Services for Students with Disabilities
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The Associate Director of Academic Success facilitates Southwestern University’s commitment to ensuring that all students have equal access to University programs and services. The Associate Director collaborates with Southwestern students, faculty, and staff to ensure that no qualified students with disabilities are denied the benefit of, excluded from participation in, or otherwise subjected to discrimination.
Students with disabilities who require accommodations to receive equal access should complete the online Student Application and upload supporting documentation (if necessary). Please see the Documentation Guidelines below and contact the Associate Director if you have questions or if any of our online services are inaccessible to you. Documentation can also be provided at a later date and in different formats.
Once the Student Application has been reviewed, the Associate Director will ask the student either to provide additional information or to schedule a meeting. Students may also contact the Associate Director, Jennifer Smull, directly via telephone at 512-863-1536, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org ), or by coming to the office (Prothro Center for Lifelong Learning, Suite 100).
Important: Please do not delay meeting with the Associate Director out of concern for not having the right paperwork. Our first priority is meeting with you, not reviewing the paperwork!
Once it is determined a student is eligible, the Associate Director (AD) will work with each student to determine what package of accommodations best fits the student’s needs. Some common accommodations include:
- Alternative Formats: For students with a demonstrated need, the Associate Director will assist in obtaining texts in audio, digital, Braille or other alternative formats.
Alternative Testing: Common testing accommodations include, but are not limited to, extended time (1.5X or 2X), reduced distraction environment, alternative format, use of a computer, reader, scribe, calculator or spell checker.
- Students who have been approved for testing accommodations and plan to test in the Center for Academic Success should schedule their exams through the Alternative Testing section of SSD Online Services. Here is a brief tutorial on how to schedule an exam .
- Assistance Animals: Southwestern University will make every reasonable effort to accommodate a student’s housing needs. In some cases, emotional support animals (ESAs) may be approved. ESAs are not pets and are restricted to a residence. A student may not bring an animal to campus and claim it as an ESA without having first gained approval and followed the proper procedures outlined here .
- Attendance: In cases where a student’s disability is episodic in nature or requires absences from class due to ongoing medical treatment, the AD will work with the student and faculty to determine whether or not flexibility with attendance and/or course deadlines is appropriate. Click here for more guidance regarding this accommodation.
- Classroom Accessibility: The AD works with faculty, Facilities Management, and other SU departments to provide physical access to the classroom through accessible furniture, keys to wheelchair lifts and elevators, accessible parking, and classroom relocation.
- Course substitutions: At times, the impact of an individual’s disability may warrant a course substitution. Course substitutions are approved on a case-by-case basis. Click here for more information about Southwestern’s Course Substitution Policy.
- Deaf & Hard of Hearing Access Services: The AD works with faculty to ensure full access to course materials for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Accommodations may include captioned audio/video materials, FM systems, sign language interpreters, and real-time transcription.
- Housing & Meals: Southwestern University will make every effort to provide reasonable accommodations in its housing policies and practices where necessary for individuals with disabilities to use and enjoy University housing. Accommodations may include wheelchair accessible rooms, single rooms, and meal plan modifications. Click here for the SU policy on housing and meal plan accommodations.
- Note taking & Associates: We use a volunteer pool of fellow students to serve as note takers or student assistants when needed. Note takers are students enrolled in the same class as a student with a disability who agree to provide copies of the notes they take for themselves to students through a confidential process. Student assistants may be used as readers, lab assistants, or other academically appropriate roles.
- Priority Registration: There are limited situations in which a student’s disability may require them to have classes clustered in specific ways. These students may receive support through the registration process to ensure that their classes are scheduled in such a way as to accommodate their disability.
- Reduced Course Load with Full Time Status: There are rare situations where a reduced course load may be the most appropriate accommodation for certain students with a disabilities. This accommodation must be requested before the start of the semester and will not be approved after the Add/Drop deadline has passed. See the AD for more information and click here for the procedure for requesting a reduced course load with full time status.
- Service Animals: Southwestern University recognizes the importance of service animals as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) and follows the federal regulations regarding service animals. Anyone using a service animal is encouraged to register with the Associate Director of Academic Success. You may access the complete University policy here .
- Temporary Accommodations: Students who are in the process of being tested for a disability or students who sustain an injury that leaves them in need of temporary assistance may contact the Associate Director for temporary accommodations.
Other Forms of Support
The following services, while not accommodations per se, are also available to students with disabilities:
- Advising Support: All Southwestern students are assigned an advisor prior to Welcome Week. The Associate Director of Academic Success can work with a student and their advisor to develop an appropriate degree plan and to work with students on advising or academic concerns related to a specific course.
- Facilitation with Faculty: In addition to helping students negotiate accommodations with faculty and departments, the Associate Director is available for outreach and educational services to faculty, students, staff and departments on campus. This may include educational programming, classroom resources, speaking engagements or one-on-one consultation.
- Peer Mentors: The Center for Academic Success employs upper-level students who are skilled in working with small groups and individual students. These peer academic mentors are available to work on general topics such as note taking, organizational skills, time-management skills, study skills and exam preparation.
- Tutoring: Tutoring is offered through individual departments. The Center for Academic Success maintains a list of departmental tutoring offered each semester.
