Disability Services for Students

The Office of Disability Services for Students (DSS) assists Rensselaer students with disabilities in gaining equal access to academic programs, extracurricular activities, and physical facilities on campus. DSS is the designated office at Rensselaer that obtains and files disability-related documentation, assesses for eligibility of services, and determines reasonable accommodations in consultation with students. DSS offers information and resources based on individual needs to ensure that students are provided academic adjustments to allow for equal access to a college education at Rensselaer. Our office provides administrative support and advocacy for all students seeking academic adjustments who register and provide the required documentation.

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Contact Information

DSS Phone: 518-276-8197| Fax: 518-276-6421
Emaildss@rpi.edu
Mailing Address:  Disability Services for Students, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110 8th Street, Academy Hall Suite 4226, Troy, NY, 12180
Physical Address:  Academy Hall (on the corner of 15th Street and College Avenue), 4th Floor, Suite 4226

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Requesting/Renewing Accommodations

Students requesting accommodations due to a disability must contact the Office of Disability Services for Students. Once students have been approved for accommodations, they must renew their Faculty Memorandum each academic year. Please see below for more information regarding the procedure for requesting/renewing accommodations. 

Requesting Accommodations

  1. Submit an Accommodation Request Form and supporting documentation (please see documentation guidelines) to the Office of Disability Services for Students (DSS)
  2. DSS will contact student after documentation has been reviewed to schedule an accommodations meeting to discuss:
  • What accommodations are available/reasonable based on the nature of their disability and current function limitations
  • How to request accommodations from faculty using their faculty memorandum
  • Campus/community resources are available to students

      3. Receive faculty memorandum (via email in PDF form) detailing accommodations 

      4. Share memorandum with faculty and request a meeting to discuss details/logistical arrangements of needs/accommodations

      5. Contact DSS if questions or concerns arise regarding accommodations

*Please allow for 5 business days of processing time between submitting information and being contacted by DSS

*Please allow for 5 business days of processing time between attending an accommodations meeting and receiving a faculty memorandum

Renewing Accommodations

  1. Submit an updated Accommodation Request Form each academic year
  2. If changes are requested, students must attend an accommodations meeting. If no changes are requested, a meeting is not required.
  3. Receive faculty memorandum (via email in PDF form) detailing accommodations.
  4. Share memorandum with faculty and request a meeting to discuss details/logistical arrangements of needs/accommodations
  5. Contact DSS if questions or concerns arise regarding accommodations

*Please allow for 5 business days of processing time between submitting an updated Accommodation Request Form and receiving an updated faculty memorandum

Temporary Disabilities

For students that sustain an injury which results in one or more limitations of a major life activity, temporary accommodations can be provided. Provision of accommodations is based on student needs and duration of disabling condition.

  1. Submit an Accommodation Request Form and supporting documentation which includes expected duration of the condition to the Office of Disability Services for Students (DSS)
  2. Schedule an accommodation meeting with DSS to discuss:
  • What accommodations are available/reasonable based on the nature of their disability, current function limitations and duration of the condition
  • How to request accommodations from faculty using their faculty memorandum
  • Campus/community resources are available to students

     3. Receive a temporary faculty memorandum (via email in PDF form) detailing accommodations 

     4. Share memorandum with faculty and request a meeting to discuss details/logistical arrangements of                    needs/accommodations

     5. Contact DSS if questions or concerns arise regarding accommodations

 

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Documentation Guidelines

In order to establish that an individual is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and to recieve accommodations at Rensselaer, students must submit documentation of a disability. Documentation should demonstrate that the disability limits one or more major life activities and is appropriate to verify eligibility for academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids. Although an IEP or 504 plan is helpful in determining appropriate accommodations, they typically do not include a psychoeducation assessment and, therefore, will not be accepted on their own.

Rensselaer does not perform testing of any kind but can provide a list of local agencies to students seeking psychoeducational testing. Costs associated with obtaining documentation are the responsibility of the individual seeking accommodations.

Documentation requirements vary depending on the nature of the disability. Below are guidelines for common disabilities for which accommodations are requested. Any questions regarding documentation requirements should be directed to DSS.

Please note: Rensselaer is under no obligation to provide accommodations previously provided by and/or recommended by outside entities. 

