Faculty Rights, Responsibilities and Resources
Access Services strives to guide TCC faculty and staff as they teach and support students with disabilities.
Students with a wide array of physical, sensory, cognitive and mental health disabilities attend Tacoma Community College across all areas of studies and departments. TCC is an open-access and public institution.
Access Services will partner with the student, faculty and appropriate campus departments to implement and maintain approved accommodations needed to remove the student’s unique access barriers in the learning environment.
The role of accommodations and support provided by Access Services is to allow students with disabilities the opportunity and equal access to their educational experiences and courses at the college. Accommodations are not intended to impose an undue hardship to the student or the college, or fundamentally alter the educational program.
Accommodations and supports granted to students with disabilities strive to create and sustain equity in the educational environment, though they do not guarantee a student’s success or failure in any particular course or program.
Accommodations are determined for each student on an individual and case-by-case basis by Access Services staff through an intake and interactive process with a student. The interactive process includes but is not limited to:
- Contact established with Access Services (this may include a referral by Faculty).
- Student disclosure and self-report of disability including verification of disability and professional assessment by Access Services staff.
- Intake and planning meeting with Access Services.
- Follow-up and updates with students and faculty as needed to ensure reasonable accommodations are considered, implemented and sustained when approved.
- Start by inviting your student to have a 1:1 conversation with you.
- Please do not ask about disability status, instead explain which behaviors or habits are concerning you, and invite your student to tell you a little bit more if they want.
- Remind students of their resources on campus.
- Tip: Pick two resources to highlight, and make Access Services one of them.
- Offer to walk students over to Access Services front desk if you both have time.
- Offer to write an introductory email, if your student consents.
- Email Access Services staff with your concerns.
The Access Services office aims to serve and support both students and the faculty at TCC when implementing approved accommodations in the learning environment. We assist students once they have self-disclosed and requested services through our office.
For faculty, we aim to be your resource and collaborator in implementing the academic accommodations and ensuring they are appropriately effective. If you as faculty have questions, concerns or problems establishing an accommodation or service, Access Services is available to help. We provide services for faculty delivering instruction, such as:
- Troubleshoot and assist with establishing approved accommodations.
- Facilitation of extended time and distraction-reduced testing environments.
- Provide consultation on working with various types of disabilities and accommodations.
- Assist students and faculty remediate issues related to approved accommodations as much as possible.
- Assist faculty in ensuring they have accessible course materials.
- Providing faculty training and educational resources.
Faculty are responsible to provide the accommodations approved by the Access Services Office on the quarterly Letter of Accommodation and to work with Access Services staff and students to make reasonable accommodations in a timely manner. Other responsibilities include:
- Read and maintain copies of Letter of Accommodation provided to you by Access Services staff and/or the student.
- Provide only the adjustments on the DRS Letter of Accommodation unless it is an accommodation that you are willing to offer all students in the class.
- Contact Access Services if there are questions or concerns about requested adjustments and/or assistance in identifying the best method for providing approved accommodations for students enrolled in classes.
- Refer any student to Access Services who is requesting adjustments but you have not received a copy of the Letter of Accommodation for the student.
- Ensure instructional materials are accessible in accordance with Policy 188. Access Services and eLearning staff can collaborate with faculty to ensure access. This may include: video captioning, transcripts of audio lectures/podcasts and accessible materials.
- Maintain confidentiality. Faculty should not ask students about the specific nature of their disability or request medical documentation. The student is not required to disclose private information about their disability, including the specific nature of their disability to faculty.
- Implement best practices in teaching to reach a diversity of learners.
Access and Accommodations: (original version; word count - 137)
Your access in the learning environment is important to me. If you have already established disability accommodations with the Access Services office, please share your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course. You can request that Access Services email your Letter of Accommodation to me, or you can provide me with printed copies.
If you have a disability or health condition that may benefit from accommodations to ensure access and support success in this course—and have not yet established services, please contact Access Services at (253) 460-4437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access Services offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Services are established through an interactive process that begins with an intake appointment. Access Services is located in Building 7.
Access and Accommodations: (shorter version; word count - 74)
If you have established disability accommodations with the Access Services office, please share your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience. You can request that Access Services email your Letter of Accommodation to me, or you can provide me with printed copies.
If you have a disability or health condition and have not established services, please contact Access Services at (253) 460-4437 or email@example.com.
Access Services coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities.
Determining Fundamental Alteration
Approved accommodations through the Access Services office should be appropriate for the college-level environment and should not lower academic standards or the essential learning outcomes that all students are required to meet with or without accommodations.
For example, a student in the K-12 school setting might receive modified curriculum as a part of their IEP accommodation plan. This might mean the student is working on English or Math problems at a grade-level lower than the grade in which will appear on the student’s transcript for that year. Other examples might include allowing the student to answer only 50 percent of an exam’s questions or reducing the number of pages required in an essay assignment. These accommodations would lower academic standards in the college setting and are not appropriate.
