Disability Resource Center (DRC) at College of San Mateo - Frequently Asked Questions by Faculty
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Disability Resource Center (DRC)

Multi-Colored Question MarksFrequently Asked Questions by Faculty

Q. CONFIDENTIALITY: Is the information regarding a student's disability and the need for academic adjustments confidential?

A. Yes! Instructors and teaching assistants must maintain a policy of strict confidentiality about the identity of a student with a disability, the nature of the disability and the disability-related accommodations required. Approaching an instructor about accommodations is difficult for most students, please make every effort to maintain student privacy regarding their disability and services.

Q. ANNOUNCEMENT: How can I encourage students with disabilities to talk with me about their accommodations?

A. Announce at the beginning of a course that you are available to discuss instructional methods and appropriate course modifications with students who have disabilities. In addition, include a note to this effect on your course syllabus. For example:

If you have a documented disability and need accommodations for this class, please see me as soon as possible or contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) for assistance. The DRC is located in Building 10, Room 120. Phone: 574-6438.
Students requiring accommodations for a verified disability that may affect class performance are requested to schedule an appointment during the first week of the semester with a staff member at the DRC so that appropriate arrangements can be made. The DRC is located in Building 10, Room 120. Phone: 574-6438.

Q. CONFIDENTIALITY: Is it acceptable to ask a student who is having obvious difficulties whether he has a disability or to refer the student to the Disability Resource Center?

A. No. It is not a good idea to ask directly about a possible disability for a couple of reasons. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that a public entity may not make unnecessary inquiries into the existence of a disability. These inquiries usually relate to hiring or pre-admission screening, but when talking with students such inquiries should also be avoided. A direct inquiry such as this could also be considered intrusive or insensitive. You may simply tell the student that you notice she is having academic difficulty and encourage her to talk with you about gaining assistance, just as you would with any student.

Q. QUALIFIED STUDENTS: How do I know a student is qualified to receive disability-related accommodations?

A. A student who wishes to receive disability-related accommodations is encouraged to register with the DRC and provide documentation from an appropriate professional about his condition. DRC provides the student with an "Eligibility for Accommodations" form. You may ask to see this form.

By law, a student is not required to go through the DRC to receive academic adjustments and auxiliary aids.  Recent verification of the disability and educational limitations are required whether or not a student chooses to use DRC services. If a student brings you documentation, we encourage you to review the materials with DRC Certificated Staff. 

Q. REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS: How do I know what a reasonable academic accommodation is?

A. The DRC in collaboration with the student will determine reasonable and appropriate accommodations based upon the student's documented educational limitations.  The student will bring you an accommodations form from the DRC outlining how the appropriate accommodations will be provided. The student may also share with you accommodations that have proved successful for him in other classes. You should consult with the DRC if the students requests do not seem reasonable, or if the specified accommodations are directly in conflict specific learning objectives of the course as stated in the official course outline.

Q. DISAGREEMENTS: What if I do not agree with a recommended accommodation?

A. The institution is required by federal regulation to establish formal grievance procedures for providing prompt and equitable resolution of disagreements. When a dispute involves the conduct of a course or academic program, the SMCCCD Accomodations Policy provides procedures for consultation between the faculty member responsible for the course, the student, and a representative from the DRC. Read the SMCCCD's Accomodation Policy

Q. EXAMINATIONS: Some students with disabilities are provided extended time on examinations. Is this fair to other students?

A. The Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states: "The results of an examination should accurately reflect an individual's aptitude or achievement level or whatever the test purports to measure, rather than reflecting an individual's impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills." The courts have upheld repeatedly that a lengthening of the standard examination period is an appropriate accommodation for some students with disabilities. For example, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered the State Board of Bar Examiners to allow double the standard time on the bar exam for an applicant with Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder. Similarly, the State District Court for the Western District of New York ruled that a State Bar applicant with a visual impairment must be allowed a four-day examination period rather than the standard two-day period.

Q. AUDIO RECORDING: Can a faculty member forbid a student with a disability to audio record lectures in class?

A. An instructor is required to allow a student to audio record the class if recording lectures is determined to be an appropriate accommodation for a student's disability. Audio recorders are specifically mentioned in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as a means of providing full participation in educational programs and activities. Occasionally, classroom discussions reveal items of a personal nature about students. If open discussions tend to reveal personal information, it would be appropriate to ask the student with a disability to turn off the audio recorder during these discussions.  You can request that the student sign an Audio Recording Lectures Agreement which is available in the DRC office. Contact the DRC at 574-6438.

Q. ALTERNATE FORMATS: Is it legal for a student to scan their textbook and use it with special software that reads it out loud for them?

A. Yes, under the Federal Copyright Laws (Chaffee Amendment), instructional materials may be produced in alternate formats.  Read about the Chaffee Amendment.

Q. GRADING: Do I need to modify my typical grading process for someone with a psychiatric disability?

A. Giving a student academic adjustment should not affect the grading process. The adjustment might involve altering the form of the evaluation. For example, you might give an exam verbally instead of on paper or you might change the format from multiple-choice to essay. Otherwise students are required to meet all academic standards regardless of disability.

Q. FAILING: May I fail a student with a disability?

A. Yes. It is possible to fail a student with a disability. The laws mandate access to education, not guaranteed academic success. When a faculty member has provided reasonable academic accommodations and the student does not meet the course requirements, failing a student is proper and lawful.

The following is a compliance checklist that may be helpful:

  • The College is responsible to make modifications to academic requirements and practices to ensure it does not discriminate against students with disabilities.  However, instructors are not required to make fundamental alterations to their courses/standards.
  • Provide verbal and written notice to your students of your willingness to accommodate. For example: "I encourage students with disabilities to discuss accommodations with me."
  • Communicate clear and concise expectations for performance to your students.
  • Distinguish between essential and non-essential components of the course.
  • Respect requests for reasonable accommodations.
  • Permit students to use auxiliary aides and technologies that ensure access (examples: note takers, sign language interpreters, readers, scribes, tape recorders/players, assistive listening devices).
  • Assure that your course materials, whether printed or electronic, are accessible and available in alternate formats (examples: Braille, electronic text, large print). Assistance is available in the Assistive Technology Center.
  • Consult with the Disability Resource Center if you have questions when a student requests an accommodation.
  • Keep student disability-related information strictly confidential.