Learning Disabilities

The following guidelines are provided in the interest of assuring that documentation is appropriate to verify eligibility and to support request for accommodations, academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids based on a learning disability. 

Testing Must Be Comprehensive- to be included in this assessment:

  • The Diagnostic Interview: Since learning disabilities are frequently manifested during childhood, historical information of learning difficulties in elementary and secondary education must be included. The diagnostic interview, by a qualified examiner, must include relevant background information to support the diagnosis. Such information includes:
    • Developmental history
    • Academic history, including prior standardized testing reports of classroom academic performance classroom reports of behavior notable trends in academic performance
    • Family history
    • Psychosocial history
    • Medical history (Absence of medical basis for the present symptoms)
    • History, if any, of prior psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy
    • Discussion of any dual diagnosis of alternative or co-existing mood, behavioral, neurological and/or personality disorders
    • A discussion of the presenting learning problems
  • The Neuropsychological or Psych-educational Evaluation: The neuropsychological or psycho-educational evaluation for the diagnosis of a specific learning disability must be submitted on letterhead of the qualified professional. The evaluation must provide clear and specific evidence of a learning disability. It is not acceptable to administer one test, nor is it acceptable to base the diagnosis on only one of several subtests. Objective evidence of a substantial limitation to learning must be provided. Domains to be addressed must include the following:
    • Aptitude- A complete aptitude battery is required with all subtests and standard scores. Acceptable instruments include, but are mot limited to:
      • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised
      • Woodcock-Johnson Psychological Battery Revised
      • Test of Cognitive Ability
      • The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale: Fourth Edition
    • Achievement- A complete achievement battery is required with all subtests and standard scores.  The battery may include current levels of academic functioning in reading (decoding and comprehension), mathematics, and written language.  Acceptable instruments include, but are not limited to:
      • Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-educational Battery-Revised: Tests of Achievement
      • Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-II (WIAT-II)
      • Stanford Test of Academic Skills (TASK)
      • Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA)
      • Test of Written Language-3 (TOWL-3)
      • Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests-Revised
      • Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test
    • Information Processing- Specific areas of information processing must be assessed.  These areas include, but are not limited to short/long term memory, sequential memory, auditory and visual perception/processing, processing speed, executive functioning and motor ability. Acceptable instruments include, but are not limited to:
      • Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-3 (DTLA-3)
      • Information from subtests on the WAIS-R
      • Information from the subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability
      • Information from the subtests of other instruments relevant to the presenting problem(s)

Testing Must Be Current

  • In most cases, this means testing that has been conducted in the last three years.  Since the provision of all reasonable accommodations and services is based upon the current impact of the student’s disabilities on his/her academic performance, it is in the student’s best interest to provide recent and appropriate documentation.

    However, in the case of adults tested after age 21, testing within a five-year period can be accepted.  In the case of a graduate student or continuing education student, documentation of accommodations from a previous institution of higher education will be considered.

The Report Must Include a Specific Diagnosis

  • Individual “learning styles”,” learning differences,” and “academic problems” do not constitute a learning disability. The nature and severity of the functional limitation(s) must be supported by the test data, academic history, anecdotal and clinical observations which may an assessment of the students level of motivation, study skills, and other non-cognitive factors. These findings must identify a relationship between the students' functional limitations and the disability.

Actual Test Scores Must Be Provided

  • Standard scores must be provided for all measurement norms.  Percentiles are also acceptable; grade equivalents are not acceptable unless standard scores and/or percentiles are also included.  The assessment must show evidence of discrepancies and intra-individual differences.  The particular profile of the student’s strengths and weaknesses must provide a rationale for the accommodations that are recommended.

Recommendations for Accommodations Must Include a Rationale

  • The diagnostic report must include specific recommendations regarding the curriculum, as   well as testing considerations.  A detailed explanation must be provided as to why each accommodation is recommended and should be correlated to specific test results or clinical observations.  If any accommodation or auxiliary aid was provided in the past, it should be discussed, including information about specific conditions under which the accommodations were used (e.g. standardized testing, final exams, national board examination).

    Any school plan (IEP or 504 plan) is not sufficient in and of itself, but it can be included as part of a more comprehensive assessment battery as described in this document.

