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Accessibility Resources

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Accessibility Resources (AR) exists as a center of disability education and resource center for students, staff, and faculty. The professionals in the Accessibility Resources Office are happy to help students navigate the landscape of higher education as well as locate necessary services on campus and within the community. We are invested in students' academic success and goal attainment as well as providing a seamless accommodation process for faculty.

One of the primary functions of Accessibility Resources is to act as a facilitator for students to obtain and utilize accommodations necessary to ensure equal access for participation in campus programs and activities. Additionally, Accessibility Resources is a strong ally for students at every level of their disability awareness, student development, and academic pursuits. Faculty and staff are encouraged to contact an Accessibility Resources professional with any questions they may have regarding equal access and accommodations for all students, particularly students with disabilities.

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Mission & Vision

BTC promotes an institutional culture of disability education and accessible learning.

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ADA and 504 Compliance

Ensuring Equal Opportunities, Resources and Reasonable Accommodations for Individuals with Disabilities

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Student Learning Outcomes

What do we want students to learn from their connection with Accessibility Resources at BTC?

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Confidentiality & Documentation

Confidentiality and Documentation of student information

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Rights & Responsibilities

Student and Staff rights and responsibilities

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Accessibility Resources Staff

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Mission and Vision

Accessibility Resources promotes an institutional culture of disability education and accessible learning. We strive to help students develop the self-advocacy and communication skills necessary to succeed when they leave our institution and gain employment in the workplace. The individual advising and collaborative interactions students experience with Accessibility Resources professionals are intentionally designed to help students identify and articulate their strengths and challenges as they prepare to pursue a career path.

The professionals in the Accessibility Resources Office at BTC view their positions and responsibilities as threefold:

  • Move students toward greater disability awareness, competence, and responsibility while simultaneously ensuring the protection of students’ civil rights by promoting a learning environment free from discrimination and barriers.
  • Promote a culture of disability education. This is accomplished through the facilitation of student learning and development as well as disability education opportunities for students.
  • Keep current regarding changes in disability law and maintain institutional compliance through consistent awareness of potential ADA concerns. Protect the institution, faculty, and staff from potential litigation by educating employees. This is accomplished by providing frequent educational opportunities for faculty and staff, using small and large group settings or individual consultations.

Vision

Through intentional conversation, collaboration, and the provision of academic adjustments and auxiliary aids, support students self-efficacy development, regard themselves as capable learners, and aid in shifting the overall focus from disability to ability campus-wide.

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ADA and 504 Compliance

Ensuring Equal Opportunities, Resources and Reasonable Accommodations for Individuals with Disabilities at Bellingham Technical College.

Bellingham Technical College is committed to providing a learning environment that is free from discrimination. Bellingham Technical College does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, genetic information, or age in admission, treatment, or participation in its programs, services and activities. This commitment is made by the college in accordance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

General compliance inquiries may be directed to:

  • Tami Willett, Associate Director of Human Resources, (360) 752-8475

Compliance inquiries about Title IX may be directed to:

  • Linda Fossen, Vice-President of Student Services, (360) 752-8440

Compliance inquiries about the ADA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act may be directed to:

  • Mary Gerard, Coordinator of Disability Support Services, (360)752-8576

Grievance Process

BTC has defined procedures for grievances. This process can be found in the BTC Student Handbook, page 41. Student handbooks can be obtained in the Counseling / Career Services Office, College Services Building, Room 106.

Disputes

For denial of academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, or other disability related services by the Accessibility Resources Office, or when a faculty member denies Accessibility Resources approved accommodations, or for general disability discrimination complaints, students must get a copy of the Procedures Manual and discuss the steps for resolution with the Coordinator of Disability Support Services. If the issue cannot be resolved, the student is encouraged to make an appointment with the Vice-President of Student Services by calling 360-752-8443.

Accommodations are not entitlements. You are not entitled to receive accommodations because you have a disability. You are entitled NOT to be discriminated against. If an accommodation can be made for you not to be discriminated against, then you should receive it.

