The Office of Accessibility Resources (OAR) is committed to creating the ideal learning experience at Bucknell University by affording equal access to an educational experience through the provision of reasonable academic accommodations.
The OAR provides accommodations, services, resources and assistive technology for students with documented disabilities. The OAR also helps faculty to fulfill their responsibilities for student access to classroom instruction.
Faculty and staff can speak with the OAR director to discuss referral options for a student that may need accommodations. Confidentiality is maintained.
Faculty & Staff Accommodation Requests
Human Resources will assist with any request for faculty and staff accommodation requests.
For more information, contact Human Resources at 570-577-1544.
Individuals with disabilities are covered by two primary legal mandates that protect them from discrimination and ensure that they have equal access to all programs, services and activities of the University.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as amended, states:
"A public entity shall make reasonable modifications in policies or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the public entity can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity."
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, states:
"No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
The OAR works diligently to ensure its operations are legally compliant. The OAR director is available to help instructors of students with disabilities to be consistent with the law.
The OAR is dedicated to facilitating University-wide compliance. Faculty are welcome to contact the Director for more information.
The Office of Accessibility Resources, students with disabilities and faculty must work together to provide reasonable accommodations based on disability documentation, functional limitations and students' self-reports.
Each member of this team has different responsibilities:
The OAR director is expected to:
Authorize students' accommodations.
Empower and train students in self-advocacy.
Help students request and access accommodations in a timely manner.
Provide specific reasonable accommodations to students as necessary.
Honor student preferences for those accommodations whenever possible.
Address instructors' questions and concerns.
Students are expected to:
Register with the OAR.
Request accommodations promptly from their instructors.
Follow appropriate and corresponding policy and procedure.
Complete the same class requirements as all other students.
Faculty are expected to:
Provide appropriate accommodations to their students in collaboration with the OAR.
Consult with the Director of the OAR as needed.
Assist when a student needs a note-taker.
Help to facilitate the exam accommodation process.
Collaborate with students and the Director of the OAR to make sure course materials are accessible.
By working together, students, faculty and the OAR director can provide reasonable accommodations in a timely, respectful, stress-free and supportive manner so that students with disabilities have the access that is right and just and also required by federal law.
The Office of Accessibility Resources is the campus office designated to provide appropriate accommodations, services and assistive technology for students with disabilities. In order to implement most accommodations, students, faculty and the OAR director must collaborate, communicate and follow through on commitments in a timely fashion.
The following best practices can assist faculty in making this collaboration successful.
Include a statement about disability accommodations in course syllabuses:
This statement should read as follows: "Any student who may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact Heather Fowler, director of the Office of Accessibility Resources, at 570-577-1188 or firstname.lastname@example.org who will help coordinate reasonable accommodations for those students with documented disabilities."
Maintaining students' confidentiality about their disabilities and respecting their choices to disclose or withhold the nature of their disabilities:
Disability information is confidential.
Students differ on self-disclosure, some may choose to disclose the specifics of the disability to their faculty, but other's may not. A student requesting accommodations in the classroom must disclose to their faculty through their registration with the OAR and Letter of Accommodation, the student is not obligated to reveal the disability to the faculty.
The OAR director will not disclose a student's disability unless that student has granted written permission.
Students are instructed to initiate a meeting with faculty after the Letter of Accommodation is sent and this meeting ideally, will be held in a private space.
Registration with OAR
Providing accommodations only to students who have registered with the OAR:
While OAR is the only campus office authorized to review disability documentation and determine students' eligibility for specific accommodations, not all students with disabilities are registered with the OAR.
If students have not registered, they are ineligible to receive accommodations.
Faculty are free to confirm a student's registration with the OAR, which can provide a Letter of Accommodation when required.
Accommodations Only as Requested and When Requested
Supplying accommodations as requested, only when requested:
Many students' accommodations are administered through the OAR, but when faculty provide accommodations themselves, they must implement the appropriate accommodations correctly.
Faculty should not guess or predetermine what students may need without a specific request for accommodations; persons with disabilities have the right to choose not to use accommodations, and in exercising that right, they accept the resulting outcomes.