    If no prior accommodations have been provided, the qualified professional and/or student should include a detailed explanation as to why no accommodations were used in the past and why accommodations are needed at this time.

A Qualified Professional Must Conduct the Evaluation

  • Professionals conducting assessments and rendering diagnoses of specific learning disabilities must be qualified to do so.  Experience working with an adult or older adolescent population is essential.

    The name, title, date(s) of testing, and professional credentials of the evaluator, including information about license or certification (e.g. licensed psychologist) as well as areas of specialization, employment and state in which the individual practices should be clearly stated.  The following professionals would generally be considered qualified to evaluate specific learning disabilities provided they have training in learning disabilities:

    • clinical or educational psychologists
    • neuropsychologists
    • medical doctors known to specialize in specific learning disability conditions
    • school psychologists/learning disability specialists/educational diagnosticians

Use of diagnostic terminology indicating a specific learning disability by someone whose training is not consistent with the above criteria does not meet the eligibility requirements.  All reports must be typed and otherwise legible.

ADHD

The following guidelines are provided in the interest of assuring that documentation is appropriate to verify eligibility and to support requests for accommodations, academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids based on a diagnosis of ADHD.

Documentation Necessary to Substantiate the Diagnosis Must Be Comprehensive:

  • Evidence of Early Impairment

    Since ADHD is, by definition of the DSM-IV, first exhibited in childhood (although it may not have been formally diagnosed) and manifests itself in more than one setting, relevant historical information is essential. The following should be included in a comprehensive assessment: clinical summary of objective historical information, establishing symptomology indicative of ADHD throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as garnered from transcripts, report cards, teacher comments, tutoring evaluations, and past psycho-educational testing; and third party interviews when available.

  • Evidence of Current Impairment
    • Statement of Presenting Problems- A statement regarding the individual’s ongoing impulsive/hyperactive or inattentive behaviors that significantly impair functioning in two or more areas
    • Diagnostic Interview- including developmental history, academic history, family history, psychosocial history, medical history and a discussion of any dual diagnosis of alternative or co-existing mood, behavioral, neurological and/or personality disorders
  •  Testing Must Be Current.

    In most cases, this means testing that has been conducted in the last three years.  Since the provision of all reasonable accommodations and services is based upon the current impact of the student’s disabilities on his/her academic performance, it is in the student’s best interest to provide recent and appropriate documentation.

  • Relevant Testing Information Must Be Provided
    A neuropsychological or psycho-educational assessment is important in determining the current impact of the disorder on an individual’s ability to function in academic settings. A complete assessment is the primary took for determining the degree to which ADHD currently impacts the individual relative to test-taking and in other academically related tasks.

    Standard scores must be provided for all measurement norms. Percentiles are also acceptable; grade equivalents are not acceptable unless standard scores and/or percentiles are also included.  The assessment must show evidence of discrepancies and intra-individual differences.  The particular profile of the student’s strengths and weaknesses must provide a rationale for the accommodations that are recommended.

  • Recommendations for Accommodations Must Include a Rationale

    The diagnostic report must include specific recommendations regarding the curriculum, as   well as testing considerations.  A detailed explanation must be provided as to why each accommodation is recommended and should be correlated to specific test results or clinical observations.  If any accommodation or auxiliary aid was provided in the past, it should be discussed, including information about specific conditions under which the accommodations were used (e.g. standardized testing, final exams, national board examination).

    Any school plan (IEP or 504 plan) is not sufficient in and of itself, but it can be included as part of a more comprehensive assessment battery as described in this document.

    If no prior accommodations have been provided, the qualified professional and/or student should include a detailed explanation as to why no accommodations were used in the past and why accommodations are needed at this time.

  • A Qualified Professional Must Conduct The Evaluation
    Professionals conducting assessments and rendering diagnoses of ADHD must be qualified to do so.  Experience working with an adult or older adolescent population is essential.

    The name, title, date(s) of testing, and professional credentials of the evaluator, including information about license or certification (e.g. licensed psychologist) as well as areas of specialization, employment and state in which the individual practices should be clearly stated.  The following professionals would generally be considered qualified to evaluate ADHD provided they have training in learning disabilities:

    • Clinical or neuropsychologists
    • psychiatrists
    • other relevantly trained medical doctors

Use of diagnostic terminology indicating ADHD by someone whose training is not consistent with the above criteria does not meet the eligibility requirements.  All reports must be typed and otherwise legible.

