A disability inherently can put a student at a disadvantage in comparison to the other students in your class. An accommodation for the particular limitations of a disability is meant to minimize this disadvantage and to "even out the playing ground" - or to provide an equitable environment for the student with the disability. Therefore, it can be considered UNFAIR to the disabled student to NOT provide an accommodation.
An accommodation is related to the presence of a hearing, visual, mobility, learning, or other disability. Since the majority of your students will not have such conditions, it is unnecessary to accommodate them in the same way because their needs as individual students will be different than those of a student with a disability. No two students are alike. Therefore, the need to treat them as if they were all the same, or equal, is an inequitable and unjust expectation. In addition, research indicates that accommodations such as extra time on exams does not benefit the student without a disability while it significantly improves test scores of students with disabilities (time constraints may actually test students' limitations rather than their knowledge).
It is important, however, to remember that all students should have the same expectation to learn the material of a particular class. Some students will do well and some others will not; sometimes due to individual student effort and motivation and sometimes due to the method you choose in teaching and/or measuring their learning. The latter can present artificial barriers to students with disabilities regardless of their effort and motivation. Accommodations are means by which disabled students have the opportunity to transcend these barriers as they participate in the educational process. Another way to minimize barriers to learning is to consider the principles of Universal Design for Learning when developing your courses. These principles, when incorporated, facilitate learning for all students who may not learn exactly the same way effectively.
Accommodations are by no means fool-proof and even with a reasonable accommodation a student may still fail to learn the material. Nevertheless, what is important is that the student is given the opportunity to learn, and a fair chance to show how much he/she has learned, through methods that facilitate both those processes.
Both ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are civil rights laws. A student who feels discriminated against based on his/her disability has the right to file an informal or formal complaint internally with the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and/or an external formal complaint with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights for further investigation. In addition, the ADA allows an individual direct access to the courts as a means to address the claim of discrimination and you can be held personally responsible for your actions. For more information concerning your individual responsibility, please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity, 491-5836.
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