Frequently Asked Questions
1. A student with a disability has advised me that they need special accommodations in my classroom. I want to find out more about their disability but am uncomfortable talking to them. What information can Center on Disabilities (COD) share with me?
Counselors in the Center on Disabilities can verify that a student has a disability if they have indicated to you that they do, but may not discuss the diagnosis without permission. Counselors may also share information about the accommodations approved for the student. You may obtain more detailed information if the student has signed a waiver allowing counselors to discuss the specifics of their diagnosis and the functional limitations that accompany their disability.
2. I sometimes run into a student who does not appear to grasp material in the classroom, blames it on their learning disability and wants me to lower my standards. I teach a difficult course and many students have difficulty grasping the material. What is a learning disability and why do students with this disability receive accommodations?
The term "learning disability" refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders which may result in difficulties in such activities as listening, speaking, reading, writing, and reasoning. While the exact cause of a learning disability is not known, it is presumed to be as a result of central nervous system dysfunctions. Persons diagnosed with a learning disability are of average to superior intelligence.
Students with learning disabilities are taught compensatory strategies to assist them in mastering academic material and are given accommodations in order to allow them to have the chance to perform at a level equal to their peers. Common accommodations include extended time on examinations, use of a calculator or spell checker and a quiet room in which to take exams. Lowering academic standards is not a reasonable accommodation required by law and students are advised of this when they meet with their counselors.
3. Who is eligible for exam accommodations and who determines what accommodations they receive? What if I object to the accommodations they are receiving because it will give them an unfair advantage?
Students with disabilities who have functional limitations that would impact their ability to take exams may be eligible for accommodations. The most common accommodations are extended time and the use of a reader or scribe. While it may sometimes seem that students with disabilities are advantaged in testing arrangements over their non-disabled peers, each accommodations is carefully considered by a counselor and supported by the documentation of their disability. Accommodations are provided only to ensure that a student's performance on an exam is representative of their mastery of the subject, rather than a reflection of their disability. The student must sign a service agreement each semester and accommodations are not given in a blanket manner for all exams. Accommodations which may be required on a written exam for example, might not be required in an oral testing situation. For that reason the student, faculty and COD Counselor must all sign an alternative testing agreement specific to each class in which the student is enrolled.
4. I don't want my students to take their exams at the Center on Disabilities. May I proctor exams myself?
Yes. Students with the Center on Disabilities offers test proctoring as a service to faculty and students. However, as long as students are provided with the approved accommodations a faculty member may proctor the exam. In this case, the proctoring department does not require a faculty-student accommodation form.
5. In the past I have had a student with a disability in my class who was very disruptive. He told me that he was late as a result of his disability and that there was nothing I could do about it. He also interrupted my class lectures and group work, and when reprimanded told me that he was protected by the law. Is that true?
All students, regardless of disability status, are required to meet the provisions of the California State University, Northridge Student Conduct Code and the academic expectations contained in your syllabus. Students are expected to behave civilly, attend class and participate appropriately. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that reasonable accommodations be made but you are not required to modify academic standards to accommodate inappropriate or disruptive behavior. In addition, faculty are recognized as having jurisdiction over academic matters such as class attendance, tardiness and due dates for assignments.