Among the faculty, staff, and students at Montana State University Billings are many persons with disabilities. This handbook is designed to help faculty become more comfortable and effective when working with students with disabilities. Questions relating to reasonable accommodations for MSU Billings' faculty and staff should be addressed to Human Resources, (406) 657-2278. Questions relating to students with disabilities should be addressed to Disability Support Services, (406) 657-2283 (voice/text/VP) or (406) 247-3029 (voice/text/VP).
Disability Support Services' (DSS) goal is to ensure that students with disabilities have physical and academic access to the campus in an integrated setting so that they can impart the information they have acquired without affecting academic integrity. The services are available to all students with a documented disability which substantially limits a major life activity who request them. Accommodations are granted as a result of recommendations based upon documentation from appropriate professionals.
In the provision of accommodations, DSS makes decisions based upon the belief that the most successful students are self-advocates who identify their own needs, take personal initiative in problem solving and decision making, and effectively use available services to fully participate in the educational experience.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 are civil rights legislation which prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
According to these laws, no otherwise qualified individuals with a disability shall, solely by reason of their disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity.
"Qualified" with respect to postsecondary educational services, means "a person who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the education program or activity, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices; the removal of architectural, communication or transportation barriers; or the provision of auxiliary aids and services".
"Person with a disability" means "any person who 1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities (including walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working), 2) has a record of such an impairment, or 3) is regarded as having such an impairment".
Disabilities covered by legislation include (but are not limited to) AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, head injuries, hearing impairments, specific learning disabilities, loss of limbs, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, psychological disorders, speech impairments, spinal cord injuries, and visual impairments.
Disability-related information is deemed medical information under Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and is considered confidential. Students who request services, provide documentation, and qualify for services are issued an identification card, (or a letter, if they prefer), which lists their accommodations.
Legislation does not seek to change the fundamental methods of ensuring a sound education and successful completion of an academic program. Rather, it is designed to ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to access academic programs. Persons with disabilities must meet the same admission criteria as do persons without disabilities. However, upon admission, students with disabilities who request services are entitled, under both Section 504 and the ADA, to reasonable accommodations and placement in the most integrated setting feasible and the participation in all campus activities to the extent appropriate. DSS will work with students with disabilities and with faculty to arrange appropriate accommodations.
Common academic accommodations include but are not limited to textbooks in alternative formats, notetakers, tape recorded classes, extended-time exams, scribes, sign language interpreters, computers for essay tests, and readers.
Students are encouraged to be self-advocates who identify their own needs, take personal initiative in problem solving and decision making, and effectively use available services to fully participate in the educational experience.
Students served by DSS are expected to conform to MSU Billings' policy regarding student rights and responsibilities as noted in the Student Handbook.
Faculty should refer students who request accommodations for a disability to Disability Support Services.
It is the policy of Montana State University Billings to provide course substitutions when warranted. The decision to grant a course substitution is decided on a case-by-case basis. Students must submit documentation of a disability which substantially limits a major life activity to Disability Support Services. Students must work with their advisors to determine if a substitution is warranted and what the substitution will be. The substitution must be approved by the requesting student's advisor, the department head and dean of the College from which the course substitution is requested.
Persons with disabilities are usually accustomed to explaining their disability and accommodations. Relax. If you do not know what to say, allow the person with the disability to help put you at ease.When you are unsure if a person with a disability needs assistance, ask. For example, before you push someones wheelchair, ask if assistance is needed. Ask how to proceed for ramps, curbs, or other obstacles.
It is proper to address a person who is deaf (via an interpreter) directly by speaking in first person, e.g., "Did you finish your report?"Speak calmly and distinctly to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or to those who have difficulty processing speech. Look directly at the person, and use gestures and writing to supplement your spoken words.
Consider the time it may take for a person with a disability to say or do things. Let the person set the pace for walking, talking, etc. Give unhurried attention to someone who has difficulty speaking. When necessary, ask questions that can be answered with a yes or no response.Allow the student the same anonymity as other students. Avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class.
