How disability services are determined
Westminster College is committed to removing barriers to education that may be experienced by students with disabilities, by providing appropriate supports and academic accommodations. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulate the provision of services and accommodations for students with disabilities in higher education.
Students with disabilities must be "otherwise qualified"
Although these federal laws protect qualified students with disabilities from being denied the opportunity of participating at the college level, no law requires universities to accept or accommodate everyone who has a disability. The ADA indicates that applicants with disabilities must
- Be able to satisfy the standards required by the College for all students. For example, if all students must have a certain high school GPA to be admitted, then the student with a disability must also have that GPA.
- Be able to perform the "essential academic and technical standards of the program with (or without) reasonable accommodations." For example, if the students at Westminster College are required to take certain courses in order to meet the graduation requirements, then the student with a disability should be able to also meet those requirements, either without support, or with the appropriate educational supports, and academic accommodations.
- When provided with reasonable accommodations, be able to make "satisfactory progress" each semester. For example, the catalog defines the grades that must be obtained in order to remain "qualified" without being on probation or suspension. If a student is given appropriate accommodations, those grades must also be maintained, regardless of the disability.
Reasonable accommodations provide access to the college educational programs and services.
Under the ADA, students do not have to disclose a disability. However, no disclosure means no accommodation! Academic accommodations are provided after the student has provided medical documentation of a disability and need for accommodations to the Director of Disability Support Services, and has been declared eligible for services. The accommodations are then planned by the student and the director, based on individual need. An example of "reasonable academic accommodations" for a student with impaired vision might be having the text book recorded on tape or having a reader, maybe having the test print enlarged, providing access to the Kurzweil assistive technology, being allowed to tape lecture notes, and perhaps having extra time for all tests and quizzes. For that student, college classes now become accessible, whereas without the accommodations it would be almost impossible to pass the courses. None of these accommodations would give unfair advantage to the students without disabilities, nor would they weaken the academic standards or integrity of a course.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines what accommodation requests are "not reasonable".
Accommodations are not required or given if they would cause the college to compromise the essential elements of the curriculum, or if they weaken the academic standards. Post-secondary education does not usually offer Special Education (which is a modification of curriculum), but should offer reasonable accommodations.
The Americans with Disabilities Act also states that colleges need not provide accommodations if it would create an "undue burden."
Westminster College is committed to provide whatever accommodations are necessary and possible, given the resources of the College. However, sometimes the funds or resources might not be available if the accommodation was extremely expensive, or if the accommodation would change the fundamental nature of the program or create a problem that is considered an "undue burden." An example of an undue burden would be the loss of class time and control if a student's extreme behavior violated the Code of Conduct and disrupted other students (assuming various services were provided and reasonable accommodations were given in the classroom for the student with the disability.)
All students who seek accommodations for diagnosed disabilities should contact the Director of Disability Support Services (DSS) for further information.
Signed comprehensive medical documentation and/or test evaluations that indicate the nature of the disability and appropriate professional recommendations is required. Guidelines for the documentation can be obtained from the DSS office. The DSS Director will review the documentation, determine eligibility for services, and then coordinate the accommodations, auxiliary aids, academic support, and/or referrals as deemed appropriate, necessary, and within the current resources of the College.
Accommodations and assistance are planned based on individual needs.
Sometimes the accommodation plan is very extensive, and sometimes just some small adjustment will make a huge amount of difference. Here are some typical services:
- Academic counseling
- Accessibility planning
- Accommodations for taking exams
- Advocacy for disability issues
- Assistive technology resources
- Coordination with other programs
- Documentation for handicap parking
- Information concerning campus accessibility
- Interpreter service
- Peer tutoring
- Procurement of class notes
- Readers for text books or exams
- Referrals to other services
- Other services or programs, or modification of facilities as the College's resources allow and are deemed necessary or helpful.
Westminster College students who experience disabilities have rights.
Our students have the right to be treated with respect. This includes having equal access to courses, programs, services, jobs, activities, and facilities. We believe students have the right to equal opportunity to work and learn, and to receive reasonable accommodations.
Medical and counseling information is kept confidential.
The student receiving services or accommodations decides what information is to be kept confidential and what is to be released to specific individuals, such as a professor. A federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulates release of student information. Consent forms are available for students who would like to disclose specific information about their disability or needs to professors, administrators, or parents/spouse. FERPA allows the Director of Disability Support Services to communicate basic information with other college administrators on an as-needed basis.
Westminster College students who experience disabilities also have responsibilities.
Students who receive support for the Office of Disability Support Services have the responsibility to:
- Meet the qualifications to be admitted to the College, follow the Student Code of Conduct, and maintain reasonable progress in classes.
- Be proactive and self-directed when needing an accommodation.
- Demonstrate and/or document (from an appropriate professional) how the disability limits participation in courses, programs, services, jobs, activities, or facilities.
- Complete a disclosure form.
- Complete other forms that are required for services.
- Maintain good communication with the Office of Disability Support Services, tutors, and Westminster College personnel as indicated in the student's individualized accommodation plan.
- Keep counseling or planning appointments.
- Any disagreement concerning eligibility for services or specific accommodations should first be addressed to the Director of Disability Support Services. In the event that a resolution cannot be attained, the student may request a review of the disagreement by submitting a formal appeal in writing to the Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Neal Edman.
Westminster College is committed to the Westminster Affirmative Action Policy.
Westminster College does not discriminate, and will not tolerate discrimination, on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, or handicap or disability as those terms are defined under applicable law, in the administration of any of its education programs, activities, or with respect to admissions and employment. In its employment practices, the College may consider the individual's support of the philosophy and purposes of Westminster as stated in the Undergraduate Catalog. Otherwise, Westminster does not discriminate, and will not tolerate discrimination, on the basis of religion or creed.