US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights

  • Contact information for regional office:
  • Region X Office location: Seattle, WA
  • States: Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington
  • U.S. Department of Education
  • Jackson Federal Bldg.
  • 915 2nd Avenue, Room 3362
  • Seattle, WA 98174-1099
  • Telephone: (206) 607-1655
  • Fax: (206) 607-1661

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Student Learning Outcomes

What do we want students to learn from their connection with Accessibility Resources at BTC?

By the end of the first quarter of access to the services, as well as interaction with the professionals, in the Accessibility Resources Office at BTC, students will be able to:

  1. Identify their specific disability(ies).
  2. Describe the educational difficulties (i.e. functional limitations) they experience in academic settings.
  3. Articulate the steps required to initially secure accessibility resources at BTC.
  4. Articulate the steps required for quarterly renewal of accommodations.
  5. Demonstrate independent negotiation of their academic adjustments with their instructors.
  6. Identify, locate, and utilize additional campus and community resources available to them.

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Confidentiality and Documentation

All information shared with Accessibility Resources regarding a student’s disability is maintained in a confidential file (paper and electronic) and is available for Accessibility Resources staff referral only. Clinical information is not released to any other individuals, offices or departments without the express written permission of the student.

In order for Accessibility Resources to provide appropriate services, recent documentation (within the last three years) and assessment of the student’s needs are needed. Documentation must be written by a qualified healthcare professional trained to diagnose the student’s disability and should be written according to our Documentation Guidelines (hyperlink to next page). Visible disabilities can be in the form of a letter on letterhead or diagnostic testing that states the diagnosis of disability. Non-visible disabilities (heart condition, learning disabilities, carpal tunnel, psychological, and others) will require written documentation stating functional limitations, or ways the disability affects the student’s learning in the classroom.

A confidential file (paper and electronic) will be kept containing documentation, intake and release forms, conference record, scheduling/advising sheets, as well as other educational and service-related information in the Accessibility Resources office. This file will be kept as long as the student is enrolled at BTC plus 7 years thereafter. After that time, all information within the paper file will be destroyed, including documentation.

Documentation Guidelines: Information from External or Third Parties

The rationale for seeking information about a student’s condition is to support disability professionals and educators in establishing disability, understanding how disability may impact a student, and making informed decisions about accommodations. Professional judgment is an essential component of this process (AHEAD, Guidance on Documentation Practices, April 2012).

Documentation Guidelines:

  • Must be written by your diagnostician
  • Must be on official letterhead
  • Must have been written with the last three years
  • Prescription pad documentation is not acceptable

Documentation must include the following:

  • The credentials of the evaluator(s)
  • A diagnostic statement identifying the disability
  • A description of the diagnostic methodology used (examples: WAIS-R, MRI, Audiogram, W.J. Cognitive, etc.)
  • A summary of the evaluation results
  • A description of the current functional limitations. (A statement that includes the nature and current status of the disability, including the impact of any medication on the student’s ability to meet the demands of the college environment)
  • A description of the expected progression or stability of the disability (permanent or temporary)
  • A description of current and past accommodations, services, and/or medications
  • Recommendations for accommodations, adaptive devices, assistive services, compensatory strategies, and/or collateral support services. (These recommendations should be supported by the diagnosis)
  • The diagnosis meets the definition of “disability” according to State and Federal Laws

Diagnostician:

  • The licensed physical and/or licensed mental health care provider who determined your diagnosis.
  • He/she must have the expertise, certification and credentials to practice and diagnose the type of disability with which you have been diagnosed.
  • Documentation cannot be accepted from a diagnostician who is a family member.
  • Documentation must be on official letterhead from the diagnostician.

IMPORTANT:

Documentation must be accompanied by a signed Release of Information Form or your documentation cannot be accepted. Your documentation will be reviewed by BTC Accessibility Resources before accommodations can be given.

PLEASE READ:

If accommodations are to be requested, it is in the student’s best interest to provide recent documentation to the Accessibility Resources Office at BTC at least four weeks prior to your Accuplacer test and/or before starting a program or taking a class at BTC.

