These guidelines were written to assist faculty and staff who interact with students with disabilities at DigiPen Institute of Technology. This document outlines the rights and responsibilities of faculty and staff regarding students with disabilities. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy; however, this is not a legal document, nor is it intended to offer legal advice.

Laws and Definitions

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a federal law which provides civil rights protection to persons with disabilities in regards to employment, public accommodations such as restaurants or day care centers, services made available by state and local governments, transportation, and telecommunications. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disabilities and mandates the removal of communication and architectural impediments for persons with disabilities. An individual covered by the ADA is a person perceived as having a disability or a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits life activities such as walking, talking, seeing, or hearing.

ADA Amendments and Act (ADAAA) of 2008: The ADAAA states that the definition of disability should be interpreted in favor of broad coverage of individuals. Congress made it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the statute.

Rehabilitation Act: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies, in programs receiving federal financial assistance, in federal employment, and in the employment practices of federal contractors. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act states that:

"No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States...shall, solely by reason of...handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." [Source]

Washington State Law (28B.10 RCW): This law provides a summary of the rights outlined in the aforementioned federal laws and specifically defines services. It also establishes a grievance procedure that students may follow if they believe discrimination has taken place.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do these laws relate to each other?

Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act covers institutions that receive federal funds. The ADA stands when it provides greater protection. Washington state law is intended to provide a clearer, more concise statement of those rights.

What are the implications for higher education institutions?

Students with disabilities must be afforded an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from all post-secondary education programs and activities. That includes any program of study, course, or activities associated with DigiPen either on or off campus.

What is the DSS Office at DigiPen?

The Disability Support Services (DSS) Office provides and supports implementation of reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities at DigiPen, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

DSS collaborates with students, staff, and faculty to ensure equal access to all of DigiPen’s programs, courses, activities, and events.

DSS recognizes and celebrates disability as an aspect of diversity. DSS is a part of the Student Affairs Department.

Who is an individual with a disability?

A person with a disability is anyone who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity;
  • Has a record or history of such an impairment; or
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.

What is considered to be a major life activity?

Major life activities include, but are not limited to, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for one’s self, and performing manual tasks.

What are the rights and responsibilities of a student with a disability?

A qualified student has the right to:

  • Have access to equal opportunities for academic success at DigiPen regardless of disability.
  • Receive reasonable accommodations in order to be provided with equal opportunity.
  • Have access to auxiliary aids/assistive technology.
  • Be protected from discrimination due to a disability or any retaliatory discrimination.

A qualified student is responsible for:

  • Identifying themselves to the DSS Office.
  • Actively participating in an intake interview and other meetings with the DSS Coordinator.
  • Assuming personal responsibility for meeting with faculty and requesting additional assistance.
  • Notifying the DSS Office when there are problems receiving the requested accommodations.
  • Adhering to all policies regarding academic conduct, which apply equally to all students, regardless of disability.
  • Meeting and maintaining academic standards, which have been established by DigiPen and applicable departments (with appropriate accommodations where needed).
  • Providing current disability documentation to the DSS Office.
  • Following all directions and adhering to all timelines when requesting accommodations. Failure to alert appropriate staff in a timely manner may result in significant obstacles to the provision of necessary accommodations for students.
  • Becoming aware of their rights as students and learning to advocate for themselves.

What are the rights and responsibilities of a faculty or staff member?

Faculty and staff have the right to:

  • Exercise flexibility while maintaining the same course standards or requirements for all students; for example, faculty may consider alternate assignments for course requirements where necessary or tailor requirements to individuals’ abilities.
  • Challenge accommodations when necessary. Sometimes, requested classroom and/or test accommodations may not be appropriate for the course. When the accommodation would result in a fundamental alteration of the program, faculty members have the right to challenge an accommodations request.

