Disability Services for Students
Table of Contents
Office of Disability Services for Students
Western Michigan University maintains the Office of Disability Services for Students (DSS) to help assure compliance with the rules and regulations set forth by various congressional acts, i.e., the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990. This office has created an atmosphere of opportunity by providing services and mediating considerations for students.
The primary goal of the Office of Disability Services for Students is to ensure access for students with documented disabilities and to contribute to the development of self-advocacy and confidence of students with disabilities. We encourage students to take control of their own learning and to discuss the means for arranging types of appropriate support. In addition, we serve as an advocate for students in determining appropriate considerations.
This handbook describes student rights and responsibilities, procedures for requesting accommodations, and information about campus resources. DSS recommends that you read this handbook thoroughly, as it will be a useful reference throughout college and beyond.
In recent years, laws have been passed to protect the rights of disabled persons. A disability is a physical or mental impairment that impedes normal achievement. These laws ensure the rights of people with physical and mental impairments, as well as those with learning disabilities and emotional disturbances.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit discrimination against disabled people by state and local governments or businesses who receive federal funding. This includes public accommodations such as those provided by Western Michigan University. Title II and Section 504 help ensure that you will have the same opportunities for success as other WMU students. The section that directly affects Western Michigan University states:
“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, . . . shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance...” (The United States Department of Education:
Western Michigan University is obligated to make reasonable academic adjustments and accommodations only to the known limitations of otherwise qualified students with disabilities. However, these laws do not require, expect, or imply the lowering of academic standards or altering of any course’s content. The laws also don’t require WMU to provide adjustments and accommodations that are unduly burdensome and are never done at the expense of the essential standards. The laws do require, expect, and imply that the institution must provide reasonable accommodations to assure equal access to the information within the academic setting. For example, for a student who meets every entrance requirement for a specific college course but cannot read the printed text due to a documented visual impairment, that institution must make alternative forms of the book (i.e. Braille, audio or electronic text) available.
For purposes of understanding, the following definitions and explanations have been included.
A person with a disability includes any person who:
Major life activities include:
A “qualified person with a disability” is defined as one:
A student with a disability has an obligation to:
The College’s obligations under section 504 and the ADA:
Academic Adjustments and Accommodations:
The key word is reasonable.
Reasonable academic adjustments and accommodations include but are not limited to:
(Questions about whether or not a request is reasonable should be discussed with the DSS director)
Colleges are NOT required to provide:
Important Note: All academic adjustments and/or accommodations are based upon the recommendations included in a student’s written documentation. Documentation does not necessarily entitle a student to all of the considerations listed above.
The Office of Disability Services for Students (DSS) reviews the documentation of each student who discloses a disability and determines appropriate academic adjustments and/or accommodations. The responsibility of providing academic adjustments and accommodations and complying with the ADA rests with all employees of Western Michigan University. The DSS encourages faculty members to help students secure academic adjustments and/or accommodations. Considerations, such as extended time for testing, alternate test sites, copies of lecture notes, and permission to tape lectures, can often be arranged most efficiently by the student in cooperation with DSS and the instructor. The Director of Disability Services for Students is available to discuss the appropriateness of academic adjustments and accommodations with instructors when necessary. For more information about understanding and accommodating students with disabilities, please contact the Office of Disability Services for Students at (269) 387-2116.
Documentation of disabilities is essential in order for Disability Services for Students to implement academic adjustments and/or accommodations. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act provides for eligibility of services through guidelines, which must be adhered to by DSS. Basically, documentation includes the physician’s or other professional’s summary of tests given, the interpretation of those tests, outline of the history of the disability, and any prescribed remedies, such as hearing devices or medications. The extent of the documentation needed varies, depending on the type of disability.
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, in the pamphlet "Students with Disabilities Preparing for Post secondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities," discuss documentation and how post secondary institutions have different requirements than the K-12 system. It goes on to explain what to do if the documentation does not meet the requirements of the post secondary school. Page six states:
"If the documentation that you have does not meet the post secondary school's requirements, a school official must tell you in a timely manner what additional documentation you need to provide. You may need a new evaluation in order to provide the required documentation."
The pamphlet, under a separate heading on page six, goes on to say:
"Neither your high school nor your post secondary school is required to conduct or pay for a new evaluation to document your disability and need for an academic adjustment. This may mean you will have to pay or find funding to pay an appropriate professional to do it..."
It is not DSS's intention to put an undo burden on you for your documentation, however, it is imperative that we know the "current" state of your disability and how it affects the life activities at this stage of your life.
Contain the following information:
Diagnosis by an audiologist with audiogram included describing scope of hearing loss:
Disability Services for Students at Western Michigan University is under Federal Regulations regarding the confidentiality of any student documentation and disability. Any and all documentation provided to this office is treated as confidential medical records and are not released to anyone outside of the accommodation process within the office, except under the following circumstances:
DSS staff will not release or discuss a student’s disability or information given to this office to a parent, spouse, or other party not specified on the Buckley release. DSS will not disclose a student's specific disability with faculty members, however, the impact a disability has on a class is not considered disclosure and can be discussed.
An initial contact with DSS is usually a phone call at which time an appointment will be arranged for a confidential discussion of disability. Documentation of the disability by a qualified physician, psychologist, neurologist, or other professional will be requested. This documentation must include: the physician’s or other professional’s summary of tests given, the interpretation of those tests, outline of the history of the disability, and any prescribed remedies, such as hearing devices or medications. The documentation may be submitted at the initial appointment, faxed, attached to an email, or through regular postal delivery. Please be aware that accommodation services cannot begin until the documentation has been accepted and qualifications determined.
In the first appointment with DSS, the student will discuss with the director or assistant director how his/her disability affects academic and other areas, supports used in the past, and what accommodations might be available at the university. The student learns how to access the services (which may be different than high school or former schools) and the responsibilities that are associated with disability accommodations. The student is encouraged to meet with the director/assistant director for regular appointments or whenever there is a need.
After a student has been qualified for services, the student will complete a Disability Accommodations Verification request for a DAV Card. The card informs the instructor that the student has a disability for which academic adjustments are requested. The cards do not inform the instructors of the exact disability – just that there is one. The student is responsible for picking up the card and showing them to each instructor. It is recommended that appointments during instructor’s office hours be made for this purpose. Confidentiality is controlled in this one-on-one meeting, but, more importantly, the instructor has an opportunity to discuss with you how the accommodations may impact the classroom.
Following the initial office meeting, the student may meet with DSS whenever needed. Test accommodations should be discussed with professors first to determine if there is a room near the classroom or in the department offices that a student could use or if the test can be taken at DSS. The student must contact DSS if he or she is going to utilize the testing rooms at DSS by calling to make an appointment for a room. Tests and exams must be taken at the same time as scheduled for the class unless otherwise approved by the instructor. This request must be at least three business days in advance for a testing room and at least five business days in advance if a reader/scribe is needed. Students are given priority registration opportunities to gain access to classes which best fit their disability needs, such as time of day or number of days per week. Staff with DSS can help with study skills, time management, organization of papers and proper use of citation for APA, MLA, scientific, and other formal writing guidelines.
You are encouraged to speak directly with faculty members regarding any academic adjustments/accommodations you need. Approaching faculty members on your own is an excellent way to increase your self-confidence and ability to discuss your needs. This is good preparation for life beyond college, where there may not be as many support services in place to help you arrange accommodations. Discussing your needs with faculty members helps them better understand your situation and allows them to get to know you personally.
To request academic adjustments/accommodations from your professors, you must show your DAV card from the DSS office. This card verfies that documentation of your disability is on file with our office and that you are eligible for special considerations.
Please follow these steps to request academic adjustments and/or accommodations:
Discussing the nature of your disability (not the disability itself) with your instructors is imperative to helping them understand your needs. This can seem challenging, especially for beginning students who have not had much experience discussing the impact of their disabilities or accommodations. The ability to clearly request accommodations and explain your needs isa skill that will help you in all aspects of life. The following are some suggestions that can make your discussions with faculty members more successful.
Outlined below are the topics covered in a typical student/instructor meeting. Examples are listed in italics.
1. Introductions. Introduce yourself and tell the instructor in which class you are enrolled. This is also a good time for small talk or a comment about class.
"Hi Dr._____. My name is _____. I'm in your Geography 101 class and am really enjoying it so far."
2. Reason for Meeting. Explain that you have a disability and that you need certain accommodations. You can show the instructor your card at this time. You may need to provide a rationale for the accommodations if the instructor does not have previous experience in this area.
