[Athen] Accessibility vs Accommodation - what is acceptable?

Sheryl E. Burgstahler sherylb at uw.edu
Tue Nov 22 12:11:06 PST 2016

One additional suggestion about reporting…use wording like “students who self-disclosed as having disabilities” rather than “students with disabilities”, keeping in mind that many disabilities are undisclosed.

On Nov 21, 2016, at 8:51 PM, Lissner, Scott <lissner.2 at osu.edu<mailto:lissner.2 at osu.edu>> wrote:

Vanessa asks:

• Would it be allowable for an institution to write in reports that they had X number of students with Y and Z types of disabilities and requests for accommodations of types A, B, C within Program F?

o For example, perhaps a report might state that the underwater basket weaving program had 10 students with learning disabilities who are allowed extra time on tests.
o If the individual students are not identified, is the institution allowed to report on the statistics related to the number and type of disabilities and the types of accommodations used?

Nothing in the ADA or Section 504 of the Rehab Act prohibit reporting. If the goal is resource planning (say space and proctoring resources for accommodated testing) it would be a good thing. If it were used to decide to change the program standards or policies because we have "too many of those students"; you might have a problem. We use aggregated data on race, gender, .... its not the data but what you do with it.

• Is it allowable to send an instructor a letter indicating that a student with X type of disability will be in his/her course next semester and that the instructor is strongly advised to work with the accessibility team to make the course content accessible so it meets the needs for the student with disabilities as well as benefits all students in the class?

o For example, a student may need an accommodation related to captioning an instructor-generated video or ensuring the instructor-created Word/PDF documents are accessible via screen-reader. Can we help the instructor make captioned videos or digitally accessible documents available for the entire class, including the student who needs them as an accommodation? Does this somehow violate any rules or student rights, especially if there are no copyright concerns?

Without spending time on why waiting until you have an identified need is not a good idea. The only thing wrong with your hypothetical is "strongly advising" the instructor to do this rather than requiring it

• Is the group that helps students identify accommodations allowed to tell the course accessibility people that a certain course has an un-named student with X type of disability so that this team can reach out to the instructor to make the course more accessible? (What information, if any, can the student disability team share with the course accessibility team?)

Yes, again it can be done well or poorly.

• Is it acceptable for a report to indicate how the accessibility remediation efforts related to the types of disabilities common at the institution?
o Could an institution say Program Z focused on X or Y accessibility remediations because they knew we had students with A or B disabilities? (The Underwater Basket-weaving program focused first on improving color contrast, font, and size in their documents because they knew they had students with color vision deficiency and low vision enrolled in the program.)

Similar to my answer above but I am not what useful purpose the information above serves

If there are resources that explain this sort of stuff in a brief and clear manner, please let me know where I should look.

Try the AHEAD conference this summer.

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