Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities
The mission of the Disability Resource Center (DRC) is to unite the Montclair State University community in an effort to provide students with disabilities the excellence and equity in education to which they are legally entitled. Support from faculty is integral to the achievement of this mission.
It is our hope that sharing this information with you will promote collaboration between the DRC and faculty, as well as provide you with some strategies to see that all of our students are encouraged to meet their full potential.
A student may approach you and will refer to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, as part of their education in high school. If a student mentions either of these documents, please refer the student to the DRC. You are not required to ask about their affiliation with the DRC and should refer them to contact us directly for more information. A sample conversation to assist faculty refer students to the DRC is included below. Feel free to modify to fit the specific communication method and your comfort level, as needed.
I’m glad you mentioned your IEP/ 504 to me. You’ll need to register with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to establish accommodations at Montclair. The DRC provides a variety of accommodations and support for registered students. Please visit their website to begin the application process. They are located in Cole Hall, Room 331 if you’d like to speak with one of the staff directly. Once you complete your registration with the DRC, they will provide you with an accommodation plan for your courses.
Although it may seem simpler to just accommodate students directly without the involvement of the DRC, that approach can be risky. The DRC exists to ensure an accessible, inclusive environment at Montclair State University. Our staff are trained to understand a wide spectrum of diagnoses and access needs, to read supporting documentation from providers, and to understand the ever-evolving nature of the laws and regulations surrounding disability accommodations. Our work ensures an equitable experience for all students with disabilities on the Montclair State University campus.
If faculty provide an accommodation without proper documentation, other students can challenge your treatment as preferential. Also, by providing an unsubstantiated accommodation, you may set a pattern under which a student can claim to be “considered as having a disability” under the law. Therefore, when students approach faculty about disability issues, we strongly recommend you refer them to our office.
If you have questions about a student’s accommodations, we encourage you to reach out to the DRC for support – we are here to assist!
Section 504 and the ADA are very specific regarding confidentiality issues. Students voluntarily affiliate themselves with the DRC, and we take our responsibility to protect their confidentiality seriously. The law permits dissemination of disability-related information on a “need-to-know” basis only. Therefore, when we alert faculty, we are permitted to disclose only the existence, not the nature, of a disability and what accommodations are necessary to equalize access to learning for that student. Asking intrusive questions of the student, discussing the student’s disability or access needs with others, or requesting/requiring supporting documentation, no matter how well-intentioned, is a violation of federal law.
Students must self-identify to begin the registration process. The DRC uses an online database called AIM to administer accommodations. Students complete an online application and provide supporting documentation. Documentation is then reviewed and a DRC staff member is assigned as their Counselor. The student is contacted via email to schedule an intake appointment to discuss their academic accommodation plan further. During that meeting, the assigned DRC Counselor develops the accommodation plan and reviews the steps to notify faculty and request/schedule specific accommodations (e.g., additional testing time, deadline extensions, etc.). Accommodations are not active until the student requests the Accommodation Notice in AIM.
As a faculty member, you are not required to review or receive documentation to determine accommodations. Instead, a referral to the DRC is appropriate. The referral should occur in a private, confidential setting (e.g., email or during office hours) and can recommend the DRC as a support service. A sample email is included below. Feel free to adapt as applicable and appropriate:
Thank you for your email regarding accommodations in this course. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) provides a variety of accommodations and support for registered students. Given the concerns in your email, I recommend registering with the DRC for further assistance. I included the link to the DRC website to begin the application process below: https://www.montclair.edu/disability-resource-center/
Feel free to contact the DRC with any questions.
The DRC provides a variety of academic and student life-related accommodations in accordance with supporting documentation and an interactive meeting. All accommodations must be requested by the student and provide supporting documentation and/or forms. Accommodations are modifications made to minimize the discriminatory effects on learning for students with disabilities. The request must be reasonable, appropriate, and timely. Such an accommodation is not meant to decrease the standards for academic performance. Rather, the accommodation makes it possible for the student to learn the material and for the instructor to fairly assess the student’s mastery of the material.
Examples of Accommodations Include:
- Additional testing time
- Note-taking assistance
- Deadline extensions
- Use of calculator
- Alternate format textbooks
- ASL interpreters and/or CART/captioning providers
As part of the self-identification process, students must request the Accommodation Notice each semester using the online database, AIM. Although a student may be registered with the DRC, accommodations are not active nor required until the student requests the Accommodation Notice in AIM. The DRC approves accommodation requests in AIM daily during business hours (excluding weekends, holidays and Fridays during the summer). Once approved, the Notice is sent to the student and faculty instructor via email.
Faculty can also view the Accommodation Notice in AIM using the steps below:
- Faculty will use their Net-ID username and password to log-in to AIM.
- Scroll to ‘Continue to View Student Accommodations’
- A list of each student who requested the Notice will populate
- Select ‘View’ to view the student’s Accommodation Notice
- Faculty can also complete the Alternative Testing Agreement to inform the DRC of the testing conditions for each quiz/exam in the selected course.
Absolutely! The DRC offers faculty the option of having their in person exams proctored in our Testing Center. In that setting, we are able to provide a distraction-reduced environment, extended time, and/or the use of technology which may be necessary to accommodate the student. The DRC Testing Center utilizes camera surveillance accessed by the DRC staff only to proctor students. The Center is available to DRC students only and cannot assist with makeup exam requests for non-DRC registered students in your course.
The Accommodation Notice- provided via email at the student’s request- informs instructors of the student’s approved testing-related accommodations. The student must then schedule the quiz/exam with the DRC, as needed. Please note that students can elect to complete some quizzes/exams (e.g., weekly quizzes or Exam 1) with the class and others (e.g., midterm, finals, etc.) with the DRC.
The DRC is always willing to assist you with test proctoring, or you may make your own arrangements, as long as the accommodation needs of the student are met. At no time can the DRC or the student dictate where an exam must be taken or under whose supervision. Individual instructors have the choice of providing necessary accommodations or referring the student to the DRC.
Faculty Guidelines for Alternative Testing Arrangements
The Disability Resource Center (DRC) utilizes a paperless, online database to manage accommodations including alternative testing requests. The paper Alternate Exam Request Form is no longer used to request exams with the DRC. Instead, requests are made by the student in AIM using the Alternative Testing feature. The course instructor provides the testing information by completing the Alternative Testing Agreement in AIM. We offer these reference points to ensure the best results for faculty and students coordinating exams with the DRC:
Students must request the Accommodation Notice and select testing accommodations in the current course in AIM prior to requesting testing accommodations. Accommodation Notices are generated and emailed to instructors and the student.
After requesting the Accommodation Notice, the student must login to AIM, select ‘Alternative Testing’ and complete the steps to request the quiz/exam in the DRC Testing Center.
- Students must request the Accommodation Notice and select testing accommodations in the current course in AIM prior to requesting testing accommodations. Accommodation Notices are generated and emailed to instructors and the student.
- After requesting the Accommodation Notice, the student must login to AIM, select ‘Alternative Testing’ and complete the steps to request the quiz/exam in the DRC Testing Center.
- After receipt of the Accommodation Notice email, faculty must complete the Alternative Testing Agreement to provide the testing conditions for all course quizzes and exams, when applicable. The Agreement can be accessed using the link provided within the Accommodation Notice email OR login to the faculty portal in AIM (Faculty Login). Testing accommodations that the student requests and receives must be in accordance with those approved by the DRC. Please note: Faculty can complete the Testing Agreement prior to the student’s testing request; however, the student must request the quiz/exam in AIM to take the exam in the DRC Testing Center.
- Faculty indicate exam conditions in the ‘Special Testing Instructions’ section. Testing conditions should include: allowed testing materials (e.g., calculator, open notes, or open book); the allotted testing time for the class to complete the quiz/exam (the DRC will adjust additional testing time accordingly) and; all required software or tools to complete the test.
- Faculty must also indicate your preference for the delivery and receipt of the quiz/exam. Instructors are responsible for the secure and timely submission of exam materials via the method of their choice; however, campus mail is not recommended. Please note that the Disability Resource Center does not pick up exams. Faculty who decide to send tests with the student who will be taking them are strongly encouraged to seal materials in an envelope that you sign and date. Students must provide at least three (3) business days’ notice of an alternative testing request.
- Students may ask anything they like, but that doesn’t always mean it is a reasonable accommodation. If you ever feel there is some question as to the validity of an accommodation request, contact the DRC.
Our objective with respect to testing, is to provide the reasonable accommodations requested by a student with an access need, and to otherwise ensure the exam is conducted within the parameters prescribed by you. We hope that by administering exams at the DRC, we offer an effective service to both you and the student.
The DRC is here to advocate for students and support faculty. Although it may seem contradictory to some that DRC’s goal is to team with faculty to accommodate the student, that is our true mission. We advocate for the students, but we are also available to consult with and assist faculty in meeting the University’s legal responsibilities to students with disabilities. We’re happy to:
- Answer any questions you may have about the accommodation process
- Mediate misunderstandings between students and faculty regarding approved accommodations
- Proctor your exams in our testing center
- Talk to your class(es) about accessibility-related issues
- Discuss new and different ways to accommodate students.
Additional Faculty Resources
A syllabus statement provides students with information necessary to request accommodations due to their disability/access need. Any student with a documented disability/access need requiring accommodations should make arrangements through the Disability Resource Center (DRC). A sample statement is provided below:
Montclair State University is committed to assisting students with disabilities/access needs in receiving accommodations necessary to equalize access. Students who may need accommodations based on a documented condition must self-disclose and initiate the request to the Disability Resource Center (DRC). The student is responsible for providing the DRC with documentation of their diagnosed condition(s) that meets DRC guidelines for review. An intake meeting will take place with the student and a DRC counselor to determine reasonable accommodations. Please know that accommodations require time to implement and are not set in place until we meet with a student. For more information, please contact the Disability Resource Center by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (973) 655-5431.
In collaboration with Instructional Technology and Design Services (ITDS), the DRC provides training to faculty and staff to assist them in learning what is required to make documents and course materials accessible. Included in this effort is the Digital Accessibility Initiative, ensuring that people with access needs have an opportunity equal to those of their nondisabled peers to participate in the University’s programs, benefits, and services, including those delivered through electronic and information technology.
Additional assistance to create accessible course materials is available through ITDS and listed below:
ACCESSCollege: The Faculty Room
The Faculty Room is a space for faculty and administrators at post secondary institutions to learn about how to create classroom environments and academic activities that maximize the learning of all students, including those with disabilities.
The Disability, Awareness, Training, and Empowerment (DATE) takes a broad perspective in examining the activities, attitudes, myths, misunderstandings, technologies, and pedagogical practices that can limit inclusion in the university setting. In a 90-minute, highly interactive session, attendees will gain a better understanding of disability law; the rights and responsibilities of the institution, its faculty, staff, and students; and best practices for inclusion for individuals with disabilities. Unless otherwise listed, training is open to all students, faculty and staff with an interest in creating and promoting inclusivity and access.