Disability Access for Students

Ruben Armiñana, President
Issue Date
Monday, February 21, 1994
Current Issue Date
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Effective Date
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Contact Office
Disability Services for Students
Policy number
  1. Policy Statement 
    The California State University (CSU) Policy for Provisions of Accommodations and Support Services to Students with Disabilities prohibits unlawful discrimination against students on the basis of disability in CSU Programs, services, and activities in accordance with, but not limited to, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA); Sections 504 and 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and applicable California state laws. The CSU Policy is consistent with current applicable federal and state laws concerning the non-discrimination of students on the basis of disability. 

    Sonoma State University is committed to providing an inclusive environment, which is responsive to the needs of all students. To ensure this inclusion, appropriate accommodations are provided to students and prospective students who have self-identified with verified disabilities and who require these accommodations in order to enjoy access to university programs, services, or activities for which the individuals are otherwise qualified. Accommodations will not be provided if they fundamentally alter or impact the nature of the program, inappropriately impede access for others or cause a direct threat to the health and safety of the student with a disability or others. The University’s goal is to provide an equivalent academic experience and learning opportunity, not to guarantee the success of the student’s education or career.

    These accommodations may include architectural access changes, close-in or adapted parking or seating, library assistance, interpreters, extended time and/or alternative format for exams, auxiliary aids, as well as academic adjustments, or other accommodations necessary for a particular individual’s needs.
  2. Specific Roles and Responsibilities 
    While the Director of Disability Services for Students (DSS) maintains authority to review and verify disabilities and to determine accommodations, and the DSS serves as the office to authorize and dispense services and accommodations, the entire campus community is mandated to assure equal access to programs and activities of the University. 

    In accordance with the law, SSU respects the rights of students to choose whether or not to self-identify. Campus personnel may have specific tasks or areas of concern but SSU understands that it is improper to inquire or probe regarding perceived disabilities. 

