mandated to do so. A college may require the student to provide current medical documentation of the disability (Lewis and Clark College, 5 NDLR 248 (OCR 1994)). At CUA, this documentation is provided to the Office of Disability Support Services.

36. Are all records regarding information about modifications provided to the student sent to the Office of Disability Support Services? Is any information maintained in the School or Department?

If modifications are made for a student with a documented disability, the Office of Disability Support Services should be sent information about the modifications if that office was not involved in fashioning the modifications. The Office of Disability Support Services serves as a centralized location at CUA for this type of information.

37. Does the School or Department have a procedure in place for early self-identification by the student as someone who needs reasonable modifications? Do your materials make it clear that it is the student's responsibility to provide documentation regarding the disability when requesting a modification, and that the documentation should be provided to the Office of Disability Support Services?

The School or Department should review brochures and other publications, as well as reviewing other means of information dissemination (such as webpages) to make sure that students with disabilities know who to contact about reasonable modifications. It should be clearly stated that it is the student's responsibility to provide documentation of the disability when requesting a modification.

38. Have policies on financial aid, scholarships, scholarly journal eligibility, etc., been reviewed to see what effect a reduced course load or other modifications may have on participation by students?

An example of what is needed in this area can be seen with the issue of federal financial aid. The Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) establishes eligibility requirements for students who receive federal financial aid. The standards are both quantitative and qualitative. The minimum qualitative requirement is a C average or its equivalent by the end of the second academic year. The quantitative standard is the maximum time frame in which the student is expected to complete the program. HEA regulations (34 CFR 668.16(e)(2) require that the maximum time frame for finishing the program may not exceed 150% of the published length of the program measured in academic years. Students may request a waiver or substitution of the standards based on their learning disability. Schools are allowed to permit a waiver under several situations, including "special circumstances." There is a good argument that under 504 or the ADA, an academic adjustment should be made in certain instances. If the school is going to permit such a waiver, a written procedure should be in place explaining the special circumstances. An example of such a procedure has been outlined by Charles Barber, Senior Counsel at George Washington University, in an article entitled "Waivers of Academic Progress Requirements for Federal Financial Aid: A Reasonable Accommodation for Students with Learning Disabilities" (23 J.C. & U.L. 231 at 252, 1996). Barber proposes the following:

  • Consult with the student's academic advisor to determine the scope of the modifications being provided to the student. If reasonable modifications were not provided until later on in the course of the program, a better argument exists to relax the satisfactory academic progress standards until the student has had the opportunity to benefit from the modifications
  • Stronger arguments exist for relaxing the quantitative standards, i.e., length of time required to complete the program. Section 504 regulations specifically suggest this type of modification.
  • The modification should be tied to the specific learning disability. For example, a student who has difficulty with mathematical function should not be accommodated for a political science class.
  • The goal of any modification should be assisting the student to meet the HEA standards. The modification should be time limited.
  • Documentation of the waiver should be made and should include the following: (a) the portion of the satisfactory progress sought to be modified; (b) the student's academic performance to date; (c) the nature of the modifications provided by the school or department; and (d) consideration given to requested modifications and the reason the modifications were granted or denied.

39. Does the School or Department have in place guidelines for explaining reduced course load to potential employers should they happen to ask?

An important part of the accommodation process is helping students in the area of career services, which is part of the program offered by the university. Thus the need for guidelines to help students explain to potential employers the reason for the modifications.

40. Does the School or Department have a method for evaluating the achievement of students who have a disability that impairs sensory, manual or speaking skills, to ensure that the evaluation accurately reflects the student's achievement in the class? (See 28 CFR 39.309 and 34 CFR 104.44.)

Alternative means of evaluation should be found where necessary.

41. Are alternative exams offered at equally convenient locations, as often, and in as timely a manner as are other examinations?

When separate exams are necessary, every effort should be made to make them equal to those offered to the non-disabled student in terms of accessibility, numbers of times offered, etc..

42. What is the School's process for evaluating requests for course waivers or substitutions due to a learning or other disability? Is there a process for evaluating requests for modifications to comprehensive examinations?

Both the regulations and case law indicate that waivers or substitutions may be reasonable modifications. Substitution for nonessential requirements may be required, but an educational institution is not required to accommodate a disabled individual by eliminating a course requirement which is reasonably necessary to proper use of the degree conferred at the end of a course of study. [See Doherty v. Southern College of Optometry, 862 F. 2d 570 (6th Cir. 1988), cert. den. 493 U.S. 810 (1989).] This process is centralized at CUA in the Office of Disability Support Services.

43. Is the School aware of the university's grievance or appeal procedure on denial of requests for modifications? If a student with a disability has an accommodation in place for that disability, and nevertheless fails a course, and asserts that the failure was the result of improper administration of the accommodation, or some other discriminination on the basis of disability, what procedure exists for the student to request a review?

See the CUA EO Discrimination Complaint Policy.

44. If qualified sign-language interpreters and qualified notetakers are provided through the Office of Disability Support Services, are transcripts of the notes provided in a timely manner? How are they evaluated? Is feedback obtained from the students who are the users of these services?

If notetakers are provided, then the transcripts of the notes should be provided in a timely manner. If this is not possible, the school or department should consult with the Office of Disability Support Services about switching to a different method, such as real time captioning. Real time captioning requires a court reporter, but generates instantaneous transcripts and might be considered when timeliness is critical. User surveys should be obtained for feedback on interpreters and notetakers.

45. Do faculty indicate on their syllabi and orally how to go about obtaining reasonable modifications, including auxiliary aids and services? Is any training offered to the faculty in this regard?

A simple and low cost way of achieving ADA compliance is to have faculty indicate on their syllabi as well as orally how to obtain reasonable modifications. Faculty, including adjuncts and TAs, should be given advice on how to deal with requests.

46. Is student input solicited on which auxiliary aids and services work best for them?

As each student's needs will be different, student input should be solicited on what aids and services work best for them.

47. Is anyone is the School or Department kept current on the latest technological advances in the area of auxiliary aids and services for the disabled?

The Office of Disability Support Services has software which identifies and describes hundreds of auxiliary aids, the cost, and how they can be obtained. While the ADA does not require the use of the most technologically advanced equipment available, the auxiliary aids and services offered must provide effective communication.

48. Are your professors and others who write grants made aware that all proposals for new equipment should include requests for equipment that can be utilized by those with disabilities?

All proposals for new equipment should be written with the ADA in mind.

49. Does the School or Department have a clear written policy on how to handle requests for recommendations to future employers or licensing authorities?

The issue is most difficult in the context of students with mental or emotional disabilities (which may or may not be the primary disability) or with alcohol or drug problems. Any answer given by the school should focus on the student's behavior and conduct while in school, and not on the student's status as someone with a mental disability or an alcohol problem. Be aware that the same standard must be used for all students, not just those with disabilities. Since current use of illegal drugs is not protected, this information could be provided to the state licensing authorities. The school should be careful not to violate the CUA Student Records Policy when releasing information in this context. Physical ability to perform tasks can also be an issue for licensing or future employment.

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