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Disability Info
Disability Info

Disability Information

By Federal law, a “person with a disability” is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The RIT Disability Services Office serves students requiring academic accommodations as well as dietary or residential arrangements. The types of disabilities students here at RIT have include:

  • Specific learning disabilities in areas such as reading, math, written language, auditory or visual processing, or memory
  • Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder
  • Hearing disabilities
  • Vision disabilities
  • Asperger’s disorder and other Autism spectrum disorders
  • Psychological or psychiatric disabilities such as mood, anxiety and depressive disorders, and bipolar disorder
  • Chronic health disabilities such as Crohn’s disease, hemophilia, narcolepsy, arthritis, fibromyalgia, cancer, epilepsy, diabetes, and migraine headaches

Although faculty and staff do not necessarily have access to the names/labels of disabilities that their students have, information is provided here about some of the types of disabilities RIT and NTID students have and the classroom modifications and accommodations that may be effective for students to gain equal access to the programs and opportunities available. It’s important to note that some of our students have multiple disabilities. Many of the ideas listed could be considered guidelines of good pedagogy and beneficial to any student.

Students with specific learning disabilities

Learning disabilities are generally identified when the student’s achievement, as measured on individually administered standardized tests, is substantially below that expected given the individual’s chronological age, measured intelligence, and age-appropriate education.

Students with learning disabilities may exhibit characteristics such as

  • marked difficulty in reading, writing, spelling, and/or using numerical concepts
  • poor handwriting
  • disorganization
  • trouble understanding or following directions

Suggested classroom practices

  1. Provide a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due dates.
  2. Identify your textbooks early so students have time to order them in alternate format as needed.
  3. Remind students of deadlines.
  4. When possible start each lecture with an oral or written summary or outline of material to be covered.
  5. Provide assignment information in written and oral format.
  6. For large projects or long papers help the student breakdown the task into component parts. Set deadlines for each part.
  7. Provide prompt, explicit feedback, both in written and oral format.
  8. Vary the class format; alternate lecture with presentations and class discussion.
  9. If someone does not understand a concept, try explaining it in a different way.
  10. Structure opportunities for students to apply concepts and information.
  11. Practice flexibility in requiring students to read out loud or perform calculations at the board.
  12. Be open to suggestions from the student about how to best accommodate their needs.

Possible recommended academic accommodations

  • Extended time for tests and/or assignments, projects, labs
  • Use of texts in alternate format (“books on tape”)
  • Use of the word processor and/or spell check
  • Use of a basic, 4 function calculator
  • Use of a reader for exams
  • Use of a scribe for exams
  • Ability to audio record lectures
  • Ability to use lap top in class to take notes

Students with Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder

There are three types of attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder:

  • Type 1 - predominantly inattentive
  • Type 2 - predominantly hyperactive/impulsive
  • Type 3 - a combination of inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive

Type 1 - Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder, predominantly inattentive
Symptoms may include

  • often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school work
  • often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks
  • often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork or duties in the workplace (not failure to understand instructions)
  • often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to keep engaged in tasks that require sustained mental effort
  • often loses things necessary for tasks or activities
  • often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • often forgetful with daily activities

Type 2 - Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive
Symptoms may include

Hyperactivity:

  • often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining in seat is expected
  • often is "on the go"
  • may talk excessively
Impulsivity:
  • often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • often has difficulty awaiting turns
  • often interrupts or intrudes on others

Type 3 - Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder, combined - includes individuals who show significant problems with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity
Suggested classroom practices

  1. Provide a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due dates.
  2. Remind students of deadlines.
  3. When possible start each lecture with an oral or written summary or outline of material to be covered.
  4. Provide assignment information in written and oral format.
  5. For large projects or long papers help the student breakdown the task into component parts. Set deadlines for each part.
  6. Provide prompt, explicit feedback, both in written and oral format.
  7. Vary the class format; alternate lecture with presentations and class discussion.
  8. Be open to suggestions from the student about how to best accommodate their needs.

Possible recommended academic accommodations

  1. Extended time for tests and/or assignments, projects, labs; students may require more time due to distractibility or having to read things multiple times.
  2. Alternate location for testing.
  3. Priority seating; students may wish to sit close to instructor or away from others or noisy areas.
  4. Ability to record lectures or use laptop or tablet to take notes.

Students who are Deaf or hard of hearing

Students at RIT and NTID make use of a variety of visual and auditory modes of communication such as use of auditory skills, speechreading (lipreading), cued speech, American Sign Language (ASL), and "signed English".

Suggested classroom practices

  1. Designate an area in the room from which you’ll lecture and the interpreter can stand or sit to one side of you.
  2. Do not obstruct the students’ view of the interpreter.
  3. If lights need to be dimmed, make sure interpreter is still in well lit area.
  4. When an interpreter is used, speak directly to the student rather than the interpreter.
  5. Face the class when speaking. Speak clearly and naturally.
  6. Do not stand or sit in front of a window where glare or shadows will impede speech reading and/or facial expression.
  7. Use visual cues and media as much as possible in presenting course related information.
  8. During class discussions encourage only one speaker at a time and point out who is speaking. Repeat the question or comment to clarify the point the speaker has made.
  9. Use captioned films/videos. See: RIT Guidelines for Captioning Audio-Visual Media and Captioning audio-visual media; Information for RIT Students June 2011
  10. Be open to suggestions from the student about how to best accommodate their needs.