Physical, Medical and Sensory Disabilities

The following guidelines are provided in the interest of assuring that documentation is appropriate to verify eligibility and to support requests for accommodations, academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids based on a physical, medical and/or sensory related disability:

  • Diagnostic Statement Describing the Disability
    • Provide a clear diagnostic statement that describes how the condition was diagnosed, information on the functional impact, and details the typical progression or prognosis of the condition.
  • A Description of the Diagnostic Methodology Used
    • Include a description of the diagnostic criteria, evaluation methods/procedures, tests/ dates of administration, as well as a clinical observation and specific results. Diagnostic methods that are congruent with the particular disability and current in professional practice are recommended.
  • A Description of the Current Functional Limitations
    •  Information on how the disabling condition(s) currently impacts the individual is necessary for both establishing a disability and identifying possible accommodations. It should identify the major life function that is being substantially limited.
  • A Description of the Expected Progression or Stability of the Disability
    • Include statement on expected changes in the functional impact of the disability over time and context. If the condition is not stable, information on interventions for exacerbations (including the individual’s own strategies) and recommended timelines for re-evaluation are helpful.
  • A Description of Past and Current Accommodations, Services and/or Medications
    • Include a statement on accommodations the student has had in the past or is currently receiving by another institution
  • Recommendations for Accommodations
    • Recommended accommodations and services must be logically related to the functional limitations

Providers may choose to include this information in the format of a letter or use the Documentation of a Medical or Psychological Disability Form.

Psychological Disabilities

The following guidelines are provided in the interest of assuring that documentation is appropriate to verify eligibility and to support requests for accommodations, academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids based on a mental health diagnosis.

  • Diagnostic Statement Describing the Disability
    • Provide a clear diagnostic statement that describes how the condition was diagnosed, information on the functional impact, and details the typical progression or prognosis of the condition.
  • A Description of the Diagnostic Methodology Used
    • Include a description of the diagnostic criteria, evaluation methods/procedures, tests/ dates of administration, as well as a clinical observation and specific results. Diagnostic methods that are congruent with the particular disability and current in professional practice are recommended.
  • A Description of the Current Functional Limitations
    •  Information on how the disabling condition(s) currently impacts the individual is necessary for both establishing a disability and identifying possible accommodations. It should identify the major life function that is being substantially limited.
  • A Description of the Expected Progression or Stability of the Disability
    • Include statement on expected changes in the functional impact of the disability over time and context. If the condition is not stable, information on interventions for exacerbations (including the individual’s own strategies) and recommended timelines for re-evaluation are helpful.
  • A Description of Past and Current Accommodations, Services and/or Medications
    • Include a statement on accommodations the student has had in the past or is currently receiving by another institution
  • Recommendations for Accommodations
    • Recommended accommodations and services must be logically related to the functional limitations

Providers may choose to include this information in the format of a letter or use the Documentation of a Medical or Psychological Disability Form.

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Specific Accommodations

DSS is committed to providing reasonable and appropriate accommodations to ensure equal access for student with disabilities. Accommodations are individualized and are made on a case-by-case basis. Included below are commonly requested accommodations at Rensselaer. Please note this list is not exhaustive. Students must be registered with DSS to receive any accommodation. Questions regarding an accommodation which has not been included on this list should be directed to DSS.

Students must be registered with DSS to receive any accommodation. Questions regarding an accommodation which has not been included on this list should be directed to DSS.Accommodations that alter the nature of the course or program are not permitted. Rensselaer has no obligation to provide accommodations previously provided by and/or recommended by outside entities.

Testing Accommodations

  • Extended time: Students may be given extended time to complete exams, quizzes and, when appropriate, in-classroom assignments. Time and half (or 50% extended time) is considered the standard in post-secondary education. However, there are circumstances in which it is appropriate for students to receive more than time and a half. Untimed or unlimited amount of time for exams is not permitted. Extended time for out of class assignments is not permitted.
  • Distraction-reduced alternate testing environment: Students may be permitted to take their exams in alternate, distraction reduced environments agreed upon between the student and the faculty member prior to the exam.

