Resources For Students
Accommodations and Services
Reasonable accommodations are individualized, flexible and based on the nature of the documented disability and the academic environment. Some of the academic accommodations that the University provides to students with disabilities are:
- Accessible classroom/location/furniture
- Adaptive equipment
- Alternative testing
- Curriculum modification
- Course substitutions
- Note takers
- Priority registration
- Sign language interpreters
- Assistance with registration
- Scribes and readers
- Liaison with faculty to arrange accommodations
- Taped, enlarged, Braille or electronic text books
In addition, the University also offers the following services to all students, including students with disabilities:
- Career advising
- Tutorial services
- Educational Planning
- Liaison with community agencies
- College Success Program
- Writing Center
Note: The University does not provide students with disabilities with personal devices or assistance for personal use, including but not limited to wheelchairs, eye glasses, hearing aids, transportation, special classes, personal assistance for eating, dressing or other personal services or readers for personal use.
What is an Accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a course, program, service, activity or facility that enables a qualified student with a disability to have an equal opportunity to attain the same level of performance or enjoy equal benefits and privileges as are available to similarly situated students without disabilities.
Such modifications may include changes in the length of time permitted for completion of degree programs, substitution of specific required courses, adaptation in the manner courses are conducted, and examination modifications.
VCU will provide reasonable accommodations only to the known limitations of an otherwise qualified student with a documented disability. To determine reasonable accommodations, the DSS Coordinator may seek information from appropriate university personnel regarding essential standards for courses, programs, services, activities and/or facilities.
Reasonable Accommodations are Generally Determined by Examining:
- The barriers resulting from the interaction between the documented disability and the campus environment.
- The possible accommodations that might remove these barriers.
- Whether or not the student has access to the course, program, service, activity or facility without an accommodation.
- Whether or not the essential elements of the course, program, service, activity or facility are compromised by the accommodation.
- Relevant laws and university policies.
- Other related factors.
Accommodation Request Analysis:
When the DSS staff members review an accommodation request, the following analysis is generally used:
- Does the student have a disability as described by the federal definition of a person with a disability?
Is the student "otherwise qualified?"
- Was the accommodation requested in a manner consistent with established university policies and procedures?
- Is the accommodation reasonable and/or readily achievable?
- Is the nature of the program or activity fundamentally altered by the provision of the accommodation?
- Does the provision of the accommodation present an undue financial or administrative burden on the university?
Types of Accommodations and Services
VCU provides accommodations and services for students with disabilities to ensure access to classes, programs, services and activities. In addition to the accommodations and services mentioned below, students should consult the University Resource Guide, which is published by the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services. The Resource Guide provides general information about student services, activities, housing, grade review policies, health services, insurance, counseling, athletics, recreation and other extracurricular programs. Additional resources for students with disabilities can be found on the Professional Development Academy's website at: www.students.vcu.edu/pda
Academic advising is available to all students through their college, school, or major department. Students should make certain that their designated advisors are aware of their disabilities to ensure proper guidance.
Assignment to Classrooms
All VCU programs, not necessarily all classrooms, are accessible to students with disabilities. Students with mobility impairments are strongly encouraged to review their schedules at least four weeks before classes begin and contact the appropriate DSS Coordinator regarding any problems with specific classroom accessibility. VCU cannot guarantee that classrooms will be accessible on the first day of class for those students who do not notify the appropriate DSS Coordinator of accessibility issues at least four weeks prior.
Access to Wheelchair Lifts
Students may request a key(s) that fit the lifts from the DSS Coordinator.
Contact the appropriate DSS Coordinator or the Registrar's Office:
Monroe Park Campus
Registration -- Founders Hall
827 W. Franklin Street
Registration -- Sanger Hall, Rm. 1-055
1101 E. Marshall Street
Oral/Sign Language Interpreters
Interpreters should be requested at least four weeks prior to the first day of class. Contact the appropriate DSS Coordinator to request deaf and/or hard of hearing services. Students will also need to read and adhere to the policies and procedures outlined in the section of this handbook on services for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Assistance is generally provided by designated library personnel at the Reference Desk. Arrangements for research assistance can be made through the Library Coordinators. Two days' notice for special assistance is highly recommended.
