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The Dean of Students Department
Student Disability Resource Center
874 Traditions Way
108 Student Services Building
Tallahassee, FL 32306-4167
850/644-9566 (VOICE) | 850/644-8504 (TDD)



Understanding and Accommodating Students with Disabilities: A Description of Different Disabilities and Reasonable Accommodations

Faculty need to have a clear understanding of the possible educational implications of specific disabilities. Students with disabilities may require certain accommodations, and it is important that faculty be receptive and responsive to students’ needs. Effective communication between faculty, students, and SDRC staff plays a crucial role in appropriately providing accommodations. Encourage students to discuss their strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the course, and invite them to make reasonable suggestions based on their experiences in other courses. Give students the opportunity to privately discuss with you their situation, but don't force it if they are uncomfortable. Address students naturally. It is best not to generalize from a single disability and assume there are also intellectual, social, and additional physical deficits.

The following section provides summarized descriptions of common disabilities and some suggested accommodations, but it is in no way complete- remember that any condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities can be considered a disability. While these descriptions and suggestions can be helpful when a student with a disability is in your classroom, it is important to remember that each student is an individual, and that different disabilities create different circumstances. Even among those with the same disability, an accommodation that makes a difference to one student may have little value to another. Most reasonable accommodations are easy to arrange.

After reading the following section about different disabilities and accommodations, please continue on to the section about the Student Disability Resource Center. This section will provide specific information about SDRC’s policies and procedures for reasonable accommodations. If you would like more information, please contact the Student Disability Resource Center.


  • Slow information processing skills
  • Inconsistent performance
  • Difficulty recalling information
  • Time disorientation
  • Disorganization
  • Impaired notetaking skills
  • Poor study skills
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Limited vocabulary
  • Confusion of mathematical symbols
  • Difficulty shifting from one task to another
  • Poor handwriting, letter and number formation
  • Difficulty aligning numbers
  • Limited strategies for monitoring errors

Despite learning problems, students with learning disabilities still have a number of talents and gifts. With support, motivation, and appropriate intervention, they can complete a college degree.

Educational Implications:

It is important to note the effects of a Specific Learning Disability on academic performance result from long-term retrieval, short-term memory, processing speed, auditory, visual, and/or other cognitive processing deficits. Students with these disabilities are not less intelligent than other students nor are they lazy.

The student with a Specific Learning Disability may exhibit problems in one or more of the following areas:


Students may:

  • Display slow reading rate and/or experience difficulty in modifying the reading rate in accordance with the difficulty of the material.
  • Struggle with comprehension and retention of written material.
  • Have difficulty in identifying important/relevant points or themes.
  • Experience difficulty distinguishing between sounds.
  • Encounter difficulties mastering phonics.
  • Confuse similar words, and have difficulty integrating new vocabulary.
  • Encounter poor tracking skills resulting in skipped words, phrases or lines or losing place on the page.

Students may:

  • Have difficulty with sentence structure resulting in incomplete sentences, inappropriate use of grammar, missing inflectional endings, and frequent spelling errors.
  • Transpose of letters, making words and sentences jumbled or unclear
  • Omit or substitute sounds, especially in unfamiliar vocabulary
  • Have difficulty copying correctly from written information, poor penmanship or poorly formed letters
  • Have trouble with capitalization and/or spacing in paper preparation


Students may:

  • Encounter an inability to concentrate on and comprehend oral language
  • Have difficulty expressing ideas orally and/or sequencing events properly
  • Exhibit difficulty in managing more than one task at a time
  • Experiences difficulty retaining a list of information
  • Possess an inability to distinguish between sounds or a combination of sounds

Accommodations and Instructional Techniques:

  • Encourage students, at the beginning of each semester, to discuss modifications that will facilitate their learning
  • Provide a detailed course syllabus
  • Announce reading assignments well in advance
  • Begin lectures and/or discussion with written and oral overview of topics to be covered
  • Use board, overhead projector, or handouts to highlight key concepts when lecturing
  • Make statements that emphasize important points, main ideas, and key concepts when lecturing
  • Provide all assignments in oral and written format; be available for further clarification
  • Provide a study guide for text and encourage study groups, peer tutoring, and study labs; prepare study questions for review sessions.
  • Accept oral presentations or tape recordings in place of written assignments
  • Encourage use of accommodations recommended by the SDRC such as notetakers, tape or video recording of lectures/demonstrations, readers for exams, extra time for exams, and oral rather than written exams
  • Consider an alternative test environment which eliminates distractions

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Characteristics of ADD and ADHD, neurological conditions that develop in childhood, include persistent patterns of distractibility, impulsivity, and disorganization.

