Frequently Asked Questions for New Students
Differences between IDEA IEP’s, 504 Plans, and College Accommodations
IDEA – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law that governs any special education service or policy for children ages 3 to graduation (or until age 21 if student remains in high school until then). Each IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is developed by an “educational team” for that specific child and stipulates how that child’s education will be individualized in order for the child to learn. The IDEA is stylized so the child has the best opportunity to succeed. The child may be allowed “modifications” in the curriculum, the delivery, testing, and in the grading process in order to achieve some success in school. Therefore, a child with an IEP may make an A in a course if he/she completes 70% of coursework rather than 100%, or the child may be allowed the modification of having one correct answer and one incorrect answer to choose from on a test rather than one correct answer and 3 incorrect answers that the rest of the class has.
Section 504 — Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects individuals from discrimination based on their disabilities. This Act governs any public school or college that accepts any type of federal financial assistance, but the Act itself provides no funding for the schools or colleges affected by its mandates. The seven-part Act is divided into Sections A-G. Subpart D applies to K-12 schools and Subpart E applies to postsecondary institutions. Subpart E mandates that qualified postsecondary students with disabilities be offered the opportunity to complete a degree with all other, non-disabled students.
The ADA —The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a federal civil rights law structured to provide equal opportunities for all people with disabilities. The ADA requires equal access and protects individuals from discrimination based on their disabilities. The ADA trumps all other acts regarding students in the postsecondary world.
Differences Explained — In High School, a student often has a “504 plan” that suffices for services. Most of the time, the high school does NOT test the student who falls under 504, but offers “modifications” to help the student succeed. The special ed student, in contrast, MUST be regularly tested and/or reevaluated in order to remain in the special education program. The problem of adequate and comprehensive documentation comes into play when the “504” student goes to college. In most cases, the screening instruments often used for developing a “504” plan are insufficient as documentation for college accommodations. The student goes from an environment that is structured to “ensure student success” to one that is designed to “allow equal access.” The success of the student is up to the student in the college setting. The college must ensure access, NOT success.
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Schools responsible for identifying students
Students must self-identify
Schools responsible for testing students
Students must pay for their testing, if needed
Schools responsible for any needed services School must provide whatever services will help student succeed in class, testing, and any school-sponsored activity
School must provide individualized tutoring
Students must seek out services
Student allowed only certain accommodations in college classroom and testing
Students must seek out tutoring, if needed, and must pay for it if college does not provide tutoring for non-disabled students. Individualized instruction is not guaranteed
Schools must communicate with parents at regular intervals re: student’s progress
College not allowed to contact parents without student’s permission
School must develop formal plan and it is school’s responsibility to track student
Student must ask for and “qualify” for services EACH semester, and the student is responsible for much of the accommodation process(i.e., notifying office of test dates, etc.)
Reduced assignments, (requiring student to submit less work than others))extended time on assignments, grading changes (counting daily work equal with semester tests) test format changes(take away 2 wrong answers and leave one right and one wrong answer) repeated chances to make a passing grade
No reduced assignments; extended time on assignments is very rare; no grading changes, no test format changes other than providing equal access (such as providing extended time or providing a test in large print or Braille); no extra attempts at tests unless promised accommodations were not provided during the first attempt
Who do I ask for accommodations?
Every college is required to have an office or an individual responsible for ensuring equal access for students with disabilities.
Where is this Disability Resource Office located and what are the hours of operation?
The Disability Resource Office is located in the Academic Support Center on the second floor of the Phillips Library in Room 209. Fall and Spring Semester the office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. whereas Summer hours are 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
When should I submit my documentation?
Students should submit documentation as soon as possible to ensure that expensive, or difficult to arrange accommodations are ready by the first day of class. For example, if Brailed texts are required, documentation and a list of required books should be submitted at least a few months prior to these needed services to ensure adequate time to have the textbooks Brailed since many colleges outsource this service and it is a very time-consuming process.
Why do I need to provide documentation?
The ADA states “validate the need for services based on an individual’s current level of functioning in the educational setting.” Current documentation allows us to better understand the barriers that may exist in collegiate setting. Proper documentation is needed to develop an accommodation plan for the student moving forward.
