Working with Students with Disabilities
Can students request course substitutions?
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.