Students with an attention deficit may have difficulty:

  • paying attention in class
  • staying on task
  • taking exams or quizzes in a room with distractions
  • organizing their written and oral thoughts or sentences
  • managing time effectively
  • identifying key points in a lecture or chapter.
  • Many students with attention deficits take medications that control some of the symptoms, but these medications may have side effects and do not completely eliminate the characteristics of the disorder.

    Accommodations and Instructional Techniques:

    • Accommodations and instructional techniques for students with attention deficits are similar to those provided for students with learning disabilities.

Mobility Impairments

A mobility impairment is the partial or total loss of the function of a body part as a result of a spinal cord injury, amputation, or musculoskeletal back disorders.

Such impairment may result in involuntary movements, total paralysis, and reduced levels of function in tasks that require general trunk mobility. These mobility impairments range from the obvious visibility of the spinal cord injury and amputation to the more nebulous such as the chronic back disorder. Because of these variants, the educational expectations for these students will differ greatly in relation to the type of disability.

The student with a mobility impairment may exhibit a problem in one or more of the following areas:

  • Difficulty moving from one location to another
  • Impaired writing and/or speaking due to the physical disability
  • Inability to sit, stand, or walk for prolonged periods of time
  • Difficulty participating in classes involving physical activity
  • May need special assistance in laboratory situations
  • Difficulty taking traditional paper and pencil exams
  • May require additional time to move from class to class

    • General Techniques:

    • Do not assume that students with mobility impairments cannot participate in an activity. Always consult with the student regarding limitations.
    • Give assistance only if the student asks for it. Do not assume that assistance is required.
    • Incorporate a means by which the student can participate in group activities. This may include adapting equipment, pairing the student with another student, or pairing the student with an assistant.
    • Check emergency exits and routes and provide assistance as necessary.
    • If necessary, utilize the expertise of a rehabilitation engineering program to adapt equipment, furnishing, tools, etc.

    • Accommodations:

    • Check for accessibility in and out of the classroom. Arrange for classroom furniture such as wheelchair-height work stations, aisle widths, etc., to accommodate the student's needs or call SDRC to have a class moved to an accessible location.
    • Do not hang onto or lean on a wheelchair. It is often considered to be part of the person's "body-space."
    • Push the wheelchair only if asked or if you have offered and it has been accepted.
    • Assist the student in finding a notetaker.
    • Accept tape recording of written assignments/exams.
    • Give exams orally when necessary or allow extra time for students who are able to write but who have diminished speed. Encourage students to use a scribe or computer for exams.
    • When selecting a grading criteria, consider the total competencies learned rather than the speed with which the student complete a task.
    • Allow a tape recorder for lectures and discussions.
    • Allow students to alternate activities in sitting, standing, and walking.
    • Be aware of emotional discomfort that often accompanies chronic pain.

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Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the motor center of the brain, which may have occurred before, during or shortly after birth. Manifestations may include involuntary muscle contractions, rigidity, spasms, poor coordination, poor balance or poor spatial relations. Visual, auditory, speech, hand-function, and mobility problems might occur. Specific accommodations are covered in the sections on visual, hearing, motor, and speech impairments.

Closed Head Injury/Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Students with closed head injuries have often been injured in an accident that caused damage to the brain. Although the severity and symptoms of a head injury may lessen over time, permanent damage is common. These students often exhibit one or more of the following symptoms: short-term memory problems, serious attention deficits, behavior problems, problems in judgment, serious anxiety attacks, mobility impairments, and/or seizures. Because information processing speed is often effected, additional exam time and a notetaker are commonly used accommodations.

Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease of the central nervous system, characterized by a decline of muscle control. Symptoms may include disturbances ranging from mild to severe: blurred vision, legal blindness, tremors, weakness or numbness in limbs, unsteady gait, paralysis, slurred speech, mood swings or attention deficits. Because the onset of the disease usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40, students are likely to be having difficulty adjusting to their condition.

Multiple sclerosis is highly unpredictable. Periodic remissions are common and may last from a few days to several months, as the disease continues to progress. As a result, mood swings may vary from euphoria to depression. Striking inconsistencies in performance are not unusual.

