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ELAINE MARA: All right. Good afternoon, everybody. How are we doing? I know it's the last session of the day, so hopefully this will be as painless as possible. And I hope you get everything out of it
that you're looking for. I am Elaine Mara. I am the assistant director of Academic and Disability Support for Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I am responsible for coordinating the
accommodations and modifications needed by all hundred and ten students on our campus. I work with a group of highly trained individuals to provide these services. And so I'm presenting today using
the information that I've gained in my first year in this position and the differences that I have seen so that hopefully as you all, as youth, and as parents go through the transition process,
you're better equipped to deal with the differences that you're going to encounter as you move from the high school environment into the post-secondary environment. Please feel free to stop me, ask
questions because I have a bunch of information, but my information is not going to do you any good if it's not something that you need. So if there's a question that you have, feel free to ask me;
I'm an open book. And that's what today is all about. But today's goal is I want to provide current information about students with disabilities in higher education including our latest statistics;
present our legal landscape for higher education for students with various disabilities and how it differs from that that students are used to in the K-12 system; and thirdly, acquaint students and
parents with your new rights and responsibilities. Because the transition for students includes parents, it includes teachers, it includes service providers. Everybody is involved. Everybody's roles
are changing. And so as we make the change together, we want -- I want you all to be equipped to deal with each other's -- the changes that each other is dealing with. Currently, 15.5% of enrolled
college students nationwide have a disability. And students with disabilities are enrolled in 98% of public two-year and four-year post-secondary institutions, 63% of private four-year institutions,
and 47% of private two-year colleges. So our numbers are steadily increasing and the numbers of students we are seeing with disabilities are increasing, but it's not increasing enough. We're not
seeing the numbers that we would really like to see because we get -- we get from the students, "Well, I didn't think I could go to college." So keep that in mind as we go through -- as we go through
today. The first -- the first thing I want to discuss with everybody today is the legal landscape and the changes that are happening. I know over the last day and a half, you've heard a lot of this
and this will be continued to be discussed as we move into tomorrow. But it's really, really important because these are the driving forces for our students with disabilities going from high school
to college and college into the workforce. And a well-equipped student is going to know their rights and responsibilities under the laws that protect them. So the first -- the first law we're going
to look at is the IDEA because that is where students are coming from in the K-12 system. We're going to look at the areas that I have up here. The first one is the requirements in law. The IDEA
requires that school systems provide a free appropriate public education for students and that may be regular education with accommodations and modifications, may be special education, may be a
different school system. All of these different concepts are required under the IDEA. A person with a disability is considered disabled under the IDEA if they meet the criteria for one of the 13
different categories. And I'm not going to go through all of those. But there are categories of individuals with disabilities under the IDEA. It covers students with educational disabilities that
require special services from specially trained people. So students with vision impairments who need orientation and mobility training, students who are deaf or hard of hearing who require sign
language interpreters, all of those needs are covered under the IDEA. But not all students are covered. Not our -- all students are eligible if they don't fit into one of the 13 neatly categorized
boxes. Okay. Services provided under IDEA or educational services that are -- that can be remedial in addition to services available to all mainstream students like physical education or classes and
music and field trips. Schools receive federal funding to provide the services that are avail -- that are needed for their students with disabilities. The school district is actually responsible for
identifying and evaluating students with disabilities in the K-12 system. Evaluations are the responsibility of the school and are performed at no expense to the student, the parent or the family.
And parents must consent to evaluation and placement decisions that are made on behalf of their child. Accommodations and modifications are provided through an Individualized Education Plan and are
developed with parents, teachers, and other specialists that are involved in the education of students with disabilities. And the students are placed in the least restrictive environment and that may
be special classrooms, may be special schools, may be the general education classroom with their non-disabled peers. So there's a variety of placement options for these students. Next up, we move
into a law that -- yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Going back to IDEA and the evaluations, can you talk about how often students have the ability to be evaluated specifically before they?
ELAINE MARA: That is not something -- I'm in higher education so I have the higher ed background. I'm not certain because I know the law did change. I know IDEA did change a while ago. I'm not exactly
sure when and it used to be before I started in higher ed. It used to be every three years but I'm not -- I've -- that's changed since then. I'm not exactly sure.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It's still?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It's still?
ELAINE MARA: It's still?
ELAINE MARA: It's still every three years? Okay. So every three years.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Because I'm finding working with people after the transition, a lot of parents don't always know that while they're still in school?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: ?and some of that stuff [inaudible]
ELAINE MARA: Right.
ELAINE MARA: Right.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Is that a free evaluation?
ELAINE MARA: Right. Okay. Good questions. Anybody else? Yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I don't know if this is [inaudible] do they have to have the parents' consent to give the evaluation?
ELAINE MARA: Yes. Parents have to -- parents are involved in getting -- in consenting to the evaluations and the data that's gathered.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So how does that work with the [inaudible] then? Are they able to have it on their own or is that something [inaudible]
ELAINE MARA: I'm not a hundred percent certain how that -- from the educational standpoint, I'm not sure how in the K-12 -- because this is -- right now we're in K-12 and I'm more in the -- in the
higher ed. But that is a good question and I -- if you give me your contact information, I'll have an answer -- I can get an answer for you after. Okay. Anybody else? All right. Moving on to Section
504. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination based on their disability. The non-discrimination
requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations that receive federal financial assistance from any federal department or agency. Section 504 forbids organizations and employers from
excluding or denying individuals with disabilities and equal opportunity to receive program benefits and services. It defines the rights of people with disabilities to participate in and have access
to the programs and benefits and the services and protects a specific population of qualified individuals with disabilities. And under this law, individuals with disabilities are defined as persons
with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. People who have a history of or who are regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that
substantially limits their ability to participate in a major life activity are also covered. And 504 defines major life activities actually as caring for one's self, walking, seeing, hearing,
speaking, breathing, working, performing manual tasks and learning. In addition to meeting the above definition for purposes of receiving services education or training, qualified people with
disabilities are persons who meet normal and essential eligibility requirements either with or without accommodations. For purposes of employment, reasonable accommodations can be provided to
employees with disabilities so that they can perform the essential job functions. And the ADAAA, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was actually amended in 2008 to broaden the coverage of
individuals with disabilities. In 1990 when it was originally passed, the definition of disability was extremely narrow and that was not the intent of the ADA. So it was amended in 2008 to broaden
the protections. For the requirements in law, it extends coverage of Section 504 to employment, public and private educational institutions, transportation providers and telecommunications regardless
of the presence of financial funding. And the definition of somebody with a disability under the ADA is essentially the same as Section 504 but it also extends coverage to people without disabilities
who are related to individuals with disabilities and protects them against discrimination, and includes HIV status, contagious and non-contagious diseases as well. People who are covered under the
ADA are persons with disabilities and they are protected from discrimination and educational settings based solely on their disability. This law actually eliminates barriers that would prevent a
student from full participation in the programs and services offered to the general school population including in higher education, all of the campus services that are provided, all of the campus
events and such. ADA requires that schools to not discriminate based on student's disability, must provide appropriate accommodations but schools receive no additional financial support to provide
accommodations to eligible students with disabilities. And students must self-identify he's having a disability and must provide adequate documentation of the disability. And we'll get into that
requirement a little bit later. And the -- and then the evaluation and the documentation for a disability under ADA now becomes the responsibility of the student. The student has to pay for the
evaluation if one is needed. They have to pay for the additional testing, any kinds of medical evaluations that are required by an institution of post-secondary education for documentation is the
responsibility of the student now. And the student has the responsibility for negotiating and coming to an agreement on an accommodation plan. Speaking of accommodation plans, there are no IEPs in
college. They are now called an accommodation plan. That's the general term that we use in higher education although every school may have their own lingo, so just be aware that an accommodation plan
is an accommodation plan but it may go by a completely different name. And all courses and classes are mainstream. Students are not separated because they have a disability. They are in class with
their non-disabled peers all day every day whenever they have class. There are other services and things provided for support but classroom placement is with their non-disabled peers. It's a pop quiz
time. Which law protects students in public education until high school diploma or age 21? A. ADA, B. The IDEA, C. Section 504 or D. No Child Left Behind? Anybody want to take a guess?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Let me guess.
ELAINE MARA: What? Pardon me?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: IDEA, B.
ELAINE MARA: We had the IDEA and, yes, that is correct. Good. You're listening. Next up. So now we -- we've looked at the legal landscaping laws that are -- that govern acts as to education for
students with disabilities. So now we're going to shift into rights and responsibilities of students of higher education professionals like myself and my colleagues who work on campus and parents and
guardians because those do -- those have changed as well. Okay. High school versus college. The high school is responsible for identifying students with disabilities, providing assessment of learning
disabilities, involving parents in decision-making, providing non-academic services, structuring the student's weekly schedules, modifying educational programs and preparing an Individualized
Education Plan and providing a free appropriate public education, helping each student reaches his or her potential. Key word is potential. Post-secondary institutions, on the other hand, we actually
protect -- we are responsible for protecting the students' rights to privacy and confidentiality. And this includes conversation with parents. We are to -- we are to provide access to programs and
services that are offered to non-disabled students to make information available to students regarding office locations and procedures for requesting accommodations. We have the responsibility of
evaluating a student's documentation when it comes across our desks and determine whether the student's disability substantially limits the ability to read, write, learn, speak, walk, breathe, et
cetera. Substantially, limits now means unable to perform a major life activity or a condition that significantly restricts the manner in which somebody carries out the activities of daily living in
comparison to the average person or most people. So now we're leveling the playing field. Determining whether a student is otherwise qualified with or without accommodations. So can a student perform
the tasks, the essential functions of a program, of a service, of an event with or without reasonable accommodations? That's where -- that's where are now is with or without reasonable accommodations
can somebody participate in the services, in the classes, in the activities that our campuses offer. We provide reasonable accommodations. College is only responsible for providing accommodations
that will allow the student to perform at the ability level of their same -- of the average peer. They're not services or alterations that are emplaced to help a student get ahead. They're not --
they're not legs up. They are strictly to level the playing field. We provide reasonable and equal access to all of our campus events, all of our classes. Anything that our campuses are responsible
for providing to non-disabled students we have to provide those to our students with disabilities as well. And we have to take care to make sure that our off-campus facilities when we take groups of
students on field trips when we have them go to the -- to the art museum or to a -- to a concert. We have to make sure that those facilities are accessible because we are -- we are using their -- we
are using their environments as educational tools as part of our curriculum. So we have to make sure that we are bringing students to places that are accessible to everyone. And we have to inform
students of their rights and responsibilities. We -- in high school, the biggest -- the biggest difference between high school and college can be summed up in two words. In high school, modifications
are used so we can modify the curriculum. We modify things. We modify tasks that students have to complete so that they can succeed. In higher education, it's all about accommodations and access,
