ADA/Learning Accommodations

Dear Colleagues,

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (as amended in 2008) have set out key expectations/requirements that we as an institution need to meet. The most frequent ADA-related request the University receives involves students seeking accommodations for documented learning differences, psychiatric illnesses, and/or physical disabilities.

Such requests for accommodation are not new, and Sewanee’s faculty generally have been receptive to the requests and have worked with students to help them have the best learning environment. Faculty should be aware that the number of requests has risen noticeably, and they are more likely to have more students requesting accommodations. However, the typical accommodations will not be particularly different from those requested in the past (such as extra time for exams, the ability to take exams in distraction-reduced environments, assistance with note taking, and the ability to use a word processor to type an exam).

To be proactive, though, faculty should do three things:

1.       Faculty should be explicit on syllabi about course objectives. Consider why you might, for example, have a 10% participation grade: why is participation critical to your course? Perhaps it is essential to your course that students learn to present and evaluate oral arguments. Please do take the time to detail all your course objectives.

2.       Faculty should also include a statement about accommodations on the syllabus. The following is supplied by the University Wellness Center, and you’ll note that the statement clearly places the responsibility on the student and clarifies that accommodations cannot be applied after-the-fact:

ADA Statement

The University of the South is committed to fostering respect for the diversity of the University community and the individual rights of each member of that community. In this spirit, and in accordance with provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the University seeks to provide students with disabilities the reasonable accommodations needed to ensure equal access to the programs and activities of the University. If you have a disability and require accommodations in this course, you have the responsibility of presenting your instructor with a copy of your academic accommodations letter from the University Wellness Center (931.598.1270). Accommodations will not be provided without this documentation, and accommodations cannot be applied retroactively. Additional information about disability accommodations can be found here.

If you have questions about physical accessibility, please inform your instructor so that we can ensure an accessibility, please inform your instructor so that we can ensure an accessible, safe, and effective environment. 

3.       Finally, if you are not prepared to accept a student’s accommodation, you must confer first with Alex Bruce, who is the liaison with the Wellness Center, rather than denying the accommodation outright. Alex will work with you and the Wellness Center to find a resolution.

Thank you for your attention to these critical matters. We need to be compliant not just because of the law, but more because we need to respect our students and their differences. For additional information about accommodations and disability services, including information about service animals and emotional support animals, please see the Wellness Center.