"I wanted to have this meeting to talk to about my disability and to work out accommodations for me. Here is my card from Disability Services for Students describing appropriate accommodations for my disability."
"I'm here to discuss with you the need for having accommodations in your class for my disability. The accommodations won't require much work on your part, but they will make a big difference in my academic success."
"I have a disability that can be compensated for with a few accommodations."
3. Arrange Accommodations. Describe the appropriate accommodations for your disability. Try to arrange these accommodations with your instructors during the meeting. For example, if extended time and a quiet room are two of your accommodations, please ask your instructors whether they would feel comfortable having you take the test at DSS or if they have a quiet room you would be able to take the test in. It is your responsibility to contact DSS to reserve a testing room at the DSS office. Please be prepared to tell the Office Associate how the professor is going to get the test to DSS as well as what class the test is for, the time you are planning to take the test, and date the test will be given. You must reserve a room if you choose to take any test at DSS. No “walk-ins” will be honored.
Follow up with questions such as:
"How shall I inform you what room I am scheduled to take the test in? Shall I call your office or would you prefer an email?"
If you are eligible for copies of visual aids used in class, find out how you will get them. For example:
"Shall I stop by your office each week for the copies of your lecture materials or will you bring them to class? Would it be easier if I gave you my email address so they could be sent to me? Is there a course Web site where I could download them?"
It is important to be direct at this time. Ideally, you should leave the meeting with a clear understanding of how each accommodation will be arranged. Write down the agreed upon arrangements, for future reference, should a mix-up occur.
4. Thank your instructors for their cooperation. Instructors are
required by law to provide you with accommodations, but thanking
them is a courtesy that can help you build a better relationship.
Please Note: You will find that most instructors are willing to cooperate with your requests for accommodations. If you encounter any difficulty in arranging accommodations with instructors, contact DSS for assistance.
Students with documented disabilities are eligible for early registration times. This accommodation is provided to allow students more flexibility when planning their schedules and to help arrange adequate time between classes, especially if extended time for testing or travel is an appropriate accommodation.
Once you have provided DSS with documentation of your disability, you are eligible for priority registration. You may take advantage of priority registration throughout your entire career at WMU, except for the first Freshman Semester. All students should meet with an advisor prior to requesting registration from DSS. This ensures you are taking the appropriate classes for your program of study. It is your responsibility to keep track of registration times and to seek assistance with registration, if necessary. Priority registration means that once registration opens you are among the first to be able to register for courses. DSS must register you; the web-based registration system will not allow you to register before your minimum credit hours. Priority registration can only be done through DSS. For example, if you are a second semester freshman, you couldn’t register yourself until a month after registration begins. But, we can register you on the first day of registration or any time after that. Registration dates and times are posted on the GoWMU portal. You are responsible for finding out when registration begins.
There are several steps to the registration process:
* You can pay parking tickets online at http://www.parking.wmich.edu/ then click on the left-hand side "Pay Parking Tickets"
* You can check your university account balance online at http://gowmu.wmich.edu
If your documentation recommends that you receive textbooks in alternate formate, please note that DSS can check with the publishers for the availability of digital books or scan your textbooks electronically and copy them to a USB drive (thumb drive). Textbooks on audio tape are generally not used due to the difficulty of acquiring them in a timely fashion.
DSS is equipped to produce electronic text for our students with print-related disabilities. Electronic text is the most effective, as well as the quickest way to convert your textbooks and course packs. We encourage all students requiring alternative formats to utilize our scanning services. METL is also equipped for students who wish to do their own scanning and alternative format requirements for small volume projects. (http://www.wmich.edu/metl/)
To utilize our scanning services, please contact the Office Associate to see if your textbook has already been scanned. If it has, you must provide DSS with proof that you have purchased the book. If we do not have the textbook, please purchase your textbooks as early as possible as we have many requests at the beginning of a semester. We must remove the binding of the books in order to use our high-speed duplexing scanner, however all books will be returned to you.
To have a book scanned, label each one of the books you wish scanned with your name and contact information. We want to be sure to return books and USB drives to the proper owners. Once the books are scanned, DSS will contact you for pick-up.
Due to copyright laws, DSS must have proof that you have purchased your textbooks. While DSS may already have a book you require scanned, you are still expected to purchase the book to be in compliance with copyright laws.