what can we do as professionals and as college campuses to make sure that our students with disabilities have the same access to the services, the classes, and the goods that are provided to every
other student. Okay. And the differences between modifications and accommodations -- this is a big one because a lot of people like to use modification and accommodation interchangeably. And in
conversation, it just comes up and you can usually --it just -- it happens. But when we talk from higher education professionals to parents and students, we need our students especially to understand
that there is a difference between a modification, something that fundamentally changes a task to an accommodation, a service or a good or a product that helps a student to actually have access to
that particular task. Okay. So modifications are instructional or test adaptations that allow a student to demonstrate what they -- what they know and what they can do but they also can reduce a
target skill in some way, so it's changing what we're actually evaluating; whereas an accommodation is an instructional or test adaptation that allows a student to demonstrate what they know without
fundamentally altering the skill that's being assessed. So sometimes instead of giving a student a multiple choice test, we may be able to give them an essay test if their disability impacts their
ability to take a multiple choice test. But that's the most stand -- that's the most standard thing I see is instead of the multiple choice test for some students, their disability impacts their
ability to take a multiple choice. So we get -- we work with professors to get -- to do essay tests instead. The rights of students with disabilities. All students should be -- should be prepared,
excuse me, to face an increase level of academic competition and have less contact with their instructors as they transition from high school to college. In high school, they're with their teachers
every day for a solid amount of time and it's all structured and they know exactly when things are happening. But in college, professors are in the classroom about three hours a week, give or take,
depending on the credits offered. And they have office hours after their classes for students to come and ask questions. And students are responsible for using those office hours to ask the questions
that they have of their professors if they can't get them answered in class. College learning environment is less supervised and requires that students apply more self-determination skills than
needed in high school and they make -- they have to make more decisions for themselves. And it's not just, "Do I disclose? Do I not disclose?" It's, "Do I go to class today? Do I take notes today? Do
I study for this test when there's a party going on down the street?" They are held responsible now for their behavior and for the things that they -- and the choices that they make. Section 504 and
Title II of the ADA protect elementary, secondary, and post-secondary students from discrimination. But all students must meet the essential admissions requirements and post-secondary institutions
may not deny a student admission to their program simply because of a disability. So if you meet the essential requirements and they -- then can be -- then the admission should take place. But if you
don't meet the essential requirements of a program, it's the same for any student regardless of a disability. Students with disabilities have the right to not disclose their disability. That is not
something that students in college have to do. In K-12, a lot of times the teachers -- I went through it myself. My teachers knew my disability before I even got there. My professors, on the other
hand, I was responsible for that. So -- and students also have a file -- have a right to file a complaint or a grievance with an officer on campus if they're not receiving the accommodations in the
services that they believe they're entitled to. And students have -- but students are responsible for following the procedures and the process for filing the grievances if desired. Okay. Student
responsibilities, we've gone through the rights which are -- that was just a very short list. There's a whole bunch if you google the OCR and students with disabilities, Office of Civil Rights, the
-- you'll have a whole list of rights and responsibilities. Students with disabilities must inform the college or university that they have a disability and need an academic adjustment. We don't go
looking for students. We don't send -- I don't have little minions that work for me and go in all the classes looking for students that I may need to serve. It's a student's responsibility. Now, a
faculty member may notice a student is struggling and they are told to look out for certain indicators that a student may have a disability and to refer them to our office for additional information.
That sometimes happens, that sometimes doesn't. But if a student is coming to college and knows that he or she has a disability and wants the accommodations, they are responsible for disclosing.
Students are responsible for following our process in every step of the way to get the accommodations and things that they need. If documentation is deemed complete and a new -- is deemed incomplete
and a new evaluation is required which sometimes happens, students with disabilities are responsible for the cost. We -- as higher education professionals, I can -- I can refer student to a provider
to have the evaluation done, but my office does not pay -- we are not responsible for paying for that evaluation. And students with disabilities must be involved in their education and in the
decision-making process deciding which accommodations are going on the plan and when to use them, when not to. Students are the people that we are talking to. Parents are involved but students are
the ones that get all the questions from us. Okay. Rights of institutions of higher education, these are the things that as a professional working in higher education, my institution has the right to
define essential requirements of their programs. In providing academic adjustments, colleges and universities are required to have -- required -- are not required to lower or substantially modify
essential requirements. We do not have to make adjustments that would fundamentally alter the nature of a service of a program or activity that would result in the financial or administrative burden
on the institution. We may require students to follow reasonable procedures for providing a -- for providing documentation and requesting academic adjustments. And we will probably require students
to provide documentation. The -- they say we'll probably because some institutions do things differently, so I can't speak to every institution in the country. But I know from my experience we
require that students provide documentation of their -- of their disability. Yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How does that [inaudible] the institution require that the reevaluation is being done [inaudible]
ELAINE MARA: As of right now, we request an Individualized Education Plan with the latest testing, so however soon that was done. We're still -- so whenever the latest set of test results were -- was
done -- were obtained then that's what we require, but again we're?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: They're sophomores in high school that's [inaudible]
ELAINE MARA: Uh-hmm. For us. Now, that maybe different for other schools and we'll get into that a little bit later, but checking with the institution is essential when your students are going through
the disclosure process. And actually, we're getting into that just now. Other responsibilities, we have to set reasonable requirements for documentation. We -- documentation requirements differ among
institutions and may include documentation prepared from an appropriate professional, medical doctor, somebody who is trained in the diagnosis and treatment of the specific disability. The required
documentation may include a diagnosis of a current disabilities -- well, as any of the other information; the testing, the IEP, the 504 plan, whatever kind of information you can give us is what we
generally take. And the date of the diagnosis, how it was made, so all of the background information on how -- on how that diagnosis came about and what the history of the disability is. And we
appoint -- we appoint an individual responsible for coordinating institutional compliance. On most campuses, it's at least one person; sometimes it's two because we do have an officer on campus who
is responsible for discussing grievances and taking grievances from people that may have a grievance with the Disability Services Office, which happens from time to time if a student disagrees within
accommodation or something that an office does. They do have the right to file a complaint with our institutional grievance person on campus and work through it that way. Okay. Let's see.
