Dr. Richard Vallandingham, Vice President of Student Services at Coastal Georgia Community College, and co-editor with Buddy Ramos of the NACADA Monograph on Advising Students with Disabilities, presented this information as a keynote speaker at the October 18, 2002 Conference, “Preparing Students with Disabilities for the Transition from College to the Work Force”.
Once a student with a disability discloses that he has a disability to his or her academic advisor, the student needs to request accommodations based on documentation of the disability by working with the Disability Services staff. The accommodations change and are adjusted during the time the student is in college, and there needs to be careful attention to the changes in the student’s performance as the mastery of skills for the workplace evolve.
Faculty and advisors need to be aware of the impact of the disability on the student in classes, field/internship/practicum placements, and in the career path the student has selected. Access may need to be given with accommodations.
There are several provisions of the ADA that specifically apply here:
- These accommodations cannot fundamentally alter the nature of the program.
- These accommodations cannot lower or substantially modify academic or program standards.
- Safety of the student and others in the vicinity cannot be compromised by the accommodation.
Technical Standards & Essential Functions:
- Faculty and academic departments have an obligation to set technical standards for admission that fairly evaluate all of the students who are entering their department or program. These standards for admission cannot be confused with the skills the student will develop during the preparation for the career that will begin upon graduation.
- Training and mastery are key components of any curriculum and no one can be presumed to be able to master these components with their current skills at the point they are admitted to the program.
- The essential functions of a career are the skills needed to perform the work of that career, and they may be tested or evaluated at the end of the degree via participation in a field placement, practicum or internship. Students must be prepared to meet these essential functions and if necessary, given options of related career paths if the disability’s impact cannot be accommodated.
- A student’s disability and information is confidential. NO ONE without a need to know about the impact of a disability should know about it. Medical records, documentation, counseling reports, etc. are never to be shared with faculty or off-campus site coordinators and staff.
- Faculty and staff advisors need to be aware of and utilize resources available when planning to advise students.
- Developing advisement teams for students with disabilities gives different perspectives and a more complete view of the support that can be given to both the student and faculty. The team could include the advisor, career development staff, and the off-campus placement coordinator for the department or program.
- Mentoring and using examples of coping strategies as well as creative accommodation suggestions by successful employees in the same field may be available through professional organizations.
- Evaluate the site where advisement takes place: is it accessible? If computer work stations are used, do they have adjustable-height tables? Large monitor to take efficiently enlarge print? Can screen-reading software be used with this program?
- Encourage decision-making based on interest, aptitude, and ability with a focus on abilities, not disabilities.