Faculty Resource Guide

At Pitzer College faculty play a very important role in promoting access for students with disabilities and accommodation needs. Students who are registered with Pitzer Academic Support Services (PASS) are encouraged to collaborate with their faculty to ensure that they have the accommodations they need at the beginning of the semester to provide them with equal access to their education.

During the Fall and Spring semesters, PASS serves over 150 students with various disabilities and access need. These include, but are not limited to, students with learning disabilities, visual impairments, hearing impairments, physical impairments, mental health disabilities, and other health related needs.  Accommodations provided are determined on an individual basis in collaboration with PASS.

The information below is intended to provide faculty with more in-depth information and resources to foster an accessible learning environment when working with students registered with PASS.  PASS staff are also available for faculty consultation and presentations on accommodation and access related topics.

  • Faculty Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities

    From the Office of Civil Rights:

    “OCR enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Title II), which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.  Every school district and nearly every institution of postsecondary education in the United States is subject to Section 504 or Title II.  Entities covered by these civil rights laws have an obligation to comply with legal requirements and to carry out their programs and activities in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of disability.

    Institutions of postsecondary education must provide an appropriate academic adjustment based on students’ disabilities and individual needs when necessary to avoid discrimination.  In providing an academic adjustment, a postsecondary institution does not have to eliminate or lower essential requirements, or make modifications that would result in a fundamental alteration of the programs or activities being offered or impose an undue burden on the institution.”


    Faculty Roles

    • Make Reasonable Accommodations
    • Provide Access to Classroom & Learning Materials
    • Maintain Confidentiality

    While it is the faculty’s responsibility to ensure that the learning environment is accessible, students with documented needs must request accommodations, when needed and in advance. Faculty will find it useful to include a statement on their syllabus which informs students about the steps they need to take to receive classroom accommodations through PASS.

    In certain situations, reasonable accommodations may require modification of standard classroom approaches. The following are examples of accommodations that may be necessary to ensure equal access:

    • Provide necessary accommodations for exam or provide the exam to the Testing Center where the student can receive the accommodations needed.
    • Provide alternative ways to fulfill course requirements.
    • Allow assistive technology such as audio recorders, electronic note takers, and laptop computers to be used in the classroom.
    • Consider alternate ways of assessing student’s knowledge of the course content which allows the student’s academic abilities to be measured.

    Confidentiality in the accommodation process must be maintained by all parties. Letters of accommodation should be filed in a safe place, and faculty should refrain from discussing students’ disabilities and necessary accommodations in the presence of fellow students or others who do not have an “educational need to know.”

    PASS staff are always available to answer questions and serve as a resource for faculty seeking assistance in providing accommodations to students.


    Faculty Rights

    Faculty members have the right to:

    • Maintain academic standards for courses
    • Determine course content and how it will be taught
    • Confirm a student’s accommodations and ask for clarification about a specific accommodation (listed on the student’s accommodation letter) with PASS
    • Deny a request for accommodation – if the student has not been approved for such accommodation by PASS and/or if an accommodation letter has not been received via email through the online accommodation system (AIM).
    • Award grades appropriate to the level of the student’s demonstration of mastery of material
    • Fail a student who does not perform to passing standards

    Faculty members do not have the right to:

    • Refuse to provide an approved accommodation for a documented disability
    • Challenge the legitimacy of a student’s disability
    • Request or review a student’s medical documentation, including diagnostic data

    Faculty Responsibilities

    Faculty members have the responsibility to:

    • Understand the laws and College guidelines regarding students with accommodations
    • Refer students to PASS when necessary
    • Provide requested accommodations and academic adjustments to students who have documented disabilities (and provide their accommodations letter to faculty) in a timely manner
    • Maintain appropriate confidentiality of records concerning students with disabilities except when disclosure is required by law or authorized by the student
    • Provide handouts, videos and other course materials in accessible formats
  • Syllabus Statement

    PASS recommends that each course syllabus contain a statement reflecting compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Ideally, faculty should provide a detailed syllabus that includes course objectives, weekly topics, classroom activities, required reading and writing assignments, dates of tests, quizzes; this provides valuable information to all students and allows students with disabilities to identify the accommodations they will need to request for that class as well as arrange for materials in an alternate format, if necessary. Whenever possible, provide syllabi and other course materials in an electronic format to provide direct access.