    The University views the provision of reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities as a cooperative and interactive effort involving students, faculty, staff and administrators.
    1. Students with Disabilities:
      In order for students with disabilities (both permanent and temporary) to receive academic accommodations students must self-identify with the DSS office and provide medical/appropriate professional documentation of functional limitations of their disabling condition when not readily apparent. Information acquired during this process is confidential but will be shared upon consent of the student. To obtain accommodations, students must:
      1. Self-identify as a student with a disability and in need of access or accommodation at SSU by initiating a meeting with a Disability Management (DM) Advisor in DSS.
      2. Provide appropriate verification of the disability (ies) and request specific academic and/or housing-related accommodation(s) based upon the documented functional limitations associated with the individual’s disability, per SSU guidelines.
      3. Discuss disability and accommodation requests with a DM Advisor to obtain approval for specific accommodation(s) prior to and with sufficient advance notice to implement needed services. Some services may need to be coordinated with faculty, other campus departments and vendors well in advance of the start of the semester (e.g. Brailled materials, interpreters, housing).
      4. Actively engage in the interactive process of determining reasonable and appropriate accommodations with faculty and DSS staff.
      5. Personally and directly contact faculty regarding the approved accommodation(s) and provide them with written authorization from DM Advisor within the first 2 weeks of classes, if possible.
      6. If a disagreement arises regarding the implementation of the “approved” accommodation, the student is expected to discuss the matter first with the faculty member, then with the DM Advisor, and if not resolved, confer with the DSS Director. If still unresolved, the student may, when appropriate, initiate the “Conflict Resolution Options” section of this document.
    2. Disability Services for Students Office and Staff:
      The University has designated Disability Services for Students as the office responsible for receiving, reviewing, and verifying disability documentation for students, authorizing and providing specialized support services, and assisting faculty, staff, and managers in providing equal access with reasonable and appropriate accommodations, within a reasonable and timely manner. The role of DSS is to:
      1. Verify the existence of a disability (ies) and the need for academic and/or housing accommodations based on documentation provided from an appropriately qualified professional, as specified by standards established by the California State University and relevant state and federal guidelines. Follow-up consultation with medical professionals would only be sought with student consent if clarification about student functional limitations were necessary.
      2. Assess requests for accommodations by students and make recommendations and/or authorize reasonable access methods or services, based on the functional limitations associated with the student’s disability, which is clearly documented in the student’s psychoeducational assessments and/or medical records. Specific specialized assistive services, such as sign language interpreters, readers, scribes, note takers, extended examination times, separate rooms, and assistive technology and housing accommodations will be provided as appropriate.
      3. Initiate contact with faculty regarding a student with a disability only when authorized by the student or if deemed professionally necessary to do so.
      4. Work cooperatively with departments in the interactive process of examining requests for accommodations to ensure that appropriate access for eligible students with disabilities is provided.
      5. Provide training for faculty, staff and managers in the provision of services, including teaching strategies, for working with students with disabilities.
      6. Provide outreach to the campus community regarding disability awareness, services available, procedures for acquiring and providing accommodations, and resolving disputes.
      7. Work with campus administration to analyze trends, identify problems with campus-wide provision of access, and advise corrective actions to optimize access to campus programs.
      8. The DSS office will document when each request for reasonable accommodations was received, including each request for a comfort animal or reasonable modification in housing, as well as the timely written response to each request.  The DSS office will also document whether medical documentation was necessary to verify the presence of a disability and the associated functional limitations.
    3. Faculty:
      The academic departments are responsible for developing educational practices that provide equal educational access to qualified students with disabilities and to utilize teaching and evaluation methods that measure knowledge of course content and skills during tests or examinations, rather than measuring the presence of a disability. Responsibilities include:
      1. Faculty should determine learning goals and objectives for each course and academic program, the essential elements of the course and curriculum, and determine how learning outcomes will be assessed for all students. Different modalities may be determined appropriate for diverse disabilities. Faculty are neither required nor expected to lower academic standards nor fundamentally alter the essential elements of the course or program to accommodate students.
      2. Faculty are encouraged to include a statement on the course outline that advises students with disabilities to register with the DSS if they think they may require academic accommodations. Students should be advised to self-identify during the first few weeks of the semester in order to benefit from all appropriate services and accommodations.
      3. Faculty should refer a student who self-discloses as an individual with a disability to the DSS office and must maintain the student’s confidentiality.
      4. Once the student has self-identified to the DSS, faculty must maintain confidentiality, and work with the student and the DM Advisor to review alternative formats for educational materials in advance of the need for such materials.
      5. Faculty are required to respond to the DSS-approved requests for accommodation promptly. If unable to provide the authorized accommodation, faculty must consult with the student and the DM Advisor to determine an alternative reasonable accommodation in order to provide the student equal access to learning materials and the learning environment.
      6. If the recommended and approved accommodation is not deemed appropriate or reasonable for access to programs or course objectives, faculty must participate in an interactive process of examination in an attempt to find a successful resolution. Faculty should bring such requests to the attention of the department chair, and include the school dean and DSS as appropriate to seek assistance in providing access.
      7. Faculty should participate in training sessions and educational activities such as those provided by the campus to learn and maintain awareness of access/accommodation issues in order to include them when designing new or redesigning existing curriculum and programs.
      8. Faculty should work with appropriate campus personnel to ensure that electronic and all other instructional information for their courses is in an accessible and suitable format for students with disabilities.
      9. Faculty should work with appropriate managers and campus personnel to maintain access features on equipment or services used as part of their curricula. This may include working with department chairs and deans to ensure that features which provide access are properly serviced or repaired in a timely manner.
    4. Other Campus Staff:

      1. Promptly facilitate requests made by students or faculty regarding accommodations as appropriate.
      2. Treat all matters related to those students with disabilities as confidential in accordance with law and policy.
      3. If concerned about a student, consult with the student with disability and maintain student’s right to confidentiality. Confer with the designated appropriate administrator with respect to confidentiality to assess best referrals and procedures. All campus personnel may consult with the DSS office as needed.
      4. Managers are to:
        1. Ensure that the faculty and staff of their programs adhere to the guidelines set forth in this Policy.
        2. Ensure that employees respond to requests in a timely, effective and appropriate manner.
        3. Work with appropriate campus personnel to provide access/accommodation to new or redesigned programs or facilities, accessible communications/information, and maintenance of accessible/adaptive features on equipment.
        4. Work cooperatively with the DSS office in the interactive process of examining requests for accommodation within their units.
      5. Advisory Committee:
        A campus Disabled Student Advisory Committee is mandated by the CSU and the president of the university (or designee) appoints committee members. This committee assists in the evaluation of current campus policies and procedures relating to campus accessibility, architectural access priorities, and academic accommodation of students with disabilities. The committee advises on programs, strategies, and timelines for providing access to the university. See separate document re: committee Charge and membership.
    5. On-campus student housing

      The learning environment and residential living community are central to the Sonoma State University experience and mission.  Campus residences provide out-of-class living/learning spaces where socialization occurs.

