Disabilities Services Explained

Among the vast range of disabling conditions which are not usually visible or readily detectable to the casual onlooker are seizure disorders and other problems related to brain injury or neurological dysfunction; cardiovascular diseases; Musculoskeletal problems (from arthritis to back injury); respiratory disease or dysfunction (such as asthma and chemical or environmental allergies); and systemic diseases or dysfunctions (such as lupus, diabetes, cancer, etc). Some students with hidden disabilities must cope daily with constant severe pain, a high level of fatigue, or medications that may affect classroom performance. Because needs will differ widely, adaptations should be made in close consultation with the student and Disability Services.

A psychiatric disability may cause the student problems in coping with stress, waiting patiently, controlling anxiety, or maintaining concentration. Most people have some stress or test anxieties. For students with psychiatric disabilities, however, stress is so severe that it prevents normal functioning.

Course Adaptations

  • Administer regular exams individually within the regular time limit.
  • Determine an alternative task or assignment to be completed so long as requirements and objectives are suitably met.
  • Refer student to Learning Resource Center, 206 DeRicci (663-2281) for assistance with study skills or test taking strategies.
  • Allow extended time for exams to compensate for impaired concentration or the effects of medications.

A speech impairment may cause a student to be unable to speak, to mispronounce certain words, to speak slowly or in a manner hard to understand. Such an impairment rarely restricts a student in a written examination; however, depending upon the extent of the impairment, it may have a great influence on oral recitation types of examinations.

Course Adaptations

  • Written examinations might be substituted for oral recitation exams.
  • A student may write his/her response for an oral presentation and have that presentation read by an assistant.
  • Student may use an auxiliary aid such as a word board or interpreter for classroom participation.

A learning disability is a documented perceptual impairment that affects the ability to process information in people of average to above average intelligence. Different individuals may have difficulties in one or more areas of receiving or sending information. These may include spelling, reading, handwriting, short-term memory, attending, organizing, following directions, spatial relations, math, even translating aural cues.

A student who has learning disabilities may have normal or high intelligence but does not achieve at the expected level in academic, social, or daily living skill. These gaps in performance are assumed to arise from neurological origins and are not the result of mental retardation, physical handicaps, emotional disturbance, or educational deprivation. Persons with learning disabilities often acquire and express information in ways that differ from the norm.

Testing Accommodations

  • Allow extended time to for exams to compensate for slower visual or verbal processing.
  • Arrange for alternate methods of recording answers such as taping, typing, or dictating answers to a proctor who marks the answer sheet or writes the essay.
  • Arrange for special edition of the exam, i.e. on tape, individually read, in essay form as opposed to short-answer or in short-answer form as opposed to essay.
  • Where spelling and punctuation are related to course objectives, student and instructor may determine a way for grammar to be evaluated within the parameters of the adaptation.
  • Allow student to use a dictionary.
  • Allow use of a word processor with spell-check/grammar-check capability, etc.
  • Permit test to be given individually in a quiet room without distractions.

Course Adaptations

  • Try to provide a list of new vocabulary at the beginning of each class. When possible, provide copies of lecture notes to assist the student in following the lecture.
  • The use of visual aids such as chalkboards, overhead projectors, films, diagrams, and charts greatly assists these students. When showing a film, it is helpful to provide a written transcript, if available.

Materials Adaptations

Students with learning disabilities may require the use of taped textbooks, readers, tape recorders, word processing software, or taped textbooks. Therefore, as far in advance of the first class as possible, supply students with information concerning course materials so they can make necessary arrangements.

Students with visual impairments may include students who are totally blind or students with low vision. The student with low vision has some vision, can usually read materials in large print, and may use a cane for mobility. A student who is totally blind has no functional vision, and will rely upon mobility devices such as a cane or dog guide. Both groups of students may use paid or volunteer readers, and/or assistive devices such as a tape recorder, typewriter, Braille print, or talking books.

Course Adaptations

  • Arrange for a special edition of exams, i.e. on tape, individually read, or larger print.
  • Student may use electronic optical aids, such as a CCTV, which enlarge the print.
  • Student may record information by typing or taping.
  • Student may dictate exam answers to a proctor who marks the answer sheet or writes the essay.
  • Where spelling and punctuation are related to course objectives, student and instructor may determine a way for grammar to be evaluated within the parameters of the adaptation.

Mobility Aids

  • To assist the student with visual impairments in maneuvering, leave the classroom door all the way open or all the way closed. Otherwise, the door may present an unexpected obstacle.
  • When a class is relocated, ask someone to wait at the door of the original classroom to guide the student to the new location.
  • Students who are blind may need a little extra time to get oriented; allow them time to orient themselves before offering assistance.
  • Dog guides are specially trained to be extremely attentive to their owners. Petting, feeding or talking to these dogs only distracts them from their duty.

