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DSS and Faculty: A Collaborative Effort

Disability Support Services (DSS) assists students and employees with disabilities in accessing the many resources of the University. Individuals with visual, mobility and hearing impairment as well as those with hidden disabilities such as chronic medical conditions, psychological, and learning disabilities are invited to make use of the services and equipment available. Individuals with permanent or temporary disabilities are also encouraged to consult with DSS.

DSS Responsibilities

The DSS staff is here to support student and faculty interactions.
Stony Brook policy appoints DSS as the designated office to evaluate documentation and notify faculty regarding accommodations.

An institution of higher education actually protects faculty members from unwarranted and dysfunctional pressures by designating a particular office as the place where documentation about disabilities is filed and where the institution's experience is concentrated for accommodation design and development. - Oklahoma Community College

Faculty members are protected by compliance with the accommodations recommended by the DSS office and are encouraged to consult with DSS staff regarding the appropriateness of accommodations within the curriculum. Students requesting accommodations should always be referrer to DSS.

Student Responsibilities

Students are responsible for registering and providing documentation to DSS in order to receive accommodations. Students receive instruction from the DSS office that encourages them to meet with their faculty and discuss their needs. Unlike high school, college students need to self-advocate. This means they must be able to communicate their needs and discuss with faculty how accommodations will be administered. Students must follow the DSS procedure for testing accommodations. Students are responsible for making all testing arrangements with both DSS and the faculty.

Academic Accommodations

Students who receive accommodations through DSS have provided documentation of the nature and limitations of their disability. The disabilities of individuals registering with DSS range from permanent medical conditions, limited mobility, loss of vision, and deafness or hearing loss, to learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, acquired brain injuries or strokes, psychiatric disabilities. Below are common accommodation requests.

Attendance Policy

A student's disability may have an impact on attendance in class. When DSS is provided documentation that supports a student's need for flexibility in attendance faculty will be notified at the student's request. DSS can not waive attendance requirements and only the professor can determine when excessive absences are preventing the student from meeting the academic standards of the class. Students are instructed to remain in close contact with the professor and to negotiate making up missed assignments etc. with the professor after each disability related absence. Students are expected to attend and participate in class as part of the essential curriculum and while some flexibility is requested it is at the discretion of the professor.

Extended Time for Assignments

The student's disability may impact on the completion of some assignments in a timely manner. The student has been instructed to negotiate with the faculty regarding deadlines and the impact of late assignments on meeting the academic requirements of the class. The student is aware that it is the professor who determines when late assignments prevent the student from meeting the academic standards of the class.

Types of Testing and Classroom Accommodations

Testing accommodations are provided when there is a disability-related need for them. Faculty are not expected to lower their academic standards using accommodations available, students should be able to demonstrate their knowledge without the need for alternative tests or different evaluation/grading standards.

DSS accommodation letters state the appropriate testing accommodations, depending upon the nature of the course-work and the disability-related needs of the student.

Some of the most commonly requested accommodations:

  • Extended time. The request for extended time is one of the most common accommodations for all disability groups. The most frequent accommodation is time and one half, although rarely double time is requested. Unlimited time is not recommended unless this option is available to all students.
  • Accessible testing site and accessible seating. Students who may need front row seating include those who can not walk up or down steps, have difficulty maneuvering through a row of seats, have vision or hearing impairments, or have disabilities that affect their ability to remain focused on visual or auditory lecture material.
  • Use of a reader. Reading printed material, including exams, person-to-person or on cassette tape.
  • Scribe services. Physically writing/typing the student's answers, verbatim, or filling out a scantron answer sheet according to the student's instructions.
  • Converted format. This may include large print, Braille, or audio-taped exam material.
  • Computer access. Many students can independently complete essay exams on computers. Some may need technology such as print enlargement, speech output, speech recognition or a spell-check program, available through DSS by advance arrangement.
  • Quiet /separate testing environment. Some students require a low distraction environment; others may need to verbalize the questions or their responses. Still other students may have physical needs to change position, or stand inside the test room to relieve pressure on an injured area. All students should have testing environments comparable to those of their classmates - i.e. testing space free from frequent interruptions, with proper writing surface, seating and lighting.

Testing Arrangements NOT Recommended by DSS Sometimes questions arise about the use of other arrangements as appropriate testing accommodations.

We DO NOT recommend:

  • Unlimited time for taking tests. DSS does not recommend this unless the instructor provides this option for all students in the class. This option is usually not necessary or practical.
  • Clarification of test questions. DSS does not view clarification of test questions (e.g. the instructor or proctor giving the student a definition or explaining the meaning of a phrase or question) as a disability accommodation . Students with disabilities should be held to the same standards as other students when it comes to expectations about understanding course content, exam questions, etc. If students without disabilities are allowed to receive clarification of questions they have, however, students with disabilities should receive a similar allowance, whether taking the exam with the class or in a private testing site.
  • Testing in an unsuitable environment. When a request for special location is made students should not be asked to take a test behind a screen or blackboard or in the hall outside the room or a noisy office as this will not provide the student with a distraction reduced environment. Students must be monitored and have the ability to ask questions if that is allowed in the classroom.


Administration of Tests

DSS has traditionally provided necessary exam accommodations for University students. Recently the number of students needing testing accommodations has grown, surpassing the physical testing space and funding available to DSS. DSS has found it increasingly difficult to attend to every testing situation that arises.

The Provost has expressed that it is not feasible or appropriate for DSS to administer faculty exams in every instance and the faculty and their departments collaborate to provide testing locations as well as staff to monitor questions students may have regarding the tests. The staff of DSS remains committed to working in partnership with faculty and departments to advise or assist them in their efforts to insure that students with disabilities have reasonable access to appropriate academic accommodations.

Students who require special testing arrangements due to a disability should be registered with Disability Support Services and can be expected to provide faculty with individualized letters of reasonable accommodation from this office. We advise that departments and faculty receiving authorized requests for reasonable accommodation be judicious in insuring that appropriate testing accommodations are provided, since there are specific legal requirements regarding the provision of such accommodations for students with disabilities. Please do not hesitate to contact DSS with questions or concerns.

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