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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is a person with a disability?

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act define a person with a disability as someone who:  a) has a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; b) has a record of such an impairment; or c) is regarded as having such an impairment.  Major life activities include, but are not limited to:  walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, and learning.  A person may have a visible disability (e.g. a person who is deaf or uses a wheelchair) or a hidden disability (a person with a learning disability, psychological disability, or chronic health impairment).

What is an accommodation?

It is a 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. Individualized accommodations are not designed to give the student an advantage over other students, to alter a fundamental aspect of the course, nor to weaken academic rigor.  Examples of accommodations include:  extended time for test taking, document conversion of print material to alternate formats, and remote captioning. 

What are a student’s responsibilities when working with the Center for Disability Services/SNAP?

  1. Self-identify as a student with a disability.
  2. Present appropriate documentation of disability and request accommodations.
  3. Present Professor Notification Letters (PNL) to his/her professor(s) and ask to set up a time to discuss his/her accommodation needs.
  4. Follow the Center for Disability Services (CDS) procedures for accessing accommodations.

What are a faculty member’s responsibilities when working with a student with a disability?

  1. Maintain the same standards, including behavioral expectations, for students with disabilities as are applied to all students.
  2. Inform all students of procedures for accessing accommodations at the beginning of each semester, preferably through a statement in the syllabus.
  3. Provide and arrange for accommodations addressed in the Professor Notification Letter (PNL) in a timely manner.

I would like to include a statement in my syllabus to ensure students with disabilities are aware of their right to accommodations.  Do you have an example of what I could use?

Though it is the student’s responsibility to initiate the discussion regarding accommodations that may be needed, instructors can help to facilitate this process. Students will feel more comfortable about identifying themselves as having a disability if they are approaching someone they believe to be receptive to the discussion. Many instructors include a disability/access statement such as this one on their syllabi:

If there is a student in this class who has a documented disability and has been approved to receive accommodations through the Center for Disability Services/SNAP (Students Needing Access Parity), please come and discuss this with me during my office hours.

Many instructors also make a similar announcement to each class at the beginning of each semester. By doing this, you will identify yourself as someone who understands that accommodations may be appropriate and perhaps has some knowledge about the accommodation process. You did not say, “I’ll give you anything you want.” You merely said, “Let’s talk about it.” Such an invitation can go a long way toward encouraging students with a disability to approach the professor early in the course.

Sample Syllabus Statements

  1. Any student eligible for and needing accommodations because of a disability is requested to speak with the professor during the first two weeks of class or as soon as the student has been approved for services so that reasonable accommodations can be arranged.
  2. The College will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Students should apply for services at the Center for Disability Services/SNAP located on the first floor of the Lightsey Center, Suite 104. Students approved for accommodations are responsible for notifying me as soon as possible and for contacting me one week before accommodation is needed.
  3. This College abides by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you have a documented disability that may have some impact on your work in this class and for which you may require accommodations, please see an administrator at the Center of Disability Services/SNAP, 843.953.1431 or me so that such accommodation may be arranged.

What is considered timely notice of the need for accommodations?

Although students are encouraged to identify themselves early in the semester in order to receive academic accommodations, they are not required to do so and some students may not be aware of having a disability until they are diagnosed later in the semester.  Also, some students may try to take a class without using accommodations, but find that they are not doing well and need to use them.  In either situation, professors are not required to retroactively provide accommodations unless notified by the Center for Disability Services (CDS)/SNAP regarding an extenuating circumstance.

Who decides what academic accommodations are appropriate for a student and how is that decision made?

College personnel are required to provide reasonable accommodations upon notification of a student’s disability (Professor Notification Letter). When the accommodation request involves the modification of a student’s enrolled course, the Center for Disability Services (CDS)/SNAP is the office designated to determine which accommodation(s) is/are reasonable and must be provided. Professors who believe that providing an academic accommodation would fundamentally alter a course or impact a student’s ability to demonstrate the essential skills required of the course should contact CDS/SNAP as soon as possible.

How many students with disabilities are connected to the Center for Disability Services/SNAP?

Out of the 11,000 students enrolled at CofC, approximately 900 students are connected with our office.
Please see this link for a disability-type breakdown:  CofC Students Served.

How do I know if a student is connected with the Center for Disability Services/SNAP?

