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All about accessibility

Faculty and staff are obligated to refer students who disclose disabilities to the Access Center. Here’s everything you need to know.

By Matt Watson

August 23, 2018

Access Center on MSU Denver campusDo you know where the Access Center is located on campus?

If you’re not familiar with the office that provides support services for students with disabilities, it’s time to learn. All faculty and staff are obligated by federal law to refer students who disclose a disability to the Access Center, which is in Suite 122 of the Plaza Building.

Students with all types of disabilities including learning, attention, psychological, physical and chronic medical conditions can register with the center and request accessibility notification letters to receive academic accommodations such as extended time for test-taking or a sign-language interpreter.

The Access Center is changing the name of what were formerly called accommodation notification letters for fall 2018.

“We’re trying to slowly change the culture on campus and get everyone thinking of accessibility as the issue as opposed to disability,” said Greg Sullivan, director of the Access Center.

Students have the right to choose whether and when to disclose a need for accommodations, but once they do, employees should direct them to the Access Center. If students do not disclose, then faculty and staff should respect their privacy. However, employees can certainly engage any student who is struggling by addressing the issue, such as saying, “I see you are really struggling in my class. Would you like to talk about it?”

When a faculty member receives a letter from student, they should comply and make sure the student knows exactly what accommodations they can receive.

“Faculty should meet with the student, ideally in a private setting, to review the letter with the student. Oftentimes, the student might be approved for five accommodations, but based on the structure of the class they only need to use three of them, so they can discuss those,” Sullivan said.

Students can provide a letter to faculty at any point in the semester. There isn’t a deadline of any sort, and students can register with the Access Center throughout the semester. Accessibility letters aren’t retroactive, however, so students can’t provide a letter to a faculty member after a test and ask to retake the test. It’s recommended that faculty members sign and date accessibility letters when they receive them from students.

The Access Center maintains an informational sheet for faculty, which includes the accessibility statement required to be included in every course syllabus. The center verifies all requests from students after receiving appropriate medical or educational documentation and works with faculty members to arrange accommodations. It’s preferred that students make in-person appointments to register with the Access Center, but that can also take place over the phone if necessary, such as for students taking online courses only.

“It’s really a collaborative, interactive process between the Access Center, the student and the faculty member. Communication is key,” Sullivan said.

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