For the purpose of determining appropriate accommodations, BTC Accessibility Resources reserves the right to contact your diagnostician to discuss your diagnosis to coordinate college-related services that will be most effective for you.

Current Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) are not acceptable documentation in and of themselves. They may only be used providing they contain an assessment by a registered, licensed school psychologist that has been conducted within the last three (3) years.

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Student and Staff rights and responsibilities

Students

What Are My Rights?

Bellingham Technical College is committed to providing qualified students with a disability an equal opportunity to access the benefits, rights and privileges of college services, programs, and activities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and State of Washington Laws of 1994, Chapter 105 ensure that students not be discriminated against due to their disability.

  • All qualified students have the right to receive appropriate services under these laws.
  • All qualified students have the right to appeal any decisions made regarding accommodations.
  • All students have the right to confidentiality.

Under the ADA, a person with a disability is someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

What Are My Responsibilities?

The college will work collaboratively with each student in determining reasonable accommodations. To ensure the delivery of accommodations for which the student qualifies, students shall:

  • Provide timely notice and documentation of the nature and extent of their disability, and the services they are requesting to the Accessibility Resources office. Requests for accommodations should be received by the Accessibility Resources office four (4) weeks prior to the beginning of the quarter for which the request is made. Lack of advance notice may delay the availability of some accommodations.
  • Provide additional documentation if requested by the Accessibility Resources staff to determine appropriate adjustments. Such documentation may include, but is not limited to
    • identification of tests administered
    • test results
    • description of the disability
    • recommended accommodations
  • Cooperate with Accessibility Resources to develop an appropriate educational plan and any academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, or related services needed.
  • Follow through with additional tasks to ensure set-up of your accommodations (i.e. reduced-distractions testing, alternate text requests, etc.)
  • When receiving services provided by hired Accessibility Resources personnel, you are responsible for:
    • exchanging contact information with your reader/scribe/note taker/interpreter/transcriber
    • notifying your reader/scribe/note taker/interpreter/transcriber 48 hours in advance of a planned absence
    • notifying your reader/scribe/note taker/interpreter/transcriber as soon as possible if you will have an unplanned absence.
  • Promptly notify Accessibility Resources of any problems encountered in receiving the agreed-upon accommodations.
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress.

IMPORTANT!

All students are subject to the Academic Standards of Progress Policy and the Student Conduct Code as outlined in the current BTC Catalog.

Faculty and Staff

This information guide was designed to assist faculty and staff in interacting with students with disabilities at the post secondary level.

While every effort has been made to insure completeness and accuracy, this is not a legal document nor is it intended to offer legal advice or a legal opinion.

Legislation

    What laws cover institutions of higher education?

    Colleges and universities are covered under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. In 1994, Washington State passed legislation adding new sections to 28B.10 RCW that expresses the same intent as Section 504 and the ADA.

    The Rehabilitation Act

    Title V of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is generally regarded as the first civil rights legislation for people with disabilities on the national level.

    Section 504 of the Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity offered by an entity or institution receiving federal funds. Since 1977, all institutions receiving federal funding have been required to provide appropriate reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

    Section 504 states:

      No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States ... shall, solely on the basis of disability, be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity provided by any institution receiving federal financial assistance.

    Definition of a Disability

    Section 504 defines a person with a disability as "... someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities."

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

    The ADA is a federal civil rights statute designed to remove barriers which prevent qualified individuals with disabilities from enjoying the same opportunities that are available to persons without disabilities.

    Colleges are covered in many ways under the ADA. Employment is addressed by Title 1, accessibility provided by public and private entities Titles 11 and 111, and miscellaneous items are covered under Title V.

    Definition of a person with a disability

    Under the ADA, a person with a disability is someone with, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A person is considered to be a person with a disability under the law if he/she has the disability, has a record of the disability, or is regarded as having the disability.

    Under both Section 504 and the ADA, the term "auxiliary aids and services" include: qualified interpreters, notetakers, transcription services, written materials, telephone handset amplifiers, qualified readers, taped text, Braille materials, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, or other similar services and actions.

