Students with Disabilities in Online Courses
a. Possible Accommodations
UTSA's population of students with disabilities represents a variety of disability groups that fluctuates from semester to semester. A typical long semester will include students who may have a visual, hearing, physical, mental and/or learning disorder. There are typically over 1200 students with disabilities attending classes at UTSA during each of the fall and spring semesters. Each student will have a unique set of abilities and disabilities requiring unique accommodation(s). These may include but are not limited to:
- Extended time on examinations
- Reduced Distraction Environment for exams
- Note-taking assistance and/or copies of notes
- Use of audio recorder in class
- Preferential seating in the classroom
- Alternative media formats
- Sign Language Interpreter or Captionists in class
- Readers or scribes for tests
- Large print material or use of CCTV
- Audio Loop (assistive listening device)
- The freedom to change positions or take breaks in class
- Absentee or Tardy leniency
Faculty and Staff are not responsible for disability determination and/or the selection of accommodations; however, their input is valued and we often consult with them before prescribing an accommodation.
b. Referring a Student to SDS
If a student mentions any physical or mental concern/disability to you as a faculty or staff member, please immediately refer them to Student Disability Services (SDS). You do not have to collect their documentation, letters from doctors, psychological testing or the like. Although we understand that instructors often only want to help students, before they assume the responsibility of looking at a student's medical documentation to determine if he or she is eligible for accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the ADA, simply make a referral to Student Disability Services. Again, the student must come to SDS for any accommodation related to a disability.
Once the student completes the registration process and makes an accommodation request for their classes, faculty will receive an official electronic notification letter that outlines the agreed upon individual accommodation plan as well as instructions on how to implement various accommodations. Depending on when accommodation request forms are received by SDS, emails will be sent out at the beginning of each semester and throughout the semester. Each fall and spring semester, SDS implements deadlines to submit accommodation requests to their instructors. (Note: If an instructor has not been assigned to the course or an email address cannot be identified for the assigned instructor, SDS will send the accommodation letter via email directly to the student who will then be responsible to notify their instructor/s directly). When instructors receive notification of accommodation, students and instructors should engage in a discussion to make sure an accommodation “plan of action” has been put in place and have agreed on how these accommodations will be implemented.
It is important to note that not all physical or mental conditions rise to the level of being a disability as defined by the ADA. For instance, a broken limb can be a major inconvenience; but provided it is healing in the usual amount of time, without complications, it would not be considered a disability.
NOTE: It is likely that SDS will determine some of the students you refer to us as not actually having a true disability based on the ADA. Unless you receive an official accommodation notification from SDS, faculty are not required to make any adjustments in their teaching methods, test delivery etc. based upon Section 504 or the ADA.
c. Confidentiality (Extremely Important):
The disclosure of a disability and the need for accommodations is an extremely sensitive subject requiring the utmost confidentiality. Discussion between the student and faculty member should be protected. Furthermore, your ability to work with the student to ensure equal opportunity in your class to consume knowledge and be fairly tested on course material will largely depend on a positive "work with me" attitude from both parties. Keep in mind that students do not necessarily have to reveal a specific diagnosis to you, but they must do so in our office and provide substantial documentation of the condition. It is very important, unless the student decides otherwise, that he or she not be identified as a person with a disability to other faculty, staff or classmates. For students with obvious disabilities, like wheelchair users, disclosure of the disability cannot be avoided; but students with learning disabilities and/or mental health impairments can be sensitive about being identified as a student with a disability. Therefore, it is very important that instructors avoid “singling out” such students in the classroom. For instance, instructors often help students find a volunteer notetaker. Unless the student says otherwise, the instructor should request a notetaker but not disclose whom the notetaker will be assisting. He or she should collect the copies of the notes and allow the student to pick them up at his or her office, or some other manner that would enable the student to maintain his or her anonymity.