DRS offers the following example of a syllabus statement for faculty who would like to include this information in their course syllabi:
Access and Accommodations: Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.
If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 253-692-4522 or firstname.lastname@example.org or tacoma.uw.edu/drsuwt. DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington Tacoma to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.
University of Washington Resources
UW Seattle Disability Resources for Students provides several resources that UW Tacoma faculty and staff may find useful including:
Below are frequently asked questions of Disability Resources for Students (DRS). There are general questions that are asked of multiple audiences (students, staff, faculty, families, administrators, etc…). We also identified some questions applicable to specific audiences.
General DRS Questions
What is a disability?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Washington State Law, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities related to education include but are not limited to walking, sleeping, eating, learning, reading, writing, processing, hearing, etc…
An accommodation is an adjustment made to a policy and/or academic environment to ensure students with temporary or permanent disabilities have equal access to course material, information, activities, programs, housing, and other campus facilities.
First, a student must complete the DRS new student application and submit documentation from a qualified healthcare professional. Then, DRS engages the student in the interactive process to determine reasonable accommodations.
Does a student need to provide medical documentation to be approved for an accommodation?
The University of Washington (UW) requires students seeking services to provide documentation from a qualified healthcare professional that describes the disability/health condition as well as shares the functional impact on the student’s academic experiences. DRS has specific documentation guidelines to provide an outline of the information necessary to establish that a student has a disability and/or temporary health condition.
How do I ask a student about their disability?
Asking a student for more details regarding their disability is not permitted as the confidentiality of medical information must be maintained. It is an individual’s choice whether to disclose the nature of their disability.
Tip: Focus your discussion on the student’s access needs or approved accommodations versus the disability.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. All information and documentation submitted to the DRS office is kept separate from an academic record and is considered private under FERPA. It is an individual’s choice whether to disclose the nature of their disability to faculty. Asking a student for more details regarding their disability is not permitted as the confidentiality of medical information must be maintained. DRS can and will discuss student information with Faculty related to the facilitation of accommodations.
Relevant academic faculty and staff will be asked to implement approved accommodations and maintain student’s confidentiality. DRS will send the Faculty Notification Letter for more information about an individual student. Contact DRS if you are not sure what you need to do.
A service animal is an animal that is trained to work or perform active tasks for an individual with a disability. If it is unclear whether an animal is a service animal, anyone can ask following questions: (1) is the service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task the animal has been trained to perform? If you are unsure whether these questions have been answered satisfactorily, allow the person and animal to proceed, and contact DRS.
Coaching focuses on addressing impacts to executive functioning for DRS students. Working one-on-one with an academic coach will help students identify and utilize new learning tools and strategies in order to help students meet their academic and personal goals. Students and coach develop working relationships through meetings and follow up email communications. In the meetings, coaches use a variety of tools to help students improve their time management, study strategies, issues related to attention, focus, and motivation.
In your syllabus Include a DRS statement explaining that students with disabilities needing accommodations in your class should connect with DRS. Including this information in your syllabus helps inform students, especially first year students, about the DRS office and the appropriate process for requesting accommodations.
Tip: Make accessibility audits a mandatory part of your department’s procurement process.
My department has technical standards for a profession, how can I make sure these are not discriminatory?
Technical standards are meant to identify learning outcomes critical for a given program. These should be regularly reviewed by faculty to ensure they are representative of the current demands in a given field. The ADA regulations state: “[schools] shall not impose or apply eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability or any class of individuals with disabilities…unless such criteria can be shown to be necessary for the provision of the service, program, or activity being offered. (28 C.F.R. 35.130(b)(8); 28 C.F.R. 36.301(a).) This means that a school’s technical standards must focus on the skill required, not on characteristics of a student.
Tip: Review technical standards for common pitfalls, such as unnecessarily associating a task with a specific sense. For example, students in a nursing program may be required to detect a heartbeat, but it’s not necessary to hear a heartbeat.
What laws protect students with disability?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires recipients of federal funding to afford individuals with disabilities equal access to all services. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) spelled out in greater detail the obligations not only of recipients of federal funds but also private businesses and public spaces. Details like door sizes, toilet and grab bar heights, parking spaces, and many others were clearly defined. In 2008, after a series of court decisions eroded congress’s intent with the ADA, Congress passed the amendments act. The ADA Amendments Act reaffirms congress’s intention that the ADA applies to individuals with all types of disabilities including those suffering from long-term illnesses such as cancer or impairments to bodily systems and made clear that mitigating measures should not be taken into effect when determining whether an individual has a disability. The intent and effect of the amendments act was to significantly expand the number of people covered by the ADA.
Are there more students with disabilities in college now than ever before?
Yes. Accessible technologies, advances in healthcare, better resources in K-12, broadening of the term disability under the ADA Amendments Act, and a social model of disability have all contributed to both the reduction in stigma of a disability as well as the creation of or more opportunities for students with disabilities in higher education.