Faculty are under no obligation to retroactively fix any problem arising from students' choices to forgo accommodations.
Faculty may consult with the OAR director for further guidance on the reasonableness, parameters, or adequacy of authorized accommodations.
Working with the OAR
Working with the OAR to supply students with alternative formats for print materials and other classroom media in a timely manner:
Students registered with the OAR must receive all converted materials at the same time as their peers. This requires particular proactivity from faculty of students who receive these accommodations, ideally through selecting already-accessible materials (e.g., print materials available in a searchable text digital version, audiovisual recordings with accurate captions embedded, etc.).
The OAR is able to assist faculty with this process. If faculty do not have accessible formats for print or audiovisual materials for their students, it is critical that they inform the OAR of the materials they plan to use as soon as they are requested to do so by a student or by the OAR.
Understanding Student Performance
Understanding that students with disabilities vary in their academic success:
All faculty expect their students to perform to the best of their abilities. It follows, likewise, that faculty should require students with disabilities to perform the essential functions of the class. Just as academic performance varies among students without disabilities, students with disabilities can display a wide range of academic abilities as well.
Remembering that the student is the expert on strategies that may help:
Many students registered with the OAR have experience advocating for their needs. Most are knowledgeable about their disability, the strategies and accommodations that work for them, and the assistive technology they use.
Meeting with students individually can provide faculty with additional insights and helpful suggestions.
The Universal Design for Learning and Accessible Media
While advising faculty on course management and instructional methods falls outside of its scope of service, the OAR suggests the following practices may be helpful to all students in class, potentially averting the need for many student-specific accommodations:
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to designing course instruction, materials, evaluation, activities and content in such a way that all persons can participate in the educational process without adaptation or retrofitting. By creating a Universally Designed environment, accommodations are likely rare because options for learning and evaluation are available to all of the students in the class. Incorporating these ideals, in whole or in part, is both feasible and helpful to all students. More information on UDL is available at the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) website.
Accessible Media is the converting of images, text, audio, and video into accessible materials. It is the faculty's responsibility for ensuring all content uploaded into Moodle is accessible. Some examples of accessible media include: captioned videos, required text available in e-book version (check with your publisher first before purchasing) and captioned/descriptions of pictures on PowerPoint slides. These small changes can also greatly enhance the learning of students without disabilities as well because it presents content in multiple modes.
Overview of Making Accessible Documents
Regardless of whether the document is in HTML, Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF, or another document format there are a few basic guidelines to make your content accessible:
Use meaningful hyperlinks
Add alternate text to images and graphics
Identify document language
Use tables wisely
Understand how to export from one format to another
Students with disabilities have the right to equal access to courses, programs, activities, services and facilities offered at Bucknell University. Students are also entitled to reasonable accommodations. All information about the student's disability is to be kept confidential. Students have the responsibility to provide acceptable documentation of disabilities and to register with OAR if they would like to receive accommodations. If students deem it necessary to receive accommodations for a particular class, students have the responsibility to discuss the accommodation(s) as verified by the Letter of Accommodation (LOA).
The Letter of Accommodation (LOA) is a document from the OAR director indicating that the student went through the proper process to become registered with the OAR for accommodations. It includes information regarding the name of the student, the name of the faculty members the student wishes the LOA sent to, as well as the approved legally mandated reasonable accommodations.
An instructor has the right to confirm a student's request for accommodations and to ask for clarification about a specific accommodation with the OAR. Instructors typically do not refuse to provide an accommodation and they do not have a right to review a student's documentation including diagnostic data. Instructors have a responsibility to work with the OAR in providing reasonable accommodations, keep all records and communications with students confidential, and to refer a student to the OAR who requests accommodations but is not currently registered. Instructors do not have to provide accommodations for students not registered with the OAR.
The statement should be a welcoming invitation to all students who have disabilities — especially those who have not yet registered with the OAR — to reach out to the faculty member as a first step in the process. It shows that the faculty member is aware of, and supportive of students with disabilities which provides a welcoming, inclusive and collaborative classroom environment. It is also an essential, legally mandated obligation for Bucknell University to make every effort to provide appropriate notification of resources for our students with disabilities.