Textbooks in Alternative Format
The DSS Office provides taped, enlarged, Braille or electronic textbooks for students who have visual impairments, learning disabilities or other disabilities that significantly impact the student's ability to read standard print. The need for textbooks in alternative format may be listed as an accommodation in the student's accommodation letter. Students should contact the appropriate DSS Coordinator to request textbooks in alternative formats at least four weeks prior to the first day of instruction.
The DSS Office may provide reader services for students who have visual impairments, learning disabilities or other disabilities that significantly impact the student's ability to read standard print. The need for reader services may be listed as an accommodation in the student's accommodation letter. Readers are used primarily for tests and exams. If a student needs a reader for library research, in class assignments or other University activities, they will need to schedule specific times and dates at least one week in advance of the activity. The University does not provide readers for home use. Students need to seek outside assistance to acquire readers outside of the University.
Students are given the following options:
- Locating note takers on their own before involving the instructors or requesting assistance from their instructors in locating a note taker.
- Students must present instructors with a letter that requests their assistance in locating a peer note taker in the class.
- If students or instructors are unable to find a note taker in the class, the student and/or instructor should inform the appropriate DSS Office so that they can attempt to locate a note taker or make other arrangements.
- If overhead displays are used, students may request paper copies from instructors.
Students who require test/exam modifications such as extended time, auxiliary aids, readers, scribes, or interpreters should make arrangements for those modifications through the appropriate DSS Office. Notification should be made at least one week prior to the test/exam date to guarantee appropriate arrangements.
Academic Campus -- It is the responsibility of the student to notify the DSS staff a minimum of 1 week prior to the test/exam. It is the responsibility of the faculty member to ensure that the exam is sent to the DSS Office prior to the testing date. Tests/exams can be mailed, delivered in person, e-mailed, or faxed to the DSS Office.
Medical Campus -- The DSS Office on the MCV Campus does not administer exams. The Coordinator will occasionally help identify a room if the department cannot find one, and will help find readers or scribes if the instructor makes that request.
The ADA requires existing facilities of Title II entities to be physically accessible. VCU maintains compliance with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) and ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings Facilities (ADAAG). Some VCU departments occupy older structures that cannot be modified, due to their historic designation, for complete access by students with disabilities. If a student is scheduled to attend a class in a building or a room that is inaccessible, the class may be relocated. An individual needing such an accommodation should contact the appropriate DSS Coordinator for assistance. The University strongly encourages students to notify the DSS office at least four weeks prior to the first day of classes to ensure classroom accessibility.
Service animals are permitted in all university areas (there may be exceptions in health care facilities).
Academic Requirement Accommodations (Course Substitution)
Students with disabilities are required to complete all requirements for the particular degree they are pursuing. However, if a student believes that his or her disability would make it impossible to complete a particular general education, collateral or major requirement, the student should discuss the matter with the appropriate DSS Coordinator. Depending on the nature of the requirement in question, the severity of the disability and the recommendation of the DSS Coordinator, a curriculum modification or substitution may be made by the Dean's Office of the student's major for the requirement in question. Course substitutions will only be considered in cases where failure to meet the graduation or program admission requirement(s) does not constitute a fundamental alteration in the nature of the University program or when the academic requirement(s) are not essential to the program of study or to meet licensing or certification requirements.
Use of designated parking spaces in VCU parking decks and lots on the Academic Campus and the MCV Campus for students with disabilities requires both a University parking permit that may be obtained from the VCU Office of Parking and Transportation, and a permit or license plate issued by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles or the state in which the vehicle is registered. Before initiating a request for a VCU permit, students should acquire the necessary license plate or documentation of disability from the Virginia DMV or agency in their home state. Daily, semester or annual parking rates are available.
Students who have temporary injuries or impairments that are expected to last less than six weeks must provide a letter from a physician stating that accommodations are required.