Faculty and staff are responsible for:

  • Treating students with disabilities as they would any other student in the classroom, while remaining as open-minded and flexible as possible.
  • Once notified, making appropriate adjustments unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of a program or any academic requirements that are considered essential to a program of study or are necessary to meet licensing requirements.
  • If a student approaches a faculty member concerning accommodations, the faculty member should refer the student to the DSS Office to process his or her accommodation request. Contact the DSS Office to join the discussion. Dialogue between students and instructors is helpful and follow-up meetings are recommended.
  • Instructors can contribute greatly to students’ comfort by making a class announcement about the DSS Office at the beginning of the semester.
  • The following statement must be included on course syllabi:
      • "If students have disabilities and need form accommodations in order to fully participate or effectively demonstrate learning in this class, they should contact the Disability Support Services Office at (425)629-5015 or The DSS Office welcomes the opportunity to meet with students to discuss how the accommodations will be implemented. Also, if you may need assistance in the event of an evacuation, please let the instructor know."

Can I ask a student if he or she has a disability?

No. However, notifying students of the services available is the institution’s responsibility. You should inform all students about the DSS Office whenever possible. For example, faculty members are required to have a brief statement in the course syllabus indicating the availability of such services.

Does a student with a disability have to be registered with DSS?

No. There are many students with disabilities who do not utilize DSS. Students can choose to register or not register at any time; however, if they choose to not register with DSS by disclosing their disability and providing documentation, they are not eligible to receive accommodations for coursework.

Do I have the right to know what type of disability a student has when he or she asks for an accommodation?

No. Students are not obliged to inform faculty or staff members about their disability — only the needed accommodations. If you have any questions regarding accommodations, you may contact the DSS Office.

Do I need to maintain student confidentiality?

Yes. Students with disabilities are protected under FERPA and the civil rights laws. Faculty and staff must maintain student confidentiality. At no time should faculty or staff make any statements or implications that a student is any different from the general student population.

Examples of behaviors to be AVOIDED:

  • Separating a student from the rest of the class during a test or exam.
  • Asking the student for documentation other than the Accommodation Letter from the DSS Office.
  • Discussing the student’s needs or accommodations anywhere other than a private place.
  • Grading a student based on a standard that is any different from the rest of the class.
  • Giving students with disabilities an advantage or disadvantage over the rest of the class; the idea of the law is to give qualified students equal access or equal opportunity provided through reasonable accommodations.

What is a reasonable academic accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a modification that allows the student equal access to the learning opportunity. Reasonable accommodations are determined after reviewing the student’s medical documentation related to her or his disability. DSS determines which accommodations are reasonable based on the specific ways the student’s disability affects their ability to access buildings, information, or resources related to their academic experience. The student will provide faculty with a letter from DSS outlining appropriate accommodations. Academic accommodations include, but are not limited to: testing accommodations, adaptive technology services, and assistance in arranging other support services (e.g., interpreters, note takers, scribes, and readers).

What do I need to do when I use videos in my class, program, or activity?

When available, you should always turn on captioning to accommodate the needs of students with disability. If captioning is not available, contact DSS as soon as you decide to use the video in your class, program, or activity. The DSS Office will help you caption the video as quickly as possible.

Must the college provide the student all the academic adjustments and auxiliary aids he or she needs?

No. A college is not required to provide academic adjustments or auxiliary aids and services if any of the following would result:

  • The nature of the program would be fundamentally altered;
  • The academic requirements are considered essential to a program of study;
  • Or the academic requirements are necessary to meet licensing requirements.

Am I required to provide accommodations to a student that notifies me late in the term?

Yes, but accommodations are not retroactive. There could be numerous reasons why a student makes a late request. Some students try to take a class without accommodations, but find that they are not doing well and need to use them. As a rule, however, we strongly encourage students to submit their requests early in the semester. In some situations late requests may make the accommodation impossible to provide.

Does the student receive “special treatment” under the laws?

No. Providing accommodations means equalizing the impact of the student’s disability to the greatest extent possible. Therefore, accommodations should not be regarded as “special treatment.”

What is the definition of “accessibility?”