Institutions of higher education are not required to reduce or weigh the essential requirements of a course or program. So if a program states that a student must be able to stand for a given amount
of time, if that is -- if they have deemed that -- and that's just an example. But if they have deemed something in essential requirement that is what we have to go by because it's not just about
what the institution requires for a student to graduate from their programs, it's about what that profession requires of their professionals. So we're not only bound by disability law to make our
programs accessible but the flip side of that we are bound by state laws, local laws, state laws, federal that determine essential requirements for particular professions. We are not required to
provide assessment although we can make -- of disability although we can make recommendations and referrals to outside sources. We are not responsible for providing -- for providing personal
attendants. We are not responsible for providing tutorial support beyond what is available to all students. Most college campuses have a tutoring center or work with local people to provide tutoring
services but we don't have to provide more than that. We don't -- we're not responsible for preparing IEPs. We're responsible for providing -- for doing accommodation plans instead. Ensuring a
student reaches his or her full maximum potential. That's the student's responsibility. The student is now an adult and has to perform as best they can under the circumstances that they're given in
the classes that they're taking. It is now their responsibility to show that they can do the work that they can become the professional that they are working to be educated to become. And we are not
responsible for keeping parents informed. As student's transition from high school to college, the main role switches over from parents managing things to students managing their lives. Unless the
student comes to me and signs a release form, I can't talk to parents when they call my office with concerns unless I have that release. I can't -- I can't even tell you if they've come in to pick up
their letters of accommodation or not. I can't even tell you if they've come in at all. So if that -- that's a question that has to be answered in a discussion that has to be had between parents and
students how to negotiate the release of information. And speaking of parents, you guys do have roles and rights and responsibilities even with your children as adults. Your child will leave behind
the routines and supports that are structured to allow not only the access but success. In college, your child will face complicated academic and social environments without the benefits of constant
reminders to take their medication, to finish their homework, to go to bed at a reasonable time and attend with classes whether or not he or she is feeling up to it. Your child is used to structured
constant interaction with their teachers and parental hands-on help at home. As I said earlier, they're used to -- they're used to very structured schedule. They get up in the morning. They go to
school. They come home. They do their homework. They go to work -- whatever their routine is. In college, it's very different because they're on their own. They're making their own decisions. Your
child is going to need to rely on himself to use his self-determination and self-advocacy skills learned during his high -- during the last few years. As a parent of a transitioning high school
student, your role is to encourage, guide, and mentor your child to be directly involved with his or her IEP planning, including leading the meeting if it's appropriate. Be knowledgeable about the
rights and responsibilities of your son or daughter under the ADA so that you can help guide them if they have questions and if you have questions about their rights and responsibilities, so you can
work -- you can still work as a team to make sure that they get what they need while they're in college. Make sure your son or daughter has the necessary documentation. Make copies of that
documentation because I don't want originals, because you need -- you need that in case your son or daughter transfers to another school or needs it for something else. I don't want originals. Thank
you. It's your -- you need to help your child understand his or her disability and how it impacts their daily life and how they use the accommodations that they use. Because when they're meeting with
me, I'm talking to them. I'm asking them the questions and the very first question on my list for every student I see is, "Please describe your disability. What are your functional limitations? How
-- what are the accommodations that you've used? How have you gone about making those accommodations in K-12 so that I can get a better understanding of the person that is using the services and the
person that I'm going to be working with?" Encourage self-advocacy and self-determination by providing opportunities for choices and preferences and walk them through the decision-making process so
that they -- when they come and they discuss accommodations with me, if I give them a list of things that I can provide, we can talk through it and they can help make the decisions. Help people on
your child's IEP Team, understand your child's dreams and plans for the future to help them understand where your child wants to go after high school. Assisting research in college and disability
supports offered. That's a big thing because students may want to go to one -- to a particular college, but maybe the supports aren't exactly what they need in terms of their accommodation. So the
disability support offered to students should be on the list of things that you all are comparing when you're looking at colleges. Make sure the IEP has -- in general education has self-sufficiency,
self-determination, and self-esteem goals written within it so that as they transition and come to college, they come with the confidence to be their own self advocate and they don't feel like
they're being thrown out to the wolf because higher education can be quite scary for a lot of students. Determine which agencies your child may receive supports from, because it takes a village to
raise a child, it takes a village to go to college because there are services and things out there that state agencies, that private agencies provide that can help your child to access their college
education and the world beyond college. Participate in workshops and just become involved and become educated in the differences between high school and college so that when your sons and daughters
come to you with questions, you can kind of help guide them through this process that they're going through because nobody wants to go it alone and it's very easy for kids, children to turn to their
parents and walk through the process with them. So be that resource for them as they go through this. Give your child the responsibility to advocate for themselves in high school to go to teachers
and describe their needs and their accommodations that they need so that they learn those skills in a protected environment. We do a lot of that at the college level. Still I do work with students
who are a little apprehensive about the accommodation process and the advocacy process. But most of them come with a foundation of self-advocacy skills, knowing what they are, knowing how to describe
their disability, knowing what they need and knowing how to problem solve their way through it. Have high expectations for your children. They can compete with everybody else. There's just an extra
step getting the services that they need and encourage gradual independence because college students are independent human beings. They're on campus and there aren't parents there getting them up in
the morning or creating their schedules, telling them to study, telling them to do -- to live their lives. They're making those decisions. And a lot of times, students will flounder in that
particular area if they have not been exposed to that in the beginning. All right. It's pop quiz time again. In both -- yeah, you're back in school. In both the ADA and Section 504, who is
responsible for initiating contact about a disability and suggesting appropriate accommodations? A. The person with the disability, B. The employer or the school, C. An attorney or an advocate, or D.
A colleague or a schoolmate.
ELAINE MARA: A, good. Person with the disability. It's self-advocacy. Like I said, I don't have -- I don't have people in all of my classrooms looking to see who may or may not need services. And if a
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Letter A.
