Accommodation Procedures for Students with Disabilities

Accommodation Procedures for Students with Disabilities

Bowdoin College has a strong mission regarding diversity and inclusion. As such, the College welcomes students with disabilities to take advantage of its wide array of programs, activities, and services.  Some students with disabilities may need academic adjustments and/or the provision of auxiliary aids and services in order to enjoy equal access to what Bowdoin offers. We call these supports “reasonable accommodations.”

To be eligible for reasonable accommodation, the College asks students to follow an established procedure. The first step is for the College to determine if the student has a qualifying condition. Disabilities may include, but are not limited to, a learning disability; attention deficit disorder; a visual, hearing, or mobility impairment; food allergy; and/or a physical or mental condition. To qualify, the impairment or condition needs to substantially limit one or more major life activities. It is not uncommon for students to be diagnosed with more than one condition.

A reasonable accommodation is one that is consistent with the academic standards of the College and does not require substantial course or program alteration. The Student Accessibility Office (SAO) is responsible for working with students individually throughout the accommodations process as well as throughout the students’ enrollment as may be helpful. Final authority for determining appropriate and effective accommodation rests with the College, following an interactive process with the student (and in some cases involving the faculty) which is based on the nature of the course or program of study and the individual student's disability-related needs. Arrangements for equipment, alternate formatted textbooks and other written materials, interpreters, housing assignments, dining restrictions and other accommodations generally require advance notice so student cooperation in making timely requests is appreciated.

In order to determine if a student’s condition qualifies for accommodation and what supports may be necessary, it is necessary for the student to provide documentation to the SAO. How current the documentation must be depends on the nature of a student’s condition and, in some cases, the type of accommodation request. For example, life-long impairments may not require recent documentation. Whereas, documentation pertaining to physical and mental health conditions that may be subject to change may need to be more recent.

Additionally, because the laws guiding eligibility for accommodations in grades K-12 and post-secondary education differ, documentation that includes recommendations corresponding to collegiate-level demands will help to support the student’s transition. If documentation is not current or sufficiently comprehensive, the College may require an updated evaluation, the cost of which will need to be borne by the student.

The information you provide will be kept confidential in accordance with state and federal law.

Students who wish to make a request for an accommodation based on a disability need to:

  1. Identify themselves to the SAO and request accommodations following their acceptance of admission to Bowdoin. A student begins this process by completing the web application on Bowdoin’s Student Accessibility Office website: (https://whitney.accessiblelearning.com/Bowdoin/ApplicationStudent.aspx) New students are notified of the web application in their post-admission materials. Continuing students receive notification of the procedures and application availability at the beginning of each semester. Students may identify themselves at any time and should do so promptly following an injury or illness with permanent or long-term implications. The application will become part of the student's personal file, which is maintained by the Office of the Dean of Students.
  2. Provide, (i.e., within 1 to 5 years depending upon the nature of the disability) relevant documentation of a disability that substantially limits a major life activity or that meets one of the recognized qualifying disabilities under the Maine Human Rights Act[1] and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act.[2] Documentation needs to be completed by a qualified, licensed off-campus professional who has no personal relationship with the student. Upon receipt of required documentation, the SAO Director will consult with the student and other appropriate individuals in determining eligibility and recommended reasonable accommodations. Students who are unsure whether their documentation is sufficient are encouraged to contact the Director. In some instances, the Director will advise the student how to update their existing documentation rather than undergoing a complete reassessment.

Incoming students with documented disabilities who wish to seek accommodations need to register with the SAO. After consultation with the student, a review of the student's documentation, and any necessary consultation with outside specialists, the SAO Director will determine what accommodations may be appropriate and necessary. The Director provides the student with a document outlining recommended accommodations.  The student personally decides in which courses they wish to seek accommodation. It is the student’s responsibility to request that the SAO notify their faculty (notifications are made via email and the student is copied) of approved accommodations each semester. Students request faculty notification letters via Bowdoin’s AIM Portal. Faculty members play an important part in determining whether suggested accommodations are appropriate in the context of their course design and evaluation. The College strongly encourages the student to meet with the instructor during the first week of classes to discuss the accommodations. It is possible that the instructor and student may need to adjust the accommodation based on the design and essential requirements of the specific course. If a student is dissatisfied with an instructor’s decision or the implementation of accommodations, it is the student’s responsibility to notify the SAO Director in a timely manner, who can intervene to attempt to address a student’s concerns.

Students who wish to take their tests at the Test Center should review this process with the SAO Director. Students taking advantage of the Test Center will need to follow the procedures to ensure availability and timely receipt of the test at the center.  Information about the center is available at: https://www.bowdoin.edu/accessibility/student-accessibility-office/test-center/index.html

Students who experience academic or other difficulties that impact their educational experience and who suspect an underlying disability are encouraged to identify themselves to the SAO. Referrals for testing by qualified individuals can be provided through Health Services and the Counseling Center. Notification of a disability to anyone other than the SAO Director is not sufficient for initiating the reasonable accommodation process.

Students who believe they have been discriminated against based on their disability should consult the SAO to be informed of the steps that can be taken to address these concerns.

 

[1] http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/5/title5sec4553-A.html

[2] 28 C.F.R. § 36.105(d)(2)(iii).