Speaking Styles

  • Always identify yourself to someone with a visual disability; let them know when you are leaving their presence.
  • Avoid expressions like “this”, “that”, “here”, and “there” which mean nothing to the student with a visual impairment. Instead, provide a concrete description of the material being discussed.

Students with hearing impairments vary greatly in the degree and type of hearing loss they experience. Each person with a hearing loss will respond differently to amplification, and it is important to note that hearing aids do not completely correct a hearing loss as glasses can correct vision.

A person who is hard of hearing has a partial hearing loss and may be able to communicate adequately in a one-to-one situation in quiet surroundings. However, in a typical classroom environment with moderate background noise, students with hearing impairments may still experience significant communication difficulty.

Students who are deaf have a more significant hearing loss. They must rely on visual mode of communication though they may be able to hear some sounds with hearing aids.

A person with a hearing impairment may communicate orally (by speech-reading and speaking) or by using sign language, or a combination of both.

Interpreter Services

  • An interpreter may be necessary for the student to have access to communication in the educational environment. Interpreters are provided, upon request from the student, for classes and academic-related activities outside of class.
  • Interpreters are trained professionals bound by a code of ethics.
  • Interpreters have no knowledge of the student’s classroom performance or the etiology of their deafness.

Interpreters in the Classroom

  • Speak directly to the student who is hearing impaired. Do not tell the interpreter to “tell him...”
  • Look at the student with a hearing impairment, not the interpreter. The interpreter will sign what you are saying and voice what the student with a hearing impairment says.
  • The interpreter is not permitted to voice personal opinions about the conversation.
  • Speak at a normal rate. The interpreter will ask the speaker to repeat or slow down if the rate of delivery is too fast.
  • Allow the interpreter to sit or stand near you. At the beginning of the semester the student, interpreter and instructor together should work out the best place for the interpreter to work. The closer the interpreter is to the speaker, the easier it is for the student to see the interpreter, instructor, and any visual aids.
  • Permit only one person to speak at a time. It is difficult for an interpreter to follow several people speaking at once.
  • Remember that the interpreter is a few words behind the speaker. Allow the interpreter time to finish so that the student with a hearing impairment can ask questions or join the discussion.
  • Provide good lighting. If you plan to darken the room to show visual aids, be sure the student with a hearing impairment can see the interpreter.
  • Make sure the student with a hearing impairment doesn't miss vital information. Allow extra time when referring to written material, since the student with a hearing impairment must look at the material and then return their attention to the interpreter to keep up with the discussion.
  • Provide the interpreter with extra copies of materials being discussed in class. This helps the interpreter to follow the discussion and to assist the deaf person in following along.
  • Interpreters are paid professionals. Interpreter fees range from $25 to $75 an hour and skilled interpreters are in great demand. This makes it important to inform students who use this service of any class cancellations or changes as early as possible so they can make arrangements with their interpreters.
  • If the interpreter does not show up, it is the student’s responsibility to notify Disability Services. Although interpreters are expected to be prompt and reliable, they are human and emergencies sometimes happen. In this event, the student the instructor can decide what to do (tape the lecture to be interpreted later, allow the student to leave, stay, etc.)
  • Contact the Director of Student Accessibility and Disability Services with any concerns or questions. Initially, an interpreter’s presence may be distracting to the instructor and other students. However, the initial curiosity will subside and it should be a comfortable situation for all concerned.

Delivering Your Lecture

Regardless of the student’s mode of communication, whether it is thorough speech reading or sign language, the following practices will help both the instructor and the student:

  • Speak naturally in a normal tone and volume. Shouting or exaggerating lip movements will not help a student with a hearing loss.
  • Allow students with hearing impairments to sit at the front of the class.
  • Standing with a light source behind you or covering your mouth when speaking makes it almost impossible for a student with a hearing impairment to read lips.
  • Refrain from speaking while writing on a blackboard or while turned away from the student, keep lips and face from visual obstructions.
  • Permit the student to obtain notes from a classmate or note-taker as it is difficult to take notes while speech reading or watching an interpreter. The use of visual aids such as chalkboards, overhead projectors, films, diagrams, and charts greatly assists students with hearing impairments. Try to incorporate this into lectures whenever possible.
  • In a group discussion, have students speak one at a time. Point to the speaker and/or have speakers raise their hands so the student with a hearing impairment can follow the discussion. It may be necessary to repeat questions or comments so the student with a hearing impairment can keep up with the discussion.
  • Many students who have hearing impairments can benefit from special equipment to reduce background noise and enhance the instructor’s voice. This equipment may include a small microphone that the instructor wears and a receiver unit that the student wears. For group discussion, the microphone may be passed around or a conference microphone may be placed near the center of the group.