Faculty should never directly inquire whether a student has a disability. Rather, as you would with any of your students, set up a meeting to discuss your concerns about grades, writing, absences, classroom behavior, etc. If the student alludes to the idea that there is a disability/issue please refer the student to the OAR. You should always be prepared to provide referral sources (e.g., OAR, Counseling, TLC, Writing Center, Student Health) for any student that may be struggling.
A student with a disability who is disruptive in class should be treated as an instructor would treat any student who is disruptive in class. If an instructor feels that there is a disability-related reason for the student's behavior, the instructor can discuss this with the OAR director to determine if there is a solution to the problem or strategies for addressing the behavior.
It is important for instructors 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.
Ideally, the OAR director will approach you first to seek input before approving this as an accommodation; however, this sequence rarely occurs. In certain circumstances providing a bit more of an allowance for students registered with the OAR for this accommodation is considered reasonable. There are certain health issues that our students have that require flexibility in attendance (e.g., cancer treatment, fibromyalgia, systemic lupus, POTS) as well as mental health issues that cause students to have difficulty getting work in on time or attending class (e.g., anxiety, insomnia, depression). The general rule of thumb is to provide at least one more absence without repercussions then what the syllabus states.
Some of our students have print disabilities — they are unable to see or have difficulty reading — and need all course materials in an accessible format (e.g., ebook, braille, large font). In order to make your classroom more universally designed (designed for all), prior to ordering text books you should always check with the publisher if the text book comes in an accessible format (e.g., PDF). You should also make sure that all of your course materials can be/are available in different modes (e.g., hardcopy, online, audio).
While it is very difficult to deny a student in need, it is very important to follow policy and procedure. All students requesting accommodations MUST go through the registration process with the OAR and only students who you receive an LOA for are officially approved for disability accommodations. Faculty members who provide accommodations outside of this policy place Bucknell University at risk for potential legal issues down the road.
While faculty members want to ensure that accommodations are provided to students with disabilities — especially when students are registered with the OAR — it is the responsibility of the student to follow up the LOA with the professor. Students are informed of this in the OAR initial intake meeting when the LOA is written, as well as in the policy and procedures that they receive. Students are free to use their accommodations or not. Faculty are encouraged to inquire directly with the student to see if the student is requiring accommodations in the class if this makes it easier than waiting for the student to initiate this discussion.
Many students registered with the OAR have the reasonable accommodation of extended time on tests and/or distraction-reduced testing environment. The OAR Testing Center should be considered a second option for those students registered with the OAR for those accommodations mentioned above as well as other testing accommodations. After the meeting with the professor to discuss how the accommodations will be provided and it is decided that the student will be accommodated in the Testing Center, the student is responsible for setting up his own testing center schedule. The professor is responsible for replying to the Your Reply Requested email in a timely manner. The requested information should be submitted as soon as possible with the exam file either submitted at the same time or no later 24 hours before the start time of the student's exam. (whenever possible). Best practice is that the professor provides the extended time or distraction-reduced setting so that the student has access to the professor for any test questions. However, sometimes this is not feasible due to time constraints, back-to-back classes and other issues. Students may also prefer to use the Testing Center. These issues must be discussed in the student (or faculty) initiated meeting following the LOA.
While this statement — taken at face value — might feel true, there are several factors that discredit it.
Research indicates that no matter how much time you give a student, if they don't know it, they don't know it—time will not influence that fact.
Most of the students in your class are not students with a disability. They do not have the same challenges as students that you receive a LOA for.
The students with disabilities are challenged with learning disabilities, ADHD and other attention/processing speed disorders, visual impairments, health impairments, mental health issues, etc.
The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination. If the OAR deems that this accommodation is necessary, it is our legal obligation to provide this as a legal, reasonable academic accommodation.
It is best instead to focus on the purpose of assessment and to allow the time for the student to demonstrate what is known—do not focus on the student not being able to finish the test in a certain amount of time. If the latter is your focus, then you are assessing the disability, not what was learned.
The only exception to this rule of thumb is in instances of training for life or death situations such as in the medical field (e.g., paramedics/EMT hands-on training).