      A.   Requests for disability-related housing accommodations

      1. If a student anticipates or believes that they will need special housing accommodations, including the use of a comfort animal, due to the functional limitations associated with one’s disability, then he or she must request this accommodation by contacting the DSS office.
      2. The student should make it clear that he or she is requesting that an exception, change, or adjustment be made to a rule, policy, practice, or service, or that a modification be made to a building or dwelling unit because he or she has a disability.
      3. Reasonable accommodation/modification requests, including requests for comfort animals, can be made orally or in writing, although written documentation of the disability and the need for the requested accommodation/modification from a medical professional may be necessary if the need for such accommodation is not readily apparent.  Follow-up consultation with medical professionals would only be sought with student consent if clarification about student functional limitations were necessary.  See the DSS site for further information.
      4. The request for a housing-related accommodation or modification, including the use of a comfort animal, will be evaluated and decided upon by a staff member trained in and knowledgeable about fair housing, reasonable accommodation, and Title II of the ADA.
      5. Students will be informed of the outcome of this evaluation in writing and will be provided with information about how to appeal this decision if desired.
    6. Conflict Resolution Options
      1. Students are required to actively engage in an interactive process of examining the dispute to attempt to find a successful resolution. Faculty, staff, managers, and students are expected to participate in a good faith effort in this process. Appropriate documentation shall be kept by all parties during this review and decisions made regarding the resolution shall be maintained.
      2. The DSS office has the primary responsibility for processing accommodation requests,including housing accommodation requests, under appropriate guidelines, procedures and laws.
      3. Consideration will be given to a student’s request for a preferred method of accommodation within the guidelines and procedures established, but other reasonable accommodations may be authorized if appropriate.
      4. If a student disagrees with the determination of a faculty member or other service provider, informal methods of conflict resolution will be attempted by conferring with the student, faculty, staff, DSS and the designated appropriate administrators. The SSU Non Discrimination Policy describes the appropriate procedures for mediation and conflict resolution, both informal and formal.
      5. The student may use appeal procedures as appropriate, including departmental appeal procedures, the Student Grievance Procedures or Grade Appeal Procedures. This should include discussion and mediation, as warranted, with the faculty member, the department chair, and the dean of the school. Students may also elect to use the Discrimination Complaint Procedures by consulting with the Compliance Office in Human Services.
      6. The student has the right to file a complaint directly with the Office for Civil Rights, United States Department of Education, or other appropriate agencies, in lieu of or in addition to using university procedures to resolve the conflict.
      7. If a student asks for an additional accommodation that a) SSU does not currently offer or b) the Disability Management Advisor has determined not reasonable or appropriate, the student can appeal the decision through the accommodations appeal process, as follows.
        1. Students with questions or concerns about accommodations must inform Disability Services for Students as soon as they become aware of the problem. They should discuss the issue with their Disability Management Advisor in order to explore together possibilities and solutions.
        2. If the student and the DM Advisor are unable to agree on the issue or the student would like to appeal a DM Advisor’s decision to deny an accommodation, students may complete the Accommodation Appeal Form, describing the request or challenge. If additional documentation is required to support the request, it is the student’s responsibility to provide it. The review will not progress without full documentation if it is not clearly evident why the requested accommodation is necessary due to the functional limitations associated with the student’s disability.
        3. The Accommodation Appeal Form is forwarded to the Disability Services for Students Director. The Director will evaluate the matter and make appropriate recommendations within ten (10) working days of receiving the appeal.
        4. Disagreements will be resolved as quickly as possible.  During the process, current accommodations as determined by the DM Advisor will continue to be in effect in order to provide access during the appeals process.
        5. Students who are dissatisfied with the Disability Services for Students Director’s recommendation may direct their concerns to the Vice President of Student Affairs. 

Updated July 9, 2014 by SSU.policies@sonoma.edu