Mobility impairment broadly describes any disability that limits functional movement of any limb or fine motor ability. The student may use a wheelchair, cane, crutches, or simply walk at a slower pace. In addition, some students with mobility impairments have limited use of arms and hands, and may use adaptive equipment. The student’s condition may involve limitations in performing certain acts such as entering and moving about the classroom, sitting for long time periods, manipulating test materials (i.e., scratch paper, pencils, calculators, etc.), and manual writing.

Accessibility Aids

  • Maneuvering in a classroom may be difficult for a student with a mobility impairment. It is important to keep aisles and doorways free of obstacles.
  • Because of the distances between some buildings on campus, a student with mobility impairments may have to take alternate travel routes from class to class, and may occasionally be late to class.
  • Special equipment in laboratory classes may necessitate modification of the facility in order to make it accessible to a student with a mobility impairment. Sinks, tables, storage, and aisle width may pose particular problems and should be adjusted as much as possible. Disability Services works with the a variety of partners on campus to arrange for necessary modifications.

Course Adaptations

  • Students who have difficulty writing may need to take extra time for examinations. They may also need to make alternative arrangements in which they can respond orally, type, or tape test answers.
  • If a class includes field trips or field work, try to choose accessible sites or consider how some sites could be made accessible. The student with a disability is the best resource for this type of information.
  • A student who uses a wheelchair may feel awkward or uncomfortable speaking with a person who is standing for a lengthy conversation. Therefore, when a conversation takes more than a few minutes, try to sit down when conversing with a person who is using a wheelchair.

Testing Accommodations

Taking a test under standard conditions requires certain skills and abilities that are not a part of what is being measured by the test instrument. For example, written answers to essay questions on a history exam would require the student to perform manual writing. The test is designed to measure the student’s knowledge of history, not his or her ability to write manually. Therefore, an oral test or a scribe to record the student’s answers would more accurately reflect the student’s abilities. For some students with disabilities, the format of the test itself or the physical location in which the test is to be administered will constitute a discriminatory barrier to performance. The suggestions below include guidelines for adapting examinations as well as other accommodations for students in a classroom setting. A discussion of changes appropriate for many students (adaptations in the test environment, extra time, proctors, etc.) is also included.

Classroom Environment

The teaching environment directly affects the capability of a student with a disability to participate and keep up with course work. Most necessary modifications are simple techniques that can foster full participation not only by students with disabilities, but by other students as well.

In general, it is the responsibility of the student with a disability to make the instructor aware of any special needs. This can be facilitated if instructors offer an invitation to students to meet with them within the first few days of the semester to discuss special needs. Questions regarding recommended modifications and College resources should be directed to Disability Services.

Communication Skills

Looking directly at students with disabilities while speaking to them facilitates communication. If there is an interpreter, parent, or attendant, direct the conversation to the student with a disability, not the third party. If it is difficult to understand the student with a disability due to speech impairment, ask for clarification.

Don’t hesitate to use language in a natural context when talking to a person with disabilities. For example, “Nice to see you” is appropriate in conversation with a student who is blind. Because many students with disabilities are quite independent, verbally offer assistance instead of presuming it desired. Give the person an opportunity to accept or decline.

General Course Adaptations

Advance planning is the key to working with students with disabilities. Additional time may be required for tests, papers, or projects. Therefore, professors and students should plan accordingly.

For some students with disabilities, writing may be difficult or impossible. These students find it helpful to tape lectures and class discussions. If an instructor intends to publish lectures, the student may be asked to sign a statement that tapes will not be released.

Many students with disabilities need note-taking assistance. The best note-takers to provide assistance are other students from class.

Some students with disabilities need to ask their classmates for special assistance with note-taking, wheel-chair assistance, etc. It is helpful if the instructor can assist in soliciting volunteer help.

Students who experience disability-related problems on campus are urged to contact Disability Services immediately. We are usually able to help correct problems as they arise. However, if efforts to resolve the problem are unsuccessful, students have the right to file a grievance.

Student Affairs Grievance

For problems within student affairs related to Disability Services, students should contact the Director of Student Accessibility and Disability Services immediately. If the problem cannot be resolved through our office, the next step is to contact the Dean of Students, Dr. Maggie Balistreri-Clarke.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Grievance

Any person at Edgewood College who believes that he or she has been discriminated against in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 has the right to file a grievance. The complaint should be made in writing to the ADA Committee within ten days of the alleged violation.