When a student uses a service animal, it is important to understand that it is a working animal rather than a pet. It should be left alone unless the student states otherwise. Similarly, a wheelchair is considered to be a part of a persons physical space, and treated with respect.
Provide a detailed course syllabus. Make it available in the department or on the Web prior to the registration deadline. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) requires educational institutions to inform students with disabilities of the services available to them, and OCR “strongly suggests" that class announcements and syllabus statements are the most effective method.
Course instructors are encouraged to provide appropriate individual flexibility to all students. However, when disability-related accommodations are requested, instructors should refer students to Disability Support Services and consult with DSS staff to identify strategies or accommodations which provide access and maintain academic rigor. If an accommodation is determined to be appropriate, faculty may coordinate it directly or ask DSS for assistance. The following statement is approved for use on syllabi:
For University Campus classes:
Students with Disabilities:
MSU Billings is committed to providing equal access. If you anticipate barriers related to the format or requirements of this course, please meet with me so that we can discuss ways to ensure your full participation in the course. If you determine that disability-related accommodations are necessary, please contact Disability Support Services (657-2283; located in the College of Education, Room 135). We can then plan how best to coordinate your accommodations.
For City College classes:
Students with Disabilities:
MSU Billings is committed to providing equal access. If you anticipate barriers related to the format or requirements of this course, please meet with me so that we can discuss ways to ensure your full participation in the course. If you determine that disability-related accommodations are necessary, please contact Disability Support Services (247-3029; located in the Tech Building, room A008). We can then plan how best to coordinate your accommodations.
Including this syllabus statement preserves students' privacy and also indicates your willingness to provide accommodations.
Define expectations early. Students with disabilities often need time to arrange for support services through DSS. For instance, a student who is blind must have several weeks notice to be able to obtain text in alternative format.
Use a variety of teaching methods. Some examples are:
- Face the class when speaking
- Put your lecture outline online (or pass out a hard copy).
- Legibly write key phrases on the blackboard.
- Present vocabulary aloud and in written form.
- Use visual aids to reinforce the lecture.
- Describe aloud any visual aids used during class.
- Illustrate abstract concepts with concrete examples.
- Give opportunities for hands-on learning where possible.
- Encourage students to use current technology, such as hand-held spelling devices or word processors for tests and assignments. Faculty should be aware that penalties for misspelled but correct responses might put some students at a disadvantage due to their disability.
- Use closed captioning when showing videos in class.
Exam accommodations may be necessary to properly evaluate a student with a disability. Examples of accommodations may include a distraction-reduced environment, extended time, a reader or scribe, and/or the use of a computer or adaptive equipment. The DSS Director approves all disability-related accommodations. It is the students responsibility to meet with faculty to discuss the necessary accommodations well in advance of exams. See the Guidelines for Exam Accommodations appended to this handbook.
DSS works with volunteers, workstudy students, and part-time help to provide access to classroom information.
LAB ASSISTANTS perform the physical manipulation required for laboratory procedures, under the direction of the student with a disability.NOTETAKERS are classmates willing to share their notes with students with a disability.
READERS read text and describe visuals for students with various disabilities.RESEARCH ASSISTANTS physically assist students with disabilities who are gathering research materials.
DSS appreciates your cooperation with us to arrange for these assistants.
DSS, in conjunction with Information Technology and the Library, provides computer programs, equipment, and training to students with disabilities. This includes text-to-voice and voice-to-text software, Braille imprinters, enlargers, electronic whiteboard, and assistive listening devices.
MSU Billings interpreters are skilled professionals and follow the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Code of Ethics. The interpreters do not participate in class discussion, and do not advise deaf or hard of hearing students. In addition, they are not responsible for a students behavior, comments, study habits, or academic progress.