Seizure Disorders/Epilepsy
A seizure may be defined as an episode of abnormal motor, sensory, autonomic, or psychic activity (or a combination of these) as a consequence of sudden excessive electrical discharge from cerebral neurons (LipRincott Manual of Practical Nursing, 4th Edition). Such seizures may consist of only a brief suspension of activity (petit mal) automatic motor activity or complex alterations of behavior, psychomotor; or a full-blown generalized motor seizure, grand mal. Other than the occasional seizure, persons with this disorder generally look and function like everyone else but may experience some memory dysfunction. The educational potential for persons who have seizure disorders is considered to be good and is not diminished if seizures are well controlled unless serious memory deficits exist.

Student with a seizure disorder may exhibit problems in one or more of the following areas:

  • Brief lapses of consciousness or "staring spells" causing disruptions in the learning process
  • Side effects from anticonvulsant medication resulting in slowed reactions, clumsiness and poor hand coordination, eye focusing difficulty, and flatness of affect
  • Increased absences if grand mal seizures are not medically well controlled
  • Memory deficits due to complex partial seizures or temporal lobe epilepsy
  • Clouded thinking caused by chronic seizure disorders and effects of medication

  • General Techniques:

    • Learn what to do when a Grand Mal seizure occurs.
    • Allow for absences related to recovery from Grand Mal seizures.
    • Recognize effects of medication on performance and allow extra time for exams and completion of class activities.

    • Seizure Aid:
    • Remain calm and reassure other students.
    • Call an ambulance when another seizure follows the first (within half an hour or so) or when a seizure state persists for a prolonged period of time (one-half hour). These conditions require prompt medical attention.
    • Ease the student to the floor and remove objects which may injure the student.
    • Do not attempt to stop the seizure nor interfere with the student's movements. Let the seizure run its course.
    • Never try to place any object in the mouth. Turn the head or body to the side to prevent the tongue from slipping to the back of the throat interfering with breathing.
    • Do not attempt to revive a student who may turn pale, have irregular breathing, or stop breathing. Seizure activity will diminish and they will breathe regularly on their own.
    • Be supportive and reassure the student that you are there to help them.
    • Allow the student who has experienced a grand mal seizure to rest and check their condition frequently (the student will usually be disoriented and extremely tired).
    • Do not give food or drink unless seizure activity has passed.
    • Check with the Registrar or SDRC to find out who should be notified in case of emergencies. If possible, it may be best for the student to go home.

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Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, and Fibromyalgia
Musculoskeletal disorders, connective tissue disorders, and chronic degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia affect the joints and surrounding muscle tissue. Disease activity often results in pain, swelling, severe fatigue, and limited mobility. Flares (sudden exacerbation of disease activity) result in debilitating swelling and pain, occurring often and without warning. Treatment for musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders usually involve aggressive drug therapy (sometimes requiring hospitalization) which may result in side effects, making the student ill. Orthopedic interventions involving hospitalization and surgery may also be necessary.

Regular class attendance may be impossible for the student with musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders due to flares and medication side effects. It may be necessary for students to complete assignments during a time of day when their disease is less active. Because of random flares, exams may be missed or need to be rescheduled. Often there is also a lowered immunity which may result in frequent illnesses. Due to limited mobility, pain, and fatigue, extra time on exams and notetakers are commonly used accommodations.

Muscular Dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy refers to a group of hereditary, progressive disorders that most often occur with young people, producing degeneration of voluntary muscles of the trunk and lower extremities. The atrophy of the muscles results in chronic weakness and fatigue and may cause respiratory or cardiac problems. Walking, if possible, is slow and appears uncoordinated. Manipulation of materials in class may be difficult.

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AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by a virus that destroys the body's immune system. This condition leaves the person vulnerable to infections and cancers that a healthy immune system would normally destroy. The virus is not transmitted through casual contact. Because of the variety of infections and other diseases to which the person with AIDS becomes susceptible, symptoms and specific accommodations will vary for each individual. Fatigue is common. Allowances for absences due to illness or treatment may be necessary.

Students with AIDS may be afraid to reveal their condition because of the social stigma, fear, and/or misunderstanding surrounding the condition. Confidentiality should, therefore, be strictly observed. If the issue should arise in class, you should address it in a non-judgmental manner.

Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary disease that reduces the blood supply to vital organs and the oxygen supply to blood cells. Because many of the vital organs are affected, the student may also experience eye disease, heart and/or lung problems, and acute abdominal pain. At times limbs or joints may be affected. The disease is characterized by severe crisis periods, with extreme pain which may necessitate hospitalization and/or absence from class.