Acceptable sources of documentation for substantiating a student’s disability and request for particular accommodations may include the student’s self-report, direct observation and interaction with the student, and/or information provided by qualified evaluators or professionals. Accommodations are always determined on an individual, case-by-case basis.
The student is the most important source of information regarding his or her experience of disability, barriers, and effective and ineffective accommodations. The student provides this information on the Student Application and in the initial meeting with the Associate Director.
Relevant information from external sources can help to substantiate the presence of a disability and the need for accommodations. This information should provide evidence of the functional limitations of the disability and their impact on the student’s life. Criteria for the source, scope, and content of documentation differ by disability type. Documentation may include assessments, reports, and/or letters from qualified health care providers, psychologists, or diagnosticians, and/or information from a previous school (e.g., 504 plan, IEP, or ARD documents). External or third-party documentation will ideally adhere to the following specifications:
1. The documentation should be typed on letterhead and cannot be provided by a relative. Handwritten notes will not be accepted as documentation.
2. The documentation should outline the providers credentials and the credentials should be appropriate for the diagnosis under consideration. Documentation can be provided by more than one provider if there was a team approach to diagnosis or in the case of multiple disabilities.
3. The documentation should include the diagnosis or diagnoses, and a description and/or report of any assessments or tests run to reach the diagnosis. If psycho-educational testing was conducted, the full report should be submitted.
4. From the professional opinion of the medical provider, the documentation should describe in detail the functional impact of the condition, including but not limited to how the condition impacts the student’s ability to live (breathe, eat, sleep, ambulate), learn, and function.
5. The documentation should be reasonably recent, or, if the condition was diagnosed many years ago, the medical or other personnel providing the documentation should be someone who has some history of working with the student in dealing with the condition in an on-going fashion. If a student has neither recent documentation nor a provider who has worked with them on an ongoing basis for a condition diagnosed long ago, new testing or documentation may be required before moving forward with the accommodation request.
6. The documentation can (but does not have to) include recommendations from the health care professional. The student should be aware that recommendations given by a health care professional are not a guarantee that the recommendation will be followed. Any recommendations made must be determined to be reasonable before they will be followed.
7. Documentation should be provided in a timely manner to allow for review, follow up and questions related to the documentation (ideally, at least 1 business day before the student’s initial meeting with the Associate Director).
8. If a student used accommodations in high school or at another college, the student may submit verification of these accommodations as supporting documents. Generally, high school 504 plans and accommodations provided at other colleges are not considered sufficient documentation on their own, but all relevant information will be considered.
Grievance Policy for Students with Disabilities
In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Public Law 93-112) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-336), Southwestern University prohibits unlawful discrimination on the basis of disability in its programs, services, and practices.
The complaint resolution process at Southwestern University for students with disabilities is meant to address complaints about the provision of appropriate academic accommodations in classes in which students with disabilities are currently participating. The complainant must establish that the student appropriately requested the desired accommodation in accordance with the Policy on Academic Accommodation and Program Modifications for Students with Disabilities set forth in the Student Handbook and was unfairly denied the accommodation(s).
If a complaint is brought by a student regarding denial of an accommodation needed in an ongoing class, the decision of the Associate Director of Academic Success (or designate) to provide or deny said accommodation shall stand until such time as a formal resolution of the grievance process is achieved.
In situations where there is disagreement concerning the appropriateness of a particular accommodation, every effort will be made to resolve the disagreement as expeditiously as possible.
In the event a student at Southwestern University believes that they are being denied a reasonable academic accommodation, discriminated against within the academic environment based on a disability, or retaliated against due to an academic accommodation, the following grievance process is in place:
- A meeting with the Associate Director of Academic Success must be scheduled no later than 10 working days* after the denial, alleged discrimination within the academic environment based on a disability, or retaliation due to an academic accommodation. In this meeting, a discussion of individual needs will take place in an attempt to address the complaint and work toward an appropriate resolution.
- If the student is not satisfied with the outcome of the meeting with the Associate Director of Academic Success, they must, within 10 working days* of this meeting, contact the Director of Academic Success at 512-863-1952 to schedule an appointment. The Associate Director of Academic Success will make all documentation of the student’s disability available to the Director.
- If an academic accommodation and/or resolution of the complaint cannot be mutually agreed upon following the meeting with the Director, the student must, within 10 working days* of this meeting, submit in writing a petition to the Academic Standards Committee. In the petition, the student should set forth in writing the basis for the complaint, including, but not limited to, a description of any academic accommodations sought by the student. All documentation of the student’s disability will be made available to the Committee. The Committee will make a recommendation to the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. A written response by the Associate Vice President will be provided within 10 working days* from the day the student submits his or her petition to the Committee.
- Students also have the right to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Education. In accordance with federal law, if a complaint is made to the Office of Civil Rights, all relevant records would be made available upon request.
*Note: Working days are considered Monday through Friday (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) when an academic term is in session. It does not include Southwestern University holidays or breaks between semesters.
Approved by the Faculty on April 24, 2001.
Identification of Resources and Providers
The Center for Academic Success will accept documentation from any qualified medical or service provider. While we do not support any particular provider, the lists below reflect professionals who have worked successfully with Southwestern or with colleges and universities in the area.