Confidentiality – Who has access to the documents we provide?
Documentation submitted to the Disability Resource Office (DRO) is confidential information and does not become part of a student’s permanent record. The Disability Staff maintain Disability documentation is normally maintained by DRO for five years after the last recorded date of enrollment and then it is confidentially destroyed.
Is it ever too late to request accommodations?
Students may submit documentation and provide accommodations at any point during the semester, but any grades already in place or tests taken BEFORE accommodations were granted will not be changed or repeated with accommodations. Not all accommodations can be immediately implemented, and grades given during the implementation period will not be changed.
Do I have to pay for accommodations at the college?
Students are not charged for academic accommodations which are determined by the college to be necessary to ensure equal access for a student with disabilities. Students MAY be charged for any additional accommodations not normally provided to all students, such as individualized tutoring.
What are some of the accommodations offered at Aurora University?
Every student is unique so accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis after appropriate documentation is submitted and the barriers and needs identified. AU is committed to ensuring access to learning and some examples are: Sign-language interpreters, alternative format textbooks, audio recording lectures, use of assistive technology, and a distraction reduced testing environment to name a few.
Do I have to use all of my accommodations in every class?
No, a student has the right to never mention his/her disability to an instructor and to never submit the accommodations letter to that instructor, or to any instructor if so desired. However, the student may not make up work or tests with accommodations at a later date if he chooses not to present the letter at the beginning of the semester.
Why is there a difference between the services I received before and those received at Aurora University?
College accommodations usually differ considerably from high school modifications. Colleges are not required by law to provide modified curriculum, different tests, reduced assignments, or personal assistance of any sort. Accommodations may also differ between colleges. There are many reasons for denial of accommodations received at a previous college:
- The documentation does not meet the college’s guidelines
- The documentation does not support the requested
- The accommodation would fundamentally alter the activity, course, or program
- The accommodation is in conflict with the academic policies of the college
- Providing the accommodation would pose a direct threat to the student or others
- Providing the accommodation would constitute an undue financial or administrative burden to the college
Who informs my instructors about my accommodations?
Once approved for accommodations, the Disability Resource Office will send an email letter to your course instructors with the approved accommodations. Each letter is valid for one semester.
Can’t I request an accommodation directly from my instructor?
No. All accommodations must be approved by the Disability Coordinator with a letter sent to the professor before the instructor is obligated to provide any accommodations.
Do I need to meet in person with the Disability Resource Office staff before every semester?
No, not unless you are requested, but you must connect with the staff via email to confirm your ongoing desire and need for accommodations.
My professor refuses to give me one my accommodations; what can I do?
Talk with your instructor (preferably face-to-face) to clarify your needs and their understanding of the accommodation to make sure there is no misunderstanding. If you cannot resolve the situation, contact the Disability Resource Office.
What if I need help with transportation, medical services, psychological services, or personal hygiene services?
Colleges are not responsible for providing any services of a personal nature, including transportation (unless transportation is being provided for all students as in the case of a field trip or athletics). Students must arrange all services themselves, or request assistance from an outside agency.
How will I know if a student needs accommodations?
A student with approved accommodations will receive a letter from the Disabilities Resource Office (DRO) identifying the specific accommodations for which he/she is eligible for the semester. The DRO will send this letter to faculty also. Students are encouraged to make appointments with their instructors to discuss accommodation needs at the beginning of each semester and clarify the expectations for implementation.
Is it essential to provide the requested accommodations?
Yes, we have a legal responsibility to provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations for qualified students with disabilities and it is prudent to consider accommodating the student in the manner requested. However, there may be elements of the course work that make the accommodation difficult to fulfill, so contacting the Disability Resource Office to discuss alternatives is appropriate.
NOTE: The laws that protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities also protect the standards of the attending institutions. Having a disability does not preclude a student from meeting the essential or fundamental course requirements or from following the established policies and procedures.
Do I have to provide the accommodations listed in a letter if they do not fit with my philosophy?
Yes. Federal law requires the university to provide “reasonable” accommodations for students with disabilities; however, instructors may work with the DRO to provide alternative accommodations that satisfy the student’s need and the law. Providing accommodations is a shared obligation of Aurora University faculty and staff.