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Visual Disorders and Blindness

A visual disorder is the loss of visual function of such magnitude that special aids and use of other senses are necessary to achieve performance ordinarily directed by visual clues. Visual disorders range from the total absence of sight to varying degrees of useful vision. Because a student has a visual disorder, it should not be assumed that they cannot participate in educational activities. Orientation, mobility, and rehabilitation specialists employed by the state Division of Blind Services can often determine special aids and/or accommodations that facilitate integration into the classroom setting.

The student who has a visual disorder may exhibit problems in one or more of the following areas:

  • Inability to utilize visuals such as films, graphs, demonstrations, and written materials
  • Difficulty in taking traditional paper and pencil exams
  • Need for a longer period of time to complete assignments
  • Difficulty in focusing on small-group discussion when there is more than one group functioning due to noise
  • Need for a variety of low-vision aids to integrate the classroom
  • Feelings of social inadequacy and isolation due to societal barriers
  • Reduced personal independence
  • Difficulty initiating career choices due to employer misconceptions

    • Instructional Techniques:

    • Provide a detailed course outline and syllabus in an electronic format (i.e. on disk in MS Word or sent to the student by email).
    • Provide large print visuals when appropriate.
    • Provide textbooks in advance so that taped copies can be made.
    • Provide supplements to films such as sound tapes and oral summaries for preview and review.
    • Permit visually impaired students to tape lectures for review and reinforcement; place recorder in close proximity to eliminate background noise and assure quality
    • Accept a tape recording of written assignments.
    • Allow tests to be taken orally.
    • Photocopies of class handouts or course packets should be sent to students electronically (i.e. disk or email) before they are used in class.

    • Environmental Considerations:

    • Allow partially sighted students to sit near the front of the room or other optimum locations.
    • Be sensitive to possible environmental hazards to visually impaired students.
    • Be aware of emergency routes and provide assistance to students when appropriate

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Hearing loss or deafness refers to a reduction in sensitivity to sound which may be accompanied by some loss of the adaptability to interpret auditory stimuli correctly, even when amplified. In general, persons born deaf tend to present the greater challenge to education because, in addition to being unable to hear, they may have very limited verbal communication skills. Nevertheless, educationally, persons who are deaf have succeeded and achieved great success at every level.

The student who has a hearing loss may exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

  • For some, English, as a second language, is not as strong as their native language, American Sign Language (ASL), affecting comprehension of written materials, test questions, speaking, and writing.
  • Misinterpretation of assignments due to either interpreter mistranslation or difficulty with the language in which the assignment is written in.
  • Difficulty in participating in group discussion or other small-group activities when turn taking is not honored.
  • For hearing aid users: reduced comprehension due to environmental noise.
  • Dependence on visual cues.
  • Inaccurate assessment of strengths and weaknesses based on standardized test scores.
  • Social isolation and a sense of vulnerability due to communication barriers.
  • Reluctance to ask for assistance or to have something repeated.

    • Communication Techniques:

    • Confer with student to determine the rate and volume of voice communication which will facilitate comprehension.
    • Convey your message through facial expressions, gestures, and other "body language."
    • Avoid pacing, writing on the board while speaking, and speaking with your back to the student.
    • Avoid group discussions that limit the ability for a student to read lips.
    • Excessive facial hair or anything which blocks the area around your mouth may also interfere with the student's ability to lip read.
    • Rephrase a thought rather than repeat the same words if the student does not understand.
    • Check for comprehension by asking for explanation or illustration in such a way that does not single out the student from the rest of the class.
    • Repeat or rephrase questions and comments brought up by other class members so that students with a hearing loss do not miss valuable portions of class discussion.
    • Consider learning basic sign language to enhance the ability to communicate with students who use American Sign Language.
    • Realize that a student with a hearing loss may prefer to communicate electronically through email.

    • Environmental Considerations:

    • Allow the student to sit in the front row or other optimum location.
    • Avoid standing with your back to a window or other sources of light as the glare makes it difficult to read lips and other facial expressions.
    • Maintain enough light during films to enable the student to see an interpreter.
    • Attempt to obtain films that are close-captioned.
    • Provide better lighting for the student who is visually dependent and cannot add reliable auditory cues to the available visual information.
    • Avoid placing a person who already has a substantial hearing loss in a noisy environment as it assaults their vibratory sense. (These persons should use ear protection to prevent further hearing loss).
    • Be aware that room acoustics and environmental noise need to be considered for a student using a hearing aid.
    • Uncarpeted floors, bare plaster walls, ceiling, heating, and cooling fans create noise and echoes that lower the effectiveness of the hearing aid.
    • Inform the person with a hearing loss by touch or signal to evacuate the building in case of an emergency.