*Please note Rensselaer does not have a testing center. Students are expected to discuss any testing accommodations and/or meet with their professors at least one week prior to any exam to make a plan to receive their accommodations for that exam

Note-taking Assistance

There are several forms of note-taking assistance offered at Rensselaer. Please see below for specific note-taking accommodations.

  • Permission to Record Lectures: Many professors allow students to record lectures, however, some do not. Students may be given this accommodation to allow them to audio and/or video record their lectures. Students are required to inform their faculty when they plan to record a lecture.
  • Provision of lecture notes: Many professors post their PowerPoint slides online, however, some do not. Students may be given access to professors’ slides either before or after class to assist with note-taking.
  • Livescribe Echo Smartpen: Students may be given a smartpen to assist with note-taking during their tenure at Rensselaer. Smartpens offer several different features to assist students with note-taking and building note-taking skills. Students who use this adaptive device will be given a short tutorial on how to use the technology.
  • Peer-note taker: Rensselaer employs a peer note-taking system. Students who are approved for a note-taker must begin by attempting to find another student in the class who is willing to share their notes. If the student is not successful, they should approach their faculty member for assistance with obtaining a peer note-taker. Faculty members will contact the class (either via announcement or email) to inform the students that there is a need for a note-taker. Faculty will not identify the student with a disability, to protect confidentiality. Once a potential note-taker has been identified, they should be directed to contact DSS for details.

*Note-takers are not a substitution for attending class. Students with a note-taker are required to attend classes. Failure to attend classes could result in the loss of note-taker accommodations

Alternately Formatted Materials

Alternately formatted classroom materials and/or textbooks are available to students with disabilities.

  • Classroom Materials: Students may receive alternately formatted classroom materials from their professors. Alternate formats include audio taped exams, manuscripts or closed captioning of videos shown in class, enlarged text handouts, etc. Students should approach faculty with their faculty memorandum at the beginning of each semester to ensure they receive approved accommodations.
  • Textbooks: Students may receive alternately formatted textbooks (i.e. audio, Braille, electronic text). Students in need of an alternate format should submit the Alternate Format Text Request Form and originals or copies of their receipt of purchase for the text. If the text is available for purchase in an alternate format, students must purchase the alternate format. Requests may take 10-17 business days.
  • Kurzweil 3000: Kurzweil is software which allows students to convert text to audio. The Kurzweil software (connected to a scanner) is located in a semi-private location on the first floor of the Folsom Library. Students who have been approved for use of Kurzweil should contact George Biggar (biggaw@rpi.edu) for access to the software. Rensselaer also has license's available for approved students to download the software to their personal computers. 

Housing Accommodations

Students requesting housing accommodations and/or waivers on the basis of a disability must submit an Accommodation Request Form with accompanying documentation to DSS in accordance with the following dates:

For the Fall Semester:                February 1st returning students

                                                           May 15th for freshman and transfers

For the Spring Semester:         December 20th for all students

For Summer Semester:            February 1st for all students

RPI will accept and consider requests for housing accommodations at any time. The individual making the request for accommodation should submit the required documentation/ forms to the Office of Disability Services for Students as soon as possible before moving into University Housing. However, if the request for the accommodation is made after the stated deadlines, RPI cannot guarantee that it will be able to meet the individual’s accommodation needs during the first semester or term of occupancy immediately following the belated request.

If the need for accommodation arises when an individual already resides in University Housing, the student should submit the required documentation/forms to the Office of Disability Services for Students as soon as possible. RPI cannot guarantee that it will be able to meet the individual’s accommodation needs during the semester or term which the request is received.  

Documentation should include a rationale for all requested housing accommodations, please see documentation guidelines. Please note that documentation should be sent to DSS only.  

Dietary Accommodations

Students who have food allergies and/or intolerances have access free and confidential nutrition counseling by our campus registered dietitian. Dining services at Rensselaer are able to work with a wide variety of food allergies and other dietary needs. Please visit the Food Allergy page for more information. 

To set up an appointment, please contact Kimberly Mayer, RDN at kimberly.mayer@sodexo.com or (518)276-8989.

