Key Information for Faculty and Staff regarding The Office of Disability Resources (ODR) and Cornerstone Connect
The Office of Disability Resources (ODR) must meet the mandates set forth in the laws: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Amendments Act (ADAAA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These laws set specific parameters in which ODR staff need to conduct their work, and guide their actions and interactions with students, staff and faculty on campus (Legal Mandates • Office of Disability Resources • Purchase College).
These laws differ from those that govern educational policy in K-12 environments, with significant implications for the provision of services and accommodations in college vs. high school (link).
Process Involved in Requesting Accommodations
The Office of Disability Resources works with students who choose to self-identify and request accommodations. ODR engages in an interactive process with each individual student who makes a formal request for accommodations, and accommodations are reviewed and approved on a case by case basis. Accommodations cannot be implemented should they compromise the integrity of the course curriculum or alter program outcomes.
While this process most often occurs prior to or at the start of the semester, by law, students can choose to request new or additional accommodations at any point in the semester, or at any point during their college career. It is important to note that accommodations are not retroactive and should only be implemented upon notification. Accommodations can only legally be approved through the Office of Disability Resources.
Students also must choose to renew their approved accommodations each semester that they are at Purchase. This process is student-initiated and student-driven as per legislation. Once accommodations are approved and notifications are sent, it is the responsibility of all faculty and staff at the college to ensure that accommodations are being implemented.
Timeline for Notification of Accommodations
Once students are approved for an accommodation(s), letters are sent to professors listing the accommodation(s) and providing explanations accordingly. The timing of letters is based on the timing of the request from the students. Again, this is usually at the start of each semester; however, students can choose to reactivate accommodations at any time. There is a timeline that dictates when these letters must be sent, based upon when the student initiates that process. ODR sends renewal reminders to students at the start of each semester, often resulting in professors receiving a great deal of correspondence from our office in a relatively short time period. While ODR understands that this influx of notifications can be overwhelming, it is important that the information in each letter is carefully reviewed.
ODR is available to address any questions related to the implementation of accommodations. Information is available at Academic Adjustments • Office of Disability Resources • Purchase College and Faculty Resources • Office of Disability Resources • Purchase College. In addition, faculty and staff can contact ODR at 914-251-6035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Outreach and Communication Regarding Students
When a phone call or email regarding a student concern is received, ODR staff can listen, make note of the concern, and provide general information pertaining to resources that might be helpful in mitigating the challenge at hand. Per ADAAA, ODR cannot legally disclose the nature of the disability or the student’s needs specific to their diagnosis, and cannot implement behavioral or classroom management plans. Students may choose to share disability/diagnosis information with professors, and on very rare occasions, when there are extenuating medical circumstances at play, might provide written permission for ODR to assist in this disclosure. However, students cannot be required to disclose, as that decision is for them to make as they see fit.
Faculty should work directly with students to identify concerns pertaining to academic standing, classroom behavior, or any other course related issues. Conversation should take place between the faculty member and the student of concern as a first step toward a resolution. Taking this step will help to ensure that students with and without disabilities are treated equally. Outreach and follow up from ODR and Cornerstone Connect are always directly with the student.
Cornerstone Connect, which is a fee-based service that goes above and beyond legal mandates, is exiting a pilot year in which Learning Specialists partnered with their students in an effort to enhance services to best support student needs and the overall needs of the Purchase College community. Cornerstone Connect has expanded to serve college-ready students (a college-ready student is defined as any student who has been admitted to Purchase College on their own merit through the general admissions process), who feel they might benefit from support with executive functioning and/or communication and social skill building, regardless of whether or not they identify as having a disability or formal diagnosis.
Students must be admitted and deposited to Purchase College prior to eligibility for enrollment in Cornerstone Connect. It is important to note that not all Cornerstone Connect participants are registered with the Office of Disability Resources; the extent to which students share information pertaining to their diagnosis or participation in Cornerstone Connect is at the discretion of the student.
Cornerstone Connect works from a strengths-based perspective in which Learning Specialists guide students in identifying areas of strengths and areas in need of continued support/areas of challenge. Based on this, Learning Specialists work with students to support self-advocacy, including communicating with professors, staff and related personnel, so that their needs can best be met on the college campus. Cornerstone Connect does not provide counseling services or behavioral interventions.
It is important to note that not all students who are struggling on campus are registered with the Office of Disability Resources or enrolled in Cornerstone Connect. There is a diversity of learning needs and approaches to academic and social situations that are not necessarily indicative of a present disability.
Collaboration with Campus Partners
ODR works closely with all departments on campus to guide students in accessing available services. This is done to place students in communication with those individuals and offices that are trained to best meet the presenting need(s). Students with mental health concerns are directed to the Counseling Center. Students with medical needs are directed to Health Services or to University Police Department depending on the immediacy of the need for medical intervention. Students presenting with behavioral concerns to the point of which there are disruptions to the learning environment to a significant degree are referred to the Office of Community Standards. None of these steps are taken as punitive measures. Rather, they are taken to ensure appropriate personnel are providing appropriate support and that Purchase College policies and procedures are properly followed. A student who is having a medical crisis, for example, needs medical intervention that can only be provided by trained personnel. Purchase College is a community with a robust system of supports in place for just this reason – to provide students with the services they need from those best equipped to offer that help.
The Office of Disability Resources has put together additional information related to best practices to support students. This information is available on Resources • Office of Disability Resources • Purchase College and ASD Faculty Resources • Office of Disability Resources • Purchase College.