Resources for Faculty
- Teaching Students with Disabilities
- Bulletin on Student Disability Issues for Cornell Faculty
- Recruiting Students with Disabililties
- Incorporating Universal Design in Instruction
- Web Accessibility
- Frequently Asked Questions
Teaching Students with Disabilities
- Faculty Resource Guide (PDF)
A resource guide for teaching students with disabilities
- Equal Access Guide (PDF)
A guide to equal access and universal design for student services
- Understanding Asperger Syndrome: A Professor's Guide (video)
An informative, 12-minute video on Asperger Syndrome
- Nondiscrimination in Higher Education: What's the Law? (PDF)
Tipsheet from the Northeast Technical Assistance Center of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology
Bulletin on Student Disability Issues for Cornell Faculty
Information provided to ensure that members of the Cornell Faculty are well-informed about federal disability laws and the rights of students with disabilities.
- January 2016 (PDF) - Announcing new format for accommodation letters
- January 2015 (PDF) - Accommodating Episodic Conditions; Accessible Course Packets; Animals in the Classroom; Service Dog Etiquette and Questions You May Ask (side bar)
- August 2014 (PDF) - Students with Concussions; Accommodations for Students with Concussions; Definition of Disability Accommodation and Expectations (side bar)
- January 2014 (PDF) - Students on the Autism Spectrum; Use of a Computer as an Accommodation; Do Faculty Members Have a Choice about Accommodations?; Communicating with Students about Exam Accommodations (side bar); Are your TAs in the Accommodations Loop? (side bar)
- January 2013 (PDF) - Case Study in Universal Design: Class Presentations; Tools for Learning: Recording in Class; Technology: Polling Students in Class (side bar)
- August 2012 (PDF) - Accessible Classroom Technology; Support for Providing Captioned Video; Timely Notice; Case Review: Medical Documentation from Student; Who Provides Testing Accommodations? (side bar); Best Practice: Using a Syllabus Statement
- January 2012 (PDF) - Updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act; Accommodation Decisions Must be Individualized; Using Audio-Video in the Classroom - and Beyond; When the Accommodation is a Make-up Exam (side bar); When All Students Get "Extended Time" (side bar)
Creating web pages that are accessible by all users is just good practice and not as difficult as one may think.
- The Web Accessibility Primer Workbook has links to guidelines and information on web accessibility training on campus
- WebAIM is an invaluable on-line resource
- IT @ Cornell provides links to a large number of to accessibility resources and information
Frequently Asked Questions
- Where do students register for disability services or accommodations?
- Who is eligible for disability services?
- Who decides what academic accommodations are appropriate for a student and how is that decision made?
- Are all students with disabilities registered with SDS?
- How do I know if a student is registered with SDS?
- What is an accommodation?
- What should I do if a student gives me an accommodation letter from SDS?
- What is the policy on confidentiality?
- Who is responsible for providing accommodations?
- What is the best way to encourage students to request accommodations early in the semester?
- What is considered timely notice of the need for accommodations?
- What is my responsibility if a student appears disabled but does not request accommodations, or tells me that s/he has a medical or psychological condition?
- Should I accommodate students who have self-identified but have not given me an accommodation letter from SDS?
- What is my recourse if I disagree with an approved accommodation for my course?
- How are disputes resolved if a student thinks he or she is experiencing discrimination on the basis of a disability?
- Where can I find more information to assist students with disabilities?
Student Disability Services (SDS) is the office responsible for determining eligibility and appropriate reasonable accommodations for Cornell students with disabilities. We assist the University in fulfilling its legal responsibilities mandated by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended in 2008. These laws require universities to provide equal access to educational programs for qualified students with disabilities. The student is responsible for being a self-advocate and discussing accommodation requests with instructors.
Who is eligible for disability services?
Any student with a significant physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, learning, and performing manual tasks, is eligible for disability services. Students requesting services and accommodations are required to register by submitting current and comprehensive disability documentation and meeting with a designated SDS staff member.
Who decides what academic accommodations are appropriate for a student and how is that decision made?
The Director and Assistant Directors of SDS review a student’s disability documentation, which includes the results of qualitative and quantitative assessments used in rendering a diagnosis, to determine if a condition meets the standard established by the ADA of a substantial impairment of a major life activity. The documentation must also demonstrate the functional impact of this condition on the student in an academic setting. Reasonable modifications are approved to address the impact of the condition, taking into consideration the student’s request, past history of accommodation and the nature of the course or degree program. The Instructor will be consulted as needed to determine adjustments that are specific to a course or degree program.
Are all students with disabilities registered with SDS?
