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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a disability?
  2. What is meant by "is regarded as having such an impairment" in the definition of disability?
  3. Isn’t "disability" and "handicap" the same thing?
  4. What is a reasonable accommodation?
  5. How does a student become eligible to receive accommodations?
  6. Who determines the accommodation?
  7. Won’t providing accommodations on examinations give an unfair advantage to a student with a disability?
  8. What do I do when a student discloses a disability?
  9. What if a student doesn’t tell me about a disability until late in the semester?
  10. Can I review the student’s documentation of the disability?
  11. What if I suspect that a student has a disability?
  12. What if a student with a disability is failing?
  13. What if a student with a disability is often absent?
  14. What is a notetaker?
  15. How can I assist a student with getting notes?
  16. What should I do if a student who is deaf or hard of hearing shows up in my class without an interpreter?
  17. Who is responsible for requesting an interpreter?
  18. Do I need to alter my teaching style with an interpreter present?
  19. What can I expect if there is an interpreter in my classroom?
  20. What should I do if my class needs to evacuate the building due to an emergency?
  21. What if a student has a seizure in my classroom?
What is a disability? 
An individual with a disability is defined as any person who:  
  • "has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities (including walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, or performing manual tasks),
  • has a record of such an impairment, or
  • is regarded as having such an impairment."
What is meant by "is regarded as having such an impairment" in the definition of disability? 

For example, a person with a facial disfigurement may not have an impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, but others may regard him or her has having one due to how he or she appears.

 Isn’t "disability" and "handicap" the same thing? 

A "disability" is a condition caused by accident, trauma, genetics or disease that may limit a person’s mobility, hearing, vision, speech, or mental function. A person may have more than one disability.

A "handicap" is a physical or attitudinal constraint imposed upon a person; for example, stairs, narrow doorways, and curbs are handicaps imposed upon people with disabilities who use wheelchairs.


What is a reasonable accommodation? 

reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a course, program, service, job, activity, or facility that enables a qualified individual with a disability to have an equal opportunity to attain the same level of performance or to enjoy equal benefits and privileges as are available to an individual without a disability. Some common academic accommodations include extended time on tests, use of peer notetakers, use of computer with spellcheck, and provision of sign language interpreters.

 How does a student become eligible to receive accommodations? 

To become eligible, a student must have a documented disability and inform the College that he or she is requesting accommodations based on that disability.

A student must:  

  1. Contact Disability Support Services (DSS),
  2. Complete the DSS Intake Packet and submit to the DSS office,
  3. Provide DSS with documentation of the disability from a qualified professional, and
  4. Consult with a DSS counselor to determine appropriate accommodations.

 Who determines the accommodation? 

DSS counselors determine the accommodations using:  

  • documentation of the disability from qualified professionals provided by the student,
  • information gathered from a diagnostic student intake process, and
  • information from appropriate College personnel regarding essential standards for courses, programs, services, jobs, activities, and facilities.
The determination of reasonable accommodations considers the following:
  • the barriers resulting from the interaction between the disability and the campus environment;
  • the array of accommodations that might remove the barriers;
  • whether or not the student has access to the course, program, service, job, activity, or facility without accommodations; and 
  • that essential elements of the course, program, service, job, activity, or facility are not compromised by the accommodations.


Won’t providing accommodations on examinations give an unfair advantage to a student with a disability? 

"Accommodations don’t make things easier, just possible; in the same way eyeglasses do not improve the strength of the eyes, they just make it possible for the individual to see better. Accommodations are interventions that allow the learner to indicate what they know. Without the accommodations, the learner may not be able to overcome certain barriers."  (Samuels, M. 1992 - Asking the Right Questions. The Learning Centre. Calgary)

Accommodations are designed to lessen the effects of the disability and are required to provide fair and accurate testing to measure knowledge or expertise in the subject. Careful consideration must be given to requests for accommodations when the test is measuring a skill, particularly if that skill is an essential function or requirement of passing the course, such as typing at a certain speed or turning a patient for an x-ray. In such cases, please contact a DSS counselor for guidance.

The purpose of such academic accommodations is to adjust for the effect of the student's disability, not to dilute academic requirements. The evaluation and assigning of grades should have the same standards for all students, including students with disabilities. 