Transportation between campuses is provided via an accessible bus. Route and schedule information can be obtained by calling the Office of Parking and Transportation Services on either campus:
Monroe Park Campus
West Broad Street, Suite A (804) 828-8726
1000 East Clay Street (804) 828-0501
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services
Interpreter and Computer Aided Real Time Translation (CART) Services in the Classroom
A sign language interpreter is a skilled professional who facilitates communication between the educational environment and persons who are deaf and hearing. Students need to respect the professionalism of their interpreters and refrain from engaging them in casual and/or inappropriate conversation that may interfere with their work.
- The DSS Office coordinates all interpreter and CART services at Virginia Commonwealth University for students who are deaf. Students are encouraged to request interpreter or CART services at least four weeks prior to the first day of instruction. These services may not be available on the first day of class for students who do not request them at least four weeks in advance.
- Once students register for classes, they need to give a copy of their class schedules to the DSS Coordinator. If changes are made in a student's original class schedule, the DSS Coordinator must be promptly notified.
- The DSS Coordinator makes interpreter/CART assignments based on the class, student and the skills of each interpreter. Every effort will be made to honor a student's request for a specific interpreter or transcriptionist. There may be instances, however, when a student's request cannot be honored due to overall scheduling constraints or unforeseen circumstances, such as illness.
- It is the student's responsibility to attend all classes. Students must notify the DSS Coordinator at least 24 hours in advance if he/she anticipates being absent from class due to an illness or another serious situation.
- Students are allowed three absences. Four or more absences may result in a meeting with the DSS Coordinator to discuss the student's reasons for not attending class. The student may be required to provide written documentation from a physician or other professional that explains the need for the student's absences.
Students need to make every effort to arrive on time to all of their classes. The interpreter/transcriptionist will wait an appropriate length of time for the student to arrive.
- Habitual tardiness will also be noted and reported to the DSS Coordinator. Abuse of interpreter/CART services such as tardiness or excessive absences may result in a meeting with the DSS Coordinator.
- Please remember, interpreters/transcriptionists are paid by the hour, even when the student does not show up for class. VCU expects students to be responsible and avoid being late for or missing classes.
- Students need to be alert in the classroom and pay strict attention to the instructor and the interpreter. If a student elects to sleep, eat, ignore, or generally not pay attention to the interpreter, the interpreter will not recap what the instructor has said.
- Interpreters and students may schedule prep time before class to review course material and/or develop signs for words used frequently in the classroom for which there are no previous signs. Students need to make sure that they keep these important appointments. Remember, the interpreter and the student are a communication team and should strive to work together to maximize the effectiveness of the classroom experience.
- If the interpreter/transcriptionist does not show up for class, the student needs to contact the DSS Coordinator immediately, so that if possible, a substitute can be found. Students who experience any problems with interpreters/transcriptionists or an interpreting situation should inform the DSS Coordinator immediately.
- The DSS Office will make efforts to provide interpreters/CART Services for a variety of campus events and activities.
Monroe Park Campus
- Students who request interpreter/CART services for campus events and/or activities must notify the DSS Coordinator by completing an Interpreter/CART Request Form 72 hours in advance of the event/activity to ensure the timely delivery service.
- Academic Campus Interpreter/CART Request Forms are located in the DSS Office.
- If scheduled interpreting/CART services are not needed, a Cancellation of Interpreter/CART Services Form must be completed and given to the DSS Coordinator at least 24 hours in advance of the scheduled event or activity unless the cancellation is due to an emergency.
- Contact the DSS Office with requests at least 72 hours in advance. Please give 24 hours notice in advance of the scheduled event for cancellation.
Textbooks in Alternative Format
The DSS provides taped, enlarged, Braille or electronic textbooks for students who have visual impairments, learning disabilities or other disabilities that significantly impact the student's ability to read standard print. The need for text books in alternative format may be listed as an accommodation in the student's Notification to Instructors Letter.
Students need to follow the procedure outlined below to request textbooks in alternative format.
- Register for classes as soon as possible, preferably during priority registration. Acquiring textbooks in alternative formats may take six weeks or longer, therefore, students need to register for classes as early as possible.