“Accessibility” means that individuals with disabilities are able to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services within the same timeframe and with equivalent ease of use as individuals without disabilities.

What can I do to make the classroom and campus environment more open to students with disabilities?

Faculty should make a general announcement regarding the availability of DSS accommodations at the beginning of class each semester and at the beginning of on-campus programs and activities. Also, it is important to look at the student first and not his or her disability. Each person is unique with unique needs.

How can I encourage students that may have disabilities to visit or register with DSS?

If an instructor feels that a particular student may have a substantially limiting disability, the instructor should contact the DSS Office to refer the student.

What if a student with a disability is disruptive in class?

A student with a disability who is disruptive in class should be treated as an instructor would treat any student who is disruptive in class. If an instructor feels that there is a medical reason for the student’s behavior, the instructor can discuss this with DSS staff to determine potential solutions.

What if a student with a disability is failing?

It is important for faculty to remember that providing reasonable accommodations to a student with a disability does not guarantee success in the course. Students with disabilities may fail to master the course material, just like any other student. Students with disabilities have the same right as other students to fail as part of their educational experience. Like any other student who is struggling in a course, you may wish to refer him or her to the Academic Advising and Tutoring Center.

What are the Information Technology (IT) Accessibility Guidelines?

The IT Accessibility Guidelines are designed to help keep your electrical documents accessible to students, faculty, staff, and visitors with disabilities. These guidelines provide steps to create or attain accessible electronic documents, websites, videos, software applications, and hardware devices that can be used effectively by everyone. It is the DigiPen community’s collective responsibility to assure the full accessibility of technologies we use.

What is a service animal?

Definitions of Service Animals: Beginning March 15, 2011, service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

Where Service Animals are Allowed: Under the ADA, DigiPen allows service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of DigiPen’s campus where the public is normally allowed to go.

Service Animals Must Be Under Control: As required by the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

Removal of Service Animals: An official may require an owner/partner to remove a service animal from DigiPen Institute of Technology facilities under any of the following circumstances:

  • The animal is sick, unclean or malodorous;
  • The animal’s behavior is disruptive (e.g., barking, growling, running around, displaying aggressive behavior);
  • The owner/partner fails to clean up after his or her animal;
  • The animal does not meet all applicable city/county/college ordinances or requirements.

If such circumstances or behaviors persist, DigiPen officials may direct the owner/partner to not bring the animal onto campus. The owner/partner may remain on campus and participate in activities, but the animal will not be allowed to return until the issues have been resolved.

What questions can I ask about service animals?

Only limited inquiries are allowed regarding service animals. Staff and faculty may ask two questions:

  1. "Is the animal a pet?" and
  2. "What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?"

What are the information technology (IT) accessibility policy and guidelines?

The IT Accessibility Guidelines are designed to help make your electronic documents accessible to students, faculty, staff, and visitors with disabilities. These guidelines provide steps to create or attain accessible electronic documents, websites, videos, software applications, and hardware devices that can be used effectively by everyone. It is the DigiPen community's collective responsibility to assure the full accessibility of technologies we choose. To access the IT Accessibility Guidelines, please contact the DSS office.

What are the guidelines and policy for planning an accessible event?

All DigiPen entities are responsible for ensuring that their programming, services and activities are accessible. Every type of program, exhibit, tour and event, whether held for the DigiPen community or open to the public on DigiPen's campus, are required to consider the access needs of persons with disabilities. 

Please include the following statement in all program announcements in order to ensure accessibility in all programs:

"DigiPen is committed to providing equal access to its programs and events. To request disability accommodations for this event, contact [host name] in advance at: [host phone number and email address]. Please contact us as soon as possible. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs."

The department and/or club hosting is responsible for making arrangements for necessary accommodations with the support of the DSS Office. DigiPen must make a "good faith effort" to provide reasonable accommodations whenever a request is received, and while advance notice can be requested. 

For additional information, and to access the Guidelines for Accessible Event Planning, please contact the DSS Office.

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