Accommodating Students

Programs have a responsibility to meet the reasonable needs of students with disabilities through accommodations and modifications in recruitment, orientations, pre-enrollment inquiry, enrollment, placement, and instruction. Through the provision of accommodations and modifications programs they can ensure full and equal access to activities and services.

In meeting the compliance standards, programs are reminded to use multiple formats in communicating to students that accommodations and modifications for individuals with disabilities are available. Students should be informed of the request procedures and programs should be prompt in responding to and fulfilling requests. The procedures put in place must also include a mechanism for determining that if an aid or service is deemed unreasonable and needs to be substituted, the alternative suggestions appear to be equally effective for the student.

In providing students and prospective students with disabilities equal access to programs and services, adult basic education must include delivery of service modifications as well as acquisition of auxiliary aids and devices.

Reasonable Accommodations Defined

An accommodation is a change or modification, as prescribed by federal and state law, to the existing environment, structure, protocol, essential functions, or program activities and services that removes or minimizes the barriers created by the identified disability. Accommodations seek to meet the specific needs of a student or prospective student by minimizing the limitations of the disability and by allowing equal opportunity to benefit from and have access to education and training.

In determining the reasonableness of an accommodation, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) identifies the following factors to be considered:

  • Whether the cost of the accommodation is high in view of the size of the program
  • Whether the cost of the accommodation can be included in future planning efforts
  • A qualified professional’s assessment or opinion of the capability of the student or prospective student to benefit from the accommodation
  • The accommodation does not fundamentally alter or change the program activity or service outcomes
  • The accommodation does not create safety hazards or undue hardships

If an accommodation creates undue hardship, then it is not perceived to be reasonable. Undue hardship occurs when an accommodation, when implemented, requires significant effort, difficulty or expense when weighed against a number of factors. These factors include:

  • The nature and cost of the accommodation is excessive in relation to the size, structure,
    resources, and nature of business of the program and its activities and services
  • The accommodation will be highly disruptive to the program
  • The accommodation would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the program

Where adult basic education programs making accommodations are part of a larger entity, the structure and overall resources of the larger agency or organization would be considered as well as the administrative and financial relationship of the program to the larger agency or organization. In general, the larger agency or organization would be expected to make accommodations that may require greater investment of time or expense than would be required of a smaller program.

When an accommodation is requested and agreed to, students have a responsibility to use the accommodation as prescribed. Students, with assistance of the program are encouraged to communicate the effectiveness of accommodations and discuss alternatives and adjustments as needed.

The following are examples of such modifications and accommodations that can be required in adult basic education for students (listed by type of disability):

Physical Disabilities

  • Limited Reach – assistance with items that are high or low or place them at a reachable level
  • Limited Strength – assistance lifting and holding items or by use of a music or book stand
  • Setting an appropriate instructional pace or speed based on mobility and motor coordination
  • Supplying advance notice of lessons and assignments and assisting in transferring to useful formats
  • Providing clipboards or writing surfaces with rubber disks to minimize movement
  • Supplying various sizes/styles of pen/pencil with grips
  • Using a magnetic board with words/pictures pasted on magnets
  • Utilizing an electronic touch screen
  • Providing a scribe, transcriber, or assistive technology to put verbal information into written form
  • Making available alternative chairs and adjustable tables

Vision Loss and Blindness

  • Accessing Braille copies of materials and books
  • Providing large print materials
  • Supplying magnifying lenses or other magnification tools
  • Audio-recording descriptions of materials, information and assignments
  • Providing a reader
  • Providing a writer or note taker for specific needs
  • Providing large visual pictures for major sections, materials, or resources
  • Supplying screen reading technology and ensuring accessibility of websites and materials
  • Utilizing DVDs and CDs with audio capabilities
  • Supplying a talking calculator

Hearing Loss and Deafness

  • Providing assigned seating in classroom
  • If the student reads lips, speak distinctly (don’t over-enunciate) and face the student so they can see and interpret
  • Using color-coded printed and pictorial checklists that are laminated and can be reused when written on
  • Using an electronic writing board or electronic tablet
  • Using computer applications with audio supports

Cognitive, Memory and Learning Disabilities

  • Keeping written materials at appropriate reading levels
  • Using lists created from pictures
  • Providing information in sequenced, clear steps
  • Providing access to materials in a combined audio and print format
  • Using computer access software (voice-to-text and text readers)
  • Supplying a talking calculator
  • Allowing alternative methods of demonstrating knowledge
  • Using memory aids; mnemonics, chunking, graphic organizers, etc.

