Q. What if I believe that an approved accommodation compromises an essential component of my class or Southern’s program (major/minor)?
A. Immediately contact the Disability Services Director (DSD) to discuss the issue. The following information is crucial to the discussion of how or if the student can be accommodated in the manner he/she has requested:
- Specific essential components that might be compromised,
- The nature of those components,
- The reasons those components are “essential.”
Note: Often these reasons are “obvious” to people in a certain field but not to those outside that area of expertise, so explanations need to be clear enough that the DSD could use them to support Southern’s decision for a Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigator.
Caution: The Accommodations Data Sheet (ADS) is a legal statement of the Accommodations Committee's decision, so only that committee can make any changes to that document.
Q. How do I provide observable accommodations without breaking confidentiality?
A. This can be a challenging issue. The best answer is to have a conversation with the student so that you know what the student wishes or understands about how the accommodations might compromise his/her confidentiality. A student’s level of need for confidentiality usually depends on the nature of the disability and how long the student has been dealing with it, so the best source for information on this issue is the student. Documenting such a conversation with the student is highly recommended.
Note: The DSD counsels students to present their ADSs at times when they can discuss
the manner in which the accommodations might be provided. When students fail to follow
that counsel, the professor is encouraged to have students set appointments to have
those discussions privately.
Q. Sometimes I see the need for an accommodation, but the student in need of it has not gone to DSS and/or has not provided an ADS. Don’t I have the right to provide the accommodation anyway?
A. Providing accommodations that have not resulted from the official process puts the professor and Southern at legal risk. The primary issues include:
- Such decisions can be made only after examining appropriate documentation. A professor's receipt of such documentation can have legal repercussions.
- "Arrangements" by one professor can be perceived by the student as "accommodations" and cause the student to put pressure on other faculty for the same arrangements.
- Disability laws provide rights to people who are "perceived" as having a disability, even if they do not, so providing an accommodation without approval could open Southern to claims of discrimination based on that perception.
- The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) can investigate a complaint made by a student if one professor provides an "accommodation" that another professor does not.
- Scholastic “success” without documented accommodations could undermine a student's
receipt of accommodations in other settings (e.g. graduate school or employment).
Q. Is there anything I can do to minimize the need for academic accommodation(s) in my classes?
A. Yes. Universal Design in Instruction, which grew out of architectural design, provides access to learning for students with a wide variety of abilities and learning styles, thus improving the educational experience for all students. The following link takes you to valuable resources on the subject: