Staff Development

What are those words they keep throwing at us?
DSPS vocabulary

What is the definition of Qualifying Disability?

  • A student who has provided DSPS with validated documentation of their disability
  • A student who otherwise has met the academic and technical standards of the course
  • A student who, with accommodations, can perform the essential tasks of the course

Who determines which students are legally entitled the accommodations and which accommodations are appropriate?

It is the one of the essential functions of the faculty in the DSPS program to determine the educational limitations of the student based on their documentation and a personal interview.

We then determine what reasonable accommodations help compensate for these limitations.

Each DSPS professional has one or more areas of expertise, keeps current in regard to legislation and best practices for service to individuals with disabilities and accepts responsibility for adhering to established professional guidelines so that YOU, as our faculty, can trust that our judgments and decisions are legally and ethically sound.

What do you mean by reasonable accommodations?

First, it is important to know that there is a fundamental difference between a modification and an accommodation.

Those coming from a K-12 situation may be used to using these words interchangeably. However...

    • A modification suggests that a change was made to a course that actually affected the number of assignments, the length of assignments, the amount of reading required, etc.
    • A student new to college may request more time to complete a writing assignment, such as a term paper requirement.  Of course, you may work out your own arrangements to assist any student you choose; however, this is a modification, and therefore not required.

An accommodation is driven by an education limitation beyond the control of the student and resulting from their disability. It can be an information processing deficit that affects short term memory or speed of task completion, for example. The following best define a "reasonable accommodation." Please don't confuse "reasonable" with "easy."

  • An accommodation levels the playing field so a student has equal access to materials and equal opportunity to be evaluated appropriately by the instructor.
    • Examples: A student with a central auditory processing deficit can benefit from sitting up front of the class (to minimize distractions), having written materials to back up what they might miss auditorily (such as captioned videos or PowerPoint printouts), or even having an instructor use a “stereo ear” system where he/she speaks into a microphone and the words go directly into a headset the student is wearing.
    • A student with a processing speed deficit will need extra time on tests, a note-taker, and the opportunity to have information repeated more than once for understanding (best accommodated by use of a tape recorder or SMART PEN).
  • An accommodation is based on documented individual needs
  • It does not compromise the essential requirements of a course
  • It does not pose a threat to personal or public safety
  • It is not based on needs of a personal nature
  • It does not impose undue financial or administrative burden

The last one is obviously a tricky area. Obviously, for example, if a student is entitled to extra time on a test  and there is no one able to assist in DSPS, the instructor is still responsible for providing the accommodation.  This may seem like an administrative burden to the instructor, but it is nevertheless required. It may seem costly to have a video captioned or buy a new one that is already captioned, but a printed text of the material spoken on the video has to be available.

Remember, we are here to help.  If you are concerned about how to provide an authorized accommodation, please call DSPS for clarification and recommendations.

Next: That doesn't seem fair!

Professional Development

Howard Blumenfeld
Professional Development Coordinator


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Page last modified: February 25, 2014