Accommodating Students with Disabilities

Office of Disability Resources (formerly the Office of Access and Accommodation)
Location: Student Services Building, Room 317A

The Section 504 and ADA compliance officer for Purchase College is:
Jerima DeWese, Chief Diversity Officer
     Tel. (914) 251-5992
     Fax (914) 2515977

The Section 504 and ADA disability resources coordinator for Purchase College students is:
Lauren Rodriguez, PsyD
      Tel. (914) 251-6035
     Fax (914) 251-5934
     odr@purchase.edu 

The Office of Disability Resources oversees all accommodations for students with disabilities (mobility, sensory, learning, and health-related). The office staff is available to assist faculty members with understanding and implementing instructional or program modifications necessary to accommodate students with disabilities. Refer to the office’s Test Accommodation Process and to its Faculty Resources for helpful information, including recommended “first person” language when interacting with individuals with disabilities.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, which became effective January 26, 1992, requires that individuals with disabilities be afforded equal opportunity in the areas of public services and programs, employment, transportation, and communications. Under the ADA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA have greatly facilitated the expansion of services for individuals with disabilities in postsecondary educational settings. Section 504 provides that “no otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States … shall solely by reason of his/her handicap be excluded in the participation in, be denied the benefit of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The ADA, which uses the term “disability” instead of “handicap,” extends civil rights protection to people with disabilities. Neither Section 504 nor the ADA are meant to protect individuals with disabilities from the consequences of their behavior or to make available to them programs and services for which they are not otherwise qualified. These legislative acts are meant to aid in the removal of physical, attitudinal, and programmatic barriers to services and education for individuals with disabilities.

Documentation and Privacy/Confidentiality

To receive services, students must submit appropriate documentation to the Office of Disability Resources. The director and staff of the Office of Disability Resources review and evaluate documentation to make sure it meets the criteria for services. In cases where documentation is incomplete, the student may be asked to provide additional information.

The submission of documentation does not activate services or accommodations. Students must make an individual appointment at the beginning of each semester to register for services and develop an accommodation plan. Faculty members will then be notified of the appropriate accommodations.

Students with disabilities are protected by privacy and confidentiality policies. Specific information regarding the type of disability will not be given to any faculty member unless specifically requested by the student. If you have questions or concerns about how to provide appropriate accommodations for students in your classes, please email Lauren Rodriguez at odr@purchase.edu.

Faculty Rights and Responsibilities

Faculty members play a critical role in helping students with disabilities succeed in college. If you are unsure about how to approach a situation, it is best to seek counsel from your chair or director or the Office of Disability Resources.

Faculty members may:

  • discuss accommodation plans in a private location with identified students in their classes.
  • check on the validity of a student’s registration for services by contacting the Office of Disability Resources.
  • consult with both the staff of the Office of Disability Resources and the student in determining appropriate academic accommodations.
  • help students whom they suspect have a learning disability by suggesting that the student seek support from the appropriate campus service providers.

Faculty members may not:

  • receive or review a student’s documentation of a disability unless given written consent by the student. Likewise, faculty members cannot request information about the student’s disability from the campus service providers.
  • set a limit for the number or amount of accommodations provided during a semester—or the number of students with disabilities in his or her classes.
  • allow the right to academic freedom to affect the types of accommodations permitted in the classroom.
  • refuse a request for an academic accommodation. If an issue arises, such as a safety issue, the faculty member should contact the Office of Disability Resources to discuss the request for accommodation.
  • ask a student if they have a learning disability, if the student is experiencing difficulty in class. The faculty member can suggest that the student seek support services and direct them to make an appointment at the Office of Disability Resources by emailing odr@purchase.edu.

Faculty members are responsible for:

  • maintaining students’ confidentiality at all times. Do not single out students in class or mention any academic accommodation to them in front of their peers. These actions breach confidentiality.
  • providing for the academic accommodation(s) requested.
  • maintaining the integrity of academic standards in the course.

Faculty members may wish to make the following announcement in class or include it in the course syllabus:

“It is my goal that this class be an accessible and welcoming experience for all students, including those with disabilities. You are welcome to talk to me at any point in the semester about course design concerns, but it is always best if we can talk as soon as possible about the need for any modifications. The Office of Disability Resources collaborates directly with students who identify documented disabilities to create accommodation plans, including testing accommodations, in order for students to access course content and validly demonstrate learning. For those students who may require accommodations, please call or email the Office of Disability Resources, (914) 251-6035, odr@purchase.edu.”