Disability Service’s goal is to enable every student with a disability to succeed at Edgewood College. Every student should take the following steps to ensure his or her own success:

  • Follow Disability Service’s guidelines for using accommodations. If these policies and procedures are not followed, we cannot guarantee provision of services.
  • Meet all Edgewood College admission, academic, and conduct standards. Every student is held to the same high standards in these areas.
  • Attend classes regularly. Class attendance is a reasonable expectation for college students. If a student is unable to attend classes because of a disability, he or she should contact the professors and Disability Services immediately. Special arrangements in these circumstances must be made on an individual basis.
  • Contact professors at the beginning of each semester to discuss accommodation needs. While Disability Services will provide accommodations for a student’s disability, it is the student’s responsibility to communicate with professors.

Disability Services will provide any reasonable academic accommodation that a student needs due to his or her disability. Our services are very individualized because every student is a unique individual. The following services are the ones most commonly needed; however, other special arrangements may be made for students as their situations warrant.

Registration Assistance

Every student should meet with an academic adviser prior to each semester for course selection and registration. Students with disabilities who are unable to participate in regular registration activities may then contact Disability Services for assistance.

Notification of Faculty

Students should meet with instructors to request any needed accommodations at the beginning of each semester. At the student’s request, Disability Services will provide the student with letters to present to instructors to request accommodations and verify the student’s eligibility for the accommodations.

Alternative Testing

Alternative testing is available through Disability Services in cooperation with instructors. Tests administered in alternative formats help to more accurately reflect students’ achievement levels without interference from disability-related factors. Alternative formats might include extended time, tape-recorded exams, use of adaptive equipment, a private room, and/or the use of a reader or scribe.

Students should comply with the following policies as soon as testing needs are known. All exams must be scheduled in Disability Services at least seven (7) days in advance of the anticipated test date.

Student Responsibilities for Using Alternative Testing

  • Meet with professors before or during the first week of the semester to discuss disability and exam arrangements. Students are provided with Alternative Testing forms and are responsible for completing the forms with their professors and ensuring their receipt in Disability Services.
  • Each exam should be scheduled at the same time that the regular class is scheduled to take it, with the exception of evening classes. Exceptions are made only when a student has back-to-back classes. If a student has an evening class, testing must be completed by 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday. If the student wishes to take the exam outside of the regular class time, he or she absolutely must obtain the professor's permission.
  • Students should arrive a few minutes early and be ready to take the exam at the scheduled time. Additional time will not be given for late arrivals. If a scheduled test is missed, the exam will be returned to the professor. Students should contact the professor as soon as possible to reschedule the examination.

Changes/Cancellations of Exams

If a change in arrangements is necessary due to illness or emergency, students should contact the professor and Disability Services as soon as possible. If a student cancels an exam and wants to reschedule, Disability Services must have written or verbal permission from the instructor.

Students are expected to uphold the integrity of the examination process and are subject to procedures for academic dishonesty defined and described in the Student Handbook. Copies of these rules and regulations are available to students in the Office of the Dean of Students.


Disability Services requests the assistance of instructors to identify note takers for students with disabilities. Peer note takers create a second set of notes by Xeroxing course notes and materials.

It is the disabled student’s responsibility to request this service at the beginning of each semester or course needed. It is also the student’s responsibility to attend class. Note takers and professors are not obligated to provide notes for classes that the student does not attend.

Taped Materials

Disability Services will tape any course reading materials for eligible students. It is the student’s responsibility to provide the print materials to Disability Services for taping in advance. Because this process is time consuming, instructors can help to facilitate the service by informing students of all reading assignments at least two weeks in advance.

Enlarged Materials

Students who need enlarged materials should bring any books/materials to be enlarged to Disability Services as soon as possible. This is very important, as we typically need a minimum of one week to complete this service. It is the student’s responsibility to deliver his or her materials and obtain the enlargements in Disability Services.

Classroom Relocation

Classrooms may be relocated as necessary to correct accessibility problems. Please contact Disability Services as soon as the problem is discovered so that we can make arrangements.

Tape Recorders

As a courtesy, Disability Services will loan tape recorders to students who have difficulty taking notes in class due to their disabilities. Tape recorders are available each semester on a first come, first served basis.

