Disability Support Services Policy for Students

Policy Title Disability Support Services Policy for Students
Policy Category Ethics, Integrity, and Legal Compliance
Original Policy Approval Date July 18, 2017
Policies Superseded None
Responsible Office Provost
Related Policies None
Procedure Disability Support Services Procedure for Students
Frequency of Review 3 Years
Date of Next Review March 26, 2023
Date of Revision  

I. Scope

This Disability Support Services Policy (“Policy”) applies to all qualified students of the University in need of reasonable accommodations.

II. Policy Statement

The University is fully committed to providing equal opportunity to all students. As such, the purpose of this Policy is to provide an educational environment that is free from all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on disability.

III. Policy

A. Disability Defined

The University is fully committed to providing equal opportunity to all students, including students with disabilities, and to complying with its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), and Pennsylvania state law prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. An individual with a disability is defined as any person who  (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. Some examples of major life activities include seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, learning, reading, concentrating, and interacting with others.

B. Reasonable Accommodation Defined

According to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States... shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The regulations issued under this Act guarantee entrance of qualified students with disabilities into colleges and universities. A qualified student is entitled to receive a reasonable accommodation that allows for his or her full participation in the University’s educational and extra-curricular activities. Reasonable accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis. The University is not obligated to provide personal aids and services such as attendants, individually prescribed devices such as wheelchairs, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature.  

To be qualified, a student must meet the academic and technical requirements for admission. Under Section 504 of the Act, institutions of higher education are obligated to adhere to the following conditions:

  • During the pre-admission phase, the University cannot inquire about disability status, place a limit on the number of qualified students with disabilities who can be admitted, or exclude a student from a course of study solely based on disability status.Reasonable accommodations or adjustments in degree or academic course requirements must be made when such requirements discriminate against qualified students with disabilities.
  • Students with disabilities who feel discriminated against have the right to process complaints through the University civil rights channels and/or to initiate legal proceedings on an individual basis.
  • Academic requirements that the University can demonstrate as being essential to the program of instruction and/or to any directly related licensing requirement will not be regarded as discriminatory.

The University is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities to ensure their equal access and participation in the University’s programs. However, requests of students need not be provided when: (i) the student is not qualified; (ii) the accommodation would result in a fundamental alteration of the program; (iii) the institution is being asked to address a personal need; or (iv) the accommodation would impose an undue financial or administrative burden.

C. Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

The Office of Academic Development provides services and coordinates academic accommodations for students with disabilities. Students who wish to receive accommodations from the University due to a disability must meet with Disability Support Services (DSS). The University has assigned DSS the authority to make decisions regarding reasonable accommodations. The role of DSS is to assist students in obtaining the services and reasonable accommodations required to ensure equal access to all aspects of the student experience and to assist the University in meeting its compliance obligations.

It is a qualified student’s responsibility to alert the DSS of the existence of a disability if a student desires a reasonable accommodation. Qualified students should contact DSS located in Knight Hall at 215-572-4033.

Decisions regarding reasonable accommodations are made through an interactive process with DSS and the student and may involve consulting faculty or staff, as needed. DSS performs an individualized and case-by-case assessment of each qualified student’s disability and requested accommodations or modifications to determine whether and what accommodations or modifications can be made. The following factors are considered in determining appropriate accommodations:

  • The nature and functional impact of the student’s disability;
  • The history of accommodations;
  • The necessity of the requested accommodations and possible alternative accommodations; and
  • Whether the requested accommodations will alter the essential requirements of the course or program.

DSS reserves the right to request additional documentation if the initial documentation the student provides is incomplete or inadequate to determine the need for accommodations. In addition, DSS reserves the right to require documentation prepared by an appropriate, qualified medical professional, including, but not limited to, a statement regarding how the student’s disability affects a major life activity.

If the reasonable accommodation as initially provided is insufficient, upon receipt of notice of the insufficiency, DSS shall make a good faith effort to implement any appropriate additional measures necessary to mitigate the barriers to access.

If a student requests a reasonable accommodation directly from a faculty member or other administrator and no letter of accommodation has been sent by DSS, it is the faculty member’s responsibility to inform the student that services are available and to refer the student to DSS to begin the process of identifying with DSS and requesting reasonable accommodations To provide accommodations without verification, or to refuse to provide accommodations recommended by DSS, exposes a faculty member and the University to legal liability.  Faculty members are encouraged to consult with DSS if there are questions regarding accommodation issues.

D. Confidentiality

DSS is committed to ensuring that all information and communication pertaining to a student’s disability is maintained as confidential as required or permitted by law. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects this information. No one will have access to student files in DSS except appropriate staff of DSS.  Any information provided to DSS regarding a disability is considered confidential and will be shared only with others within the University who have a legitimate educational or legal interest. A student’s file, as part of their official University Academic Record, may be released pursuant to a court order or subpoena. If a student wishes to have information about their disability shared with others outside the University, the student must provide written authorization to DSS in order to release the information. 

E. Appeal & Grievance

Any disagreements regarding a requested service, reasonable accommodation, or adjustment should be brought to the attention of DSS as soon as possible. DSS staff and the Assistant Dean of Academic Development will make efforts to negotiate a resolution. See Procedures for additional information.

IV. Procedures

See the Procedures related to this Policy.

V. Effective Date

This Policy shall be effective on the date that it is signed by the President

VI. Date of Approval

July 18, 2017