student doesn't want services, I can't make them use them. Speaking of using services, the next -- our next piece is disclosure. We're talking about the disclosure process. And this is a process that
we -- that I use at Moravian, so it's not -- it's not the process that's done in every institution, but it's a solid foundation just so that you guys have a little bit of a roadmap just to kind of
what to expect in this particular part of the journey. We're going to talk about preparing to disclose, the advantages and disadvantages and how to make that decision. Disclosure is sharing personal
information about yourself, so students -- people disclose all the time. We disclose about our -- we talk about our families. We talk about our friends. We talk about the weather. And we're
disclosing feelings about one thing or another, the subject that we're talking about. We're disclosing our experience with the subject that we're discussing. So disability is one of those subjects
that is disclosed to employers, to post-secondary institutions, to friends and colleagues if need be. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look
fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. And this -- this quote rings true for disclosure because for many students, it is extremely difficult. It is a decision that takes
them a lot of time to make and takes them a lot of courage to finally say, "You know what, this is me. This is a little different, but here's how I can do this." The decision is different for every
single person. I can stand up here and say it's the greatest thing ever to disclose and get it out in the open and I have friends who -- it's in their -- their documentation from college, it's still
in their suitcase and it's not coming out anytime soon. There's no right or wrong answer, but you may pay the price if you don't disclose your disability. For an example, I have a vision impairment
and I chose to disclose it. When I went to school, I had my documentation, sent it out to the Disability Services Office, went through the whole process, used my accommodations, easy, great; I don't
regret that decision at all. I needed alternative format, extended time on exams and a bunch of other typical accommodations for a student with a vision impairment. But on the flip side of that, I
also have a neurological disorder that I did not disclose to my Disability Services Office because it hadn't affected me. I didn't need any accommodations for it and the only time that people knew
about that particular disorder was when I was in the middle of my internship during my last year of graduate school and I needed to go in for brain surgery of -- like six months before graduation, so
I had to disclose it so that I would -- could make sure that I got all my requirements done for graduation. And the timing for that, it didn't need to happen before then. So timing is really
everything. And disclosure is not an all or nothing. It's not a, "I have to give you my life story or nothing at all." You can disclose as much or as little as you want. I don't sit in meetings with
students for an hour and that's the only thing we discuss. We discuss as much as the student is willing to share as much as they believe is necessary. And I ask questions if I have questions about a
particular piece in the documentation or a particular request a student makes. That's how we do the discussion. But students do not have to disclose any -- everything. They don't have to do the whole
history and all of that. We don't require all of that to understand the students' needs. The advantages to disclosure are many and these are just a few. It can facilitate access to the reasonable
accommodations which may be needed for youth to function and most efficiently in work, school, social situations. It provides legal protection against discrimination and as specified in the ADA, and
other disability non-discrimination laws. If you don't disclose, you are not protected in higher education. So if you don't disclose and you do very poorly on a test and then you decide to disclose
after that, your professor is not responsible for going back and giving you the first test or the first two tests with the accommodations that you are now eligible for. And disclosing, it may reduce
stress since you're not protecting a secret anymore. It's not something that you're constantly worried about. Is somebody going to find out? Somebody is, you know -- something going to happen. It's
not going to happen because it was on your terms. It ensures that you are getting what you need in order to be successful, in order to access and to have a chance at success. It provides greater
freedom to communicate and it helps to improve a youth self-image. I truly believe that disability is part -- is only part of the human experience, but it's a very important part. And if you see it
as a positive instead of a negative, it's going to make you -- it's going to make you a better person and this may sound really -- it really rings true with me. A good friend of mine said it can make
you bitter or better. And you better make the right choice. And he was so right, because if you don't -- if you make the right choice for yourself, you can't be mad at yourself for that and you can't
control what other people do. So if you disclose and somebody has an opinion about it, that's their business, it's not yours. But you've said your piece, you've explained things and -- so you do have
to weigh the pros and the cons. And disadvantages that can make you -- it can make people feel that they're going to be treated differently. It can cause -- it can cause you to become an object of
curiosity. I walked with a long cane for the first six months or so. Since I started using a cane, my parents were noticing that everybody was watching us as we walk through the mall down the street
and I didn't -- I was lucky enough I couldn't see it so, it didn't bother me because I needed it. I knew that I needed it and I was comfortable with myself for that. So it wasn't my issue. And after
we talked about it, it wasn't an issue for my parents either. It can lead -- it can lead to be for people to see people with disabilities as being needy, as being people that need to be taken care
of, but it's all and about the person's attitude. If we have a particular attitude, if we portray it as something positive that it creates a cycle and it's a very powerful experience. Disclosing
personal and sensitive information can be extremely difficult and can be embarrassing, especially if it's not done the right way which is why it's very important for students to practice their
self-disclosure and to practice answering the questions that could potentially be asked of them so that they know what's coming. They're -- they know what -- how they want to answer it. They're --
they can write down their -- you can write down your answers to the most common questions and read straight from it until you get comfortable with that information. That's all well and good because I
have students that do that all the time. They come in with a list of comments to the most frequently asked questions. And I say all the more power to them because they know what they're -- they know
what they're saying. Making a decision. The greatest -- the greatest accomplishment began as a decision once made and it was often a difficult one. Youth in family sometimes hold the misbelief that
post secondary institutions are required to provide academic accommodations and modifications the same way that were provided while the youth was in high school. The truth is that unlike in high
school, the process of securing academic accommodations is contingent upon the student asking for them, this goes back to the whole self advocacy and self determination. You are responsible for your
own destiny. You're responsible for making that a part of your process of getting to -- to college, getting through college and succeeding in the work force. It's all in your decision. It's all in
your hands. All right. Another pop quiz. College students seeking accommodations in their academic setting; A. Are covered by the same laws as high school students. There is no difference and they
don't have to do anything, B. Are covered under either 504 ADA and are not entitled to services, C. Must never disclose your disabilities or D. Must present their current documentation and relevant
information to the appropriate college officials to receive accommodations because they are covered under either 504 ADA.
ELAINE MARA: D, good. You guys got it. You guys are doing good. All right. The process, this is another disclaimer. This is the process -- like I said earlier that we use at Moravian and it's not a
AUDIENCE MEMBER: D.
