Faculty and Staff
Faculty and staff play a crucial role in providing access and opportunity for individuals with disabilities. Working together, the DSO can assist you in creating a welcoming and respectful learning environment that promotes equity and fairness to all. Please feel free to contact us with questions or concerns.
The Role of the Disability Services Office
The Disability Services Office (DSO) is responsible for coordinating disability services and reasonable accommodations for students, employees and university guests, promoting disability awareness, and providing opportunities for professional development for the campus community.
As part of these responsibilities the DSO requests, reviews and maintains disability-related documents, determines eligibility for services and develops plans for reasonable accommodations. Please click here for more information about common accommodations.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that is intended to stop discrimination against people with disabilities. It applies to employers, state and local government agencies, places of public accommodation, transportation facilities, telephone companies and others. Under Title II of the ADA, public colleges and universities are required to provide auxiliary aids and services to qualified students with disabilities. Providing auxiliary aids and services is not considered special treatment, but rather an equal opportunity to participate in the services, programs or activities offered by the university. Faculty and staff play an important role in assuring institutional compliance with nondiscrimination laws.
Federal law provides the definition of a disability. More information on the definition of a disability.
Communicating with Students About Accommodations
Effective communication between faculty, staff, students and DSO staff plays a crucial role in appropriately providing accommodations. Students will approach you early in the
semester to discuss their academic needs and to deliver a letter from the DSO verifying their approved accommodations. Sample accommodation letter.
Tips for Effective Communication
- Give students the opportunity to privately discuss with you their need for accommodations. If a student catches you after class or in a space that does not allow for a confidential conversation, suggest that you meet in your office or find an empty classroom. It is okay to schedule an appointment to meet at a better time or location.
- Encourage students to discuss their strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the course or activity. It is important for you to know that students are not required to disclose their disability, and by law, you are not permitted to ask.
- Also, it is important to remember that each student is an individual, and different disabilities create different circumstances. Even among those with the same disability, an accommodation that works for one student may not for another.
- Most reasonable accommodations are easy to arrange. Discuss with the student how you will implement their accommodation plan (how, when, where). Invite the student to make suggestions based on his/her experiences in other courses.
- Remember that students with disabilities have a right to use their accommodations. They may not be ignored and the student should not be persuaded either overtly or covertly into not using them. Legally, this would be considered discrimination. For example, a faculty member may not say "Why don't you try the first exam to see how you do before using accommodations." Since a student may not then re-take the first test using accommodations in an effort to improve, students should be afforded their accommodations from the start.
Information about student disabilities is confidential. Although you may be informed of a student's disability status or accommodation needs, you may not share this information with others unless the student specifically requests you do so.
- Never discuss or refer to a student's disability or accommodations in the presence of other students, staff or faculty.
- When meeting with a student, arrange to meet in your office or in a private classroom.
- Do not ask students to disclose their disabilities. You may inquire about their difficulties, the challenges they face in your classroom or in the residence hall, or how you can help.
- Always ask the student before bringing another faculty or staff member into conversations that might include the student's disability.
- Email is not a secure form of communication so be careful about sending messages containing student names with disability information.
- When leaving phone messages for students, don't refer to a disability. Simply leave your name, phone number and the best time to reach you.
Creating a Welcoming Environment/Universal Design in Education
The intent of universal design (UD) is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications and the physical environment more usable by as many people as possible. Using this concept in education benefits all student and all abilities.
- Include a statement on your syllabus that invites students to meet with you to discuss disability-related accommodations and other learning needs.
- Utilize multiple methods to deliver content (including lecture, discussion, hands-on activities, web-based interaction and fieldwork) to engage all learners.
- Use examples that appeal to a variety of students with respect to race, age, gender and disability.
- Provide printed or web-based materials which summarize content that is delivered orally.
- Face your audience and speak clearly.
- Use captioned videos and ensure PowerPoint presentations and web pages are accessible (text descriptions for graphics).
- Provide printed materials in accessible electronic format.
- Provide printed materials early so that students can prepare to access the materials in alternate formats.
- Provide prompts during an activity and feedback after it is completed.
- Provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate knowledge.
Resources and Helpful Links
- View a panel of KU students with disabilities discussing their disabilities and what works for them.
- The Faculty Room - a website about disabilities for faculty use.
- Information on Asperger's Syndrome.
- View a video on what campus leaders have to say about accessibility.
- View some personal stories about needing accessible websites.
- Understand how to make multimedia accessible.
- Take a few minutes to view this streaming video, "Building the Team: Faculty, Staff and Students Working Together".
- Consider incorporating principles of universal design in your courses to increase access for all students: Universal course design.
- If you are planning a meeting or event, remember to follow the Accessible Meetings, Events, Programs Policy found on the Disability Services Office policy page and include a statement asking if there is any need for accommodation per the policy. Be sure to clearly include the phone number of the event sponsor on the flyer for general information or questions about the event.