    • Accommodations and Instructional Techniques:

    • Provide a detailed syllabus and lecture outline/written overview.
    • Use good quality visual media (i.e. board, overhead projector, or handouts) to highlight key concepts when lecturing.
    • Supply a list of technical terminology and unfamiliar words or terms.
    • Post notice of class cancellations, assignments, etc., in writing to ensure understanding.
    • Announce reading assignments well in advance.
    • Provide all assignments in written format; be available for further clarification.
    • Provide a study guide for text and encourage study groups, peer tutoring, and study labs; prepare study questions for review sessions.
    • Encourage use of accommodations recommended by the SDRC such as notetakers and extra time for exams.

    • Tips for Using an Interpreter:

    • Direct questions and conversation to the student, not the interpreter- remember that the interpreter is voicing for the student when they speak to you.
    • Avoid words like “this” and “that”- be as descriptive as possible.
    • Be aware of the time that it takes to process information from one language to another- don’t speed through lecture material.
    • Provide the interpreter a list of technical terms and unfamiliar vocabulary to facilitate ease of interpretation
    • Notify interpreter of schedule changes or class cancellations in advance.
    • Do not expect interpreters to assume other duties; they are in the classroom for the student's benefit.
    • Recognize that finding a qualified interpreter can be difficult. Even after every effort is made, occasionally the SDRC is unable to find an interpreter to cover a class. Remain flexible and avoid penalizing the student for lack of available interpreters.

    • Hearing Aid Tip:

    • Hearing aids amplify sound in a noisy environment; a student should turn off the aid to prevent discomfort. Instructors need to indicate when the aid should be reactivated.
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In recent years, the number of students with psychological disabilities such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia has increased on campuses across the nation. While advances in medications and psychiatric treatment have significantly improved the quality of life for people with psychiatric disabilities and enabled these individuals to pursue higher education, unfortunately society's stigmas about psychological disabilities persist. Learning more about psychological disorders and communicating effectively with those who live with these disorders is the first step in erasing these stigmas.

Educational Implications

When a student with a psychological disability is in your class:

  • Remember that he/she may be on medication(s) that cause physical and/or mental side effects.
  • Behaviors which vary from the norm may be an indication that the student is experiencing a recurrence of symptoms and is in need of intervention.
  • Be aware of any behavioral changes or disruptive behavior and contact the Dean of Students department and/or SDRC if an incident occurs. Although disruptive behavior is rare, it is probably a sign that an individual needs professional psychiatric intervention.
  • Be sympathetic and respectful of the possibility that the student may be embarrassed to discuss the details of his/her disability.
  • Accommodations are often similar to those needed by students with learning disabilities, such as extended test time, notetakers, and time extensions on assignments.
  • Be aware that a student with a psychological disorder may be receiving ongoing treatment; therapeutic medications that affect performance and speed may play a factor in student accomplishments.
  • Realize that although students can assume full responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and actions, empathy from the instructor is appreciated.

    • General Techniques:

    • Encourage students at the beginning of each term to discuss with you any modifications that will facilitate their learning. Additionally, discuss medications they are taking and side effects that may occur.
    • Identify any symptoms of stress the student feels should to be noted.
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Although less common among the students who register with the Student Disability Resource Center, the following disabilities represent Symptoms of the following disabilities and the types of interventions required may resemble those covered elsewhere in this manual. It is important to discuss with the student both the manifestations and the required conditions of the disability.

Because cancer can occur in almost any organ system of the body, the symptoms and particular disabling effects will vary greatly from one person to another. Some people experience visual problems, lack of balance and coordination, joint pains, backaches, headaches, abdominal pains, drowsiness, lethargy, difficulty in breathing and swallowing, weakness, bleeding or anemia.

The primary treatments for cancer--radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery--may engender additional effects. Therapy can cause violent nausea, drowsiness, and/or fatigue, affecting academic functioning or causing absences. Surgery can result in amputation, paralysis, sensory deficits, and language and memory problems.