universal process. Many disabilities services office follow -- offices follow the same steps but their process on the student side versus the professional side maybe a little bit different. So you
got to check with your post secondary institution as to exactly what their process is. But this is what we do and this is what I -- the -- a sheet that, actually, I give my students who are going
through the process. Your first step is to inquire about services. You can consult the campus website. You can consult the office. Sometimes, sadly enough, our websites may not be accessible, which
I've seen happen so don't get discouraged. Call the office or if you don't have the office's number call the institutions main number and they can connect you. At Moravian we serve students with
disabilities through the Academic & Disability Support Office previously called Learning Services, but the name is different at every school so most of the time if you -- if you even just do a quick
Google search in Google disability plus whatever -- school you're looking at should bring you to their services. I graduated from Kutztown University twice and their office was the Disability
Service's Office but it started out as the Office of Human Diversity. So between the Office of Human Diversity at Kutztown or if I was a student at Moravian going through Learning Services, it may
not have picked up but that was the place that I needed to be to get the accommodations that I needed. Okay. Provide the documentation. We have seen a change in the documentation requirements through
our professional organization. The Association on Higher Education And Disability, which not every schools Disability Services Office subscribes to but many are starting to look at disability
documentation the way that we do because the view of disability has changed. We've moved from looking at disability from the medical model and looking at -- and then moving to the social model. So
going from looking at it as a problem, something that needs to be fixed as a medical issue to looking at how social -- how the social environment -- how the educational environment creates -- creates
barriers for people with disabilities? Although, the amendments in regulatory where visions occurred through separate federal processes, together they reflect to more natural understanding of
disability. And our legislations states that any request for documentation if such documentation is required must be reasonable and limited to the need for information in requesting accommodations
and modifications or auxiliary aids. I receive documentation to make sure that every -- to make sure I have all the information I need to consider what's appropriate in terms of accommodations
because the doctors and the psychologist and the testing that we look at -- and there's little pieces of information that they drop in there that really give us a better understanding of how the
students functioned in the past from -- not necessarily the student perspective but what's going on behind the scenes. And a note on accommodations. Academic and technical standards for admissions or
participation in an education program or service are used in determining reasonable accommodations. We look at the purpose and the nature of the program. We use precise education related abilities
and functional limitations of the student and how those limitations could be overcome with reasonable accommodations. We also have to look at the cost of accommodations and how much -- how much
funding is available to provide -- to provide those and base those -- based on our college's budget. And the consequences of such an accommodation upon the operation and educational mission of our
college course curriculum service indoor activity. If we are not -- if the student is not going to be able to perform to our standards, they're not going to be able to meet our requirements at the
college, then we have to look at alternatives and we don't just say oh, well, that can't happen. We look at what can happen in the -- at the college environment and, of course, we look at the other
federal state and local requirements. All right. Reasonable accommodations are considered -- accommodations are considered unreasonable and will not be provided if the education standards or mission
of the college would be substantially altered. The nature of the program course service or activity would fundamentally be altered. The student is not, "Otherwise qualified" with or without
accommodations to meet the academic and technical standards required for admission or participation in a program. The effects of the disability cannot be overcome even with reasonable accommodation.
So even if giving a student extended time on exams or a reader for exams or the use of assistive technology, if they still can't perform to the standards then they are not otherwise qualified. The
accommodation creates and undo financial or administrative hardship on our institutions. The student poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. That one -- that is for all students. If
a student is a threat to himself or others we do have to take action. Next up. Your next step after you've inquired about services, you've provided documentation. Next, it doesn't just happen
overnight but we do have to meet -- we do have to meet with every student with a disability at Moravian College that discloses. And we -- each institution is different but we all have to. We all have
to meet with students so that we can get a better understanding of what students are looking for in terms of accommodations and generally, I ask questions like, what is the disability? How does it
impact your ability to access courses or campus life? What accommodations have you used in the past? What accommodations are you looking for now in the future? And I usually discuss the process of
receiving accommodations, the policies that we -- that we abide by, the procedures that we use for different accommodations. Things like testing accommodations, books on tape, note takers. We have
processes for that so then we can administratively get all of that done for all of our students that require those accommodations. And students then have to use our services. They are not required to
use them all the time. They're -- a lot of -- some students will even come in, they'll disclose, we'll have the meeting and I may not see them again until they're sophomore, junior or senior year,
which is perfectly fine because it's a personal choice. But then again, of course there comes the -- there is no retroactive accommodation. We don't have to -- we don't have to say okay, well, you
disclosed your senior year and you failed a class, you're sophomore year. You can take that course again in many instances or let it go but we can't -- we don't retroactivate accommodations. While
beneficial, students are not required to disclose to the faculty at the beginning of the semester. So there's another step in the process. You've disclosed to my office. Well, you also have to
disclose to your professors. We give out letters of accommodation to our students and they are required to provide them to their professors if they choose in order to get accommodations from their
faculty. Faculty don't have to provide accommodations to students based on a students word. They do have -- professors will ask for verification from a Disability Services Office unless they're
really, really nice and they give extended time to everybody, which some do. Some professors who've adopted universal design principles will give every student extended time. So depending on the
student, depending on the course, depending on the instructor, you have to weigh it. I have a process for students to use most of their accommodations, like I said because we are dealing -- I have
been working with every student with a disability who's disclosed. I could have 50 students needing testing accommodations in a -- in a given semester. So I have a process where students have to give
me a weeks notice for regular test. Two weeks for midterms and finals, and they have to simply fill out a form and send it to my office after getting their professor to sign off on it. Textbook is an
alternative format request must be made as soon as possible and that's really a tip and something to keep -- to keep on the back burner for when you guys are getting ready to go to college. If you
need alternative text because that does take us some time because sometimes we can get it from our regular providers but other times we have to think outside the box and contact publishers or contact
other institutions and Listservs that have that information. So we try and not put you behind the eight ball right away but you have to help us and negotiate that. Request for note takers have to be
made as soon as possible. In Moravian we hire students to take -- to service note takers for us and so getting them through the student employment process and working through our end does take us
some time. So if you're proactive about it, the more proactive you are the sooner we can get these things in place. And for students who require tape recording of lectures, which is a common
accommodation nowadays instead of note takers. For many of my students they would rather tape record the class and actually go back and listen to it because -- then they can take notes on the things
that they missed instead of using somebody else's notes and they may have missed completely different things. So it's all personal choice but our students that use tape recorders have to sign an
agreement because they are recording other people in their class. So the professor has to get permission from the class without giving -- without divulging the students name to the rest of the class.
