At Hanover, we are committed to both the letter and the spirit of the law regarding disability services, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. We believe that all members of our student body deserve equal access to our vibrant intellectual community, both inside and outside the classroom. Through our disability services program, we work one-on-one with students, their families, faculty, and staff to develop reasonable and effective accommodations that assist the student and protect the integrity of the academic program.
Who is considered disabled?
The ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who has a documented physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of their major life activities, such as walking, hearing, or maintaining sustained concentration. Disabilities can be permanent, such as a first-year student who has been blind since birth, or temporary, as in the case of a sophomore undergoing cancer treatment, whose chemotherapy is causing debilitating but short-term side effects. Under the ADA, Hanover must provide “reasonable accommodation” to students with disabilities so that they have the same access to education and the same opportunities for lifelong inquiry, transformative learning, and meaningful service as the rest of the student body. A biology major who uses a wheelchair and needs an adjustable lab table is one example of a person with a disability and an accommodation. A quiet room for a philosophy senior who has Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and needs to take comprehensive exams in a distraction-free space is another.
What is a “reasonable accommodation”?
The ADA also says that accommodations must be “reasonable.” They should not fundamentally alter the nature of the academic program or be excessively difficult or expensive for the school. The biology major must still complete the same labs and the philosophy senior must still answer the same questions as his or her peers. Disability services law is designed to give students equal access and opportunity to develop their unique abilities to the highest levels. It does not guarantee success or provide special advantages.
How do students request and receive accommodations?
Both the law and the Hanover College Mission Statement place responsibility for learning on students themselves. In order to receive accommodation for a disability, the student must take the first step by contacting the college’s Disability Services Coordinator and submitting appropriate documentation of the disability. The coordinator will work with the appropriate campus offices, including health services, counseling services and/or the registrar, to evaluate and verify the documentation, to identify appropriate accommodations, to communicate with the student and appropriate faculty and staff about the accommodation, and where necessary, to assist in implementing the accommodation.
Some accommodations, like additional time or quiet space for testing, are fairly easy to arrange and take little time to implement. Others, like alternative-format textbooks or adaptive lab equipment, can take weeks to order and ship. In order to ensure that students receive the accommodations that they need, they should contact the Disability Services Coordinator as soon as possible after enrolling at the college or after being diagnosed with a disability. The Disability Services Coordinator will reply to requests for accommodation within two weeks of receiving appropriate documentation, and will make every effort to implement reasonable accommodations in a timely fashion.
Once the request for accommodation is granted, it is important that the student also communicate directly with his or her faculty members. While appropriate faculty members will receive written notification of the accommodation from the Disability Services Coordinator, students can and should learn to be their own best advocates. Talking with faculty helps to open lines of communication and foster a collaborative approach. It allows students and faculty to discuss the students’ strengths and weaknesses, review syllabi and class requirements to identify areas that may require assistance, brainstorm effective adaptive strategies, and troubleshoot any issues that may arise once the course is underway.
What kind of documentation should the student submit?
Generally speaking, documentation of a medical or psychological disability should be less than three years old. While some disabilities are fixed and permanent, others change over time with a student’s physical or psychological circumstances. When reviewing a request for accommodation, the Disability Services Coordinator will look for quality documentation that is both recent and thorough enough to provide an understanding of the student’s current diagnosis and its impact, a description of how the evaluator arrived at the diagnosis, and a discussion of the student’s current limitations. Under certain circumstances, the college may ask for more information or more recent testing in order to make an informed decision.
In reviewing requests for accommodation, Hanover College uses as its guideline the criteria for quality documentation outlined by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). A full draft of the AHEAD standards for quality documentation are included at the end of this policy. In brief, quality documentation should include the following seven components:
What if the student doesn’t yet have documentation?
Sometimes students struggle for years with an undiagnosed learning disability or mental health issue, or they face new limitations as the result of a recent accident, injury, or crisis. The directors of health services and counseling services are available to consult with students about obtaining documentation. They offer referrals for diagnosis and testing. For more information, contact the Disability Services Coordinator, the Office of Health Services, or the Office of Counseling Services.
