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Helping Students with Disabilities at BYU. October 15, 2010 Presented by Michael Brooks, Ph.D., J.D., John Call M.Ed., and Derek Griner , Ph.D. University Accessibility Center 2170 WSC 801.422.2767. Our Mission.

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helping students with disabilities at byu

Helping Students with Disabilities at BYU

October 15, 2010

Presented by Michael Brooks, Ph.D., J.D., John Call M.Ed., and Derek Griner, Ph.D.

University Accessibility Center

2170 WSC


our mission
Our Mission
  • The University Accessibility Center seeks to provide all students with disabilities equal access to educational opportunities and to eliminate barriers which might impede participation in academic pursuits at BYU.


why do we have this mission
Why Do We Have This Mission?
  • BYU is bound by three major federal disability laws:
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (particularly Section 504)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act – Amendments Act (ADAAA)

We have to comply with these laws because we receive federal funds.


take home point
Take Home Point
  • Remember that these laws are civil rights laws and are enforced in part by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) under the Department of Education.
  • The history of disability law is like that of other civil rights legislation (i.e., when initial laws are ineffective, they are superseded by other laws).


how is someone classified as having a disability
How is Someone Classified as Having a Disability?
  • There are 3 legal ways to be qualified under disability law, but the main prong is:
  • Having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual


our office
Our Office
  • Our staff includes the following individuals, who have different specialty areas:
  • Coordinator for LD/ADHD/Emotional Disorders
  • Coordinator for LD/ADHD/Emotional Disorders and technology
  • Coordinator for Deaf/Hard of Hearing
  • Coordinator for Physical Disabilities
  • A FT ASL Interpreter
  • A Supervisor of our Accessible Book division
  • An Office Manager
  • A Director


student statistics
Student Statistics
  • We generally have around 650 student clients during Fall/Winter semesters
  • These students fall into the following groups:

Learning Disorders/ADHD

Emotional Disorders

Physical Disabilities/Chronic Illness

Deaf/Hard of Hearing

Some combination of disorders


what is adhd
What is ADHD?

A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity more frequent and severe than typically observed in peers.

Impairment before age 7

Impairment in an least two settings (home, school, work)

Must have interference with appropriate social, academic, or occupational functioning.

2-8% of college students have diagnosed or undiagnosed ADHD.


possible negative characteristics lack of consistent direction and control
Possible Negative Characteristics(lack of consistent direction and control.)
  • Often disregard the long-term consequences of their actions focused on the moment and its rewards
  • Inordinate craving for sugar and occasionally, exhibit some symptoms of hypoglycemia
  • Easily distracted
  • Short, but extraordinarily intense, attention span
  • Disorganization, accompanied by snap decisions
  • Distortions of time-sense
  • Difficulty following directions; esp. auditory or verbal information (need to create a mental picture of the information)
  • Exhibit occasional symptoms of depression and/or anxiety
  • Take risks
  • Hard on themselves and those around them (frustration and impatience threshold tend to be low)


positive characteristic of a person with adhd hunters
Positive characteristic of a person with ADHD (Hunters*):
  • Constantly monitor their environment
  • Can totally throw themselves into the hunt; time is elastic
  • Flexible, capable of changing strategy on a moment’s notice
  • Can throw an incredible burst of energy – not necessarily a lot of staying power
  • Think visually – create outlines in their heads of where they’ve been and where they’re going
  • Love the hunt, but are easily bored by mundane tasks
  • Face danger the “normal” individuals would avoid


life skills of a successful person with adhd
Life skills of a successful person with ADHD:
  • Organize time around tasks
  • Train attention span
  • Break work responsibilities into specific “goal units”
  • Create “distraction-free zones”
  • Exercise daily – if hunters are biologically designed to hunt, then a daily “run after the prey” may well be an stimulant, or cause the release of hormones or neurotransmitters necessary for hunter’s brain to work more smoothly
  • Know what they do well, and stick to it – avoid farmer tasks
  • Increase ability to control impulsivity and cravings.


what are learning disorders
What are Learning Disorders?

Learning disorders are diagnosed when:

  • The individual’s achievement on individually administered, standardized tests in reading, mathematics, or written expression are substantially below that expected for age, schooling and level of intelligence.
  • The learning problems in Criterion A significantly interfere with academic achievement or activities of daily living.
  • If a sensory deficit is present, the difficulties in the particular skill area (e.g., reading, writing, math) must be in excess of those usually associated with the deficit.


what about emotional concerns
What About Emotional Concerns?
  • A “mental impairment” is generally held to be any recognized mental or psychological disorder that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  • “Mental impairments” include learning disorders, ADHD, and emotional disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, Aspergers Disorder, Autism, etc.)


how does the uac help students
How Does The UAC Help Students?
  • An evaluation can be conducted to assess for learning disorders, ADHD, psychological, and neuropsychological conditions.
  • Students receive an intake appt. with the appropriate coordinator, who will then determine what accommodations are appropriate based on the functional limitations of the disability and documentation from the treating professional.
  • The coordinator will then write a letter to the professor outlining these accommodations.
  • Our goal is not only to provide advisement to the students regarding what accommodations are appropriate, but also to work with professors in helping to balance academic integrity and the essential functions of a class with the students’ federal rights.


once a disability is established
Once a Disability is Established…
  • Establishing that one has a disability is only one aspect of the analysis, as only a qualified individual with a disability is protected from discrimination under federal law.
  • A “qualified individual” is one who “with or without reasonable accommodation can perform the essential functions of the position” (whether it be as an employee or student).
  • So, if you are so impaired that you could not complete a class or course of study even with reasonable accommodations, you probably would not be “qualified” under the law.


what is a reasonable accommodation
What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

Generally defined as:

  • Modification or adjustment to the academic environment
  • A modification or adjustment that allows a student with a disability to enjoy the same benefits/privileges enjoyed by non-disabled individuals, as long as the modification does not:
  • pose an undue hardship on the institution or
  • fundamentally alter the class or course of study or
  • violate essential functions of the academic experience


how do we know what is reasonable
How Do We Know What is Reasonable?

(1) Speak with professors

While the UAC initially writes accommodation letters to the professors outlining accommodations needed, they can be amended based on an interactive process between the professor, student, and our office, and all accommodations are analyzed on a case-by-case basis (Howard University case).

  • Look to the syllabus

This should highlight essential functions and thus what accommodations might be unreasonable (captioning case)

  • Consultation with advisors

(4) Look at the general practice of employees in the field (law school example – denial of extended time)

Note: Professors/schools have a lot of deference shown to them by courts when determining essential functions.


accommodations typically offered at the uac
Accommodations Typically Offered at the UAC
  • Additional time for exams/quizzes (1.5 or 2x time limit)
  • Distraction reduced testing rooms (new at Testing Center)
  • Peer note takers
  • Sign language interpreters
  • Scribes for tests
  • Providing alternative formats of printed materials (Braille books, mp3s of books)
  • Course Substitution
  • We will also write letters to professors on the student’s behalf outlining what accommodations are needed.


accommodations not offered
Accommodations NOT offered
  • Excusing the student from having to attend any classes
  • Videotaping classes or offering notes for time periods when student is absent
  • Excusing the student from exams
  • Mandating “Incomplete” grades
  • Substituting essential courses just because they are difficult
  • Remember, accommodations are designed to offer equal access, not guaranteed success


  • Questions?