REOCCURRING TOPICS AMONG DSS AND FACULTY

(Things we both need to know)

Jeff Jones 03/24/2022

  1. DSS staff considers faculty to be our primary or secondary customers—given the specifics of the circumstances. Students and faculty are our two sources of customers.
  • Do you feel DSS is an ally in assisting you as we work jointly with our shared students?
  • We need your candor—if you do not feel that way, we have missed our mark and I need to know.
  • The Americans with Disability Act, and its amendment, requires an “interactive process” to take place between a student, DSS representative, and faculty (whenever necessary) for those students under an Accommodation Plan.
  1. Service Animals and Best Guidance— what can and should you do?
  • Determine if the dog is a service animal (can only be a dog or a miniature horse).
  • Service animals are NOT an accommodation. A student does NOT need to seek approval from the DSS office for use of a service animal.
  • We can ONLY ask these two questions:
    • Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
    • What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
  • Service Animals MUST be in control by the handler at all times.
  • Service animals will most likely be on a leash. But, in some circumstances a service animal can be off-leash and still be in control by the handler who may use voice or hand (signal) commands.
  • A service animal may not be, or cause, a disruption to the learning environment.
  • Service animals can go ANYWHERE the person (handler) needs to go.
  • A service animal may or may not wear a vest.
  1. You see a dog defecating in the hallway—what is your responsibility?
  • You may feel very uncomfortable telling the student to clean up their animal’s mess, right?
  • Note the time and location of the incident. Get a physical description of the student and the animal. Be as detailed as possible.
  • Send that detailed information in an OTC Cares Report or to safetyandsecurity@otc.edu or disabilityservices@otc.edu.
  • Please contact maintenance to see that the area is cleaned.
  1. Emotional Support Animals (ESA)—What you need to know.
  • Often referred to as “Comfort Animals,” or “ESA,” or “Therapy Animals.”
  • ESAs are exceptions to OTC’s No Pet policy (just recently approved by OTC Board, policy 4.11).
  • ESAs are written into a student’s Accommodation Plan. ESAs are a DSS approved accommodation. Students requesting ESAs follow a DSS protocol for getting them approved. If a student does not provide you with an Accommodation Letter, odds are it has not been approved, and the student needs to be referred to the DSS office. Please refer back to the “Two Questions” we can ask when we see someone who has an animal accompanying them.
  • ESAs must be in control by the handler at all times. ESAs must be kept on a leash or in a carrier while in an OTC building.
  • ESAs must not cause, or be, a disruption to the learning environment.
  1. DSS Accommodation Letter Processes and Procedures—Student Responsibilities and Faculty Responsibilities.
  • A student MUST submit an Accommodation Letter to an instructor for it to be in effect.
  • DSS instructs each student to meet with each instructor and discuss their individual accommodation needs specific to the class.
  • A student may submit their Accommodation Letter to an instructor at any point in a semester. But, Accommodation Letters are not intended to be used retroactively. Note the day you receive an Accommodation Letter. That will serve as its activation date.
  • If a student submits their Accommodation Letter to you ex post facto, and is insisting on retroactivity of the Letter, CONTACT THE DSS COUNSELOR LISTED ON THE LETTER.
  • Faculty, review the Accommodation Letter (hopefully, with the student). If you see that an accommodation is NOT going to work for your course, CONTACT THE DSS COUNSELOR LISTED ON THE LETTER.
  • Faculty should follow the Accommodation Letter. However, what should you do in situations where a student has “Volunteer Note-taker” as an accommodation but does not speak with you about it? CONTACT THE DSS COUNSELOR LISTED ON THE LETTER. The DSS Counselor should contact the student to inquire as to how the student will contact their instructor to communicate their need for a note-taker.
  • Remember, we should function as a team—Student, Faculty member, and DSS Counselor. If a student does not receive an accommodation for a class, we all have missed the mark.
  1. Exam Request Process

 