    Below are sample statements faculty may use to open the lines of communication regarding necessary accommodations and encourage students with disabilities to seek assistance early in the semester:

    • If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your faculty and the Pitzer Academic Support Services by email at academicsupport@pitzer.edu at the beginning of the semester if you have not already registered for accommodations.
    • Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the faculty during office hours to discuss their disability/accommodation related needs. Use of Academic Support Services, including testing accommodations, requires prior authorization by PASS and compliance with approved procedures.
    • It is the college’s policy to provide, on a flexible and individualized basis, reasonable accommodations to students who have disabilities which may affect their ability to participate in course activities or to meet course requirements.

    Faculty members are also encouraged to make textbook selections as far in advance as possible and to avoid changing the selections unless there are compelling reasons.

  • FAQs for Faculty

    What is the process for students to obtain academic accommodations at Pitzer?

    Students are instructed to provide documentation to PASS (not to faculty) to maintain confidentiality. Once documentation has been provided students can meet with PASS staff to officially set up appropriate accommodations which will then generate on e-letter of accommodation which is then emailed to the faculty of each course the student is registered for that semester. Once faculty receive this letter via email they are encouraged to meet with student briefly to discuss how the student’s accommodations will be carried out in the specific course.

    How are exams proctored at Pitzer for students who have this accommodation?

    Students are provided with an exam proctoring form which they are responsible for filling out then give to faculty to approve and sign. This proctoring form must be submitted to PASS at least one week before the exam will take place. Late forms will only be accepted if space in the testing center is still available.

    If students are given a “take home exam” should their accommodation for extra time on exams still be provided?

    Yes. If the class is provided 2 days to complete an exam (48 hours) then a student with the accommodation of 1.5 extra time should be given an additional 24 hours to complete the exam.

    If a student is not registered with PASS should you recommend they do so if you suspect they have a disability?

    No, unless a student shares with you that they have a disability you should not recommend they register for accommodations. However, you can recommend they visit PASS to discuss additional support in the form of academic coaching or other resources.

    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 a faculty would treat any student who is disruptive in class.  If a

    faculty feels that there is a disability-related reason for the student’s behavior, the faculty can contact PASS to determine if there is a solution to the problem or strategies for addressing the behavior.

    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 not 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. The low grade notice system should be utilized to alert the student early on in the semester about the concerns, a meeting should be set up between the faculty and student to work together identifying additional resources and support.

Teaching & Interacting with Students with Disabilities

Faculty impart knowledge to students and evaluate whether students have learned the material by creating assignments and exams that allow the student to demonstrate mastery based on course goals, objectives and the nature of the curriculum. Having an understanding of a disability and the limitations caused by that disability are essential when teaching to and interacting with students whose learning styles are different from their peers.

  • Students with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

    Often called “invisible disabilities”, students with Learning Disabilities (LD’s) and/or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) make up a significant percentage of students registered with PASS. Examples of LD’s include Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Math Disorders, and Nonverbal Learning Disorders. Students are diagnosed after a battery of testing with results that indicate lack of achievement at age and ability level and a severe discrepancy between achievement and intelligence.

    Examples of limitations faced by these students are:

    • Inability to change from one task to another
    • Difficulty scheduling time to complete short and long-term assignments
    • Difficulty completing tests without additional time
    • Difficulty following directions
    • Difficulty concentrating in lectures
    • Problems with grammar
    • Impulsiveness
    • Difficulty delaying resolution to a problem
    • Poor self-esteem
    • Difficulty taking notes
    • Slow reading rate
    • Poor comprehension and retention of material read
    • Difficulty with basic math operations
    • Difficulty with reasoning

    When preparing your lectures, and then presenting the materials, consider the following:

    • Link previous lecture to current lecture
    • Outline main points on overhead
    • State class objective
    • Write key terms on overhead
    • Leave overheads up longer than you think necessary for you to copy
    • Identify patterns of organization
    • Make lectures interactive
    • Make notes available on the internet
    • Maintain student attention by varying delivery approach
    • Move around the room
    • Summarize or draw conclusions at the end of the lecture

    Commonly used accommodations for students with LD’s:

    • Extended time for testing
    • Use of a computer with a spell-checking program
    • Writing on the test, rather than using Scantrons
    • Use of a calculator
    • Copies of overheads, handouts, lecture notes
    • Preferential seating

    Accommodations for students with ADHD may include:

    • Reduced distraction environment for testing
    • Extended time for testing
    • Preferential seating near the front of the class
    • Notetaking support
  • Student with Visual Disabilities

    There are two categories of visual disabilities: blindness and low vision. Between 70 and 80 percent of all persons in the United States identified with visual disabilities actually have some residual and functional vision, and may use a term such as low vision.  To be diagnosed with low vision, visual acuity has to be 20/70 or less in the better eye after the best possible correction, or have a constricted visual field (peripheral vision) of 30 degrees or less.  To be diagnosed as legally blind, visual acuity has to be 20/200 or less in the better eye after the best possible correction or a have a visual field (peripheral vision) of 20 degrees or less.

