Faculty Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Disability Support Services?In response to the growing number of college students with disabilities, many campuses across the nation established offices to handle requests for accommodations and hire professionals knowledgeable about disability-related issues. At Gulf Coast State College, Disability Support Services (DSS) serves as a liaison between students, faculty and staff on disability concerns; arranges accommodations for students with disabilities and ensures that GCSC is in compliance with federal and state laws. The Coordinator, Assistant Coordinators and Learning Support Specialists are located in the McSpadden Student Union East.
- How does a student qualify for services?Only DSS can determine who is eligible for services based on a disability. Students can register for services by making an appointment with DSS and presenting documentation. Students with learning disabilities must provide a psycho-educational evaluation done by a licensed psychologist in the past three to five years, and students with other types of disabilities must provide a detailed letter from a physician, psychologist or specialist in the area of their disability. It must include a diagnosis of the disability, how it impacts them in an educational setting and suggestions for appropriate reasonable accommodations. If a student requests accommodations, but is not registered with DSS, please refer them to the DSS office before any accommodations are provided.
- How should I let students know that they need to talk to me about their accommodation
needs? Can I require that they discuss accommodations at the beginning of the semester?
The best way to communicate your desire to discuss accommodation needs with a student is to use the approved syllabus statement (see Faculty and Staff Resource Guide or visit the Syllabus Statement page). Although it is easier if students discuss their accommodation needs at the beginning of the semester, you cannot deny accommodations if the student chooses to disclose later in the semester. However, you are also not obligated to allow students to re-do any assignment or test for which they did not receive accommodations if you did not know they had a disability. DSS encourages registered students to speak with their instructors regarding their accommodation plan.
- What should I do if a student tells me that they have a disability and requests accommodations,
but does not have any written proof?
Tell them that they need to be registered with DSS before you can provide any accommodations. You are under no obligation to provide accommodations until you are notified by a letter from DSS. A student who is unaware of the procedures for obtaining accommodations may try to give you a copy of their documentation. Ask the student to take their documentation to Disability Support Services because it is their responsibility to determine if a student is eligible for services.
- I have a student in my class that I suspect may have a learning disability. Does the
DSS conduct evaluations to determine if a student has a disability?
No, DSS does not conduct evaluations, but we would be happy to talk to students and give them a referral for testing.
- How will I know which accommodations a student is entitled to?
Generally speaking, most students with disabilities are entitled to a note taker and extended test time (see Description of Services for more information). Arrangements for readers and scribes are made between the student and DSS, but the student may request help when trying to locate someone to provide this assistance. Address any questions about accommodations to the student first, but contact DSS if necessary. Depending on the type of disability the student has, other reasonable accommodations may be appropriate. Please contact DSS to discuss specific accommodation requests.
- What should I do if I feel that the accommodation(s) a student asks for is/are unreasonable?
Consult with DSS before you agree to or refuse any accommodation. Instructors can be held personally liable for refusing to accommodate a student with a documented disability, so be sure to seek assistance from DSS before making any decisions about a request for accommodations that may seem unreasonable to you. Accommodations should be fundamentally fair, reasonable and related to the student's disability.
- How much "extended time" on an exam is appropriate?
It depends upon the nature and purpose of the exam (for example, is the time it takes to complete the exam an essential component of the student's score?), but most students do not need beyond double time. If you have questions about extended test time, please contact DSS.
- Isn't it unfair to other students in the class when students with disabilities receive
extra time on exams?
Although it may seem that students with disabilities are getting an unfair advantage when they receive more time than students without disabilities, this is not the purpose or result of extended testing time. Extra time on exams is necessary to provide students with a disability an equal opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.
- If a student will be taking tests with accommodations through DSS, where will the
test be given and who monitors its administration?
Students who sign-up to take an exam with DSS will take it in one of the DSS Testing Rooms in the GCSC Testing Center at the same time the class takes it, unless you give permission otherwise. Please see the section on alternative testing procedures for more details.
- Are class absences considered a reasonable accommodation?
You are not required to excuse absences that occur after the student has surpassed the number of absences that are specified in your syllabus, particularly if class attendance is considered an essential part of receiving a grade for the course. However, in some cases, it may be reasonable to excuse students from class if they have a documented disability-related reason for missing class. You should review a student's request for excused absences on a case-by-case basis and consult with DSS if you have questions or concerns.
- What should I do if my class is assigned to an inaccessible location or a student
needs modified furniture, such as an accessible desk or an orthopedic chair?
Notify DSS immediately so that the classroom location can be changed and/or any modified furniture can be moved into the classroom, as soon as possible.
- Can students without disabilities who need extra time on exams (for example, a student
whose native language is not English) use the DSS Testing Rooms?
While it may seem logical that students without disabilities who just need extra testing time should be allowed to use the DSS Testing Rooms in the Testing Center, this service can only be used by students registered with DSS. Because DSS receives funding based on the number of registered students with disabilities, providing services and resources to students without disabilities could result in serious problems. Questions about extra test time and students without disabilities should be directed to the head of your department.
- How will I know if a student needs a note taker in my class?
The student should give you a faculty letter from DSS (see Faculty Letter Example in Faculty and Staff Resource Guide) requesting that you make an anonymous announcement asking the class if anyone is willing to be a note taker. Complete instructions for assisting students with finding a note taker are on the faculty letter. Note takers receive monetary compensation for taking notes. Please include the fact that note takers receive monetary compensation for taking notes. This information often helps in the recruiting of note takers. The note taker and the student who is registered with DSS should meet privately after class to discuss the arrangements. If you have any questions regarding note takers, please contact DSS.
- If students with disabilities receive so many accommodations in college, how will
they ever "make it" in the "real-world"?
The fact is that millions of persons with disabilities are "making it" in the "real-world" with accommodations that result in little or no cost to their employer. Although most work environments are very different from the conditions in a college course, with a few exceptions, employees are given a reasonable amount of time to complete a task and are given access to a wide variety of resources. Of course, people with disabilities may have limitations that make it difficult or impossible to perform certain tasks, but it is not fair to assume that a person with a disability cannot complete an assignment or participate in a course. Always discuss the situation with the student first, but contact DSS if necessary.