Interpreters will sit or stand, facing the class and as close to the instructor as possible. Faculty should be aware that interpreters are usually a sentence behind the spoken word. This can cause a delay in the students response. Interpreters will vocalize the words of the deaf or hard of hearing student in the first person, e.g. "Im ready to give my presentation." The interpreters will also sign all comments heard during class.
The interpreters have structured schedules. They are not assigned exclusively to one student. Faculty should be aware that interpreters may not be able to stay beyond the scheduled class time. Students may request an interpreter for private meetings with faculty, or for other course-related activities.
Some students benefit from technology that provides a real-time copy of lecture and class discussion. In this case an interpreter will transcribe the lecture and class discussion using C-Print or Dragon Naturally Speaking. The interpreter uses one laptop, and the student uses a second laptop in order to view the verbal components of the class.
The interpreters present a training session each semester and invite instructors who have deaf and/or hard-of-hearing students in their classes. One-on-one training can also be arranged and a variety of printed information is available. The DSS interpreters can be contacted at 657-2159.
In an emergency situation, persons unable to use the stairways to exit a building will wait at the nearest designated rescue assistance locations*, if it is safe to do so, until someone comes to help them evacuate the building. Signs in buildings with stairwells indicate designated rescue assistance locations. MSU Billings Campus Police or the Billings Fire Department will check designated rescue assistance areas for people who need assistance in the building where an evacuation is in progress. When there is a fire drill, the persons needing assistance should be advised by those conducting the drill that if there had been a fire or other emergency, they would have received the necessary help to leave the building. Under no circumstances should anyone use the elevators, nor should any person who is disabled be carried down the stairway unless by trained personnel during an actual emergency evacuation.
Who can help in an emergency situation?
Instructors can help with classroom evacuation and staff can help with office evacuation.
What must be done?
Fire code requires that people evacuate buildings when the fire alarm sounds. People who are unable to evacuate should proceed to rescue assistance areas if it is safe to do so. Rescue personnel must then be informed of their location so that they may be safely evacuated.
Know the location of fire pull stations, emergency doors, exits, and rescue assistance areas on the floors where you teach classes.
It is helpful to appoint someone to search designated areas to make sure that no one is left behind once the signal is given to evacuate.
Close doors and windows.
Keep stairwell doors closed.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities should request assistance. It is helpful if instructors ask at the beginning of the semester, both verbally and in their syllabus, for students to notify them if they need help in the event of an emergency.
Syllabus statement suggestion: If you have a disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please make an appointment with me during my office hours. Validation from Disability Support Services is recommended. If you need assistance during an emergency evacuation, please let me know your request.
Use common sense and your best judgment in an emergency situation; if a safe rescue assistance area is not available, try to choose a protected room with a phone. Note the room number and notify rescue personnel immediately of the location of the person who needs to be rescued.
Types of Assistance:
Inform a student who is deaf that an alarm is sounding. Some MSU Billings fire alarms are also equipped with flashing lights since students who are deaf or hard of hearing may not hear the audio emergency alarms. It may be necessary to write a note telling them about the emergency.
Assist a person with a visual impairment out of the building. (Ask if the person would like assistance and then offer your elbow.)
Assist people in wheelchairs to the rescue assistance area*. (See rescue assistance locations below.)
Note: It takes special training and practice to evacuate someone in a wheelchair; moving persons in wheelchairs down a stairwell is not recommended. It is suggested that one individual remain with the person who is disabled, if this can be done without unreasonable personal risk, while another person notifies rescue personnel.
Location of Rescue Assistance* areas:
Apsaruke Hall - East and west stairwell landings
Cisel Hall - North stairwell landings
McDonald Hall - Stairwell landings near the elevators
College of Education - Center stairwell landings
City College - Second floor near room B012
Liberal Arts Building - South stairwell landings
Library - East stairwell landings
McMullen - Center stairwell landings
Petro Hall - Center stairwell landings
Rimrock Hall - Center stairwell landings
Science Building - West stairwell landing
*Rescue Assistance areas refers to a designated location where a person may wait for rescue personnel. The wording is not meant to imply compliance with the ADAAG requirements required for new multi-story construction.