Upon student request and verification of eligibility, a Professor Notification Letter (PNL) is prepared by the Center for Disability Services (CDS)/SNAP.  Students are responsible for meeting with instructors, providing the PNL and making arrangements for accommodations for the course.  If a student requests accommodations without providing the PNL, you should advise the student that the PNL is necessary.  However, if the disability is obvious (e.g. vision disability) and the request is reasonable (e.g.  use of laptop to type notes), you should provide the accommodation while waiting for the PNL.

What should I do if a student provides me with a Professor Notification Letter (PNL) from the Center for Disability Services?

Students are encouraged to arrange a private meeting with their professor(s) to discuss accommodations listed on the PNL.  Some professors meet with students before or after a class or in their office.  Professors can greatly assist the student by asking what can be done in the course to facilitate learning and access to the class.  A video on a student/professor meeting (University of Massachusetts, Boston, Ross Center, Disability Services) can be seen here:  Student and Professor Meeting - Accommodations Discussion.

One accommodation listed on the Professor Notification Letter (PNL) I received is “Permission to audio record lectures.”  Why might this accommodation be necessary?

Under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and its Amendments, institutions of higher education must provide auxiliary aids and services to students with documented disabilities and may not deny equal access to the institution's programs, courses and activities. For a variety of reasons, some students are not able to take adequate notes during class. Audio recorders are a legitimate auxiliary aid to supplement or substitute note taking for some students with disabilities.

Faculty members have the option to request a student who uses a recorder to sign an agreement for recording and present the form to the instructor:  Recording/Transcribing Lecture Agreement Form.

I am considering prohibiting laptops in my classroom. How will this affect students with disabilities?

The current trend of faculty members limiting or prohibiting electronic devices (e.g. laptop; digital recorder) in the classroom is understandable, given the increasingly disruptive habits of students accessing non-class related material during class. However, for students who need to take notes on their laptops or audio-record the class as a disability-related accommodation, the issue becomes sticky. We recommend against professors making a statement such as “No one may use laptops except those with disabilities.” This essentially requires a student with a disability to identify him/herself to others just by using his/her laptop. You want to avoid putting students in this position. If you are considering prohibiting laptops, one professor used the following wording in her syllabus:

"The use of Laptops/Netbooks/iPads, etc. is strictly prohibited for use during all class sessions...Failure to follow this technology policy without prior approval of the Instructor can result in dismissal from that class session."

This professor then met with students individually and discussed their issue. If there was a documented need for laptop usage, she allowed it and had them sign an agreement that laid out the expected behavior (use only for class related purposes, wireless internet will be turned off, will sit on an aisle or front row in order to be less distracting to other students). She can then enforce her classroom policy, while still providing the appropriate accommodation. If someone asks why others are allowed to use laptops, she simply says that they made special arrangements with her, with no details given.

What is my role in accommodating students who request a copy of peer notes?

Some professors provide their PowerPoint presentations to the class which, while helpful, may not always be an appropriate substitute for class notes. If the information being provided during the lecture is substantively different from the typed or written content being provided, the student may need to use audio-recording or class notes to mitigate any barriers with acquiring the relevant information for later use.

The Center for Disability Services (CDS)/SNAP recruits fellow classmates as notetakers.  Students are expected to discuss their request for notetaking services with their professor(s) as early in the semester as possible.  Students email the CDS/SNAP office of those classes for which they are requesting a notetaker.  The professor is asked to inform his/her class about the need for notetaking services (without disclosing information about the student who has made the request) through one of the following ways:  1. In-class announcement; 2. Email to all students in the class.  However, if the student knows someone in class who is willing to share their notes, he/she can make those arrangements independently.  Interested notetakers are asked to contact CDS/SNAP regarding their interest. 

I have a student who has requested an accommodation for exams (e.g. extended time, testing in a room with less distractions).  How do I arrange for these accommodations?

