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Providing Accommodations

Providing Accommodations

Disability and Accessibility Services (DAS) provides services to Berea College students with disabilities. Under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, a person with a disability is defined as any person who:

  • has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • has a record of such impairment
  • is regarded as having such an impairment

Examples of major life activities are: walking, seeing, speaking, hearing, breathing, learning, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, and working. These are examples only. Other activities such as sitting, standing, lifting, or reading are also major life activities (EEOC, 1992). Thus, a student with a disability who needs accommodations must present DAS with documentation that establishes a substantial limitation in a major life activity.

Section 504 regulation requires a postsecondary school to provide auxiliary aids (e.g.: accommodations) and services to qualified students who have disabilities. Disability and Accessibility Services (DAS) engages with students in an interactive process to determine reasonable accommodations to ensure the full and equal access to the programs, services, and activities at Berea College. DAS must thoughtfully consider every request for accommodations on a case-by-case basis, which can be made by a student at any time. The accommodations that are assigned to students by DAS have been determined to be reasonable based on the expertise of DAS staff, the interactive process, and the review of relevant documentation including, but not limited to: medical records, psychoeducational assessments, educational records, and interaction with the student. 

Once determined by DAS, it is the student’s responsibility to make their instructors aware of their accommodations each term and it is the institution’s responsibility to provide accommodations and services in a timely manner after the notification is made. DAS encourages faculty to use a student’s notification letter as a starting point for a conversation to discuss concerns, questions, and details that may be specific to your course. When considering an accommodation, always remember that the student with the disability is the expert on his/her disability. He/she knows what works or doesn’t work. Encourage the student to share his/her insights so that the most effective accommodation can be made.

Accommodations may be considered unreasonable, and possibly denied, if they meet one of these conditions: fundamentally alters the course or program, presents an undue burden, or is a threat to safety. Faculty may not unilaterally refuse to implement an accommodation and merely stating that an accommodation is unreasonable or is a fundamental alteration is not enough. Faculty must engage in a specific, deliberative process with DAS to determine if an accommodation is unreasonable.

Exception: Fundamental Alteration

Faculty have the right to maintain the academic standards and fundamental nature of their course content. If an accommodation reduces the academic standards of the college, its departments, or its courses, the college can deny the accommodation and deem it unreasonable after a Fundamental Alteration Review Process. Academic standards are essential for any student. Determination of a fundamental alteration is made by a committee made up of objective persons who collectively are knowledgeable about the academic area, any related licensing requirements, any applicable accreditation for the course of study, the student’s disability, and accommodation methods. The committee will not be limited exclusively to individuals from the department that provides the course or program.

Exception: Undue Burden

Undue burden refers to an unreasonable financial or administrative burden. In considering whether an accommodation is an undue financial burden, the college must consider all resources available for use in the funding and operation of the service, program, or activity. While cost may be considered, the fact that providing a service to an individual with a disability would result in additional cost does not of itself constitute an undue burden on the program. An unreasonable administrative burden is not one that is merely inconvenient, rather it denotes something that presents significant difficulties or expense when considered in light of a number of factors, including the type of service or product being offered. Faculty may not unilaterally deny a request for an accommodation based on undue burden, rather must consult with DAS to discuss the proposed accommodation and consider alternative accommodations in the event an accommodation is determined to constitute an undue burden.