Chemical Dependency
Chemical Dependency is a condition of physiological and/or psychological dependence on any of a variety of chemicals, such as illegal drugs, some prescription drugs and alcohol. Individuals who are recovering from drug and alcohol abuse or who are in treatment programs to assist with their recovery are covered by anti-discrimination legislation and are eligible for college services for students with disabilities. These students may experience psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. They may exhibit poor behavioral control, and if they are using medication as part of their treatment, they may experience undesirable side effects.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy. Although most students with diabetes do not need accommodations in the classroom, in some cases students may need additional breaks during an exam or long class period to eat or take medication.

Gastrointestinal Disorders
Gastrointestinal disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn's disease are characterized by symptoms of abdominal inflammation and discomfort or pain, usually in the lower abdomen (although the location and intensity are variable, even at different times within the same person), and altered bowel habit, chronic or recurrent diarrhea, constipation, or both in alternation. Although gastrointestinal disorders can flare up due to stress, they are not caused by stress or any other psychological condition. Be sensitive to the fact that students with these types of disorders may be embarrassed about discussing their disability. Typical accommodations include extra time on exams to allow for restroom breaks. Although faculty are not required to excuse absences, it may be appropriate to allow attendance flexibility.

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Temporary Disabilities
Some students may experience temporary disabling conditions that impair their ability to perform essential functions in a course. The most frequent types of temporary disabilities that require accommodations are injury to the hand that the student writes with and any injury that prevents a student from sitting or walking for long periods of time. Accommodations will depend on the nature and severity of the temporary disability. Although temporary disabilities are not covered under disability legislation, the SDRC assists students who need accommodations due to a temporary condition (i.e. notetakers, writers for exams, or van service).

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The Student Disability Resource Center
The Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) serves as the primary advocate for students with disabilities who attend FSU. While the Center is responsible for overseeing the provision of reasonable accommodations for students, it is the responsibility of the entire University community to provide access to educational programs and facilities. Staff members of the SDRC serve as advocates for students with disabilities, encouraging and empowering them to be advocates for themselves. The staff will also assist faculty and other members of the University community in becoming familiar with the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act so that they may comply with such legislation. In order for faculty and staff to understand their role in providing reasonable accommodations, the following information about SDRC’s purpose, policies, and procedures was developed.

The Student Disability Resource Center requires documentation from all students who request accommodations based on a disability. This documentation is kept COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL. Information regarding students with disabilities will only be given on a need-to-know basis or when state and/or federal laws require release. If a student requests accommodations from a faculty member, he/she will give that faculty member a letter from the SDRC (see Faculty Letter Example) confirming that they are registered with the Center. Student Disability Resource Center staff can only discuss accommodation issues with faculty. Any additional information will remain confidential unless the student gives express written permission. Faculty should not discuss any information about a student with a disability with anyone except SDRC staff or their department chair. If you have any questions or concerns about confidentiality, please contact the Student Disability Resource Center at 644-9566.

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Faculty and Staff
Rights and Responsibilities

FSU faculty and staff have the right to:
require students with disabilities to provide proof of registration with the Student Disability Resource Center (see Faculty Letter Example).
expect that students with disabilities will communicate their requests for accommodations in a timely manner.
uphold standards for courses and expect that, with or without accommodations, students with disabilities will complete the same or equal course requirements.
FSU faculty and staff have the responsibility to:

ensure that reasonable accommodations are arranged, provided, or allowed.
provide information and materials in alternative formats upon request.
treat all students with the same fundamental fairness.
follow the confidentiality guidelines and laws outlined in this document.
make students with disabilities aware of procedures for securing accommodations by including a statement in their syllabi (see Syllabi Example).
Suggested Language for Syllabi for Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities needing academic accommodations should:
Register with and provide documentation to the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC)
Bring a letter to the instructor from the SDRC indicating you need academic accommodations. This should be done as early as possible each term.
This syllabus and other class materials are available in alternative format upon request.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Does a Student Qualify for Services?

Only the SDRC can determine who is eligible for services based on a disability. Students can register for services by making an appointment with an SDRC staff member and presenting documentation. Students with learning disabilities must provide a psychoeducational evaluation done by a licensed psychologist in the past three to five years, and students with other types of disabilities must provide a detailed letter from a physician, psychologist, or specialist in the area of their disability that includes a diagnosis of the disability, how it impacts them in an educational setting, and suggestions for appropriate reasonable accommodations. If a student requests accommodations, but is not registered with SDRC, please refer them to the SDRC before any accommodations are provided.

How should I let students know that they need to talk to me about their accommodation needs? Can I require that they discuss accommodation needs at the beginning of the semester?

