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Adult Learner

UMass Global Office of Accessible Education: What students should know

 

 

UMass Global is dedicated to ensuring equal access to education for all members of our academic community. Our commitment to diverse and inclusive classrooms starts with maximizing each student’s educational potential, and the Office of Accessible Education (OAE) plays an instrumental role in this process.

Keep reading to learn more about reasonable accommodations, your rights as a student with a disability and the services you can request through the office. We enlisted the expertise of Sean Cutting, student access coordinator at the UMass Global OAE, to compile all the info you need to know about accessible education at the university. 

Why is accessible education important?

According to research by the National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD), students with disabilities face systemic barriers to access and participation that their able-bodied classmates do not. These include things like: 

  • Faculty who are unaware of disability accommodations
  • Faculty who don’t respond to or comply with requests for reasonable accommodations
  • Stigma and negative interactions with fellow students, staff, faculty and administration
  • Difficulty navigating and understanding the procedures and policies related to accessible education and reasonable accommodations

The professionals in the OAE at UMass Global are experts in advocating for students and ensuring they are fully engaged and included in the classroom. They work individually with each student to develop the most effective and comprehensive accommodation plan possible. In addition to providing direct service and support for students, the OAE staff act as a liaison between students, administrators and faculty.

What is reasonable accommodation, exactly?

The National Center for Education Statistics defines students with disabilities as those who report any of the following:

  • Deafness or serious difficulty hearing
  • Blindness or serious difficulty seeing
  • Serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions because of a physical, mental or emotional condition
  • Serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs
  •  

    A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment designed to mitigate the impact of a student’s disability without compromising the integrity of an academic course or program. Examples of reasonable accommodations in college include:

  • Assistive technology services
  • Auxiliary aides and services, such as sign language interpreters
  • Extended time on exams and quizzes
  • Notetaking support
  • Textbooks in alternative format
  •  

    Accommodations are individually designed to give a student with a disability an opportunity for success equal to their peers.

    3 Things every student should know about the Office of Accessible Education

    Let’s get into the three most important things you need to know about UMass Global’s Office of Accessible Education.

    1. You can get accommodations for visible and invisible disabilities

    Any learning disability, psychological disorder or medical, physical or other health-related issue(s) that limits you from performing at your best at the university could qualify you for accommodation.

    It’s important to keep in mind that not all disabilities are immediately perceptible, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real. According to the Invisible Disabilities Association, an invisible disability is “A physical, mental or neurological condition that is not visible from the outside, yet can limit or challenge a person’s movements, senses or activities.”

    One 2020 survey concluded that 70 percent of students with mental health disabilities were not registered to receive accommodations, and one-third of those students were not even aware they were eligible.

    Any student who feels they could benefit from accommodations should contact their school’s accessible education office and set up a meeting to explore options, Cutting advises.

    “There is absolutely no downside to reaching out,” he remarks. “And you won’t know what kind of support you could receive unless you ask for it.”

    2. Getting accommodation is not cheating

    One of the most pervasive — and unfounded — assumptions about receiving an accommodation in higher education is that it’s a form of “cheating.” This could not be further from the truth, according to Cutting.


    Accommodations guarantee access, not success. It doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically pass the class.

    That’s because any reasonable accommodation a student receives cannot, by definition, alter any fundamental purpose of the course. You still have to meet all of the same standards and expectations. Accommodations in an adult education environment are designed to:

  • Help remove existing barriers
  • Promote equal access to education
  • Create an equitable learning environment for students to demonstrate knowledge
  •  

    Making content accessible to all students is an integral part of any inclusive classroom environment and should be championed, not looked down upon.

    “College is hard — whether you have a disability or not,” Cutting shares. “It’s difficult even for neurotypical, able-bodied students.”

    3. Your personal and health information is confidential and protected by law

    Unfortunately, disability is still stigmatized in many societies. Some disabled people deal with discrimination daily. Knowing this, it’s not hard to understand why people might be hesitant or unwilling to disclose their disabilities to their school or employer.

    Cutting shares that one of the most common questions he hears from students is, “Will my classmates or future employers know that I got an accommodation?” He is quick to point out that any information students share with the OAE is strictly and legally confidential.

    “No one sees this except for our office,” Cutting assures. “Everything is securely stored, encrypted and subject to HIPAA confidentiality regulations.” Besides OAE staff, the only other person informed of the accommodation is the professor. Legally speaking, instructors aren’t even allowed to ask why you’re requesting an accommodation.

    It is up to your discretion to share or not. All you have to provide is the letter we provide you, Cutting explains.

    Get the support you deserve from the Office of Accessible Education

    “I’m hopeful for a day that my office doesn’t need to exist. That would mean that society has progressed to the point that Universal Design for Learning (UDL) makes accommodations obsolete,” Cutting states.

    But until that day comes, UMass Global’s Office of Accessible Education is here to support you.

    If you are a UMass Global Student and this post resonates with you, register with the OAE today. You can also contact us at (949) 341-9976 or email us at oae@umassglobal.edu to set up an appointment and discuss your options. Want to learn more about accessible education? Read these FAQs for additional information.

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