Accessibility for individuals with disabil-
ities is the responsibility of everyone
on a college campus. However, this is
not always the reality. Most disability
support services (DSS) staff can relate
to the fact that students with disabilities
are often viewed as “their” students. We
do not refer to any other student group as
belonging to “that” office. So why are stu-
dents with disabilities the DSS students?
Students are the students of the institution, who may need to access various
services that the institution provides,
and this is no different for a student with
a disability. The consequence of doing
otherwise is to treat the student differently and have the DSS office act as a
case manager for the student.
Students with disabilities have the
same expectations as any other student:
to be able to complete their program of
study successfully and obtain meaningful
employment. Here’s some information
to help you better understand roles and
responsibilities and relevant laws.
WHAT ARE THE RELEVANT LAWS?
The Americans with Disabilities Act
Amendments Act (ADAAA) protects the
rights of individuals with disabilities
prohibiting discrimination in various
areas such as employment ( Title I), education ( Title II State & Local Government
Activities and Public Transportation)
and public accommodations ( Title III).
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of
1973 states that no qualified individual
with a disability in the United States
shall “be excluded from the participa-
tion in, be denied the benefits of, or be
subjected to discrimination under any
program or activity receiving federal
Section 508 states: “Individuals with
disabilities must be provided with the
same level of accessibility to electronic
information technology as individuals
WHAT IS THE INSTITUTION’S ROLE?
Your institution must provide reasonable accommodations, which are modifications to academic requirements that
are necessary to ensure equal access
to qualified individuals. This includes
ensuring the virtual and physical accessibility of all programs and services of the
institution—classrooms, course content,
learning management systems, etc. It’s
necessary to identify and maintain the
academic and technical standards that
are fundamental to providing a quality
academic program while ensuring the
rights of individuals with disabilities.
The institution has the right to refuse
any unreasonable accommodations
request, but must be able to select and
recommend accommodations that are
equally effective. And the institution
has the responsibility of informing
employees, applicants and students
about the process for requesting
accommodations, as well as the pro-
cedures for the process to appeal the
denial of an accommodation.
WHAT IS DSS RESPONSIBLE FOR?
The mission of the DSS office according
to the Council for the Advancement
of Standards in Higher Education is to
provide leadership and facilitate equal
access to all institutional opportunities for
individuals with disabilities. DSS staff are
advocates for individuals with disabilities.
The scope of DSS’ work includes
developing appropriate and relevant
office policies, procedures and practices
that address both virtual and physical accessibility; providing individual
consultation, accommodations and services for individuals with disabilities;
and disseminating information and
providing training and consultation to
faculty and staff. DSS staff also keeps
abreast of pertinent federal and state
laws and regulations.
WHAT IS THE STUDENT’S ROLE?
Students have the right to equal access
to programs and services, both physical
and virtual, offered at the institution that
is accessible as it is to their non-disabled
peers. But students also have the same
obligation as any other student to meet
and maintain the institution’s academic
and technical standards.
It’s the responsibility of the student
to request reasonable accommodations
and provide appropriate documentation to support the request. Students
also have the responsibility to advocate
for their own needs and to seek the
information and assistance necessary
for them to be effective.
If accommodations are denied, students have the right to appeal the institution’s decision and must be informed
of procedures for initiating an appeal.
Collaboration across campus to ensure
accessibility for all students is the key to
seeing students with disabilities as students of the institution and not individuals who belong to DSS office.
Glennis Daniels-Bacchus is the associate director of the
Student Success Center/ADA coordinator at College of
Southern Maryland in La Plata, Maryland.
Ensuring accessibility is
By Glennis Daniels-Bacchus