The following are alternative resources for obtaining textbooks in other formats.
Western Michigan University Libraries - WMU Libraries have a wealth of electronic texts available. Please see their web page for links to sites available for students at WMU. The web address is: http://www.wmich.edu/library/cg/363/
NetLibrary - Another resource for electronic text format is available thought www.netlibrary.com Students can register free of charge and utilize ebooks online similar to checking out a book from the library. This service is provided through WMU's affiliation with the Library of Michigan (www.michigan.gov/hal). There are also library of michigan services for the visually impaired and disabled: Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Amazon.com - Ebooks are also available through various online book sellers with the major one being Amazon. You can download a wealth of text from Amazon.com. Some books are free for download while others have a minimal charge. Most well known novels cost a few dollars. Some of the more technical books can cost as much as $35.00. (www.Amazon.com)
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress - A free national library program of braille and recorded materials for blind and physically handicapped persons is administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress. Under a special provision of the U.S. copyright law and with the permission of authors and publishers of works not covered by the provision, NLS selects and produces full-length books and magazines in braille and recorded formats. Reading materials are distributed to a cooperating network of regional and subregional (local) libraries where they are circulated to eligible borrowers. Reading materials and playback machines are sent to borrowers and returned to libraries by postage-free mail. Braille books, magazines, and music materials are also made available on the Internet through Web-Braille. Established by an act of Congress in 1931 to serve blind adults, the program was expanded in 1952 to include children, in 1962 to provide music materials, and again in 1966 to include individuals with other physical impairments that prevent the reading of standard print. (http://www.loc.gov/nls/find.html)
In the event that you are not satisfied with the disability-related academic adjustment provided in a specific course or have problems with a specific instructor, the following steps should be taken:
For non-academic disability related issues (situations arising in a residence hall, facilities issues, grounds/maintenance), the student should contact the appropriate resource person.
Residence Halls - Each hall has a director and residence advisor (RA) for each floor and a Residence Life handbook. These would be the first contact concerning disability issues in the halls. DSS should also be contacted, especially if an issue cannot be corrected through the residence hall.
Facilities- all buildings at WMU have coordinators and may be contacted about disability-related concerns, although DSS is better equipped to discuss facility issues with physical plant personnel. Obstructions, broken elevators, inaccessible classrooms, and so on should be identified to DSS, who can then alert the appropriate division.
Grounds - students with disabilities who have issues about obstructions on sidewalks, snow/ice build-up or piles, railings, barriers, etc. should contact DSS. DSS will then contact the appropriate division for fixing the problems. Be aware that in the case of snow removal, ground crews clear the sidewalks as rapidly as possible, which may not be at your convenience or time-fram. In light of that, however, conditions such as ice build-up on ramps or in doorways and snow piles preventing full access to sidewalks for wheelchairs are concerns that should be addressed.
If the disability related issue in any of the non-academic areas is not resolved, the student should then follow steps 1 and 2 under the academic adjustments section above.
The University’s formal policy outlining request/appeal procedures is available from the DSS Director.
Please note that this grievance procedure refers only to disputes with academic adjustments relating to disabilities. Complaints not relating to a disability should follow the steps outlined in the University’s Academic Appeals Procedure.
For grievances concerning the harassment and discrimination, contact the Office of Institutional Equity at (269) 38726316.
•Office of Disability Services for Students: 387-2116. Please direct questions to the DSS Director or Assistant Director. The receptionist will arrange appointments.
•Center for Academic Success Programs
Provides FREE services designed to strengthen learning skills and enhance achievement. Services include Supplemental Instruction, the Writing Center, tutoring in various subjects, and a computer lab with learning-assistance software.
•Book Store: 387-3929
•Career and Student Employment: 387-2745
Provides information about potential careers, interviewing, and disclosure issues. (Part of WMU's Career Network)
•Center for Academic Support Programs: 387-4411
The Center for Academic Support Programs enhances teaching and promotes student learning through collaborative, effective research-based programs.
•University Counseling and Testing Center: 387-1850
Provides personal, educational, and career counseling for all WMU students.
•Financial Aid & Scholarships: 387-6000
Provides assistance in addressing financial concerns.