Possible recommended academic accommodations

(Not provided by the DSO; these services are availabe to cross-registered NTID/RIT students through the Department of Access Services.)

  1. Use of an interpreter
  2. Use of a note-taker
  3. Use of C-Print
  4. Priority seating

Online Resources

RIT/NTID's "Deaf Plus" information site for students and instructors. This provides information about working with Deaf/hard of hearing students with additional disabilities.
http://www.rit.edu/ntid/deafplus

National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID)
http://www.ntid.rit.edu

Class Act
This site contains a large amount of information intended to improve existing teaching practice regarding "access" to learning for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students in postsecondary classrooms.
http://www.rit.edu/classact

Students with vision disabilities

Vision is measured in terms of how much can be seen (peripheral field of vision) and how clearly it can be seen (visual acuity). In RIT and NTID we have students who are considered legally blind and also those who have low vision or are partially sighted. Some of our Deaf students also have Usher's Syndrome, a genetic syndrome which produces hearing loss and a loss of peripheral vision and poor dark adaptation or night blindness.

Suggested classroom practices

  1. Identify your textbooks early so students have time to order them in alternate format as needed.
  2. Try to keep a clear path from the door into the room.
  3. Encourage students to keep personal items out of pathways between desks.
  4. Make sure the classroom has adequate lighting.
  5. Face the class when speaking.
  6. Pace presentation of material; if referring to a textbook or handout, allow time for students to find the information.
  7. Use dark markers on the whiteboard.
  8. Read aloud what you write on the whiteboard or present in PowerPoint.
  9. Verbally describe objects and processes whenever possible.
  10. During class discussions, ask speakers to identify themselves by name.
  11. Inform students about field trips in advance so they can make transportation arrangements.
  12. Assist as needed with allowing space for a service animal.
  13. Be open to suggestions from the student about how to best accommodate their needs.

Possible recommended academic accommodations

  1. Provide syllabus and other written items in enlarged font or electronically
  2. Priority seating
  3. Use of texts in alternate format
  4. Ability to record lectures or use lap top to take notes

Online resources
Considerations when teaching students who are Deaf-blind http://www.netac.rit.edu/publication/tipsheet/Deaf-blind.html

RIT/NTID's "Deaf Plus" information site for students and instructors. This provides information about working with Deaf/hard of hearing students with additional disabilities.
http://www.rit.edu/ntid/deafplus

Students with Asperger's disorder or other autism spectrum disorders

The essential features of Asperger's disorder are severe and sustained impairment in social interaction and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.

Characteristics may include: Impairment in social interaction

  • marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye to eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
  • failure to develop pure relationships appropriate to developmental level
  • a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people
  • lack of social or emotional reciprocity

Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities

  • encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
  • apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
  • stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms
  • persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

Suggested classroom practices

  1. Provide a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due dates.
  2. Let students know in advance about changes in routine or expectations.
  3. Try to be creative/flexible in requiring or assigning group work.
  4. Be aware that students may avoid eye contact.
  5. Be aware that students may need to retreat from class or activity if it becomes too overwhelming.
  6. Be aware that students may prefer email to in-person interactions.
  7. Discuss inappropriate classroom and interactive behavior with the student in a private and respectful manner, delineating if necessary the limits of acceptable conduct.
  8. Be open to suggestions from the student about how to best accommodate their needs.

Possible recommended academic accommodations
This really varies according to individual students due to the wide range of ability levels, strengths, weaknesses, and if other disabilities also are present. Some students require extended time on tests and use of the test center.

Students with psychological or psychiatric disabilities

Quite often the existence of these types of disabilities is not apparent in a student sitting in the classroom. The number of students with psychological or psychiatric disabilities is increasing on college campuses. This continues to be an area that is not well understood or accepted by society.

Suggested classroom practices

  1. Provide a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due dates.
  2. Try to be creative/flexible in requiring or assigning group work.
  3. Discuss inappropriate classroom and interactive behavior with the student in a private and respectful manner, delineating if necessary the limits of acceptable conduct.
  4. Be open to suggestions from the student about how to best accommodate their needs.

Possible recommended academic accommodations

  1. Extended time for tests and /or assignments or projects; students may need extended time for a variety of reasons concerning their condition or medication.
  2. Ability to make up work due to medical absence; students may be absent due to treatment sessions or hospitalization.

Students with chronic health disabilities

Students with disabilities in this category present with a variety of characteristics and needs. Instructors are requested to work individually with students who present their Disability Services Agreement to arrive at mutually agreeable solutions on how their accommodations can be offered.