  • OTC DSS office is not the only college or university DSS office across the country who seems to have a rash of difficulties having students follow the exam request process.
  • The student needs to provide the Exam Request to DSS “3 business days” in advance.
  • DSS is currently reviewing its forms to ensure clarity of student expectation.
  • OTC DSS staff educates students of the Exam Request procedures. We do regret most of our interventions with students to correct/prevent belated Exam Requests, comes after the fact. We do monitor for students who frequently or repeatedly do not follow the process.
  • DSS is always appreciative of efforts by faculty to assist DSS with obtaining exams due to late requests by students. Please know DSS recognizes those extra efforts!!
  • It is a very fine line DSS follows as we consider what consequences a student should receive for belated requests. Any consequences cannot be considered either a “punishment” or a “denial” of an accommodation.
  1. DSS Release of Information (ROI)—Did You Know?
  • Each student who receives accommodations from DSS signs a ROI that specifically allows us to speak with faculty. Yes, it’s true. There is no FERPA violation whatsoever. Again, as listed in item #1 in this document, the law encourages an “interactive process” to be present. It’s kind of a check and balance feature—or could be.
  1. When Parents Call Faculty–What Do You Do?
  • Even though DSS has a ROI that allows for student, faculty and DSS to correspond, the ROI does not give license for parents to contact faculty.
  • Faculty—Keep to what you have been recommended to do or trained to do as part of your FERPA training.
  • If you are contacted by a parent of a student with a disability (student has provided you with an Accommodation Letter) CONTACT THE DSS COUNSELOR LISTED ON THE LETTER. You should redirect the parent to the DSS Counselor who works with that student.
  1. Note-taking Assistance as an Accommodation Request
  • Yes, we are still employing the use of the Stonehenge-esque 2-ply carbon-paper for volunteer note-takers.
  • Yes, we can all agree this is truly a challenging accommodation to meet.
  • As faculty, what happens if you cannot locate a suitable, reliable note-taker? CONTACT THE DSS COUNSELOR LISTED ON THE LETTER. As faculty, you all have come up with some incredible ways to meet the needs of students who require a note-taker. For example, faculty who teach multiple sections of the same course may have a student from another section take the notes. Again, this accommodation allows opportunity for us (student, faculty, and DSS) to engage in that “interactive process” as we work together to find a reasonable solution.
  1. Infrequently Used Accommodations.
  • As mentioned previously in this document, there may be some accommodations that will not work for a specific course. For example, a more recent accommodation we have seen become more common across the nations is “extended-time for completion of assignments.” For some courses, there may be inherent opportunities for this accommodation to work. However, what if you have software specific to your course that is only loaded on in-class machines? May we suggest in those instances for faculty to CONTACT THE DSS COUNSELOR LISTED ON THE LETTER.
  1. Flexibility in Attendance Policy Accommodation — (Disability-Related Absences)
  • OTC, as an institution, has modified its policies for student attendance over the years. Students requiring flexibility in attendance as an accommodation have benefited from these changes.
  • A student who requires this accommodation must contact you whenever they know they are going to be absent from your class due to disability-related illness or occurrence. A student may be relegated to contacting their instructor the following day—given the severity of the circumstances (seizure, migraine, cardiac/circulatory dysfunction, urgent or emergency care).
  • This accommodation allows for a lot of engagement in the “Interactive process.” There are examples of instructors using “averages” of lab scores to derive a reasonable grade for a student who may have missed a “mandatory” lab session.
  • At the core of this accommodation is an effort to allow the student to make up the work they missed as a result of an absence that is attributable to their disability.
  • Should you be in doubt, and need further clarification, CONTACT THE DSS COUNSELOR LISTED ON THE LETTER.
  1. Do you feel a need to over-accommodate? Do you feel like doing more than what may be listed on a student’s Accommodation Letter?
  • The absolute best guidance we can give to any faculty member as to what they should do is this: “What you do for one, you must do for all.” The ADA can allow for “disparate” treatment. But, please be prepared to share your rationale for why you treated one student a certain way that deviated from the norm. This will help you tremendously should you ever be part of a grievance investigation.
  • Your course syllabus is your contract with each student. At national conferences for DSS professionals, we consistently hear attorneys from the US Department of Education (Office for Civil Rights) hold fast to having faculty follow their syllabi. Again, any diversion from it that results in a student treated disparately, needs to be applied equally, to all students who may require the same consideration.
  • A commonly used maxim in the DSS world says this: “The ADA is the floor of what is expected, not the ceiling.” DSS consistently sees the best from our faculty in their resourcefulness and willingness to accommodate students. At OTC faculty and DSS excel in meeting the needs of our students with disabilities—and we consistently raise the bar of expectation far beyond that ‘floor.’
  1. Do you know where students with disabilities take their exams on the Springfield campus?
  • Students who require accommodations while taking their exams test in the Disability Support Services area. Specifically, students use our Testing Lab, ICE Room 126, primarily, when taking exams.