•Mathematics Tutoring Lab: 387-4519
Tutoring available for modular math and some other courses on a
walk-in basis or may be made by appointment.
•Multi-purpose Enabling Technology Lab (METL): 387-6385
Houses the adaptive computer lab specializing in assistive technology for students with visual, hearing, reading, and writing difficulties.
•Parking Services: 387-4609
Provides information regarding parking regulations, permits, and violations.
•Sindecuse Health Center: 387-3290
Provides on-campus, low-cost health care.
•University Computing Services Help Desk: 387-5161
Provides assistance with computer related questions.
•Waldo Library: 387-5059
•Writing Center: 387-4615
Provides assistance with writing papers, including structure, format, appropriate citation references, and other related topic.
Academic Standard - The usual indicators of academic ability, such as grade point average, high school rank, and standardized test scores.
Accessible Classrooms and University Functions - The ability to attend classroom or University functions with regard to seating, restrooms, stairs, lighting, walkways, etc.
Accessible Housing - the ability to live in campus housing with regard to restroom, furniture, walkways, elevator or first floor room, etc.
Accommodations Request - An actual description of the change(s) needed in order to function in the academic setting.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - ADA (Pub. L. No. 101-336) is a law that protects persons with disabilities.
Assistive Listening Device - A technical tool to assists students who are hard of
hearing with or without a hearing aid. ADL's bring the speaker's voice
directly to the ear and helps overcome the problems of distance from the
speaker and surrounding background noise.
Alternate Format - changing the print material into a different style, which allows the student access to that information. Example: textbook to Braille or enlarged print.
Alternate Test Format - Changing the presentation of a test to allow the disabled student to convey his or her knowledge. Example: printed to Braille or oral tests.
Books on Tape - audio versions of textbooks and other printed material for the visually impaired. Most books-on-tape are obtained through the Readings for the Blind and Dyslexic.
Closed Captioning - Word-for-word text of a movie or video dialogue that requires a decoder in order for the text to be viewed on a screen.
Degree of Hearing Loss - the extent that hearing is impaired to categorize from mild to profound.
Distraction-reduced Environment - a testing environment in which distractions are minimized
Documentation - Information obtained from a qualified professional, which must contain specific information concerning the diagnosis of the disability.
Parking Permit - accessible parking for mobility impaired students. This includes any disability, either chronic or temporary, which impedes the ability to walk.
Reader - someone who reads tests or other written information to a disabled student.
Reasonable Accommodation - a request for assistance in the academic environment within an appropriate timeframe.
Scribe - a person who writes responses to test items for a disabled student.
TTY - a telecommunications device (specifically telephone and computer) for the deaf.
A hand out for instructors who request information about assisting students.
1. Provide students with a detailed course syllabus. Make it available before registration week if possible.
2. Begin each lecture with an outline of material to be covered that period. At the conclusion of class, briefly summarize key points.
3. Present new or technical vocabulary on the blackboard or use a student handout. Terms should be used in context to convey further meaning.
4. Give assignments both orally and in written form to avoid confusion.
5. Announce any reading assignments well in advance for students who are using taped materials. It takes an average of six weeks to get a book tape-recorded.10. Provide adequate opportunities for questions and answers, including review sessions.
6. Allow students to tape lectures .Emphasize the importance of listening to the lecture and taking notes while taping.
7. Provide study questions for exams that demonstrate the format as well as the content of the test. Explain what constitutes a good answer and why.
8. If necessary, allow students to demonstrate mastery of course material using alternative methods (e.g., extended time for testing, taped exams, readers and scribes, individually proctored exams in a separate, quiet room.
9. Permit the use of simple calculators, scratch paper, and spellers' dictionaries during exams.
10. Provide adequate opportunities for questions and answers, including review sessions.
11. If possible, select a textbook with an accompanying study guide for optional student use.
12. Encourage students to use campus support services (e.g., priority registration, assistance in ordering textbooks in alternative format, alternative testing arrangements, specialized study aids, College Success Seminars at the Center for Academic Success programs as well as Supplemental Instruction and Writing Skills).
Note: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicap against persons in programs or activities receiving or benefiting from federal assistance. Thus, in an educational setting such as WMU, Section 504 mandates "reasonable accommodation" for students.
If you cannot find information on the website, please feel free to email Jen Lawson-Steeves with your questions.