Mental Health

  • Recognizing that the student may be reluctant to interact in teams and small groups
  • Assisting with sequence and organization skills
  • Minimizing noise and frustration; keeping anxiety down and lowering stress levels
  • Providing quiet space for learning
  • Allowing for sound suppression headsets or ear-buds
  • Instructing in small chunks
  • Providing instrumental music as background

Speech Related Disabilities

  • Asking the student to write or draw what is difficult to understand
  • Using a speech synthesizer
  • Using a communication board
  • Using electronic messaging
  • Using a letter, symbol, or picture board
  • Using computer based learning

Concentration and Distractibility Related Disabilities

  • Providing frequent breaks during the learning experience
  • Offering quiet space to learn
  • Post-its and flags to help with organization and focus
  • Colored paper and graph paper; color-coding specific materials or concepts
  • Providing timers and assistance in understanding time on/off task
  • Allowing sound suppression headsets or ear-buds

All printed and visually-presented materials should include a statement that the program and its activities and services are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and as such are accessible and provide equal opportunity; and that reasonable accommodations are available upon request. The statement should clearly identify who to contact and timelines for requests, as needed.

Physical/Architectural Access

Federal, state and local laws and regulations prohibit the operation or provision of adult basic education and services in non-accessible buildings, facilities, or premises. Activities and services must be located in buildings or on premises that are architecturally accessible and barrier free to all individuals with disabilities (Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) developed by the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, July 1998).

Accommodations typically fall in one or more of the following categories:

  • Changes to a classroom environment or task that permits students with disabilities to participate in the instruction and learning process
  • Changes or removal of architectural barriers
  • Provisions of auxiliary aids, adaptive equipment, and services
  • Modification of policies, practices or procedures
  • Adaptations that allow a student or prospective student with a disability to equally participate in the benefits and privileges of the adult basic education and services
  • Modifications or adaptations to placement and exit testing and enrollment procedures
  • Adjustments to the curriculum utilized within the program

Request Protocol Framework

Programs should have a plan for student and prospective student requests for accommodations including decision points and timelines. At a minimum the plan should include the following:

  • An outline of the process in easy to understand language
  • The estimated time frame (from initial student request to provision of the accommodation) in which decisions will be made
  • The decision making process (who receives the request and what happens between request and access of the requested accommodation)
  • Protocol or criteria to determine that the request would create an undue hardship to the program or would fundamentally alter activities or services
  • Standards by which alternative accommodations, when necessary, are determined and evaluated for effectiveness
  • The student and teacher notification process; bearing in mind confidentiality and privacy laws and regulations
  • The process of authorization of funds (if needed) to satisfy the request
  • The expediency of fund expenditures where purchases are required to fulfill the request
  • Procedures when a student wishes to file a complaint
  • Procedures when a student: refuses to accept an alternative accommodation deemed equal in nature; refuses to use an already accepted accommodation; does not attend regularly thus expending unnecessary resources

Many times there is more than one method available to accommodate the disability-related needs of a student or prospective student. Federal and state laws require that students who have disabilities be provided effective accommodations, not the best or most expensive accommodation. While consideration must be given to student preference, the program can reserve the right to reject the student request in lieu of a different, logical and reasonable accommodation, provided it is an effective alternative. Programs are not required to provide accommodations that would be unduly burdensome or that would fundamentally alter programs or services. If the adult basic education and literacy program finds that the requested accommodations present an undue hardship, the program should work with the student to find other resources that may be available to accommodate the limitations presented by the disability. If the student requesting the accommodation is in disagreement with the alternative suggestions, then the student has the right to file a complaint in accordance with the procedures set forth.

The need for and feasibility of providing reasonable accommodations should always be based on individual circumstances. If the student for whom the accommodation is being offered refuses the alternative accommodation, the legal responsibility to provide an accommodation is potentially satisfied, provided the student did not suggest reasonable alternatives. To ensure compliance with the law, efforts taken to meet the requests of the student and provide accommodations should be documented. This documentation should include both successes and failures.