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Robert A. Duke (Music), Chair of the Educational Policy Committee, has filed with the Secretary of the Faculty Council the recommendation from Educational Policy Committee on information for students with disabilities set forth below. The Secretary classified these recommendations as general legislation. The 10-day circulation rule for general legislation will be satisfied on April 20, 1998.
Notice is hereby given that this legislation will be presented to the Faculty Council for action at its meeting on April 20, 1998.
John R. Durbin, Secretary
Distributed to members of the Faculty Council on April 10, 1998.
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, The University of Texas at Austin has pledged to maintain and guarantee right of equal access for students with disabilities. Section 504 states that "No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely by reason of his or her handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." One aspect of providing access is considering how instruction is delivered, information shared, and student learning evaluated, so that these procedures take into account the impact of a student's disability on his or her ability to profit from courses, as well as to demonstrate what has been learned.
The mission of The University of Texas is to provide a quality education conducive to learning for all students. Students with disabilities may not always receive these benefits in the same way or to the same extent as other students unless the learning environment is made responsive to their disability-related educational needs. Providing a quality educational experience for all students includes adapting the instructional environment to accommodate the educational needs of students with disabilities. It is important to note that adaptations do not require instructors to lower academic standards, but rather to consider alternative methods of instruction and/or evaluation that are sensitive to the impact that disabilities may have in learning or test-taking situations.
We recognize that students with disabilities share in the responsibility of meeting their own needs, through self-advocacy. It is equally important to recognize that not all students are comfortable being singled out, so we must be sensitive to this as well as to confidentiality issues. Lack of information and ineffective or nonexistent communication between the student, instructor, and the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office create a barrier, resulting in frustration for everyone involved, in addition to having negative effects on students. Informing students and faculty about services available through the SSD office requires a joint effort, and one way to initiate the communication between faculty and students is to disseminate information through the course syllabus, since this is one document all students receive each semester.
We urge all faculty members to include the following statement in all course syllabi during the 1998-1999 academic year in order to help the Services for Students with Disabilities Office disseminate this information throughout the University:
At the beginning of the semester, students with disabilities who need special accommodations should notify the instructor by presenting a letter prepared by the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Office. To ensure that the most appropriate accommodations can be provided, students should contact the SSD Office at 471-6259 or 471-4641 TTY.
In addition, the Office of the Provost should include the above statement in an appropriate location on the TEX registration system and should post the statement, together with other information that is to be included on all course syllabi, on the UT Web Page.
The anticipated benefits for the students and the University will include increased communication among students with disabilities, the SSD, and faculty. We believe that the inclusion of such a statement will encourage students to approach their professors concerning their disability-related needs. The statement will also remind students that they need to acquire documentation in order to receive appropriate accommodations, and it should facilitate this process as early in the semester as possible.