You may just make an announcement at the beginning of the semester. We need -- somebody needs to tape record the class, is it okay? And he'll pull the class that way. Okay. But in order for all of
this to work students have to be -- have to self advocate and have to work towards understanding that they are responsible for their needs and facilitating how to go about getting those. We're going
to go through self advocacy and self advocacy requires research, communication, compromise, and teamwork. Self advocacy is somebody's ability to effectively communicate, convey, negotiate, or assert
his or her own interests, desires, needs, rights. It's -- involves making and inform decision to do it -- to make these needs known. We use self advocacy skills everyday when we decide. You guys
decided to come to this session and if you needed an accommodation from us, you made a request probably to the conference coordinators. When I did my -- when I signed up for the Youth Leadership
Forum, I needed things in large print so I had to make that request known and that's self advocacy. That's advocating for what we need. And several Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network Leaders
actually, did a presentation on self advocacy skills and came up with these keys to successful self advocacy, and the first one is research. Students who know their disabilities and how they're
affected by them are better able to describe to others how they are affected and what they need in terms of accommodations. A student who knows their disability and knows what they need are going to
able to come to a Disability Services Coordinator. Someone who doesn't know their situation and doesn't know exactly what they need and negotiate those needs with us. Knowing which accommodations
have worked in the past, they may not completely transfer. We may not be able to provide every single one of them but we can at least start talking about it. We have a baseline to start the
discussion and start talking about what could work in Higher Education that we may not have considered. And knowing other campus services that are available, will help students to get the help they
need. Students with disabilities are not just relegated to the disability services office on campus. We don't provide career counseling and personal counseling services and food services and
everything else but if a student has a question and the only place that they know how to get to or they know people is the Disability Services Office, they are more than welcome to come and ask us
for a referral to a particular service area or ask, "Who do I get in touch with to fix -- to work through such an issue." Communication. So you're in a situation that requires advocacy. Now, how are
you going to tell somebody what you need? Be confident in your decision to ask for help. It's okay not to have all the answers. You're not going to know everything and that's why there are tens of
thousands of people in this world, because if we all knew the answers to every single question we wouldn't need each other. Be polite in your request. Manners do go a long way, but if you're not
getting what you need keep after it because the squeaky wheel always gets the grease. Don't assume though that everyone is going to know how to help you at all times. You may have to describe how the
people can be best -- how can best assist you. Compromise. You have to be open-minded. Compromise is a beautiful thing. You know what you need as a person with your particular disability. Somebody
like me, we know the higher education ropes. We know what professors expect of their students. We have our fillers out in the faculty and in the staff and we know all the background stuff. So we can
work together to get things done and to get you what you need and to get you the answers that you need. Each professor runs his or her course differently, so you may have to change the way you
communicate with the instructor. Some instructors are -- they communicate better through email. Some prefer to be contacted over the phone. Some professors tell you, "Don't call their office because
they're not checking voicemail for months at a time." Which has happened. You call a professor's office and you don't hear from him. I would see them in class the next day, "Hey. You didn't return my
phone call?" "I don't check my voicemail." They would rather check emails. So just understand that you're going to have compromise on the way to communicate with certain professors. For example, I
had different -- I had a set of accommodations going through school. I had a form letter with them all listed, but each class was different. My geology class was -- that was quite an interesting
experience because I couldn't see the minerals in the rocks. You had to be able to visually identify them. But my professor, being the person that he was and the kind of person that he was, we worked
together to make accommodations so that I could learn the aspects of the course that were visually challenging. And he and I are still good friends today. He ended up being a recommendation for me
for Grad School and for the job that I have now. So that communication and that compromise can go a long way. Let everybody do their job. You play your part, we play our part and we can -- we can
communicate and we can get things done, but be realistic in your goals for your courses. Don't set your -- don't set yourself up to fail. And we all define failure, we all define success differently
and don't be -- don't be afraid to define it your own way and to -- and to compromise from time to time. It's all about the teamwork. Okay. Knowing who is on your team is going to help you
significantly. It's going to help you so that you're not running around in circles trying to get answers to questions. Know who you can go to to ask questions. Know who you can go to to ask for help.
Know who you can simply bounce ideas off of. I can't tell how many students come in to my office in a panic, because they don't know how to handle a situation. And I'll sit with them and I will --
we'll walk--I'll walk them through some scenarios and that's what I have found to best work. So it's not always about going to somebody and asking them for a solution, but going to them and saying,
"Hey. Can we just talk this through?" Because everybody has a different perspective and they can help you understand other people's perspectives. And you have to do you -- like I said, you have to do
your part and the final decision on what to do is up to you. You can go looking for all your information. You can get views and opinions from other people, but it's ultimately your choice on how to
handle disclosure, how to handle accommodations, how to handle -- if you have an issue with the professor, if there's a communication concern. It's all about you're making the decision and your
choices. But it all starts with -- it all starts with you knowing yourself and knowing your rights and responsibilities that you now have as an a adult and as trans -- as transitioning into higher
education. All right. And the final pop quiz. This one's a rhetorical question, but you have to think in this whole process and in the whole life of a person with the disability, you have to look at
your personal views of disability because it's going to shape how you deal with things. It's going to shape your answers to the questions that we ask. I'm very open. I'm very accepting. I -- you
know, I'm okay with it. Other people -- some of my friends are not. Some of my friends went to Grad School and didn't disclose. They -- like I said, the girl that left it in a suitcase and didn't
unpack it, ever. That was her choice because she viewed disability very differently than I did, but it's okay. I don't -- I still love her, you know. She's still my best friend, but everybody views
it differently and it's okay. And even as a service provider, however you communicate that with us, that's what we go. We use you. You are the most important person in this process. We've moved from
looking at the documentation and using that as the only piece of information to having an interactive process where we invite you to the table to explain to us what you need, tell us what's going on,
and work with us because we don't know you. Only you know you and only you can make these decisions. But I hope that this information has helped you understand the process of going from high school
to college a little bit better and so then you can start making the informed decisions now and then when you get to be sitting across the table from somebody like me, you're confident in knowing that
you made the right choice for you. So now, I am going to open it up to questions, comments, concerns. But can you help me because I so can't see this, thank you. All right. And then here's my contact
information. It's on the last slide of your packet so?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Here. We have a question back here.
ELAINE MARA: Okay.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You mentioned that some of the documentation that you want to see when a student comes in to your office. Could you tell me again what that SOP is?