THE DIFFERENT DISABILITIES -- visible and invisible
Asperger's Autism syndrome is a mild form of autism, which according to the University of Washington, "is a developmental disability characterized by impairments in social interactions and communication, as well as a pattern of repetitive or obsessive behaviors and interests.” It is called an autism spectrum disorder because the severity of impairments vary from person to person. Symptoms of Asperger's syndrome include difficulty with social communication including difficulty expressing emotions and thoughts and difficulty interpreting other people's body language and vocal expressions.
When students have the intellectual ability to access curricular content, but cannot do so because of issues related to ASD, accommodations may be available to enable full access. These are some of the possible accommodations that might be available:
- For students with issues related to executive function, large assignments can be broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks and turned in separately (VanBergeijk, Klin, & Volkmar, 2008).
- Students who struggle socially may be excused from group work and complete assignments independently.
- Preferential seating in the classroom may help filter distractions.
- If a student takes longer than most to process information, extended time on tests and assignments may be helpful.
- Students who have a hard time writing legibly may be allowed the use of a computer, word processor, or scribe.
The age of onset of hearing loss will have a great impact upon the students English ability, both spoken and written. Generally, English is considered a second language for persons who are deaf. Students who use interpreters will need to watch the interpreter and instructor at the same time. Therefore, they will sit at the front of the classroom. Due to eyestrain, it is essential to have a short break every hour. This will assist the interpreter as well. See Interpreters
Direct questions and conversation to the student, not to the interpreter
In class or group discussions, suggest that one student speak at a time to allow for the interpreter to catch up with what is being said
Provide the interpreter with a list of technical terms and unfamiliar vocabulary to facilitate interpretation
Notify the interpreter of schedule changes or class cancellations in advance
Allow students who are deaf or hard of hearing to sit in the front row or other optimum locations
Avoid standing with your back to a window or other sources of light because the glare makes it difficult to read lips and facial expressions
Maintain enough light during videos to enable the student to see the interpreter and the notetaker to take notes
Use closed captioning when possible
Suggest that hearing aid wearers adjust their hearing aids when there will be a noisy environment
Be aware that closed circuit FM systems are available from DSS to transmit lectures in large classrooms to students who are hard of hearing
Inform the student who is deaf or hard of hearing by touch, signal or note to evacuate the building in an emergency
Confer with the student to determine the rate and volume of voice communication which will promote comprehension
Convey your message through facial expressions, gestures, and other body language
Avoid blocking the area around your mouth to facilitate lip reading
Avoid speaking with your back to the person who is hard of hearing
Avoid pacing and speaking while writing on the board
Check for comprehension by asking for explanations or illustrations
Restate questions that are asked by class members
Allow time for students who are hard-of-hearing or deaf to participate in discussion
Provide a detailed syllabus and lecture outline
Use electronic mail for private and class discussions
Supply a list of terminology and unfamiliar words or terms
Utilize overhead projectors as a substitute for board work so that you can face the class while writing
Write key words or phrases of the topic being discussed on the overhead projector (or board) to improve understanding
Post notices of class cancellations, assignments, etc.
If you have a complete set of class notes, it is useful to allow students who are deaf or hard of hearing to make copies of your class notes
A person with a head injury may experience difficulty with concentration, memory, problem solving, and abstract reasoning. The most commonly reported problem is poor memory. Faculty may find that such students perform better on exam items that involve recognition (multiple choice, matching) than on exam items requiring recall (fill in the blank, essay).
Accommodations depend on the type of injury and how it affects the brain.