What accommodations are appropriate?
The Disability Resource Office grants “reasonable” accommodations to students with disabilities after reviewing documentation provided by medical or mental health practitioners and an interview with the student identifying the barriers to one or more life skill that exist.
Is disability information confidential? Can I talk to students about their disabilities?
Disability information is confidential and faculty should not have a conversation with a student with a disability in front of others. The DRO will discuss specific accommodations with faculty, not the disability. Many students wish for this information to remain private and we do not want them to feel obligated to share their confidential diagnosis as they are not required to do so and are protected by law.
What should faculty/staff do if they suspect a student has a disability?
Do NOT ask a student if s/he has a disability. Inquire about what might be affecting the student's progress in the class. A student with a disability will likely disclose at this time, if the difficulties are disability related. Refer the student to The Disability Resource Office if he/she discloses a disability, or indicates s/he suspects a disability.
Do I need to facilitate the testing accommodations?
Instructors are welcome to implement testing accommodations in the classroom or in their office if they are able to mitigate the environmental factors; however, it is not required. With an advanced reservation, the Academic Support Center’s testing services can assist with test accommodations including extended time, a test reader, test scribe or a distraction-reduced environment. Every test requires the instructor to complete and authorize a testing request form to submit with the exam. Testing instructions and the required form are available on the Disability Resource Office website: aurora.edu/dro. For more information, call (630) 844-6871.
The student is asking to turn in their assignments late, what do I do?
All students are expected to submit assignments in on time. It is not a routine accommodation to allow students to be exempt from due dates or other essential components of their courses but in some instances, arrangements for extensions are reasonable due to their condition.
Can I provide accommodations to a student who does not present a letter?
If a student asks for an accommodation but does not have written document verifying eligibility, the instructor should immediately refer the student to Disability Resource Office. Similarly, if a student asks you for a specific accommodation that is not on their letter, you are not obligated to provide it and should refer the student to the DRO. The DRO is the office designated by the University to verify a qualified disability and ensure accommodation. This provides legal protection for you, the faculty member, and the University. To provide an accommodation without the accommodation letter would be to allow that student a right to which s/he may not be entitled and an advantage over other students in the class.
A student in my class has peer note taker accommodations. What is my responsibility?
The Disability Resource Office will contact other students in the same class section to ask for assistance. Student note takers become student-employees for that semester and earn a stipend at the end of the term. The note taker is responsible to share their typed notes within one day of the class meeting. From time-to-time when it is difficult to identify a note-taker, the DRO will ask the instructor to make a class announcement to help facilitate recruitment.
A student has a Sign Language Interpreter in my class. What is my responsibility?
A sign language interpreter is a trained professional hired by the University to facilitate communication in the classroom for a student who is deaf/hard of hearing. Each class will have two interpreters that alternate signing for the student. The interpreter is present only for facilitating communication and when possible should be given access to your class Moodle shell for preparation purposes. Please do not ask the interpreter to perform additional tasks other than interpreting. The accommodation letter will indicate the accommodation for a sign language interpreter.
What is an FM (Frequency Modulation) system, and how will it affect class lectures?
The FM system is equipment used in the classroom to amplify the lecture for a hard of hearing student. The professor wears a microphone lanyard which allows the student to directly hear the professor’s voice. A wireless signal is transmitted to the student’s headphones or hearing aid, through a receiver. The system blocks distracting sounds, however, it has no impact on the general class lecture.
What are my responsibilities to students who request alternative formats for textbooks and other class materials?
Instructors should provide names of textbooks and other reading materials, as soon as possible to maximize the time available for the DRO to work with the qualified student to obtain the alternative format. In some cases, it can take weeks to obtain the alternative format or convert the textbook into alternative formats (i.e., Braille, enlarged print, audio text) to ensure that qualified students will have access to required course materials at the start of the semester.
What accommodations are required if a student discloses after-the-fact (i.e. failing an exam)?
The Aurora University Disability Resource Office does not accommodate retroactively, so no accommodations are necessary. If the student is asking for accommodations, refer them to the DRO.
Where can I get more information about services for students with disabilities?
Visit our website at aurora.edu/dro or contact the Disability Resource Coordinator at (630) 844-5454.