ELAINE MARA: Okay. The question was about a specific acronym that I listed. It's the Summary of Performance. Some school systems give students a summary of their academic performance, the
accommodations that they've used in the past, the services that have been provided and they let -- that's how they matriculate their students out of their system. So that information is very helpful
at times to know where the student is currently when they -- before -- right before they come see us.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Is that something I can request the school to do? So that's a [inaudible]
ELAINE MARA: It's all -- it's all -- each district is very different. It's just -- I've seen those -- those have come through from certain districts.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Are you -- are you in Pennsylvania?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It's required.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It's required.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: All high schools.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Okay.
ELAINE MARA: Okay.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Is there anyone from OVR in here?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Never heard of them.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Uh-oh.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Okay. I was just going to say, one of -- one of the things that I did for my daughter, she went all the way through high school with never being identified. It was absolutely horrific
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Then you can?
for her. So when she graduated only to go to college, she sat on the couch for a few years, but then we contacted OVR and they -- and they did an evaluation for free. Even though she turned out not
to be eligible for the services, they still did the evaluation for free that the community college that she was a freshman at last fall used?
ELAINE MARA: Right.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: ?and relied on heavily. So, I mean, that's not very they representable because the evaluations are very expensive?
ELAINE MARA: Right.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: ?[inaudible] but OVR was willing to do that for her for free.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Then she didn't qualify for the rest of the services so?
ELAINE MARA: And that's?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: And we have a question back here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah. I'm with -- I'm over here [inaudible] just south of Pennsylvania, but we -- the college pack, you know, this [inaudible] unless my students go to the and they don't accept IEPs
or anything from the school now or any of that stuff. So we have to set up newer sites or request them from the school which we didn't ask for one. You normally need to start their junior year, it
takes about seven months for the psychologist to come in. But we have right now is that they accept anything except -- it's about thirteen hundred dollars for OVR in a sem. I had two choices with
them, there's once nine, fifteen months, about twelve to thirteen hundred, so, to get accommodations, you know, for us. I don't know why they stopped accepting high school stuff, but?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: ?we have set up that newer [inaudible] get anything.
ELAINE MARA: It's?
ELAINE MARA: Yeah. And that's what I had said earlier, that it's very individual and each school is different which is why contacting the individual college well in advance of admission and or -- of
accepting the admission and actually attending is in your best interest so that you can figure out what they need and how -- and how to go about it. And even knowing what they need before you make
your decision to go there. You have weigh the pros and the cons.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We have a question back here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Just kind of to follow up on that. If parents are working with their school districts and, you know, a part of the IEP team, you can request the schools and they don't have to do it
because it's not their responsibility. But I know, I'm part OVR too. And the OVR counselor's trying to have a pretty good rapport with school districts, the transition coordinators, guidance
counselors, school psychologists. And so, what we have done -- where I'm working which is Cooper County is if parents request in writing that the school does the reevaluation for the purposes of
post-secondary education, many of the schools will provide those evaluations to the point that they need to be requested earlier and most state schools of higher education or on the state related
schools of Penn State will pretty much need to work up Johnson. It's the best?
ELAINE MARA: Or the?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: ?it's the best, the most comprehensive out there. So [inaudible]
AUDIENCE MEMBER: [inaudible]
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah, less than two years old, that's the other thing too. Yeah. They came to me to update the schools [inaudible]. So if parents, you know, will be working with OVR, ladies, you
know, contact your OVR counselor about that as well as, you know, work with your high school with the IEP and the transition team and you should be pretty good.
KEITH JERVIS: A couple of things about this -- I'm Keith Jervis from Penn State University and, yeah, I keep [inaudible] you can look me up. Keep in mind of what you're saying about how it's absolute
[inaudible]. And, you know, things are moving part of it too. Now, that I'm going -- it's probably one of those [inaudible] documentation, standards of evaluation, and things will change, instead of
[inaudible]. So keep checking that and let's see what's going on. We certainly will locate anything that people have. So first thing is -- and we'll take a look at it. In addition to that, the other
thing that's really, really important for people to know is that not only are we at Penn State, but then testing agencies after you graduate from Penn State such as the Laws -- The Law School
Admissions Test, the GMATs, things such as that are looking to see if you have accommodations previously from college and even as far back as high school. So for students who are thinking what they
might not want to disclose, it's really important they establish a history of how they used accommodations. Request those SAT's with extra time and get that letter from ETS documented because that
will go a long ways again, both with most Disability Services Offices and most colleges and universities as well as other testing and accreditation agencies later on so perhaps you're taking a
practice and you might need extended time. Evidence that you got an extended time previously is now being weighed very, very heavily, so it's very important to do that. Also, keep in mind, the minute
you might have received informal accommodations as you mentioned about your past experience with the documentation and being the primary reporter of the individual, keep in mind the times you
might've just had to have -- or say that the teacher just provided extended time to everybody so I didn't need it or they just did that for -- maybe because they knew I took a little bit longer. So
that history of informal accommodation is also something that colleges and universities are to consider as part of that interactive processes, as the part of that [inaudible]. So make sure that you
make that, at least we know as part of that intimate process. So make that very available. I just came from the Association on Higher Education And Disability Conference. And I was interested to see
how aligned the Office for Civil Rights, Department of Justice and Professional Organization are. So, as I said, it's -- you know, they always say the lost of [inaudible] thing and [inaudible] that
conventional things are changing in terms of the perspective of disability and the perspective of the individual with the disability as you mentioned in the social model. But that doesn't mean that
we just take anything and take whatever you give us. I mean, we find sort of assessments also to very helpful to the side of the [inaudible] so as you mentioned the work of Johnson. If these come up
in college such as a student needs core substitutions for a language requirement. The work of Johnson has specific measures with any work of Johnson [inaudible] awareness that help us overseeing that
impact on the students more regulatory experience so. For either -- at that point, you know, the, like, [inaudible] whether or not the accommodations as to where -- we look for accommodations that
might be needed later on. Those kinds of comprehensive assessments stuff [inaudible]
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Did you have a question?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Okay.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Me?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah.
ELAINE MARA: Okay. Well, thank you guys. And I'll be around if you have any questions, anything that you want to discuss instead of in front of the group. So thank you all for coming and enjoy the