For many test takers, the most common accommodation is extended time. Double time is the maximum extension unless the DSS counselor gives prior approval. In specific circumstances, students may also require the use of readers and/or scribes, a modification of test format, the administration of examinations orally, or an alternative time for testing. For out-of-class assignments, the extension of deadlines may be justified, especially if the student is relying heavily on support services (readers for term papers, etc.).

If testing accommodations are necessary, students are responsible for discussing the arrangements with their instructors; instructors at the Rockville Campus should then make arrangements with the Assessment Center (CC014) or, if specified in the Accommodations Letter, the DSS Learning Center (CB116)/240-567-5224. On the other campuses, contact the designated DSS counselor to determine the best method of accommodation.

What do I do when a student discloses a disability? 

Ask for the Accommodations Letter from DSS; this letter describes the accommodations that faculty are legally mandated to provide. During an office hour or at another convenient time, discuss the letter and the accommodations with the student. Students MUST present an Accommodations Letter from DSS to receive accommodations. If the student does not have an Accommodations Letter, he or she should be referred to the DSS office to request services. The DSS counselors will determine the appropriate accommodations after reviewing documentation of the disability providedby the student.

Discuss any questions about recommended accommodations first with the student, then, if necessary, with a DSS counselor.

What if a student doesn’t tell me about a disability until late in the semester? 

Students have a responsibility to give instructors and DSS adequate time to arrange accommodations. DSS counselors encourage students to identify early in the semester. Instructors can help by announcing in class and in the syllabus an invitation for students to identify themselves early in the semester: "Any student who may need an accommodation due to a disability, please make an appointment to see me during my office hours. A letter from Disability Support Services authorizing your accommodations will be needed." 

Once a student has identified to the instructor and requests disability-related accommodations authorized by DSS, the College has a legal responsibility to make reasonable attempts to accommodate the need, even late in the semester. There is no responsibility to provide accommodations prior to identification; for example, allowing the student to re-take exams with extended time.

Instructors should feel free to contact a DSS counselor for assistance on arrangements for last-minute requests.

Can I review the student’s documentation of the disability?

DSS is the office designated to receive and interpret documentation of the disability. DSS counselors certify eligibility for services and determine accommodations. Disability information is confidential and students are not required to disclose this information to instructors.

 What if I suspect that a student has a disability? 

Talk with the student about your concerns regarding his or her performance. If the concern seems disability-related, ask if he or she has ever received assistance for a disability. If it seems appropriate, refer the student to the DSS office to apply for services. Whether to self-identify to DSS is the decision of the student; however, to receive accommodations, disclosure to DSS with proper documentation is required.

If the student has never been evaluated for a learning disability and/or Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the DSS office will provide a list of local resources where the student may be screened or tested. Some of the resources offer a sliding fee schedule.

What if a student with a disability is failing? 

Treat the student as you would any student who is not performing well in your class. Invite the student to your office hour to discuss reasons for the failing performance and what resources the student may use to improve. Encourage the student to see a DSS counselor to discuss some additional strategies to improve his or her grades. Contact the DSS counselor who initialed the Accommodations Letter to discuss any additional concerns.

What if a student with a disability is often absent? 

Talk with the student to discuss your concerns that absences are affecting class performance. Remind him or her of your policy on class absences, as well as the College's Academic Regulation 9.823 on Attendance. Determine with the student whether the missed work can be made up and make arrangements with the student to do so. Refer the student to the DSS counselor if too much class work has been missed.

What is a notetaker? 

A notetaker is a usually another student in class who agrees to provide copies of lecture notes taken during class. The notetaker may make copies of notes at the DSS office or use carbonless notetaker paper available at no charge from DSS and/or in the College bookstores at minimal cost.

 How can I assist a student with getting notes? 

The Accommodations Letter will document the need for notetakers. Students who cannot take notes or have difficulty taking notes adequately due to the effects of their disability can be accommodated in a number of ways including: allowing them to tape record lectures, assisting them in obtaining an in-class volunteer notetaker, and providing them with an outline of lecture materials and copies of overhead transparencies.

