Penn State Altoona Policy Statement
Generally, all courses prescribed for the major in Penn State Altoona degree programs are considered essential, and therefore, course substitutions are very rarely granted. A student who has a documented disability and is concerned that performance in a prescribed course may be affected by the disability is strongly encouraged to arrange for an intake meeting with the Office of Disability Services as soon as possible. Requests for course substitutions generally cannot be made prior to entrance to a major. All requests for course substitutions must be finalized prior to the student's semester of graduation.
- After an intake meeting between the Disability Services counselor and the student, the documentation is reviewed and evaluated to determine if it meets Penn State's guidelines. The student is directed to submit a written letter of request with rationale as to the reason for the request. The student may also submit any corroborating information from other sources to support the course substitution.
- A Documentation Review board reviews the documentation to determine eligibility under the ADA. The Board, consists of disability specialists, psychologists, medical professionals, and other assigned staff. The Board determines if: (a) the documentation meets Penn State's guidelines for appropriate documentation, (b) if the student's condition meets the criteria for have a disability under the ADA, and (c) if there is sufficient evidence to warrant support of a course substitution as a reasonable accommodation based on the strength of the clinical documentation, academic history, severity of identified functional limitations and accommodation history.
- The Disability Services counselor will provide a verification letter to the appropriate division head if the course substitution is deemed to be a reasonable and necessary accommodation in order for the student to succeed within the major.
- Upon receipt of the verification letter, the division head will consult with the coordinator in the program where the substitution is requested. This division head may also consult with the Office of Disability Services about the nature and degree of the disability, alternative reasonable accommodations, and appropriate courses for substitution. The division head will determine whether or not the substitution is appropriate, and will inform the student, program coordinator, and Office of Disability Services in writing of the decision.
- If the division head determines that the course substitution is not appropriate due to the essential nature of the course to the program or the lack of an equivalent alternative, the student may appeal the decision to the Director of Academic Affairs. If the appeal is denied, the student may choose to follow Penn State's approved procedure and file a grievance regarding this decision with Penn State's Affirmative Action Office.
Course Substitutions - General Information
All students who seek to earn a baccalaureate degree from Penn State must complete a minimum of six credits of general quantification (GQ). There are many courses that fulfill this requirement, therefore, course substitutions are generally not granted for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities who are concerned about their ability to fulfill the GQ requirement should contact their academic adviser and/or the appropriate staff person in the Office for Disability Services.
Foreign Language Courses
Recognizing that the nature and severity of some disabilities may preclude learning a foreign language even with reasonable accommodations, the University will permit the substitution of specific courses. Because these requirements are often important parts of a program, each case must be carefully considered on an individual basis before a decision is made by the appropriate Dean of the student's College or Division Head for individual campus majors. If a foreign language is an essential component of a student's program (for example, if a student is majoring in international business) a substitution will not be considered.
The following procedures must be followed if a student with a disability is seeking a modification of the foreign language requirement:
- The petition process should begin as soon as there is strong evidence that the student may be unable to fulfill the foreign language requirement due to a disability.
- The student must provide the appropriate staff person in the Office for Disability Services with current, relevant, and comprehensive documentation and data from relevant professionals. This documentation must substantiate a severe disability and its specific impact on the student's ability to learn a foreign language.
When the appropriate staff person within the Office for Disability Services reviews the student's documentation and supporting evidence, information will be related to the student as to whether there is enough data to support a request for a course substitution. The documentation may also be reviewed by the Penn State Altoona Documentation Review Board. The documentation review board will review all academic substitution petitions for Penn State Altoona majors. If there is sufficient data to support a request for a course substitution, and if the documentation provides sufficient validation to support the request, a letter of support will be written. The student must also prepare a letter outlining the rationale for the request for a course substitution. The student gives his/her letter to the staff person in the Office for Disability Services and it is forwarded with the petition packet to the appropriate Division Head at Penn State Altoona if the student is enrolled in an Altoona campus major. For University Park majors, the Disability Services staff will forward the student's documentation, assessment, review board determination (if applicable), academic history, and petition packet to Disability Services at University Park for disposition.
If there is not sufficient data to support a request for a course substitution, the staff person within the Office for Disability Services will discuss options with the student. The student may also be referred to his/her academic advisor, tutoring services, or the Division of Undergraduate Studies. Some students find that they are able to fulfill the foreign language requirement by enrolling in the Intensive Institute offered each summer at the University Park Campus. Other students find that it is possible to complete the foreign language requirement by using a variety of accommodations and strategies.
Welcome to the Disability Services at Penn State Altoona. At Penn State, we are committed to providing a welcoming, encouraging, and empowering environment for students with disabilities to ensure equal access, full participation and reasonable accommodations for their academic pursuits. Disability Services is responsible for coordinating support services, reasonable academic accommodations, and promoting disability awareness in the university community. I encourage you to consider participation on the Penn State Altoona Disability Services Advisory Board if you would like to have a more active role in enhancing the services to students at Penn State Altoona who receive services. Please contact Dr. Joy Himmel at email@example.com for additional information.