An accommodation also does not have to be approved if it would pose a direct threat to self or others, such as not wearing a mask while on campus during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Accommodations should work toward creating access and equitable experiences and learning outcomes for a disabled student. The student’s specific disability condition, the unique academic barriers related to their disability, and the specific classes that the student is taking, should always be considered when determining accommodations. This is why the interactive intake process is so important to follow when determining services, and also why accommodations are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The situation specific and unique to the student must always be considered.
The college cannot make blanket statements or policies that “outlaw” certain accommodations based on opinion or bias. If an accommodation cannot be approved by the Access Services office, the institution is responsible for documenting and explaining why this is the case. The institution is also responsible for offering alternative options for access whenever possible. Sometimes accommodations may have to be adjusted or implemented differently between quarters or classes.
For example, flexible attendance in of itself is not inherently unreasonable or a fundamental alteration, however, it may be more difficult to implement in a science class that relies heavily on in-person lab classes. In this case, one possible solution is Access Services staff helping the student negotiate a number of absences with the professor as early as possible. Another solution is working with the department to allow the accommodated student to attend a different lab session covering the same material to make up for an absence, if possible.
Fundamental alteration: A fundamental alteration is a change that is so significant that it alters the essential nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations offered.
Direct threat: A direct threat is a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated.
Accessible: means that individuals with disabilities are able to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions and enjoy the same services within the same timeframe as individuals without disabilities, with substantially equivalent ease of use. (University of Montana)
Essential Requirements: Essential requirements are the core learning outcomes (including skills and knowledge) all students must demonstrate, with or without using accommodations, which are part of a larger interconnected curriculum related to a program or degree. These should be communicated to students in writing.
Whether a requested accommodation would fundamentally alter an essential requirement of a course or program will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The goal is to separate general expectations or bias, or what has “always been done,” from what are truly considered the essential objectives and components of the course or program.
Methods of instruction and assessment can be examined to determine how information is taught and what alternative opportunities are available for teaching and learning the information, demonstrating skills, accessing materials, etc. Flexibility in achieving outcomes may be appropriate depending on the nature of the course and its requirements.
This process should include the necessary people to evaluate the course or program, and make a decision together. Generally, this team will include: the class instructor, the Department Chair or Dean, Access Services staff and relevant information about the student’s access barriers.
The following process should be followed if an instructor believes that an accommodation would fundamentally alter an essential requirement of their course or program:
- The instructor contacts the Access Services office to discuss their concerns as soon as possible.
- A meeting is established to review the essential outcomes of the course and the accommodation request in question. Alternative options are explored as needed.
- The team will ensure a fair deliberation is provided when determining whether or not the requested accommodation would be a fundamental alteration.
- A summary of this meeting should be written as a case note to be saved in the student’s confidential AIM profile for reference.
- The Access Services office notifies the student of the final decision regarding the request for accommodation and offer of an alternative solution, if appropriate.
- The student is given information to appeal the decision if requested.
Again, essential requirements are the core learning outcomes (including skills and knowledge) all students must demonstrate with or without using accommodations. Essential outcomes are part of a larger interconnected curriculum related to a program or degree.
Established Essential Requirements Should:
- Clearly articulate the overall purpose of the course/program.
- Identify required mastery of specific skills, knowledge, principles and concepts.
- Convey the framework used to set academic and program standards.
To determine the essential requirements, Instructors, Charis/Deans and Access Services staff should consider the following questions:
- What are the prerequisites or other background knowledge needed?
- What is the purpose of the course?
- What core outcomes/expectations are stated on the syllabus and required of all students?
- What specific knowledge, principles, skills or concepts must be mastered and demonstrated?
- What aspects/requirements constitute a significant component of the learning process?
- Could an alternative achieve the same result?
- What are the essential methods of instruction which are fundamental to the nature
of the course?
- Are any methods of instruction non-negotiable? Do other sections teaching the same material use different methods of instruction?
- What skills or competencies will be needed within the field after graduation?
- What are the requirements for licensing or professional accreditation?
How Students Engage with Access Services
- Self-identify to the college. Students are encouraged to register with the Access Services office and make requests in a timely manner to create the best opportunities for their own success.
- Request services from Access Services and engage in the interactive process.
- On a quarterly basis, faculty will receive the Letter of Accommodation notice from Access Services staff and/or the student.
- The responsibility of providing the academic accommodations does not go into effect until the letter is delivered to the required faculty.
Please note: Faculty will likely receive the majority of the Letter of Accommodation notices during the first 3 weeks of classes, but they can be delivered or modified as needed at any time throughout the quarter.
Services are not retroactive. If a letter is presented in the middle of the quarter adjustments are only required from that day forward.
- It is an individual’s choice whether to disclose the nature of their disability to faculty. Asking a student for more details regarding their disability is not permitted.