What should I do if a student who is deaf or hard of hearing shows up in my class without an interpreter? 

In the unlikely event that a student shows up for the first day of class without an interpreter, the student should be referred to DSS. DSS will then attempt to schedule an interpreter or work with the student to rearrange his or her schedule into classes where an interpreter is already provided.

 Who is responsible for requesting an interpreter? 

Students requiring an interpreter for class must make the request to DSS at least three weeks before the last day of regular registration. For outside class requirements, such as field trips or other assigned activities, as well as office hours, students should request the interpreter in writing to DSS at least two weeks ahead of time or more, depending on the event. For a College-related event, such as a meeting, workshop, or discussion group, the sponsoring department or organizer should request an interpreter from DSS using the interpreter request form available from the DSS office 240-567-5058. DSS cannot guarantee an interpreter when requests are made less than two weeks before the event.


Do I need to alter my teaching style with an interpreter present?

Interpreters are professionals who facilitate communication between hearing individuals and people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The role of the interpreter is similar to that of a foreign language translator: to bridge the communication gap between two parties.

Some adaptations in presentation style may be helpful when using a sign language interpreter. The interpreter will let you know if you need to slow down your rate of speaking or if they need you to repeat any information. A desk copy of the book is especially helpful for the interpreter when the class is using examples or doing exercises from the text. Please realize that if students are looking at the interpreter, they cannot be reading a book, writing, or taking notes; a pause for the students to finish their task may be required before continuing the lecture.

What can I expect if there is an interpreter in my classroom?

Interpreters are bound by the code of ethics developed by the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, that specifies that interpreters are to serve as communication intermediaries who are not otherwise involved.  

  • When an interpreter is present, speak directly to the deaf or hard of hearing person rather than to the interpreter, and avoid using phrases such as "tell him" or "ask her."
  • Speak normally, noting that there may be a lag time between the spoken message and the interpretation.
  • When referring to objects or written information, allow time for the translation to take place. Replace terms such as "here" and "there" with more specific terms, such as "on the second line" and "in the left corner."
  • In a conference room or class environment, the deaf student and interpreter will work out seating arrangements, with the interpreter usually located near the speaker.
  • Inform the interpreter in advance if there is an audiovisual element in a presentation, so arrangements can be made for lighting and positioning.
  • In sessions that extend longer than one hour, the interpreter may require a short break to maintain proficiency in interpreting
What should I do if my class needs to evacuate the building due to an emergency? 

Please read the Emergency Guidelines for Individuals with Disabilities for complete guidelines on how to assist students with disabilities during an emergency.

What if a student has a seizure in my classroom? 

"Faculty Factsheet" on seizure disorders (.pdf format) is also available.

DSS encourages students with seizure disorders to inform their instructors about what should be done if a seizure occurs during class time. Some students request that Safety and Security be called immediately, others request action as listed below.

Seizures happen when there is a sudden electrical discharge in the brain. Each individual has a unique reaction. A seizure can result in a relatively slight reaction, such as a short lapse in attention, or a more severe reaction known as a grand mal, which involves convulsions. Seizure disorders are generally controlled by medication, so the possibility of a seizure in the classroom is rare. If one does occur, the following actions are suggested:  

  • Keep calm. Ease the student to the floor and open the collar of the shirt. You cannot stop a seizure. Let it run its course and do not try to revive the student.
  • Remove hard, sharp, or hot objects that may injure the student, but do not interfere with his or her movements.
  • Do not force anything between the student’s teeth.
  • Turn the student’s head to one side for release of saliva. Place something soft under the head.
  • Make sure that breathing is unobstructed, but do not be concerned if breathing is irregular.
  • When the student regains consciousness, let him or her rest as long as desired.
  • To help orient the student to time and space, suggest where he or she is and what happened.
  • Speak reassuringly to the student, especially as the seizure ends. The student may be agitated or confused for several minutes afterward.  
  • Don't leave the student alone until he or she is clearheaded. Ask whether you can call a friend or relative to help him or her get home.
  • If the seizure lasts beyond a few minutes, or if the student seems to pass from one seizure to another without regaining consciousness, contact the campus Safety and Security office. This rarely happens, but when it does, it should be treated immediately.


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