Students arrange these accommodations in one of two ways:

  1. Using the Alternate Testing Site (ATS) located at the Center for Disability Services (CDS)/SNAP.  CDS/SNAP houses and manages the ATS with a large testing room, computer lab, and private rooms.  This site provides an area for students approved for services to take their tests using extra test time, testing in isolation, use of readers or scribes, and access to assistive technologies.  If a student needs certain accommodations for a quiz/exam (e.g. reader; scribe), CDS/SNAP arranges this. 
    Professors can provide us with the exam and testing form in one of several ways: 
    a) Attach the completed ATS form and exam to an email and send it to:
    b) Bring in a hard copy of the completed ATS form and exam in the envelope during business hours, 8:30am-5pm Monday-Friday
    c) If the office is closed, slide the testing materials under our office door.
  2. Negotiating the time and place directly with the professor.  Some professors will allow students to take the tests in the classroom, their office, or elsewhere. 

Students who request testing accommodations for exams are instructed to maintain good communication with each professor.  Students must schedule exams and quizzes for the same date and time as the class unless prior permission has been granted by the instructor (e.g. due to back-to-back classes).  Students are asked to sign up for their tests at the Center for Disability Services (CDS)/SNAP at least one week in advance.  Professors are not required to accommodate students with extended time if they do not receive advance notice. 

Professors should only submit exams and quizzes to CDS/SNAP upon receiving a gray ATS testing accommodation form from the student.  All submissions should include proctoring information (i.e. length of time the class is allowed, allowable aids, point of contact to address questions from our office).

What do I tell other students regarding the exam accommodations for students with disabilities?

Since confidentiality is key, it is best not to discuss exam accommodations with other students or in a class setting. Discussing any information regarding a student's disability in the presence of other students can create an uncomfortable situation for the student. Also, confidentiality is a legal concern and a student's right to privacy concerning their disability is protected by Federal Law.

Should I evaluate students with disabilities any differently than I do the rest of the class?

All students, including those with disabilities, should be evaluated at the same level.  The requested accommodations are not in place to give the student an extra advantage or to raise or lower academic expectations.  Accommodations are designed to “level the playing field” and compensate for any deficits to the educational environment experienced by the student.  Accommodations may present an alternative manner in which a student fully participates in your class or gains access to information.

I am concerned about a student’s behavior.  I am aware that the student has a disability because he/she presented me a Professor Notification Letter (PNL) earlier in the semester.  How do I handle his/her disruptive behavior?

If you are concerned about a student’s behavior in class (e.g. monopolizing classroom discussion), consider having a conversation with the student about the issue.  A solution might be to allow the student a certain number of questions or comments per class.  Creating these kinds of boundaries can be helpful for many students.  Regardless, all students should be held to the same standards of conduct. Certainly contact the Center for Disability Services/SNAP for further assistance or with questions: 843.953.1431.

Does CofC offer on-campus testing to diagnose different disabilities (e.g. learning; AD/HD?)

While the College does not offer on-campus testing, the Center for Disability Services maintains a list of providers in the Charleston area who conduct testing for disabilities such as learning disabilities and/or AD/HD.

How does the College of Charleston accommodate students with temporary impairments (e.g. broken legs, hand)?
Students with temporary impairments such as a broken or sprained dominant arm/hand are not covered by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA Amendments 2008, or Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.  However, the Center for Disability Services (CDS)/SNAP will work with students to ensure that the campus is as accessible as possible, but may only be able to provide limited assistance.  Students with temporary impairments are encouraged to talk with their professors about their situation and meet with a CDS/SNAP staff member, if necessary. Professors should work with students, in these circumstances, to the greatest extent possible.

What are some ways I can create a positive learning environment for all of my students?  

  1. Provide students with a detailed course syllabus.
  2. Include a disability/access statement in your syllabus
  3. Clearly set out expectations before the course begins (e.g., attendance policy, materials to be covered, and due dates).
  4. Start each lecture with an outline of material to be covered that period.
  5. Present new or technical vocabulary in written form.
  6. Give assignments both orally and in written form to avoid confusion.
  7. Point out if a study guide is not comprehensive or lacks new subjects that may be covered in an exam.
  8. Provide study questions for exams that demonstrate format as well as content. Explain what constitutes a good answer and why.
  9. If possible, select a textbook with an accompanying study guides or software programs for optional student use. 10. Provide adequate opportunities for questions and answers, including review sessions.

Where can I find more information to assist students with disabilities?

Please access the Disability Information section listed under the “For Faculty” tab.  Don’t hesitate to call us at 843.953.1431, visit us in Lightsey Center, suite 104, or email us at