Many prospective students requesting information or enrollment in ABE may not know or recognize that they have a disability or special learning need and thus may not know to ask for assistance or accommodations. It is important to ensure services for individuals with disabilities are in place.
The following outlines some of the general assumptions regarding program environments and the provision of services to students.
- Adult basic education are in compliance with the laws and regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, amended 2008, the Rehabilitation Act, Section 504 and 508 of 1973, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, Section 188, Part 37 of Title 29, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 1990, amended 2004
- The program team never categorizes students or prospective students based on a “disability label” Individuals with disabilities are not referred to by a label that denotes a disability
- Individuals are not stereotyped and every effort is made to remove stigma
- Students with disabilities are fully served in integrated settings and participate in the programs and services alongside individuals without disabilities
- Adult basic education programs are architecturally barrier free and fully accessible
- All students and prospective students have access to all programs and services offered through adult basic education
- Effective communication procedures are in place and materials and resources are available in alternative formats
- All websites and web-based information are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, Sections 508 and give students and prospective students who have disabilities access to electronic information comparable to access available to students who do not have disabilities
- Programs are prepared to respond to student requests for accommodations
- Adult basic education programs provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities in order for each student to access all programs and services
- Reasonable accommodations reflect student choice whenever possible and requests are honored in a timely manner
- When a request for accommodations results in undue hardship for a program, or fundamentally alters or changes the program or services, alternative accommodations are suggested and negotiated.
- Auxiliary and adaptive devices as well as equipment modifications are available to insure effective and full participation in all programs and services
- Confidentiality and privacy is upheld at all times, both internally and externally and students and prospective students know assistance is available and is confidential
- In an effort to comply with the laws and policies, programs will provide accommodations to assist students whenever possible. Programs may deny services to any student or prospective student who violates program policy when the denial is consistent with the program standards and the violation is not the direct result of the disability.
- Complaint and grievance procedures are in place and students and prospective students are informed of the process and can equally access said process if needed.
- All adult basic education programs should conduct annual self-evaluations of accessibility non-discrimination standards of services within their programs as well as program’s partnering agencies.
Program Activities and Services Access
Programs and services must be accessible to all individuals who have disabilities. That means that when viewed in its entirety, program activities and services provided by adult basic education and literacy providers, contractors and partnering agencies are readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. This requires programs to take preemptive or advance action in order to be ready when students and prospective students seek and participate in adult basic education and literacy services. Advance action involves not only the context of direct instruction, but also the context of communicating and providing program information, services and benefits.
Programs should ensure that communication methods to disseminate information are appropriate and accessible. All programs are to have an established Emergency Evacuation Plan. Evacuation plans are to be posted in all rooms and open spaces within a program and must address the needs and procedures of evacuating individuals with disabilities, including those with mobility and sensory impairments for such emergency situations as fires, bomb threats, natural disasters, power failures, severe weather conditions, etc.
Evacuation plans should be verbally described as a part of intake and orientation procedures and simulated practices for evacuating the building or premises should occur on a regular basis (quarterly).
Points of Contact
Having a “point of contact” person(s) within programs is important. The intention of this person(s) is to ensure the student’s experience is one that is non-discriminatory, removes barriers, and supports progress and gains. The “point of contact” person(s) works with students, program instructors and tutors/volunteers to develop a reasonable accommodation plan that meets the student or prospective student’s needs.
If a prospective student discloses a disability and needs accommodations, the interviewer may enter into a conversation related to how the program can assist, especially with needed accommodations. The interviewer should not ask for unnecessary personal information about the nature or extent of the disability, unless such is needed to provide the accommodations. Any information that is disclosed is confidential and should not be used or regarded as information that removes or keeps an otherwise eligible prospective student from accessing programs and services.
It is not usually necessary to inquire whether an applicant has a disability, or as to the nature or severity of the disability with the following exceptions:
- Inquiries necessary for compliance with requirements of programs or projects, in determining eligibility for specific project (e.g., a program/project funded for a specific disability, etc.)
- To measure compliance (without disclosing information about the student by name) with laws and regulations which require equal opportunity reporting when providing specific types of federally or state funded services (e.g., adult education services, literacy tutoring, etc.)
Information shared by prospective students with the adult program interviewer should be considered in assessing placement and whether accommodations are requested or needed or not. All disability related information must be kept confidential unless a release of information is obtained.
Volunteers and Volunteer Programs (Under the Adult Basic Education Jurisdiction)
Programs that utilize volunteers have a responsibility to provide training to all volunteers in the following areas:
- Disability awareness
- Non-discrimination standards
- Universal access
- Instructional approaches and techniques when working with students who have disabilities, especially non-apparent disabilities
- Request for reasonable accommodations and the application of such
- Confidentiality and privacy of medical and disability information
- Student complaint procedures
All programs should identify a process by which a volunteer can readily access guidance and additional support when working with a student with a disability.
Programs are strongly advised not to place volunteers in charge of collecting data to determine the presence of a disability (e.g., screening and/or intensive interviewing). Volunteers should not be asked or expected to read, review or interpret medical and disability data or reports.
Professional and Staff Development
Programs should continually access information and upgrade skills regarding equal and effective service delivery to students with disabilities. Programs should consider providing annual training to teams strengthening the understanding of federal and state policies and procedures when serving students with disabilities.
Partnerships and Collaboration
Community collaboration and partnerships is an essential factor in the delivery of adult basic education. Under federal and state laws, programs are required to ensure that resources and referrals are accessible and practice non-discriminatory measures. This responsibility can be easily accomplished through the development of a network of professionals and others committed to providing quality, non-discriminatory programs and services for students with disabilities.
Policy Guidelines, Dissemination and Implementation
All programs should have written policies and procedures addressing services to students with disabilities. These policies should be reviewed and updated periodically, especially as federal and state laws are updated. All team members of programs should have a copy of the policies and procedures. When changes or advancements are needed a plan and timelines for implementation and ongoing evaluation of additions and improvements should be put into place.