More students with learning disabilities now have the academic records and aspirations that lead them to college. In 2017, 9% of all first-year students in the United States reported having some type of disability compared with 2.6% in 1978. Colleges and universities throughout the nation have always enrolled students with learning disabilities. However, since the late 1970's, when federal and state laws and regulations began to take effect, the percentage of full-time, first-time, first-year students reporting disabilities has increased significantly. As more disabled students are identified at younger ages they are accommodated in their schools and receive an appropriate elementary and secondary education, making more of them college ready.
Do admissions requirements differ for students with special needs?
No. The admissions requirements for students with disabilities are the same as for all students. Their high school records, scores, and potential for intellectual growth recommend them to us. When they apply we can not ask, and frequently they choose not to tell us, that they may need accommodations.
Who are the special needs students at St. Lawrence University?
Once a student is admitted, having gone through the same process for admission as all applicants, that student can choose to self-identify as a special needs student. If that need is verified (as described below) SLU must provide the necessary accommodations.
Our students with disabilities have average or above average ability to do work at the postsecondary level. Close to 50% percent have graduated from private secondary schools. All of our students have mild or moderate disabilities. These individuals have a special brand of courage to withstand failure, self-doubt, and ostracism and then still dare to tackle college.
How does St. Lawrence identify and evaluate special needs status?
Students must identify themselves as special needs students. Each student must provide documentation that clearly supports the disability and specifically recommends accommodations. The accommodations must relate to the manifestations of the individual's condition. There is no generic list of accommodations for all students. Most often students request accommodation for more time on examinations. The details of accommodations regarding more time are most commonly arranged between an individual student and their professors.
What are the responsibilities of our students with special needs?
First, students must self-identify. Second, they must provide documentation that clearly supports their disabilities and specifically recommends accommodations. Third, they must ask for reasonable accommodations. (Their documentation and requests are reviewed.) Finally, we expect them to follow the published policies and procedures.
More specifically, we expect students to contact and meet with the director or assistant director of Student Accessibility Services to identify themselves, provide satisfactory documentation of their disability, and ask for reasonable accommodations with respect to the courses, programs, or activities of the University in which they intend to participate.
Students are required to give written permission to the director or assistant director to prepare an IEAP -Individual Education Accommodation Plan. With this permission they can answer questions that a professor might have during the semester.
The students are given written IEAP's to deliver to each of their professors when the accommodations sought relate to a class activity. The plans are valid only for the currently enrolled semester and must be written again at the start of each new semester. It is the student's responsibility to meet with his/her professors to discuss the IEAP's once they've attended the first class of each course and/or they've received a syllabus. They are then expected to talk with their instructors in a reasonable and timely fashion.
What are SLU's responsibilities?
The University is obliged under the law to:
- develop a program of services for students with disabilities
- provide notice to all interested parties of the existence of the program, its location and the identity of the person to contact for information and services, and
- put procedures in place to respond to requests for accommodations
Reference to or information about our services is in the catalog, student handbook, faculty handbook, admissions materials and a Services for Students with Disabilities brochure. The University must maintain the confidentiality of records and the identity of students with special needs.
What is SLU providing for students with special needs?
St. Lawrence has a director and assistant director who serve as facilitator and advocate for students with disabilities. The University does not have a learning disabilities remedial specialist, nor does it have special classes or programs for disabled students. We do not provide separate courses, programs, or specially trained tutors. We do not provide any funds for evaluations or diagnostic testing. Like most selective American colleges and universities, SLU does not have a formal program, but we do comply with all federal and state statutes and regulations.
What are the responsibilities of a faculty member?
- Maintain confidentiality of records and identity of students with disabilities
- Refer students who indicate that they have a disability to Student Accessibility Services
- Refer students whom the professor thinks might have a disability to Student Accessibility Services
- Verify that those students who request accommodations have been in contact with Student Accessibility Services
- Grant reasonable accommodations to students who self-identify, provide documentation and request accommodations
- Maintain all expectation, standards and course objectives once accommodations have been made
Judicial decisions involving the improper denial of services, benefits and opportunities to individuals with disabilities can and do result in liability for the individual as well as the University. The University or individuals can end up in court at the state and federal levels.
May faculty members raise objections?
Yes, BUT in considering refusing a request from a student, it is important to contact Student Accessibility Services as each situation must be considered carefully and individually.
Requests for accommodations need not be provided under the following circumstances:
- The student is not qualified
- The accommodations would result in a fundamental alteration of the program
- The institution is being asked to address a specific personal need ( e.g. providing someone to push a wheelchair, or the purchase of tapes for recordings)
- The accommodation would impose and undue financial or administrative burden
Faculty members who object to the accommodation requests of students must ensure that their objections involve one of these factors. An assertion that one of these factors applies to the situation is not in and of itself sufficient. Those wishing to challenge accommodation requests must also establish that the specific skills and abilities of the particular student were taken into account, the identified factor does in fact reflect legitimate concerns regarding the particular situation, and a good faith effort was made to provide access to the class for the student.
What if a faculty member has a philosophical objection to providing accommodations?
Our nation has addressed the equity issue regarding individuals with disabilities by the passage of federal and state laws to protect their rights. Compliance standards in question have been in effect and fully enforced since the latter part of the 1970's.
How St. Lawrence meets its legal obligations in the special needs area is an issue that faculty can address through Faculty Council, faculty meetings, or contacts with the Dean of the University. Faculty should not air their objections with individual special needs students.
How can faculty encourage students to talk about their accommodation needs, and to make timely plans?
Let all your students know that you are receptive to their individual needs. A statement like this in your course syllabus can help:
If there are students in the class who have a disability and need accommodation, please see me in private to discuss the accommodation needed. We should have this discussion as soon as possible before getting too far into the semester. I would like to know at least 10 days before a quiz or test of any accommodations that are needed, so please see me soon.
Students with disabilities need to learn how to explain their disabilities, describe their needs, and negotiate appropriate accommodation.
Keep in mind that students have a right not to be identified as disabled and thus not receive accommodations, if they so choose. A student may make that choice early in the semester in order to complete the course without having to tell an instructor about a special need, but then find that after the first quiz or paper that a request is needed after all. In responding to each student as an individual it may be necessary to remember that these students are balancing their needs for privacy and independence with the desire to do their best in your course.
How can academic advisers help students with disabilities?
For students who have self-identified as a special needs student, academic advisors should discuss the implications for learning that result from their advisees' disabilities. For example, students may need to carefully balance the number of writing or reading intensive courses they take in any one semester. Advisors should contact the Word Studio Director as soon as possible if they perceive that their advisee might need additional support.
For students who have not been in contact with Student Accessibility Services, advisors should refer students who may be helped by that contact.