Students with learning disabilities are the largest population of students served by DSS. Learning disabilities affect the manner in which individuals acquire, integrate, and/or express knowledge. Learning disabilities (LD) may affect a students performance in reading, writing, spoken language, mathematics, or orientation to space and time. Students with LD report they learn best when instructors write down key terms during lecture, give opportunities for hands-on activities, and use all modalities when teaching. See Suggestions for an accessible classroom
Notetakers and/or audio taped class sessions
Visual, aural, and tactile demonstrations incorporated into instruction
Computer with voice output, spellchecker, and grammar checker
Click Procedures to find more information about Learning Disabilities Procedures.
Physical access is one of the major concerns for students with a mobility impairment. Students may encounter unavoidable delays when, for example, a vehicle blocks a ramp. When a course requires travel to other locations, those locations must be accessible. In order to participate fully in classroom activities, students may need to use Educational Assistants. See Educational assistants
Classrooms, labs, and field trips in accessible locations
Adjustable tables; lab equipment located within easy reach
Class assignments and notes made available in electronic format
Psychological disabilities include depression, bipolar disorder (or manic depressive disorder), anxiety disorders including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and schizophrenia, among others. On rare occasions, classroom behavior can become an issue. Students with disabilities who violate the student conduct code are subject to discipline according to that code. Faculty may want to discuss privately with the student what is and is not appropriate. DSS staff is available to consult on these issues.
Some students undergoing treatment take prescription medication to help control symptoms. This medication may have side effects such as drowsiness or disorientation.
Students with a seizure disorder may be affected at any time with little or no warning. Some medications can lessen or control seizures, but produce side effects such as slowed response and impaired coordination. See Suggestions for an accessible classroom
What should you do if someone has a convulsive seizure?
Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby. This is an important step! Check the carotid artery for a pulse. If you feel one, the person is not suffering from a heart attack, generally not connected with seizures. Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp. Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult. Put something flat and soft, like a folded jacket, under the head. Turn the person gently onto his or her side. This will help keep the airway clear. Do not try to force the mouth open with any hard implement or with fingers. It is not true that a person having a seizure can swallow his or her tongue, and efforts to hold the tongue down can injure the teeth or jaw. You can lose a finger if you put one in the mouth. Don’t hold the person down or try to stop his or her movements. Don’t attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped. Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally. Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns. Offer to call an RA, friend, or relative to help the person get to their room if he or she seems confused or unable to get there by himself or herself.
Should an ambulance be called?
If you know the person has seizures it is usually not necessary to call an ambulance unless the seizure lasts for more than 10 minutes, unless another seizure begins soon after the first, or unless the person cannot be awakened after the jerking movements have stopped. If the person shows evidence of serious bleeding or other injury resulting from the seizure, escort the student to the nearest health services for attention, Keep in mind that the student may speak with you, but not remember any conversations until fully recovered from the seizure.
What does a seizure look like? Do they last long?
A convulsive seizure happens when the whole brain is suddenly swamped with extra electrical energy. It often starts with a hoarse cry caused by air being suddenly forced out of the lungs. The person may fall to the ground unconscious. The body stiffens briefly, and then begins jerking movements. Bladder or bowel control is sometimes lost. The tongue may be bitten. A frothy saliva may appear around the mouth, caused by air being forced through mouth fluids. Breathing may get very shallow and even stop for a few moments. Sometimes the skin turns a bluish color because the lower rate of breathing is supplying less oxygen than usual. The jerking movements then slow down, and the seizure ends naturally after a minute or two. After returning to consciousness the person may feel confused and sleepy, In some cases, only a very short recovery period is required, and most people can go back to their normal activities after resting for a while.
There are several kinds of speech impairments, including stuttering, articulation problems, and voice disorders. The ability to enunciate is not a measure of intelligence. Most speech-impaired students have a means of communication that is effective for them. Faculty should encourage these students to use their preferred mode of communication.
"Legally blind" indicates that a student has less than 20/200 vision in the better eye or a very limited field of vision (20 degrees at the widest point).