    Academic limitations can be the result of constricted peripheral vision, progressive loss of vision, and/or fluctuation of visual acuity.  Visual disabilities may result in difficulties with the following activities:

    • Mobility around campus and in the classroom
    • Ability to take notes in class
    • Ability to see classroom visual aids, writing on chalkboard, etc.
    • Reading standard print materials
    • Finding transportation
    • Obtaining textbooks in an alternative format and in a timely manner (audio, large print, Braille)

    Some examples of accommodations used by students who are blind or have low vision include:

    • Large print or Braille handouts, signs, equipment labels
    • Directions, notices, assignments in electronic format provided in advance of class
    • Printed materials on colored paper or materials in high contrast
    • Computers with enlarged screen images
    • Seating where the lighting is best
    • Audio, Braille, electronic formats for notes, handouts, texts
    • Describe visual aids (text or audio descriptions)
    • Computers with optical character readers, voice activated computers, voice output, Braille keyboards and printers
    • Extended time for testing and assignments
    • Use of a reader and/or scribe for exams
    • Use of tinted glasses for indoors/outdoors
  • Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

    Communication access is the most common barrier between students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and their hearing peers and instructors. Some of these students use American Sign Language and not spoken English. They often identify with other people of similar upbringing and prefer to be called Deaf with a capital D. People who became deaf later in life may call themselves Deaf or hard-of-hearing based on the degree of hearing loss they experience.

    Examples of disability related limitations include:

    • Listening to and understanding lecture information
    • Taking notes in class
    • Working effectively in group projects or class discussions

    Commonly used accommodations are:

    • Interpreters, real-time transcription, assistive listening systems, note taking assistance
    • Face student when speaking
    • Written copies of any oral instructions (directions, assignments, lab instructions)
    • Visual aids, visual warning systems
    • Repeat questions and statements from others
    • Electronic mail for communicating
    • Captioned videos and transcripts of audio recordings
  • Students with Health-Related Disabilities

    Chronic illnesses include conditions affecting one or more of the body’s functions. These conditions can include, but are not limited to, the respiratory, immunological, neurological and circulatory systems. There can be several different impairments and they can vary significantly in their effects and symptoms. In general, these conditions can vary in severity and length of time, and can be very unstable. Examples of chronic medical conditions include:

    • Cancer
    • Chemical dependency
    • Chronic fatigue syndrome
    • Diabetes
    • Dysautonomia
    • Epilepsy/seizure disorder
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
    • Multiple chemical sensitivities
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Renal disease/failure

    Academic difficulties can include:

    • Mobility around campus and in the classroom
    • Taking notes in class
    • Concentration/attention
    • Fatigue (physical and mental)
    • Time management
    • Anxiety
    • Missing classes due to symptoms or treatment of medical condition

    Most commonly requested accommodations are:

    • Note taking assistance, audio-taped class sessions
    • Flexible attendance requirements
    • Extra exam time on assignments and exams
    • Assignments in electronic formats
    • Communication through electronic mail
    • Absences due to symptomology and medical appointments
  • Students with Mental Health Disabilities

    Mental Health disabilities may not be apparent, but they can have a dramatic impact on interpersonal and school behavior that affects the learning process. These disabilities cover a wide range of conditions that may be chronic or reoccurring. With appropriate treatment many mental health related disabilities can be effectively controlled or improved. However, treatment, which often combines medications and psychotherapy and may effectively stop acute symptoms or halt the downward spiral in some individuals, sometimes causes additional limitations as a result of prescribed medications.

