Businesses and organization are required to provide reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Unlike these types of organizations, colleges see a far greater number of people walk through their doors. This can make it challenging to accommodate everyone, but here are a few ways colleges are accommodating people with disabilities.
The easiest way to tackle accommodations and avoid legal battles with ADA defense attorneys is to first handle the school’s staff. This allows colleges to focus on a smaller number of people and create a more permanent solution for their employees.
Like any business, colleges incorporate a mixture of structures and items as aids for their disabled employees. Wheelchair ramps are the most common structure, while items ranging from speech-to-text software to modified prosthetics are excellent items that help individuals do their jobs.
It’s vital that colleges remember each employee’s disability is different, requiring separate accommodation in most cases. To match the uniqueness of each situation, these schools are practicing open lines of communication between department heads and employees.
Any employment lawyer will tell you that having an open, honest discussion with employees is the first step to proper ADA accommodation. This is the best way to better understand an employee’s disability and what accommodations are best suited to helping with their job functions.
Tackling the needs of disabled students is more complex. While aspects like providing access into the building or moving certain classes to more accessible areas are simple, the number of students that pass through a college’s doors means accommodating a wide variety of disabilities.
One way colleges are overcoming these challenges is by changing policy. The most common policy change is allowing students to bring service animals with them to class. Providing auxiliary services such as screen readers or modified keyboards and mice is also an effective way to offer accommodation to vast number of students.
A more complex adaptation is changing a classroom’s environment. This can include providing sign language interpreters, readers, and alternative test formats. Creating distraction-free settings for test takers is also highly advisable. While these require a little more thought, they’re becoming the norm in campuses across the nation.
Tackling Individual Needs
All of the above are excellent ways to address a vast number of students with a wide range of disabilities, but they don’t cover everything. Disabilities may share similarities in the accommodation they need but are rarely identical.
Colleges commonly find students who need individually designed accommodations or program modifications to meet their needs, which both the ADA and Section 504 provide for. In these cases, colleges must work with the student to address these individual needs.
Just like with their employees, colleges engage in open dialogue that allows them to better understand what needs the student has and how they might be addressed. It’s part of an ongoing process, but it allows these students to reap the full benefit of a college education.