Students with visual impairments may experience eyestrain, sensitivity to light, an inability to read printed material or to distinguish certain colors.
Students who have been blind from birth (or shortly after) have no visual memories. Their concepts of objects, space, and distance may be different from those persons who became visually impaired later in life. Mobility and orientation skills also vary due to numerous factors.
Coordination of support services for a visually impaired student is often complicated. Advance notice of assignments and requirements is imperative for the students success. DSS can put written materials into alternative format for students, including enlarged font, audio files and/or Braille. Some students use a variety of formats, depending upon the material that needs to be accessed
If needed, identify yourself at the beginning of a conversation and notify the student when you are exiting the room.
When giving instructions, be clear. For instance, say the chair is to your left.
Large print black on white handouts, lab signs, and equipment labels
Texts in alternative format
TV monitor connected to microscope to enlarge images
Enlarged fonts on computer
Taped class lectures (consent forms are available upon request)
Raised-line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials
Braille access for information if requested
Computer with optical character reader, voice output, and Braille printer (available in LI 158)
There are a number of other disabilities and medical conditions that may interfere with a students academic work, concentration, and attendance. Some students may be in pain, or be taking medication with varying side effects, such as drowsiness. The same general accommodations would apply here. Questions about various disabilities may be directed to DSS.
Alternative testing is an appropriate academic accommodation provided by Disability Support Services to ensure equal opportunity for students with disabilities. Not all students with disabilities receive testing accommodations. However, students with disabilities who are documented through the DSS office will be issued an identification card (or letter, if they prefer) which states the accommodations to which they are entitled, including alternative testing.
Faculty may choose to arrange testing accommodations within their facilities, or they may work with DSS. Our goal is to ensure that the test results reflect the students' knowledge of the material rather than their disability.
When a test is to be arranged through Disability Support Services, these are the procedures:
- Meets with instructor to discuss exam arrangement and explain the nature of the disability.
- Contacts DSS to request time/space/assistance for an exam.
- Meets with student to discuss exam arrangements.
- Lets DSS know if there are any special instructions.
Examples of special instructions may include:
- Arranges for test to be hand delivered to DSS.
- Administers exam at the same time the class takes the exam. (Exceptions must be approved by the instructor.)
- Closely proctors all exams.
- Seals completed exams and returns to designated person (instructor or administrative assistant).
Exams will be signed in and locked in a secure file except during actual testing time or when being returned.
Disability Support Services invites instructors to share any concerns regarding the alternative testing procedures or concerns regarding students with the Director of Disability Support Services [Academic Support Center, Room 10, 657-2283 (V/TTY)].
THE STAFF OF DISABILITY SUPPORT SERVICES (DSS) OBSERVES THE FOLLOWING COMMON PROCEDURES TO ENSURE THAT STUDENTS RECEIVE APPROPRIATE TESTING ACCOMMODATIONS:
All exams should be scheduled at least one week in advance. Standbys may be accepted based on schedule availability.
The test will be given on the day and at the time scheduled. The amount of time authorized to complete the exam will be decreased by the amount of time the student is late.
Rescheduled exams are permissible with the consent of the instructor and availability of DSS staff. All exams are returned to the instructor/department by the end of the day regardless of completion.
It is the students' responsibility to notify the instructor and DSS if they are not able to test at their scheduled time.
DSS staff are not authorized to modify instructions given by the instructor.
Students are to remain in the assigned room once testing begins unless supervised breaks have been authorized. Staff may accompany the student during a break.
Students need to leave all possessions (i.e. book bags, instructional materials, coats, etc.) outside the testing area. Students may request secured areas for valuables. Students found with unauthorized instructional materials will be referred to the instructor.
Exam Accommodations for Online Classes
The Online testing request form must be completed by the student at the beginning of the semester and emailed to the professor, the Online Coordinator and the Director of Disability Support Services. The Director will confirm the student's accommodations with an email to the Professor and the Online Coordinator. Return to Table of Contents