Are temporary accommodations available?
In some cases, the college will provide provisional, one-time accommodations to students who are in the process of obtaining documentation for their disability. In order to be considered for temporary accommodations, students must file an intake form with the Disability Services Coordinator and demonstrate that they are actively working to acquire quality documentation for their disability.
Will student requests and records be kept confidential?
The college has an obligation under federal law to protect the confidentiality of student records. Disability information and documentation is housed separately from students’ academic information, and released to appropriate faculty and staff on a need-to-know basis only. Students consent to this release when they sign the Disability Services Intake Form and submit it to the Disability Services Coordinator along with appropriate documentation. Once an accommodation has been granted, the Disability Services Coordinator will notify the appropriate professors of the accommodation and work with them to ensure it is implemented in a timely and effective manner.
To protect student privacy, the Disability Services Coordinator will discuss only the accommodation -- not the underlying disability – with faculty and staff. However, we strongly encourage students to talk directly with their professors about their disabilities, their academic strengths and weaknesses, and how best to implement an accommodation. Students must take responsibility for their learning and their lives, and communicating with professors about these issues is an integral part of this process. Students achieve the best results when they take an active role in their own educations.
What if a disability affects a student’s ability to take a required class?
Hanover students who wish the college to waive academic requirements or regulations must petition the school’s Student Academic Assistance Committee and receive permission for such a change. The committee is composed of faculty, staff, and student representatives and is charged with overseeing academic petitions, student grants for research and off-campus Spring Term courses, appeals of academic dismissals, and the college’s academic dishonesty files.
The college catalog outlines the petition process. It reads, “When circumstances warrant, students may seek modification of, or exemption from, one or more of the curricular requirements, course regulations, or academic policies . . . The petition should (1) identify the requirement, regulation, or policy in question, (2) state the particular modification or exemption which is being sought, and (3) set forth the specific grounds and circumstances which justify the granting of the petition. Petition forms are available in, and should be returned to, the Registrar’s Office.” Waivers are not granted automatically, so when asking for one, it’s best to provide Student Academic Assistance Committee with the best information possible so that the committee can make an informed and thoughtful decision. Students with disabilities should include quality documentation of their disability with their SAAC petition.
Petitions are usually heard within a few weeks. Students with disabilities who would like information and/or assistance regarding a SAAC petition are encouraged to contact the Disability Services Coordinator for help.
Is there an appeal and/or grievance procedure?
If a student agrees with the accommodation but has concerns about the way the accommodation is being implemented, the student should notify both the professor and the Disability Services Coordinator as soon as possible so that any necessary adjustments can be made in a timely fashion. In situations where an accommodation has proven to be ineffective, it is important that students act in a timely fashion to ensure that problems are remedied in an effective and efficient manner. If a quiet room has been granted for testing, for example, but the room has proven to be unquiet because of hallway noise or nearby construction, the student should notify the professor and/or the Disability Services Coordinator during the test, not after the grade has been received.
If a student disagrees with the accommodation that has been granted, the student has the right to appeal the decision. The student should first contact the Disability Services Coordinator to describe the nature of the concerns and to discuss a remedy.
If this process is not satisfactory, the student may then file a written appeal with the college’s Appeals Officer. The written appeal should state the nature of the concern and the desired resolution. It should be addressed to Director of Health Services, 117 Lynn Hall, 540 Ball Drive, Hanover, IN 47243. The Appeals Officer will respond in writing to the student’s concerns within two weeks.
If a student is still not satisfied, he or she may contact the Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs, 204 Long Administration Building, 495 College Avenue, Hanover College, Hanover, IN 47243.
Students have the right at any time to contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The OCR is charged with enforcing civil rights legislation pertaining to educational institutions, including the American’s with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The OCR offers assistance on technical problems, policy questions, and methods for preventing civil rights abuse. Its complaint resolution process is available to everyone.