    Examples of some mental health disabilities are:

    • Major depression
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Severe anxiety disorders
    • Sleep disorders
    • Eating disorders
    • Substance-related disorders

    Academic difficulties can include:

    • Concentration
    • Cognitive (short term memory difficulties)
    • Distractibility
    • Time management
    • Impulsiveness
    • Fluctuating stamina causing class absences
    • Irritability
    • Feelings of fear and anxiety about exams

    Accommodations can include: 

    • Preferential seating, near door
    • Prearranged or frequent breaks
    • Permit use of computer software
    • Extended time on assignments and exams
    • Separate, quiet room for testing
  • Students with Physical Disabilities

    The phrase “physical disability” is used to describe a wide range of physical limitations and diagnoses, the most common of which would be someone that uses a wheelchair or other mobility device. Some limitations may be very severe and noticeable, while other are almost hidden or non-apparent.  The most common barrier to academic success for a person with a physical disability is access. Access takes many forms, from a class assigned in an inaccessible building to the person’s own limitations preventing them from taking class notes. As with all other disabilities and impairments, it is important to treat students with physical disabilities fairly. Students with physical disabilities typically are very knowledgeable of both their limitations and abilities and are accustomed to communicating their needs to others.

    Examples of physical disabilities include:

    • Wheelchair users
    • Amputees
    • Speech impairments
    • Muscular Dystrophy
    • Multiple Sclerosis

    Some limitations of students with physical disabilities are:

    • Difficulty writing, such as class notes and on exams
    • Sitting in a standard desk
    • Participating in labs where lab tables and equipment are hard to reach
    • Transportation
    • Classrooms or buildings that are not wheelchair accessible

    Possible accommodations include:

    • Relocating a class or lab to an accessible building/space
    • Audio recorder or notetaking assistance
    • Accessible seating or table in the classroom
    • Scribe for Scantrons and/or essay exams
    • Additional time for completing exams
  • Students with Autism

    College campuses are seeing an increase in the number of students who are diagnosed with Autism. Individuals who present on the Autism spectrum understand and respond to the thoughts and feelings of others in different ways compared to other individuals. Please note that no two students with Autism are alike in terms of how they respond to others and experience the educational environment.

    Below are some examples of what one may encounter when working with students who present on the autism spectrum:

    • Some students present as naïve or very literal when encountering their peers or others in the campus community. They may not understand jokes, irony and metaphors.
    • Some students may talk “at” rather than “to” people, disregarding the listener’s interest.
    • Some students may talk too loud, stand too close and maintain poor eye contact.
    • Some individuals do not accurately convey the intensity of their emotions until they are full blown, such that the reaction may appear to be far more intense than the situation warrants.
    • Although individuals may crave social interaction, their manner may leaving them feeling misunderstood and isolated.
    • Difficulty “fitting in” with other college students.
    • Social immaturity (interest in relationships can be appropriate for their physical developmental level, but their social developmental level may lag behind).
    • Lack of structure (students may not know what to do with much more free time than in high school)
    • Difficulty with classes that are not within their interests (often may not see the relevance of “core curriculum” classes).
    • Difficulty dealing with ambiguity and lack of problem-solving skills.

    When interacting with students on the Autism spectrum:

    • Use clear, specific language (avoid slang or regional terms).
    • Give specific directions.
    • Find out the students’ strengths and limitations and advise accordingly.
    • Get to know the student so he/she will feel comfortable coming to you with problems.
    • Help connect students to academic advisor or other professional who can be a resource.
    • Set explicit guidelines for classroom behavior.
    • Parents may be more involved in their student’s lives compared to other students.
    • Communicate with PASS if you observe any behavior or interactions that you are unsure of how to approach.
  • Faculty Guide: Universal Design for Learning

    Universal Design (UD) is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.  Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities.  The intent of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is to make academic environments accessible for all students by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities.


    Universal Design Examples for Instruction

    • Create an environment that respects and values diversity. Put a statement on your syllabus inviting students to meet with you to discuss disability-related accommodations and other learning needs.
    • Assure that all classrooms labs and fieldwork are in locations accessible to individuals with a wide range of physical abilities and disabilities.
    • Use multiple modes to deliver content (including lecture, discussion, hands-on activities, online interaction, and fieldwork).
    • Provide printed and electronic materials which summarize content that is delivered orally.
    • Face the class, speak clearly and loudly if in a large space. Use microphone as needed.
    • Use captioned videos.
    • Use accessible Web pages (text descriptions of graphics, good color contract, clear navigation and organization).
    • Provide access to printed materials early so that students can prepare to access the materials in alternate formats, if needed.
    • Create printed and Web-based materials in simple, consistent formats.
    • Provide effective prompting during an activity and feedback after the assignment is completed.
    • Provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate knowledge.
    • Make sure equipment and activities minimize sustained physical effort.