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The information in this document was prepared by Misericordia University's Office for Students with Disabilities and is intended to assist members of the MU community to understand how the University chooses to respond to students with disabilities, especially in regard to the roles and responsibilities of the faculty.

Legal Background: Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Two laws that impact on higher education and students with disabilities are: the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  This legislation was designed to protect the rights of qualified individuals with disabilities.  Tittle II of ADA states that:
 

"No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of disability, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

Section 504 defines a person with a disability as:
"Any person who ...

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

Disabling conditions include, but are not limited to:

- Acquired Brain Injuries
- Attention Deficit Disorders
- Blindness/Visual Impairments
- Cerebral Palsy
- Deafness/Hearing Impairments
- Learning Disabilities
- Orthopedic/Mobility Impairments
- Psychological Disorders
- Speech and Language Disorders
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Tourette's Syndrome
- Chronic Illnesses

Misericordia's Programs Serving Students with Disabilities

Section 504 Academic Adjustments Program

Misericordia University provides the academic adjustments and reasonable auxiliary aids and services that are necessary under Section 504 free of charge to students with disabilities.  Students interested in obtaining academic adjustments and auxiliary services at no cost should contact Kristen Ricardo., Assistant Director Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities, at 570-674-6205 or kdefeo@misericordia.edu

Note: See Section 504 Accommodations under Services for students with Disabilities on the MU website www.misericordia.edu. for more detailed information about the program.

Alternative Learners Project

Students may also elect to apply to Misericordia University's Alternative Learners Project  (ALP).  Founded in 1979, ALP was one of the nation's first formal college-level programs for students with learning disabilities.  In 1995, the program expanded to serve all students with disabilities who attend the University.  ALP is designed to provide support to students with documented disabilities that extends beyond those accommodations required under the University's 504 program.  ALP students pay a fee each semester for participation in the program.

Note: See Alternative Learners Project under Students with Disabilities on the MU website www.misericordia.edu. for more detailed information regarding ALP.

Modifications and Accommodations

The modifications and accommodations Misericordia University provides for qualified students with disabilities may include:

  • Architecturally accessible buildings and facilities.
  • Reasonable services such as qualified sign language interpreters.
  • Provision of reasonable accommodations such as extended time on exams or in-class assignments, priority seating assignments, use of assistive devices or technology such as tape recorders for class notes, note sharers, and other accommodations or services.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

  • A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment that will allow a student with a disability to perform in a program or have the same rights and privileges as students without disabilities.
  • Reasonable accommodations make it possible for a student with a disability to participate fully in the educational programs and activities; and for the faculty member to fairly evaluate the student's understanding of the material without interference from the disability.

Confidentiality

Information regarding a disability is treated as confidential information as defined by the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) http://www.ed.gov/offices/OM/ferpa.html.

Information about the existence and details of an individual's disability will be shared by the OSD on a "need-to-know" basis only.  Students are asked to sign a written release of information which is kept on file; and the student is informed that OSD staff must have permission to share disability status with instructors in order to facilitate the provision of accommodations.  Obviously, a student can voluntarily choose to share information regarding his/her disability with faculty or staff.  If a student does share this information with you, please remember that the information should remain confidential.

Responsibilities of Students and Faculty

Responsibilities of students with disabilities:

  • Apply and be accepted for admission at Misericordia University. Students with disabilities go through the standard admissions process. Note: Students applying to the Alternative Learners Project must also complete the ALP application process.
  • 504 students complete a Disability Declaration Form and return it along with sufficient documentation including an evaluation performed by a qualified professional(s).  Contact the Office for Students with Disabilities for more information.
  • After a request and sufficient documentation has been received by the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD), the student is required to meet in person with the Assistant Director of the SSC/OSD to discuss reasonable accommodations. In this meeting, an Accommodation Plan (AP) stating the reasonable accommodations that should be provided is given to qualified students with disabilities.
  • ALP students will develop a Program of Accommodation (POA) with the ALP manager.
  • Qualified 504 students with disabilities at Misericordia University must provide their instructors with the AP from the OSD in a timely manner.  It is strongly recommended that this be done in the first week of class.
  • ALP coordinators will provide POAs to faculty members on behalf of their students.

Responsibilities of Faculty/Staff Members:
Once an AP or POA has been received:

  • Faculty/Staff have the responsibility to comply with the provision of authorized reasonable accommodations in a reasonable and timely manner.
  • Faculty/Staff members should meet individually with the student to discuss the details.

If an AP or POA has not been received:

  • If a student requests accommodations for a disability, but does not provide the supporting documentation in the form of an AP or POA, please refer the student to the OSD. If an accommodation request is something that you would feel comfortable providing for any student (for example, closing the door to reduce distractions or providing seating near a window for natural light) the accommodation may be provided without consulting with OSD.  However, it is advisable to refer any accommodation request that is questionable to OSD.

When the appropriateness of the accommodation is in question:

  • Please consult with the OSD staff if you have any concerns regarding the appropriateness of or the proper way to facilitate a particular accommodation.

Additional Insights

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act help define how to best accommodate and provide equal access to students with disabilities, certain myths concerning services to students with disabilities continue to exist.  Academic accommodations for persons with disabilities should not imply lower academic standards.  Most accommodations in the classroom are inexpensive, require minimum time, and do not have an impact on academic standards.  Moreover, we must remember that providing accommodations to individuals with disabilities is not unfair to other students.  Rather, it is the means by which the individuals with disabilities are provided equal access to all the programs, services and activities provided by the University.

Additionally, persons with the same disability may have different needs and levels of difficulty with similar course materials.  Each student with a disability should be approached as an individual, and should have input regarding how mutually satisfactory solutions and accommodations can be developed.

Things to Consider:

  • When discussing a student's disability and accommodation needs, talk only about needs that are relevant to the successful completion of course work.
  • Often, the most difficult aspect of living with a disability is the negative attitudes of others.  It is important for faculty and staff to be aware of this situation when working with a student with a disability.  Some students may feel uncomfortable discussing or even disclosing their disability.
  • Remember that an individual with a disability is like anyone else, except for specific limitations of the disability.
  • Be yourself when you meet an individual with a disability, and talk about the same things you would with anyone else.
  • Don't make assumptions about the skills or deficiencies of an individual with a disability.
  • Talk directly to an individual with a disability, not to someone accompanying him/her.
  • Don't be over-protective or over-solicitous, and don't offer pity or charity. 
  • Don't assume that an individual with a disability has other limitations; e.g., don't raise your voice when speaking to a person who is visually impaired.
  • When referring to individuals with disabilities "put people first," not their disabilities.  This puts the focus on the individual, not their functional limitation.  (e.g., The phrases "students with disabilities", "student with a hearing impairment", "woman with arthritis", etc. are preferred,  While, "handicapped students", "deaf girl",  "crippled woman", etc. are considered unacceptable terminology.)
  • The term handicap is not a synonym for disability.  Handicap can be used when citing laws, but should not be used to describe a disability. ("Accessible parking" is preferred to "handicapped parking".)
  • An individual's disability should not be disclosed to someone who does not have "a need to know." Information regarding a disability is confidential.
  • Do not ask a question you would not want to answer yourself.

Welcome to "In Their Shoes!"

This is a 15-20 minute online training/interactive web-based program for faculty and staff in higher education produced by Penn State. Click here to view the online training. If prompted, university username id is dallas.

For More Information

Office for Students with Disabilities
Kristen Ricardo, Assistant Director
Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities
Tel: 570-674-6205
kdefeo@misericordia.edu.