Interpreter Services

Students who need sign-language interpreters should register for classes as early as possible each semester to allow adequate time for services to be arranged. Typically, Disability Services will need a minimum of five weeks to make arrangements.
If the interpreter is not present when class begins, deaf students are asked to wait ten minutes for him/her to arrive. While interpreters are expected to be on time, accidents sometimes happen. If the interpreter does not arrive, students should notify Disability Services immediately.

If the deaf student does not arrive on time, interpreters are instructed to wait for 20 minutes. If the student does not arrive within that time, the interpreter may leave unless otherwise notified.

Disability Services will provide interpreters for regular class sessions and for class-related events, such as field trips. Deaf students needing interpreter services for other campus services and events, such as tutoring or theater performances, should contact the department sponsoring the program.

Real-Time Captioning

Deaf students may request real-time captioning of class lectures in lieu of sign-language interpreters. The same conditions apply to this service as those listed above for interpreter services. Captionists are not allowed to transcribe lectures for students for classes during which the student is absent. Students must attend class to receive this service.

Students should request the services they need in writing in the Office of Disability Services by completing an ACCOMMODATION REQUEST form.  At this time, the student is asked to provide documentation of his or her disability to verify the need for accommodations.  Upon review of the documentation, the Director of Student Accessibility and Disability Services will approve any needed academic accommodations.  It is then the student’s responsibility to notify faculty of their needs, such as alternative testing.

Students are encouraged to register with Disability Services upon entry to the College.   Accommodations, such as alternative testing, should be arranged with faculty at the beginning of each semester.

Students with disabilities cannot be required to register with Disability Services.  If students choose to withhold information about their disabilities and thereby forfeit any accommodations that may have been available, they have that right. Students are encouraged to disclose their disabilities, however, and avail themselves of services to enhance their academic success.

Accommodations cannot be made retroactively.  For example, a student with a learning disability may choose not to disclose the disability and take his or her exams without extended time.  If the exam grades are then poor, however, the student cannot expect any type of remediation.  Future exams may be taken with extended time, but past grades still stand.

How will I know if there are students with disabilities needing accommodation in my class?

It is the student’s responsibility to notify his or her professors. Disability Services provides students with letters to present to faculty members verifying that the student has a disability and needs accommodations. Request that individuals requiring special accommodation contact you after class or during office hours. Print this information in your syllabus. In this way you give students permission to approach you with their needs.

A student not presenting such a form or any other type of proof of disability and whose outward appearance does not make existence of a disability apparent can be referred to Disability Services to complete a request for service.

Faculty members always have the right to know that a student has a documented disability that entitles him or her to accommodations before providing any, such as alternative testing. It is the student’s responsibility to notify his or her professors and present them with the appropriate documentation from Disability Services. Our office will provide the student with a letter stating their association with the Disability Services Office and any accommodations to which the student is entitled.

Students may choose not to reveal detailed information about their disabilities to persons outside of the Disability Services Office. To ensure the student’s confidentiality, Disability Services does not disclose any information about a student’s disability without the student’s permission.

Disability Services recognizes that certain accommodations, such as sign language interpreters, require the presence of a third party in the classroom. In such cases, we will notify faculty in advance, whenever possible, that the interpreter or other assistant will be present. Again, this notification is given only with the knowledge and consent of the disabled student.

How do I know that the accommodation the student has requested is appropriate and legitimate?

If the student presents to you a STUDENT REQUEST FOR COURSE ACCOMMODATIONS form, prepared by Disability Services, you can be assured the student has provided the College with proof of a disability under the legal definition of the word. The accommodations requested on the form will be only those that have legitimacy in relation to the student’s disability.
The accommodations outlined on this form are determined by the Director of Student Accessibility and Disability Services based on the student’s specific disability, documentation prepared by a professional(s) in the appropriate field qualified to diagnose the disability, and previous educational history. These accommodations have been deemed reasonable and necessary in order to promote equal access to Edgewood for students with disabilities.

Accommodations and the Faculty Member’s Responsibility

In order to make courses and programs fully accessible and to preserve academic integrity at the College, it is vital that faculty members be involved in accommodating students in their courses. Because the faculty member determines the course content, activities, and academic standards for his or her course, he or she is the most qualified and appropriate person to make needed accommodations. In this way, a student’s chances of success are maximized without compromising academic integrity.

Any student with a physical, psychiatric, or learning disability that affects his or her academic performance is eligible for services. Current documentation (usually within the last three years) of the disability from a qualified professional is required. It is the student’s responsibility to provide adequate documentation of his or her disability and any limitations resulting from it.


Information that a student does or does not have a disability for which special accommodation must be made is not a part of public information and must be treated as confidential.  Every effort must be made to preserve the privacy of the student who needs special accommodations.