Supporting Students With Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and now the 2008 ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) provide the civil rights guarantee for persons with disabilities in the United States. The ADAAA provides protection from discrimination for individuals on the basis of disability. It is not intended to afford anyone special privileges. The ADAAA upholds and extends the standards of compliance set forth in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to employment practices, communications, and all policies, procedures and practices that impact the treatment of students with disabilities.

The ADAAA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Not everyone with an "impairment" is disabled; only those whose impairments rise to the level of "substantial limitation" are qualified as disabled.

  • Support from faculty is critical to ensuring that students with disabilities receive accommodations necessary to reach their potential.
  • It is important to remember that accommodations are not advantages but are a means of providing each student with full access to Villanova's programs.
  • Standards for academic credit should not be modified for students with disabilities. They may need accommodations in assessment, but the content should not be changed.
  • It is not necessary to rewrite a course to accommodate students with disabilities; simply modifying the presentation of materials may make it fully accessible.  Many modifications will benefit all students, such as providing a recording of the course or advance access to slides.
  • If one student with a particular type of disability had difficulty with a specific task, do not assume that the next student with the same type of disability will experience similar problems.
  • Some textbooks are also available in other formats -- such as large print versions, e-books, or media with closed captioning -- that may be more accessible for students with disabilities. Faculty are encouraged to select texts that are available in alternate formats.  E-text can be helpful to most students, and not just those with disabilities.
  • Students with disabilities are frequently sensitive about their disabilities, so faculty members should make every effort to treat these issues sensitively and confidentially.
  • Accommodation Letters usually do not identify a student’s disability to preserve confidentiality. Professors should not ask students to identify their disability.

In compliance with the ADA, students must self-identify, provide documentation of their disability to Learning Support Services, and request accommodations. Specific procedures and documentation requirements are in place, but we are still dependent on the student coming forward. Each semester students must complete a Request for Accommodations through ClockWork in order to receive accommodations for that term. Students will be able to send their professors a notification through ClockWork to view their Accommodation Letters.

Professors must log into ClockWork for Professors to view and confirm that they have received students' accommodation letters. Letters identify the student as registered with LSS and list accommodations that would be appropriate. For more information about this process, please review our User Guides for Professors. Although students are providing their accommodation letters to their professors electronically, we encourage professors and students to find time to meet privately and discuss specific accommodations relative to course procedures and expectations. Professors are expected to keep all shared disability information confidential.

Faculty members do not retroactively provide academic accommodations for course requirements for students who have not previously presented a letter from Learning Support Services supporting such requests.

Learning Support Services provides test proctoring services when professors are unable to provide all required testing accommodations for a student due to schedule conflicts, the need for a reduced-distraction setting, etc. The student and professor should work out in advance where the student will need to take the exam, whether it is in the professor’s office, department office, another classroom, or in the LSS Office.

Students must book their quizzes, tests, and final exams at least 3 business days in advance through ClockWork to take their test with LSS. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule a test with LSS. Professors cannot schedule LSS test proctoring for their students.

Professors will need to log into ClockWork for Professors to confirm the test request and provide information about the test. Professors will also have the option to upload the test directly and securely to ClockWork. With few exceptions, students are expected to take a test on the same day that the class is taking the test. The accommodation of extended test time does not mean extended preparation time. Please contact proctoring@villanova.edu or call 610-519-5641 if you have any questions about our test proctoring procedure.

Students who have been approved for notetaking accommodations may need to record lectures. Eligible students may choose to record the lecture using a computer, smartphone, AudioNote, or the Livescribe PulsePen. If you have any questions about this accommodation, please contact learning.support.services@villanova.edu or call 610-519-5176. 

Student needs are assessed on an individual basis and requests for accommodation are made accordingly based on documentation that substantiates the need. There is no one list of reasonable academic accommodations that will serve the needs of all students with disabilities. The following are some basic examples:

  • Extended time for exams and quizzes (This does not mean extended prep time)
  • Reduced distraction environment for exams and quizzes
  • Reader for exams and quizzes
  • Access to laptop for word processing for note-taking, in-class writing, and essay tests.
  • Note taking assistance may be needed. Student may need access to a Peer Notetaking Assistant in class or may be recording while taking notes. Any recording is solely for the student’s use.
  • Attendance and/or timely submission of assignments may be impacted due to flare-ups in the student’s condition and may require additional absences and reasonable extensions.

Academic accommodation, as required by law, is not meant to compromise academic standards. It is intended to create an opportunity for students with disabilities to learn and for professors to evaluate fairly. Students with disabilities expect access and opportunities, not alterations in academic expectations. Your academic requirements and course objectives should remain unchanged. Modifications may need to be made in the way a student receives information or demonstrates knowledge, but not in the academic proficiency standards. For students with disabilities, these accommodations are critical to success in college.

Academic Advisors can be very helpful by being available to discuss a student's learning problems in a forthright manner. A recently diagnosed student with a disability may feel tremendous relief when learning a reason for their difficulties. Even those students who have been previously diagnosed often do not have a clear understanding of how their disabilities affect them in college. The stigma around disability, especially invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health conditions, and chronic health conditions, can make it difficult for students to feel comfortable coming forward and asking for help. Students can use support in learning to become their own advocates in positive ways.

As an advisor:

  • Be supportive of a student needing to learn in different ways
  • Keep discussions confidential
  • Demonstrate interest in working with the student's learning needs
  • Make it clear that they will be held to the same standards of excellence as other students

When advising students on how to pick classes for the next semester, please consider the accommodations listed in the letter from LSS. Faculty/Advisor awareness of a specific student's learning difficulties may assist in suggesting certain course combinations or recommendations for specific preparations.  Please keep in mind that students with the same diagnosed disability may still have very different needs.

Contact Information

Office of Learning Support Services:
Villanova University
Learning Commons in Falvey
Suite 212
800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085
Phone: 610.519.5176
Fax: 610.519.8015
Email: learning.support.services@villanova.edu

Follow us on Twitter: @VillanovaLSS

Hours of Operation:
Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

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