No, many students either choose not to register for disability services or they have not met the eligibility criteria for services. Some do not need services or accommodations. Others need disability services but choose not to use them because they are concerned with the stigma attached to disclosing a disability and being considered less capable than non-disabled peers or seen as asking for special consideration. Faculty members do not have to provide unregistered students with accommodations.
How do I know if a student is registered with SDS?
Upon student request and verification of eligibility, an accommodation letter is prepared by SDS for each course. Students are responsible for meeting with instructors, providing the accommodation letter and making arrangements for accommodations for the course. If a student requests accommodations without providing an accommodation letter, you should request a letter before providing accommodations. However, if the disability is obvious and the request is reasonable, you should provide the accommodation while waiting for an accommodation letter.
What is an accommodation?
An accommodation is the modification, adjustment, or elimination of a barrier to a program or service to enable an individual with a disability to participate on an equal basis. Extended time for test taking, document conversion of print material to alternate formats, and real-time captioning are examples of accommodations provided for Cornell students.
What should I do if a student gives me an accommodation letter from SDS?
When a student gives you an accommodation letter and discloses that he or she has a disability, you should meet privately with the student and establish a means of providing accommodations in a timely manner that is satisfactory to you and the student. Faculty members can also greatly assist the student by asking what can be done in the course to facilitate learning and access to the class.
What is my responsibility for maintaining confidentiality about a student’s disability?
Information about a student’s disability status and accommodations may be shared with TA’s and staff who assist with providing accommodations or services. TA’s should be advised not to share this information with others. Faculty should guard against acting in such a manner as to disclose the disability status of a student to classmates. If sending an email message to students about accommodation arrangements, send individual messages or blind copy (bcc) a group of students so that their names are not disclosed to each other. Disability accommodation letters should be stored in a secured location and shredded upon completion of the semester.
Who is responsible for providing accommodations?
Faculty members who have been notified by the student with an accommodation letter in a timely fashion are responsible for fulfilling classroom accommodation requests. Occasionally, requests may come directly from SDS. SDS will assist with accommodations that require converting materials to electronic format, loaning laptops for test taking, or providing adaptive equipment for the lab. There is a designated Disability Representative in each college who can provide guidance on the accommodation process within the college. A list of Disability Representatives is available at: http://sds.cornell.edu/Resources/Disability_Reps.html
What is the best way to encourage students to request accommodations early in the semester?
Establishing a welcoming tone on the first day of class will indicate to students that you are interested in discussing their access needs. Include a statement in your syllabus such as:
Students with Disabilities: Your access in this course is important. Please give me [TA, Course Coordinator] your Student Disability Services (SDS) accommodation letter early in the semester so that I have adequate time to arrange your approved academic accommodations. If you need an immediate accommodation for equal access, please speak with me after class or send an email message to me and/or SDS at email@example.com. If the need arises for additional accommodations during the semester, please contact SDS.
What is considered timely notice of the need for accommodations?
Students are advised to meet with you early in the semester to make arrangements for accommodations. At least two weeks' advance notice is reasonable for test-taking accommodations. More notice may be needed for some accommodations such as arranging adaptive transportation or interpreters for field trips. Because students can register for services at any time during the semester, you may receive accommodation letters throughout the semester. You need only accommodate from the time of notice.
What is my responsibility if a student appears disabled but does not request accommodations, or tells me that s/he has a medical or psychological condition?
If you observe an obvious access issue, ask the student how you can assist and refer the student to SDS for a follow-up discussion. Students who disclose a non-obvious disability and request an accommodation for the course should be referred to SDS. Not all medical or mental health concerns are disabilities. We will assist the student to the appropriate resources.
Should I accommodate students who have self-identified but have not given me an accommodation letter from SDS?
In order to ensure that the student has a full understanding of the scope of disability services, you should refer the student to SDS rather than providing accommodations informally. We will help the student use the established procedure for requesting disability services as well as fully explore all of their access issues.
What is my recourse if I disagree with an approved accommodation for my course?
Contact the SDS counselor who has approved the student’s accommodation to discuss why you think the accommodation is not appropriate for your course. If you cannot reach an agreement with SDS, the Dean of Faculty and the Vice President for Student and Academic Services will consider the impact of the disability and recommended accommodation, along with the essential requirements of the course, and make a determination of the appropriate course of action.
How are disputes resolved if a student thinks he or she is experiencing discrimination on the basis of a disability?
The SDS staff will attempt to resolve a student’s disability-related concerns informally. Students who believe they have been discriminated against and wish to seek a formal resolution must use the procedures outlined in Policy 6.4, Prohibited Discrimination, Protected Status (Including Sexual) Harassment and Bias Activity. The policy is administered through the Office of Workforce Policy and Labor Relations.
Where can I find more information to assist students with disabilities?
Please call SDS at 607-254-4545 for more information. Our web site is a good resource for additional information: http://sds.cornell.edu