Disability Services

Accommodations

The Accommodation Letter

At the beginning of the semester you may be approached by a student with a disability, who has a letter written by staff at the Office for Disability Services (ODS). This letter will provide an explanation of how the student's disability impacts his/her learning. The letter will also contain suggested classroom accommodations for the student based on his/her disability. It is the student's responsibility to present this to you early in the semester so that accommodation procedures are clear from the start. It is best to meet with the student individually to discuss the accommodations and how they will be carried out. If you have any questions or need clarification regarding the suggested accommodations, you may contact the staff that has signed the letter.

NOTE: University faculty and staff do not have the right or a need to access diagnostic or other information regarding a student's disability; they only need to know that accommodations are necessary or appropriate to meet the student's disability-related needs. If a student has requested an accommodation, the student will be informed as to what information is being provided to the faculty or staff regarding the request. To protect confidentiality by assuring limited access, all disability-related information must be filed with Disability Services.

Sample Accommodation Letter

Typical Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Flexibility and effective communication between student and instructor are key in approaching accommodations. Although students with similar disabilities may require different accommodations, it is helpful to be aware of typical strategies for working with students who have various types of impairments.

Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabilities are documented disabilities that may affect reading, processing information, remembering, calculating, and spatial abilities. Examples of accommodations for students who have specific learning disabilities include:

  • Notetakers and/or audiotaped class sessions, captioned films
  • Extra exam time, alternative testing arrangements
  • Visual and tactile instructional demonstrations
  • Computer with voice output, spellchecker, and grammar checker

Mobility Impairments

Mobility Impairments may make walking, sitting, bending, carrying, or using fingers, hands or arms difficult or impossible. Mobility impairments result from many causes, including amputation, polio, club foot, scoliosis, spinal cord injury, and cerebral palsy. Typical accommodations for students with mobility impairments include:

  • Notetaker, lab assistant, group lab assignments
  • Classrooms, labs, and field trips in accessible locations
  • Adjustable tables, lab equipment located within reach
  • Class assignments made available in electronic format
  • Computer equipped with special input device (e.g., voice input, Morse code, alternative keyboard)

Health Impairments

Health Impairments affect daily living and involve the lungs, kidneys, heart, muscles, liver, intestines, immune systems, and other body parts (e.g., cancer, kidney failure, AIDS). Typical accommodations for students who have health impairments include:

  • Notetaker or copy of another student's notes
  • Flexible attendance requirements and extra exam time
  • Assignments made available in electronic format, use of email to facilitate communication

Mental Illness

Mental Illness includes mental health and psychiatric disorders that affect daily living. Examples of accommodations of for students with these conditions include:

  • Notetaker, copy of another student's notes, or recording of lectures
  • Extended time on assignments and tests
  • A non-distracting, quiet setting for assignments and tests

Hearing Impairments

Hearing Impairments make it difficult or impossible to hear lecturers, access multimedia materials, and participate in discussions. Examples of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing include:

  • Interpreter, real-time captioning, FM system, notetaker
  • Open or closed-captioned films, use of visual aids
  • Written assignments, lab instructions, demonstration summaries
  • Visual warning systems for lab emergencies
  • Use of electronic mail for class and private discussions

Blindness

Blindness refers to the disability of students who cannot read printed text, even when enlarged. Typical accommodations include:

  • Audiotaped, Brailled or electronic-formatted lecture notes, handouts, and texts
  • Verbal descriptions of visual aids
  • Raised-line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials
  • Braille lab signs and equipment labels, auditory lab warning signals
  • Adaptive lab equipment (e.g., talking thermometers and calculators, light probes, and tactile timers)
  • Computer with optical character readers, voice output, Braille screen display and printer output

Low Vision

Low Vision refers to students who have some usable vision, but cannot read standard-size text, have field deficits (for example, cannot see peripherally or centrally but can see well in other ranges), or other visual impairments. Typical accommodations include:

  • Seating near front of class
  • Large print handouts, lab signs, and equipment labels
  • TV monitor connected to microscope to enlarge images
  • Class assignments made available in electronic format
  • Computer equipped to enlarge screen characters and images

Testing Accommodation Procedures for Students with Disabilities

Office for Disability Service's responsibilities:

  • Review written documentation of the functional limitations and associated educational recommendations for each student
  • Prepare an "accommodation letter" summarizing the appropriate educational accommodations
  • Proctor exams which require any of the following:
    • Reader
    • Writer
    • Sign language or oral interpreter
    • Computer for word processing
    • Tape recorder
    • Barrier-free site
    • Extended time of greater than "time and a half"

Student's responsibilities:

  • Provide written documentation from a qualified practitioner that describes the nature of their disability, functional limitations due to the disability, severity of these limitations, and reasonable accommodations.
  • Review accommodation requests with the Disability Services Counselor
  • Share the "accommodation letter" with each course instructor early in the semester and explain what accommodations are required
  • Appear on time and complete exams in accordance with University policies on academic integrity (Senate Policy 48-20 in 1995-96 Policies and Rules, p. 43)
  • Notify Disability Services if the accommodations are not satisfactory.
  • Notify Disability Services promptly if you are scheduled to take an exam at the Health and Wellness Center and the exam is canceled or if you are not taking the exam for some reason.

Course Instructor's and Academic Department's Responsibilities:

  • Review the "accommodation letter" and discuss educational recommendations with the student.
  • Discuss options to accommodate the student's testing needs including addressing issues related to the provision of a distraction limited space and quiet location.
  • Contact Disability Services to resolve any questions about disability documentation and testing recommendations made.
  • Complete a modified testing form provided by the student approximately 1 week before the scheduled exam if the exam is to be scheduled at the Health and Wellness Center.

Other issues:

  • Time of testing: Disability Services administers exams at specified times indicated on the Modified Testing Request form provided for each semester.
  • Test materials: Disability Services will ask the faculty about other materials that are allowed for the test such as calculators, textbooks, notes, formulas, etc. Only those items, which have been approved by the faculty, will be allowed.
  • Canceled tests: In the interest of conserving our resources, it is critical to notify Disability Services immediately if tests are canceled.
  • Alternate test formats: Example: Enlarging exams.
  • Academic honesty: Disability Services instructs its proctors to write a description of any behavior that is questionable and which may breach policies regarding academic honesty. Proctors are instructed not to confront students.

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 jyh1@psu.edu for additional information.