Reasonable Accommodations: A Faculty Guide to Teaching College Students With Disabilities
The purpose of this handbook is to provide faculty with information and suggestions to help them meet the needs of students with disabilities in their classrooms.
Students with disabilities are a rapidly growing minority within CUNY as elsewhere in American higher education. In 1998, an estimated 9,000 City University students were identified as having disabilities.
This figure represents only those known to the colleges, but, according to national norms, it is likely that there are actually three times as many students with disabilities enrolled.
Beyond the university's commitment to fulfill the promise of access is the legal imperative embodied in Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It states in part (as amended):
No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States... shall, solely on the basis of disability, be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity provided by any institution receiving federal financial assistance.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), landmark civil rights legislation for the disabled, reaffirms this mandate.
In order to comply with it, colleges and universities that receive federal assistance must assure that the same educational programs and services offered to other students be available to students with disabilities. Academic ability must be the sole basis for participation in post-secondary education.
To accomplish this goal, both physical and programmatic access must be provided. This means more than the removal of architectural barriers and the provision of auxiliary services. It means that reasonable accommodations must be made in the instructional process to ensure full educational opportunity. This principle applies to all teaching strategies and modes, as well as to institutional and departmental policies.
The means of achieving this ideal are often not merely matters of judgment. They are matters of knowledge and awareness of disability law and the educational needs of students with disabilities. This handbook is designed to help faculty develop their awareness and knowledge in these areas.
The first step as an instructor is to treat students with disabilities as simply, students. After all, they come to college for the same reasons others do and they bring with them the same range of intelligence and scholastic skills.
In accommodating students who present themselves,
learn, or perform in ways that are different from others, it is vital
to remember that their similarities with others are much more significant.
We are dealing, first and foremost, with students.