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Parent Resources

The faculty and staff at Rensselaer recognize how important a supportive family is to a student entering college. This type of assistance is particularly crucial for a student with special needs.  Parent’ roles, however, will change from what their role when their student was in high school.  This information will help families to understand the differences between K-12 services and college accommodations, the student’s role as a self-advocate in college, and parent’s new role in the post-secondary educational experience.

Please feel free to contact DSS with any questions.

Understanding Accommodations

Services in high school and accommodations in college can look very different. Different laws govern academic accommodations for students with disabilities in high school and college. Documentation requirements can differ both from high school to college and between institutions of higher education. Finally, the nature of the services can also be different. Accommodations that may have been reasonable and appropriate in high school may not be in a college setting. Please review the Comparison of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act here. This document also illustrates key differences between pre and post secondary education for students in general. 

The Student's New Role

All college students will find that they now have to take a more proactive role in their educational experience. This will be particularly true and imperative for students with disabilities. Your student will have to take on the responsibility of identifying themselves as an individual with a disability, request accommodations, and disclose approved accommodations to faculty and staff.  The student must learn to be a self-advocate. All faculty members and staff will assist the student once accommodations have been established through DSS; however, it is the student’s responsibility to make others aware of the approved accommodations.

Students should begin reviewing their high school IEP or 504 Plan (although these documents are generally not sufficient documentation- please see documentation guidelines). The student should know their diagnosis, understand how their condition may impact their college experience, and determine what accommodations will be needed for a successful college experience. Finally, all forms requesting accommodations should be completed by the student with the assistance of a family member, if needed.  

The Changing Role of the Family

During the student’s high school experience, parents often work closely with a team of professionals in the school district and make many decisions regarding services and accommodations.  At the college level, the student is considered an adult and is the only one who can request accommodations for themselves.  Therefore, staff members and faculty will work directly with the student who identifies as an individual with a disability.  They will not be communicating with family members during the process.  You are encouraged to promote this idea of independence and self-advocacy, as both will become part of the student’s educational experience as they prepare for life after college. 

Family members will, however, continue to play an important role in the educational experience.  As you communicate with your student, you can remind them of the many services and assistance available at Rensselaer:

Student Health Services:  Disability Services is part of Student Health Services, along with the Student Health Center and the Counseling Center. Student Health Services is a valuable resource for students.

Advising and Learning Assistance Center (ALAC):  The staff in this office provides assistance with advisement, intervention, study skills, and tutoring.  

Office of the First Year Experience (FYE):  After orientation, students are encouraged to stay connected to each other and Rensselaer via the Internet. The First Year Experience website is an excellent way to build upon the knowledge, confidence and friendships many students acquire at their student orientation session through interactive bulletin boards and answers to frequently asked questions.

Parents of Rensselaer and The Parents Council:  The Parents of Rensselaer association is designed to keep you involved and informed. Their mission is to provide parents and families of Rensselaer students with a forum to support and promote interactive involvement that will enhance the success of all members of the campus community. The Parents Council is a group of parents who volunteer to serve as ambassadors for Rensselaer. Members of the Parents Council represent a diverse spectrum of students, geographical areas, degree programs, and class years. Some of the parents on the Council are available to discuss their experiences with disability services at Rensselaer.  For more information, visit their webpage or contact the Office of the First Year Experience.

Resident Assistants & Learning Assistants (RA & LA):  Each residence hall on campus has students identified as Resident Assistants.  These students are trained to serve as an information source, mentor, and role model.  RAs are particularly helpful for freshmen as they learn to navigate the campus, schedules and new roommates.  Learning Assistants are responsible for assisting first-year students in becoming active, independent and successful learners. LAs interact frequently with the students living in their residence hall and provide academically-related programs, information and assistance. The LAs are a direct academic support service and act as liaisons between the Advising and Learning Assistance Center (ALAC) and undergraduates.

Faculty Members:  Remind your student that faculty members have regular office hours and are available for consultation and advisement. Office locations/hours can be found on the course syllabus.  Suggest that your student meet with a professor if academic assistance is needed and/or if there are concerns regarding approved accommodations.