If you are a student and have a complaint regarding disability services that you feel has not be effectively resolved through the college’s internal channels, you may contact the regional OCR office at:
Office for Civil Rights/Chicago
U.S. Department of Education
500 W. Madison Street
Chicago, IL 60661
Tel.: (312) 730-1560
Fax: (312) 730-1576
1. The credentials of the evaluator(s)
The best quality documentation is provided by a licensed or otherwise properly credentialed professional who has undergone appropriate and comprehensive training, has relevant experience, and has no personal relationship with the individual being evaluated. A good match between the credentials of the individual making the diagnosis and the condition being reported is expected (e.g., an orthopedic limitation might be documented by a physician, but not a licensed psychologist).
2. A diagnostic statement identifying the disability
Quality documentation includes a clear diagnostic statement that describes how the condition was diagnosed, provides information on the functional impact, and details the typical progression or prognosis of the condition. While diagnostic codes from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM) or the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) of the World Health Organization are helpful in providing this information, a full clinical description will also convey the necessary information.
3. A description of the diagnostic methodology used
Quality documentation includes a description of the diagnostic criteria, evaluation methods, procedures, tests and dates of administration, as well as a clinical narrative, observation, and specific results. Where appropriate to the nature of the disability, having both summary data and specific test scores (with the norming population identified) within the report is recommended. Diagnostic methods that are congruent with the particular disability and current professional practices in the field are recommended. Methods may include formal instruments, medical examinations, structured interview protocols, performance observations and unstructured interviews. If results from informal, non-standardized or less common methods of evaluation are reported, an explanation of their role and significance in the diagnostic process will strengthen their value in providing useful information.
4. A description of the current functional limitations
Information on how the disabling condition(s) currently impacts the individual provides useful information for both establishing a disability and identifying possible accommodations. A combination of the results of formal evaluation procedures, clinical narrative, and the individual’s self report is the most comprehensive approach to fully documenting impact. The best quality documentation is thorough enough to demonstrate whether and how a major life activity is substantially limited by providing a clear sense of the severity, frequency and pervasiveness of the condition(s).
While relatively recent documentation is recommended in most circumstances, common sense and discretion in accepting older documentation of conditions that are permanent or non-varying is recommended. Likewise, changing conditions and/or changes in how the condition impacts the individual brought on by growth and development may warrant more frequent updates in order to provide an accurate picture. It is important to remember that documentation is not time-bound; the need for recent documentation depends on the facts and circumstances of the individual’s condition.
5. A description of the expected progression or stability of the disability
It is helpful when documentation provides information on expected changes in the functional impact of the disability over time and context. Information on the cyclical or episodic nature of the disability and known or suspected environmental triggers to episodes provides opportunities to anticipate and plan for varying functional impacts. If the condition is not stable, information on interventions (including the individual’s own strategies) for exacerbations and recommended timelines for re-evaluation are most helpful.
6. A description of current and past accommodations, services and/or medications
The most comprehensive documentation will include a description of both current and past medications, auxiliary aids, assistive devices, support services, and accommodations, including their effectiveness in ameliorating functional impacts of the disability. A discussion of any significant side effects from current medications or services that may impact physical, perceptual, behavioral or cognitive performance is helpful when included in the report. While accommodations provided in another setting are not binding on the current institution, they may provide insight in making current decisions.
7. Recommendations for accommodations, adaptive devices, assistive services, compensatory strategies, and/or collateral support services
Recommendations from professionals with a history of working with the individual provide valuable information for review and the planning process. It is most helpful when recommended accommodations and strategies are logically related to functional limitations; if connections are not obvious, a clear explanation of their relationship can be useful in decision-making. While the post-secondary institution has no obligation to provide or adopt recommendations made by outside entities, those that are congruent with the programs, services, and benefits offered by the college or program may be appropriate. When recommendations go beyond equitable and inclusive services and benefits, they may still be useful in suggesting alternative accommodations and/or services.
From “Seven Essential Elements of Quality Disability Documentation.” AHEAD. January 2004. 22 Feb. 2008: http://www.ahead.org/