    Washington State Law

    Under Washington State Law (28B. 10 RCW), "... institutions of higher education are obligated to provide services to students with disabilities." The definition of disability follows the federal guidelines. "Reasonable accommodations" include certain "core services" which are outlined in the statute. It also establishes a grievance procedure for students to follow if they believe discrimination has taken place.

Commonly Asked Questions

    How do these laws relate to each other?

    Institutions that receive federal funds are covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The ADA does not supplant Section 504, but in those situations where the ADA provides greater protection, the ADA standards apply. Washington State law does not confer any new or expanded rights, but is intended to provide a clearer, more succinct statement of those rights than previously existed.

    NOTE: Private colleges and universities are covered under Title III of the ADA, unless they are wholly owned and operated by religious organizations.

    What are the implications for higher education institutions?

    • Students with disabilities must be afforded an equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from all postsecondary education programs and activities. That includes any course, course of study, or activity offered.
    • Rules or policies which would limit students with disabilities from fully participating in a program or activity may not be imposed.
    • Academic standards are not compromised, but accommodations must be provided, on a case-by-case basis, to afford qualified students with disabilities an equal education opportunity.

    Can I ask a Student if he/she has a Disability?

    No. However, it is the college's responsibility to notify students of services available for students with disabilities. You should inform all students of services and/or programs available at the college for students who need accommodations due to a disability, and how to access those services.

    Do I have the right to know what type of disability a student has when they ask for an accommodation?

    No. A student does not have to inform the faculty or staff member about their disability, but only the needed accommodations. If you have a question regarding the need for the accommodation, then you may contact your Accessibility Resources office. This office Will have documentation regarding the student's disability on file. They cannot give details about the disability, unless the student has signed a written consent form, but can inform you if the student has a documented disability and if the accommodation requested is appropriate. The student may disclose their disability to you. You are then obligated to maintain confidentiality regarding the student's disability. It is important to remember that the confidential nature of disability-related information has been an overarching principle of nondiscrimination since Section 504.

    What can I do if I disagree with the academic accommodation requested?

    If you disagree with the academic accommodation requested, you should discuss your disagreement with the Accessibility Resources provider, but you should continue to provide the accommodation. An instructor may not forbid a student's use of an aid if that prohibition limits the student's participation in the school program.

    Section 504 states:

      A recipient may not impose upon handicapped students other rules, such as the prohibition of tape recorders in classrooms or of dog guides in campus building, that have the effect of limiting the participation of handicapped students in the recipient's education program or activity.
    Often faculty members are concerned with the use of a tape recorder, in their classroom because it may infringe on their freedom of speech or potential copyrighted material. The instructor may ask the student to sign an agreement that states that they will only use the recordings for their personal use. It is important to remember that under the ADA it appropriate accommodations are not provided to the student YOU, as well as the institution can be held liable for monetary damages.

    Does the student receive "special privileges" under this legislation?

    Not Providing accommodations should not be regarded as giving students "special privileges", but rather as equalizing the impact of the student's disability to the greatest extent possible. Institutions are not mandated to make changes in requirements that would result in a major or substantial change in essential elements of the curriculum. The institution has the right to set academic standards, but the institution must prove that a requested accommodations would create a substantial change. The burden of proof lies with the institution.

    It is important that the students be treated the same and with equity. The legislation does not intend that institutions pass students because they have a disability, and it is important to expect the same academic performance, with requested accommodation, from the student with a disability as from a student without a disability.

    Does the student with a disability need to ask for accommodations in a certain time frame before classes?

    Yes. Most institutions require that the student indicate the need for an accommodation within a reasonable advance time. This is not always possible, but it is important to provide the accommodations as soon as possible.