The best way to communicate your desire to discuss accommodation needs with a student is to put a statement in your syllabus. . Although it is easier if the student discusses their accommodation needs at the beginning of the semester, you cannot deny accommodations if the student chooses to disclose later in the semester. However, you are also not obligated to allow a student to re-do any assignment or test for which they did not receive accommodations if you did not know they have a disability. The SDRC encourages currently registered students to give a faculty letter to each of their professors during the start of the semester.

What should I do if a student tells me that he/she has a disability and requests accommodations, but does not have any written proof?

Tell them that they need to be registered with SDRC and provide a faculty letter to you before you can provide any accommodations. You are under no obligation to provide accommodations until the student gives you a copy of the letter. A student who is unaware of the procedures for obtaining accommodations may try to give you a copy of their documentation. Ask them to take their documentation to the Student Disability Resource Center because it is SDRC's responsibility to determine if a student is eligible for services.

I have a student in my class that I suspect may have a learning disability. Does the SDRC conduct evaluations to determine if a student has a disability?

No, the SDRC does not conduct evaluations, but we would be happy to talk to the student and give them a referral for testing.

How will I know which accommodations a student is qualified for?

Most students with disabilities are entitled to extended test time and a notetaker (see Description of Services for more information). The student may request help when trying to locate someone to provide this assistance. Address any questions about accommodations to the student first, but contact SDRC if necessary. Depending on the type of disability the student has, other reasonable accommodations may be appropriate. Please contact the SDRC to discuss specific accommodation requests

What should I do if I feel that the accommodation(s) a student asks for is/are unreasonable?

Consult with SDRC before you agree to or refuse any accommodation. Instructors can be held personally liable for refusing to accommodate a student with a disability so be sure to seek assistance from SDRC before making any decisions about a request for accommodation that may seem unreasonable to you. Accommodations should be reasonable and related to the student's disability.

How much "extended time" on an exam is appropriate?

It depends upon the nature and purpose of the exam (i.e. Is the time it takes to complete the exam an essential component of the student's score?), but most students do not need beyond double time. If you have questions about extended test time, please contact SDRC.

If a student will be taking tests with accommodations through SDRC, where will the test be given and who monitors its administration?

Students who sign up to take an exam with SDRC will take it in the SDRC Testing Lab at the same time the class takes it (unless you give permission otherwise). Please see the section on alternative testing procedures for more details.

What should I do if my class is assigned to an inaccessible location or a student needs modified furniture, such as an accessible desk or an orthopedic chair?

Notify SDRC or Classroom Support immediately so that the classroom location can be changed and/or any modified furniture can be moved into the classroom as soon as possible.

How will I know if a student needs a notetaker in my class?

The student should give you a faculty letter from SDRC (see Faculty Letter Example) requesting that you make an anonymous announcement asking the class if anyone is willing to be a notetaker. Complete instructions for assisting students with finding a notetaker are on the faculty letter. The notetaker and the student who is registered with SDRC should meet privately after class to discuss the arrangements. Notetakers can earn servscript points for taking notes. The SDRC will sign off on volunteer hours that can appear on their transcript. Please include this information as part of the anonymous announcement because it often helps in the recruiting of notetakers. If you have any questions regarding notetakers, please contact SDRC at 644-9566.

If a student asks for help finding a tutor, what should I do?

SDRC does not provide tutors, however, we encourage students to talk with their departments for listing of tutors. We refer most students to the Academic Center for Excellence (ARE)

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Description of Services Available to FSU Students With Disabilities

Although you may not have to become directly involved in providing some types of accommodations to students with disabilities, it is a good idea for you to become familiar with the services that FSU offers through the Student Disability Resource Center. The use of any accommodation must be supported by the student's documentation and approved by an SDRC staff member. The following are descriptions of more common accommodations provided by the University, but depending upon a student's situation, other reasonable accommodations may also be considered.

Extra Time on Exams/Quizzes

For a variety of reasons, students with disabilities often need extra time to complete exams or quizzes. Students typically use time and a half or double time to complete exams. If you have questions about extended test time, please contact SDRC.

Alternative Testing Locations/Isolated Testing

The Student Disability Resource Center provides an excellent, state-of-the-art, alternative testing location in SSB 108. One small classroom and several smaller rooms were designed to accommodate the testing needs of students with various types of disabilities. Testing is monitored by SDRC staff. Students are not allowed to use any class materials without the instructor’s consent. The FSU Academic Honor Code is strictly enforced and students are video recorded while taking exams. Please read the Alternative Testing Procedures section in this guide and on the back of each exam sign-up sheet for further details.


