Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provide protection from discrimination for individuals on the basis of a disability. Section 504 states that:
“No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States … shall, solely by the reason of …disability, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Under the ADA as amended a “person with a disability” is someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working. Physical or mental impairments include, for example, learning disabilities, emotional or mental illness, blindness and visual impairments, deafness and hearing impairments, mobility impairments and some chronic illness.
2. Who qualifies for accommodations and services?
A “qualified” person with a disability is one who, with reasonable accommodations (if necessary), meets the essential standards required for admission or participation in Towson University’s programs and activities. An example of a reasonable accommodation in a college setting would be allowing a student to take tests with extended time.
3. Is there a separate admissions process for students with disabilities?
There are no separate admissions procedures or criteria for students with disabilities. Prospective students should contact the undergraduate or graduate admissions office for application information. The admission office will not refer students who identify themselves as having a disability to DSS. Therefore, students should contact DSS upon admission to register for accommodations and services. Registering with DSS will enable students to receive appropriate accommodations and services, including accommodations necessary for orientation programs or required placement exams, as well as classroom and testing accommodations.
4. Will the services and accommodations that were provided to me in high school automatically be provided to me in college?
College-level services for students with disabilities are not a continuation of special education services received in high school. The university must provide accommodations that address your documented disability, thus affording you an equal opportunity to participate in its programs, courses and activities. However, the university is not required to provide accommodations as they appeared in your high school IEP or Section 504 plan. In fact, DSS staff may determine that some accommodations you received in high school alter aspects of the curriculum, and are therefore not reasonable. When discussing possible accommodations for college-level work, be prepared to consider alternative accommodations in the event that some may no longer be available to you.
5. How do I register for services?
You may request an accommodation at anytime, however, students are encouraged to contact DSS upon admission to the university. To be eligible for services, students must complete a DSS application, make an appointment to meet with a specialist for an intake interview and submit current, complete documentation of the disability. Eligibility guidelines are available in the Student Guide and from the DSS office.
For high school and transfer students starting college in the fall, DSS staff is available to meet with you over the summer. DSS participates in Towson University Open Houses and TU Cares Programs. During this time, students are invited to meet with DSS staff, who will answer questions about our program and services.
6. How accessible is campus?
The University is physically accessible to students with disabilities, but parts of the terrain are hilly. A Towson University Accessibility Guide is available from DSS, which includes a campus map depicting paths and walks with varying grades, ranging from easiest to most difficult. The map also shows the location of accessible parking spaces throughout campus. Moreover, DSS provides the services of an Orientation and Mobility Specialist to work with students individually, as appropriate.
Parking and Transportation Services provides shuttle bus service throughout campus. The front seats of each campus shuttle bus are reserved for individuals with disabilities. Not all shuttle buses can accommodate wheelchair users; however, transportation can be arranged through the university's para-transit service.
The university's para-transit service provides scheduled pick-ups for individuals with documented disabilities or temporary conditions limiting mobility. Para-transit vans are equipped with a wheelchair lift and will make pick-ups and drop-offs at any campus location that is accessible safely by vehicle.
7. What documentation do I need to provide?
All students who request accommodations must submit documentation of their disability to Disability Support Services. The documentation must be current and include a complete written evaluation from a physician, psychologist or other qualified specialist. In most cases, a diagnostic evaluation must have been completed within the last three to five years, depending upon the nature of the disability, the accommodations requested, and individual needs and circumstances. Specific guidelines for documentation are located in the Student Guide.
8. Do I have to pay for a new evaluation, and who can I find do it?
For a student with a disability leaving high school and entering college, it is recommended that you work with your high school to be sure the documentation of your disability is current and complete. Generally, it is best for high school students to have an evaluation that is no more than three years old. Although high schools are often willing to conduct or update an evaluation in high school, it may be up to you to request it. Colleges are not required to conduct or pay for evaluations. If your documentation does not support your request for accommodation, you may have to pay an appropriate professional out-of-pocket to provide an evaluation. Disability Support Services maintains a list of qualified evaluators who administer evaluations, including those who will do so at reduced or no cost..
9. What should I do if my accommodation or services are not working?
Let your Disability Support Services (DSS) specialist know as soon as you become aware that the results are not what you expected. It is harder to correct a long-standing problem and it may be too late if you wait too long or until the course or activity is completed. You and your DSS specialist should work together to resolve the problem, and in collaboration with college faculty, staff and administrators, as appropriate.
10. What is the Testing Services Center?
The Testing Services Center provides testing accommodations to students registered with DSS. The Center is equipped to provide extended test time, reduced distraction testing spaces, readers, scribes, and word processors, as well as other assistive technology. To use the Testing Services Center, the student and instructor should follow the Center’s procedures as outlined on the Test Accommodation Request Form and on the DSS website.