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

    There are many of us that have had little or no contact with people with disabilities. It is important to remember that people with disabilities are just that-people first. Here are a few easy-to-remember tips:

    • Make a general announcement regarding the availability of accommodations at the beginning of class. Most institutions require a statement on all syllabi regarding requests for accommodations. Inform students of the Accessibility Resources office and how to contact that office.
    • Ask questions. The student is the best source of information.
    • Not everyone who has a disability is the same. It is important to look at the person first and not lump everyone together in the same category. This is also important when addressing accommodations. For example, not all students with learning disabilities need extended time, not all people with visual impairments need Braille, etc. Everyone is an individual with individual needs.

    How do I know what type of academic accommodation a student needs?

    It is up to the student and the Accessibility Resources office to determine what type of accommodation is needed. If you question the accommodation, contact the Accessibility Resources office. There Is one type of accommodation for all students with disabilities. Each accommodation must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Some common accommodations are:

    • Taped Textbooks/Lectures
    • Interpreters
    • Note Takers
    • Readers
    • Cassette Recorders
    • Student Tutors
    • Alternate Testing Arrangements
    • Assessment & Referral to Outside Agencies
    • Extended Test Time
    • Accessible Facilities
    • Computer Adaptive Equipment
    • Large Print Materials
    • Parking Permits
    • Counseling
    • Career Planning
    • Reasonable Accommodations

    Do I also have to provide these services to international students with disabilities who need auxiliary aids or services?

    Yes. International students are entitled to the same protection from nondiscrimination on the basis of disability as are U.S. citizens. However, if a student has limited English skills due to being a non-native speaker, and not due to a disability, this would not qualify them as a person with a disability under the law.

    Who pays for accommodations?

    Each institution is responsible for the provision of appropriate auxiliary aids and services at no cost to the student. Each institution may determine which department pays for a particular accommodation. The institution cannot place a limit on its expenditure for auxiliary aids or services, or refuse to provide auxiliary aids because it believes that other providers of these services exist. The institution may work with an outside agency, such as Vocational Rehabilitation, to assist in obtaining an item or service.

    What If I am unsure how to handle a situation with a student with a disability?

    First ask the student. He/she is the best source of information about their disability. Second, contact the Accessibility Resources office or another office that acts as a resource for students with disabilities.

    What are my responsibilities concerning field trips and outside programs?

    The legislation is very explicit about this. Persons with disabilities are entitled to participate in the most integrated settings possible. If a teacher conducts field trips or special programs, accommodations must be offered. If an institution offers transportation to students going on a field trip, it must offer accessible transportation for students with disabilities. For example, a student who uses a wheelchair is enrolled in your class, and you decide to use a college van to take the students to a museum. You must offer transportation to the student with a disability. The student may accept or refuse the accessible transportation.

    What are possible personal consequences if I do not provide the accommodation requested?

    If a student is denied equal access, auxiliary aids, or services, they can file a complaint under Section 504 with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education or under the ADA Titles 11 and III which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. The student may file with both offices. Under ADA, monetary damages may be enforced and the student may name both an individual, such as a professor, and the institution in the complaint. An employee can be personally liable, as well as the institution, if named in the complaint.

    Do I have to provide academic accommodations if the student is taking the class for an audit?

    Yes. The legislation states any student with a disability shall be given equal access to programs or services offered to all students.

Common Tips on Disability Etiquette

  • Treat adults as adults. For example, don't patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head.
  • Don't assume a person with a disability needs help. Ask first. Also, listen to instructions the person gives.
  • Talk to the person with a disability, not their friend or family member.
  • Relax. Don't worry if you use the term "See you later"; to a person with a visual impairment or "I have to be running" to a person who uses a wheelchair.
  • To get the attention of a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, tap them on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly. Not all people with a hearing loss can read lips. Remember to speak directly to the person with a hearing loss, not their interpreter.
  • When talking for a long time with a person who uses a wheelchair, put yourself at eye level so they do not have to strain their neck to look up.
  • Don't hang on a person's wheelchair. That is part of their personal space.
  • Use "person first" language. Examples include person with a disability, student with a learning disability, or a student who is deaf. Many people find term "handicapped" offensive. A handicap refers to a physical or attitudinal barrier.

Remember: Treat them like a person

The number one tip on how to treat a person with a disability is like a person

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Meet the Accessibility Resources staff