Suggested classroom practices

  1. Allow flexibility in class starting time if students have made it known that they may be a few minutes late to class.
  2. Be open to suggestions from the student about how to best accommodate their needs.

Possible recommended academic accommodations

  1. Extended time for tests and /or assignments or projects; students may need extended time for a variety of reasons concerning their condition or medication.
  2. Ability to make up work due to medical absence; students may be absent due to treatment sessions or hospitalization

Provost's Section 504 Memo

A memo with the following information is routinely sent by Jeremy Haefner, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, at the start of each academic year:

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, reaffirmed by the 1992 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was created to protect the rights of people with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act specifically applies to colleges and universities and can have a direct impact on our day-to-day activities. The information below, "The Facts about Section 504 in the Classroom," describes in more detail the law, how it impacts the classroom, modifications that can be made to comply with the law, and resources available to assist in understanding the law. Please take the time to read this fact sheet carefully. If you need further information or have questions, contact Susan Ackerman, Disability Services Director, at extension 5-6988 or by e-mail at smacst@rit.edu.

It is every faculty member's responsibility to become familiar with the law and to provide reasonable accommodations. More importantly, we want to continue to do everything reasonable to assist our many talented and skilled persons with disabilities in reaching their potential. The statement below has been developed to reach out to students with different academic needs and should be read by faculty to their classes during the first week of the semester.

“RIT is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities. If you would like to request accommodations such as special seating or testing modifications due to a disability, please contact the Disability Services Office. It is located in the Student Alumni Union, Room 1150; the Web site is www.rit.edu/dso. After you receive accommodation approval, it is imperative that you see me during office hours so that we can work out whatever arrangement is necessary.”

Below you will find listed the staff in the Disability Services Office and the names and telephone numbers of the Disability Liaisons in each college.

Disability Services Director: Susan Ackerman 5-6988, smacst@rit.edu

Academic Accommodation Coordinator: Shelley Zoeke 5-5538, slzdso@rit.edu

Staff Assistant: Alyson Jones 5-2023, aljldc@rit.edu

Disability Liaisons
Gail Quartieri, CAST – 5-5435
Kathy Estabrooks, SCB – 5-6085
Joanne Roets, GCCIS – 5-4779
Fredda Bishop, KGCOE – 5-4595
Debbie Kingsbury, CIAS – 5-5154
John Smithgall, CLA - 5-2440
Linda Bryant, NTID – 5-6597
Catherine Mahrt-Washington, COS – 5-7046
Abby Cantwell, Center for Multidisciplinary Studies – 5-7297
Susan Lindsay, University Studies – 5-5263
Rebecca Roberts, CHST – 5-4056
Donna Podeszek, GIS – 5-4990

The facts about section 504 in the classroom; what is section 504?

In 1973 The Rehabilitation Act was passed; Section 504 of this act states that "no otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Subpart E of Section 504 is applicable to all post secondary educational programs and activities which receive Federal financial assistance. Colleges and universities must be free from discrimination in their recruitment, admissions and treatment of students.

An "otherwise qualified individual with a disability" is defined as one who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the Institute's programs and activities. This may include students who are Deaf or hard of hearing or who have orthopedic, speech, or learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, blindness, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, AIDS, mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction in remission, heart disease or epilepsy.

How does this law impact the classroom?

For college students with disabilities, academic adjustments may be needed to insure maximal participation. These adjustments may include the use of auxiliary equipment and support staff. Students with disabilities may request academic modifications that allow for their maximal participation. If appropriate, faculty will receive a Disability Services Agreement from the Disability Services Office that lists their accommodations. Examples of reasonable and timely accommodations are:

  • Extended test time. Test in an alternate location with a proctor.
  • Use of alternate methods for students to demonstrate course mastery.
  • Use of basic four function calculators, word processors, spell check devices, readers (or reader software), or scribes (or speech-to-text software) during examinations.
  • Provision for note takers.
  • Removal of structural or architectural barriers or disturbances.

Faculty must provide all the accommodations listed in a student’s Disability Services Agreement. If a student requires accommodations not listed in the Disability Services Agreement, or determines that a currently listed accommodation is no longer necessary, the student must seek a revision to the Disability Services Agreement. This revision can only be made by the Disability Services Office. Faculty must continue to provide all the accommodations listed in a student’s Disability Services Agreement until they receive a revised Disability Services Agreement form the Disability Services Office.

It is vital that Faculty select or provide accessible media for their courses.See RIT’s guidelines for captioning audio-visual media.

When considering the use of emerging technology such as electronic book readers, be aware that some of these devices lack an accessible text-to-speech function so may not be accessible to students who are blind, have low vision or other print disabilities.

WHERE CAN THE RESOURCES REGARDING SECTION 504 BE FOUND?

Questions about accommodations for students with disabilities can be addressed to Susan Ackerman, Disability Services Director, at x5-6988. Visit the website at: www.rit.edu/dso.

If you have any questions about the Provost's Section 504 Memo, please contact:

Susan Ackerman
Student Alumni Union (SAU) Room 1155
(585) 475-6988
smacst@rit.edu