If a student needs a note-taker, you will be informed through the faculty letter memorandum delivered by the student and asked to make an anonymous announcement in class asking for a note-taker. If a student volunteers, please send them to the SDRC. The SDRC will sign off on volunteer hours that can appear on their transcript. Please include this information as part of the anonymous announcement because it often helps in recruiting of note-takers.


Students with disabilities who need a reader and/or writer for exams can be assisted by an SDRC staff member in the SDRC Testing Lab.

Assistance with Study/Organizational/Time-Management Skills

A graduate assistant at the SDRC is available to meet one-on-one with students who need help with study, organizational, and/or time-management skills. If you feel that a student with a disability in your class could benefit from this service, please encourage them to schedule an appointment with the graduate assistant and other support services are available to help students with their skills.

Interpreters for Students with Hearing Impairments

Postsecondary institutions are required by law to arrange and pay for interpreting services for students who qualify for this service. This includes any class that the student is enrolled in and any program sponsored by the University. Students who do not use interpreters may use an assisted listening device (see Technology section for more information).

Van Service

Students with temporary or permanent physical disabilities may be eligible to use the University’s Accessible Van. Please refer any students that may need this service to the SDRC.

Quiet Study Areas for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities can use the SDRC student lounge or small rooms in SDRC’s computer lab to study. Strozier Library also provides rooms.

Alternative Testing Procedures
Because alternative testing locations and extended testing time are common accommodations among students with disabilities, Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) has developed procedures for organizing these accommodations. The following is a general summary of these procedures, but they are subject to change. Please note that only students with documentation on file at the Student Disability Resource Center are able to use the testing lab. The SDRC employs a full-time professional staff member to coordinate and monitor exam administration. Typically, the SDRC Testing Lab is open Monday through Friday from 8-5:00, however, SDRC has extended hours during finals. If you have any questions about alternative testing, please call the SDRC Exam Coordinator at 645-1853.

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Students who are registered with SDRC and deemed eligible for academic accommodations should present you with a Faculty Letter. If they need these accommodations, they should discuss them with you at the time they present the letter.
Students are responsible for filling out an Exam Sign-Up Sheet, getting it signed by their professors, and bringing the sheet back to SDRC’s Testing Lab at leastone week before the test is given in the class. Faculty MUST sign this sheet before an exam can be administered at SDRC.
Tests are kept in a locked cabinet until the student comes to take it. You must give written permission for the student to use any course materials. Students are monitored by the Exam Coordinator and a video recorder during the test. The University’s Academic Honor Code is strictly enforced and any alleged violations of the Code will be reported to you immediately.
Students will not be allowed to start an exam more than 15 minutes before or after the indicated starting time without your permission.
Tests will be returned by email, blackboard, fax, or campus mail as soon as possible after the student finishes. You may also pick up exams from the SDRC Testing Lab. If you have questions about the Testing Lab, please come to SSB 108 or call 645-1853. You are always welcome to stop by the SDRC for a tour of the testing facility.

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Advances in technology have had a significant impact on the educational experiences of students with disabilities, helping them become more independent. It is important that you become aware of some of the technological devices that students with disabilities may use in your classroom or to complete assignments in your course. Most of this equipment is located in the SDRC Computer Lab in the SSB 108 or available for check-out through SDRC. For more information please visit our technology resources page.

Alternative Print Formats
If you receive a request from a student for information in an alternative format, the SDRC would be happy to assist you. The Center has several pieces of equipment and software that can create alternative formats of printed material.

Electronic Formats

Many students with disabilities who need an alternative format of printed materials prefer to receive this information in an electronic format (on disk, CD, or as an email attachment). You should make arrangements to provide the student with any Powerpoint presentation materials that are shown in class before the class begins. Advanced planning is critical for students who need alternate text formats.

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Faculty and Staff Training and Development
Florida State University’s Student Disability Resource Center’s staff is committed to sharing general information about students with disabilities with the FSU community. This includes individual consultations or group training sessions designed to provide opportunities for faculty and staff to engage in dialogue about providing accommodations to students with disabilities and have their questions answered. If you are interested in arranging a departmental training session or an individual meeting, please call the Student Disability Resource Center at 644-9566.

Important Phone Numbers
Student Disability Resource Center 644-9566

Student Disability Resource Center exam fax 644-7164

Student Disability Resource Center Testing Lab 645-1853

Dean of Students Department 644-2428

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