Rensselaer hopes that understanding the process and procedures for securing accommodations for students with disabilities will allow parents to assist their students as they develop self-advocacy skills.  This understanding will also help reduce the anxiety parents may feel as their student begins college.  In addition, familiarity with the various forms of assistance available to students on our campus will help parents guide their students to any necessary supports, making the educational experience more beneficial, fulfilling and a pathway to success.

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Faculty Resources

The Office of Disability Services for Students (DSS) is the designated campus office to determine appropriate accommodations and auxiliary aids for students with disabilities. This determination is based on documentation provided by the student, functional limitations presented by the disability and an interactive meeting between students and DSS personnel. In performing these functions, DSS provides support to faculty by protecting academic requirements/standards during the accommodation process. Please see below for more information regarding accommodations at Rensselaer. 

For more information on faculty/student responsibility, the process by which students are approved for accommodations and the ADA, please consider attending the faculty/staff workshop offered once per semester entitled Disability Services for Students and Academic Accommodations at Rensselaer. 

Syllabus Statement

Faculty are encouraged to include a statement in their syllabus which encourages students with disabilities to meet with them in a confidential environment to discuss making arrangements for accommodations. There are several reasons why this syllabus statement is critical. This statement both normalizes the accommodation process and helps to create a positive and welcoming environment for students with disabilities. This statement also serves as a reminder to students who need the accommodations that these arrangements need to be made in advance. Finally, a student may ask their faculty to provide accommodations directly. For the protection of the individual faculty member, the student, and the university, students should be directed to bring any requests for accommodations to DSS. Faculty can facilitate the accommodation request process by including a statement on their syllabus that directs students to the appropriate office to discuss their needs. Here is an example of a syllabus statement: 

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers based on a disability, please let me know immediately so that we can discuss your options.  To establish reasonable accommodations, please register with The Office of Disability Services for Students.  After registration, make arrangements with me as soon as possible to discuss your accommodations so that they may be implemented in a timely fashion. DSS contact information: dss@rpi.edu; 518-276-819; 4226 Academy Hall.

 

Faculty Memorandum

Any qualified student with a disability is entitled by law to reasonable accommodations according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Students who are registered with DSS will request academic accommodations in their courses by presenting their faculty with their Faculty Memorandum.

 The Faculty Memorandum is an individualized letter given to students who are entitled to receive accommodations. The memo outlines specific modifications needed to provide students with disabilities equal access in the classroom. Any questions regarding the memo and/or accommodations listed should be directed to DSS.

Students are instructed to meet with their faculty members to discuss their faculty memorandums and accommodations. Individual accommodation needs vary from student to student because a disability, even the same disability, may result in different functional limitations. In addition, compensation skills and strategies vary from one student to another. Therefore, it is necessary for faculty and staff to discuss each accommodation outlines on the faculty memorandum to ensure delivery of that accommodation addresses the particular needs of the student. Please treat all disability-related information as confidential. Disability-related meetings with students should be conducted in a private location (i.e. office hours).

Students have a right to privacy in disability matters, and their confidentiality should be maintained. Please refrain from discussing disabilities and necessary accommodations in the presence of fellow students or others who have no educational need to know.

Students without a Memorandum

Occasionally students who do not have a faculty memorandum from DSS will approach faculty directly and request accommodations. Rensselaer requires students to establish eligibility for accommodations prior to being accommodated in the classroom. DSS is the office designated to collect and maintain confidential disability-related information and to coordinate accommodations for students. If a student brings you documentation of a disability please do not accept their documentation but refer them to DSS.

Arranging a Peer-Note-taker

One accommodation that may be noted on a faculty memorandum is ‘Provision of a Note-taker’. Rensselaer employs a peer note-taking system. If a student requests a note-taker in your course, you should begin by emailing the class and/or making an announcement regarding a note-taking opportunity. Any student who expresses interest in note-taking should be referred to DSS. Note-takers are paid a stipend of $125 for a semesters worth of notes.Please do not share the name of the student who has requested a note-taker with the class. 

Questions/Concerns Regarding Accommodations

Please reach out to DSS directly if you have questions or concerns regarding a student’s accommodations. Accommodations should not alter the nature of your course. If you feel as though an accommodation alters the nature of your course, please reach out to DSS to discuss options and/or alternatives.