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Disabilities and Accommodations

What Counts as a Disability?

  • Individuals with disabilities are defined as having a physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits one or more major life activities. The impairment must last six months or longer to be considered a disability. If a student is newly diagnosed with an impairment that will last six months or longer we can work with him/her before hitting the six month mark of having a disability
  • The ADAA defines major life activities as including: caring for one's self, walking, standing, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, learning, reading, lifting, bending, communicating, speaking, breathing, working, thinking, and concentration.
  • Some examples of impairments that qualify include, but are not limited to:
    • Chronic illnesses such as Diabetes or Cystic Fibrosis
    • Deafness or other types of hearing impairments
    • Dyslexia, ADHD, or other Learning Disabilities
    • Mobility disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy or Multiple Sclerosis.
    • Psychological conditions such as Depression, Anxiety Disorders, or PTSD
    • Traumatic Brain Injury
    • Visual Impairments such as low vision or blindness
  • For privacy purposes, ODS is not permitted to disclose the student's disability diagnosis to you without his/her permission unless it's critical that you know ahead of time. For instance, you will know ahead of time about needs for a student with a visual or hearing impairment. Students may choose to discuss their diagnosis with you, but it's best that you do not ask directly what their disability is. If you have questions about why they have particular accommodations, please contact us and we can discuss your concerns, and then determine if we need to get permission from the student to share more specific information with you.
  • Some examples of conditions that do not qualify: a broken leg, being left-handed, a person who speaks English as a second language. These are all conditions we have been contacted by people looking for accommodations for, even though they are not disabilities.

Reasonable vs. Unreasonable accommodations

  • Reasonable accommodations are any accommodations recommended by a student's documentation that do not alter the nature of the course or the course work in any way and are not deemed an "undue burden" on the University
  • Some examples of reasonable accommodations that do not alter the nature of the course would be: extended time on tests, copies of students' notes, a distraction free testing environment, books in alternative formats, a scribe for students who cannot write themselves, use of a computer during testing, etc.
  • Some examples of unreasonable accommodations that would alter the nature of the course would be: allowing students to turn in shorter papers than their classmates, permission to miss as many classes as the student deems necessary, giving students permission to not participate in key elements of the class (i.e. eliminating a requirement for a class presentation because the student experiences anxiety when speaking in front of groups of people), use of notes or formula sheets on all exams, etc.

Unreasonable Requests

ODS will not offer accommodations to students that we deem are unreasonable even if the student's documentation suggests or recommends that accommodation.

  • Students may sometimes misunderstand the scope of their accommodations or explain their accommodations to you in a way that does not fit our criteria that we explained to them. Accommodations in high school do sometimes modify course requirements in ways that are not acceptable at the college level, which can lead to this confusion at times.
  • For instance, a student once told a faculty member that "reduced course load" meant that the student was able to do less work in the course. We would never allow such an accommodation. Reduced course loads actually means that a student may take 4 courses as a freshmen instead of the usual 5 courses students take without penalty.
  • If you have a student asking for an accommodation that is not listed on the student's accommodation letter and/or seems to be altering the course requirements, please call us as soon as possible at 718-817-0655 so we can help you troubleshoot the situation