- Once a student registers for classes, he/she should go to the University bookstore and purchase their textbooks. Occasionally, textbooks are not available in the University bookstore during the priority registration period. If textbooks are not available, students nevertheless, need to stop by the University bookstore to ascertain the author, title and edition of their required textbooks.
- Once students have acquired their textbooks and/or textbook information, they need to bring a copy of their class schedule, textbooks and/or textbook information to the DSS office on their campus.
- If changes are made in the student's original class schedule, it is the student's responsibility to ascertain their new textbook requirements and inform the DSS offices as soon as possible.
- The DSS office acquires textbooks in alternative format from several vendors. Students will be notified by telephone and/or mail when textbooks are available for pick up from the DSS office. Students needs to make sure that the DSS office has their current phone number and/or address so that they can be notified as soon as their textbooks are available.
- The DSS office utilizes the services of Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic to acquire textbooks on cassette tape. These textbooks are recorded in a four-track cassette format. Students will need a four-track cassette tape player to listen these textbooks. The DSS office has a limited number of four-track cassette players to loan to students with disabilities. Four-track cassette players will be loaned to students on a first come, first serve basis. This equipment is loaned to students one semester at a time. Students must return the cassette player at the conclusion of the semester. Failure to return equipment to the DSS office may result in a hold placed on the student's grades, transcripts and graduation. Students can obtain information about other vendors of four-track cassette players from the DSS office on their campus.
- Textbooks produced in alternative format are for the exclusive use of the student with a disability who requires this accommodation. These textbooks must not be given or loaned to other students under any circumstances. Federal copyright laws strictly regulate textbooks. Violation of these federal laws may result in serious consequences to all persons involved.
- All textbooks produced in alternative format must be returned to the DSS office at the conclusion of each semester. This includes taped, electronic, Braille and/or enlarged text. Failure to return these textbooks to the DSS office may result in a hold placed on the student's grades, transcripts and graduation.
The DSS office may provide reader services for students who have visual impairments, learning disabilities or other disabilities that significantly impact the student's ability to read standard print. The need for reader services may be listed as an accommodation in the student's Notification to Instructors Letter.
Students who request reader services will need to:
- Contact the DSS office on their campus at least one week in advance to arrange for a reader. The DSS office cannot guarantee that a reader will be available for students who do not request these services at least one week in advance.
- Students cannot choose their own reader. Only those persons approved by the DSS office can be utilized as readers.
- Readers are used primarily for tests and exams. If a student needs a reader for library research, in class assignments or other University activities, they will need to schedule specific times and dates at least one week in advance of the activity.
- Readers are not available for home use. Students need to seek outside assistance to acquire readers for their home use.
- Students are free to utilize technology in the DSS office adaptive technology lab on their campus, to help them access printed materials.
- Students who need to cancel a reader session, should contact the DSS office at least 24 hours in advance of the scheduled session. If the cancellation is due to an emergency situation, the student should notify the DSS office as soon as possible.
The DSS office may provide a scribe for students who are unable to write due to a physical or visual impairment, learning disability or cognitive disorder that significantly impacts their ability to write or perform fine motor skills. The need for these services may be listed as an accommodation in the student's Notification to Instructors Letter.
- Scribes are traditionally used for tests and exams. Scribes are not available for home use. Students will need to seek outside assistance to acquire scribes for their home use.
- Students who need a scribe must notify the DSS office on their campus, at least one week in advance to arrange for a scribe.
- Students dictate answers to test questions to the scribe who writes the student's responses. Scribes are not able to offer explanations to test questions or professor's instructions or directions.
- Students can also tape record their answers to tests and exams into a tape recorder.
- Software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking is available for student use in the DSS office adaptive technology lab. This software program allows students to dictate information to the computer via a microphone. Dragon Naturally Speaking requires a minimum of 20 hours of training on the computer for the program to achieve 97% accuracy in recognizing the student's voice patterns. Students should be proficient in using the program before attempting to utilize it for a test or exam.
Priority registration is available prior to the start of the University's regular registration period.
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Disability Support Services
Monroe Park Campus
907 Floyd Ave.
Voice/TTY: (804) 828-2253
Fax: (804) 828-1944
Office of Health Career/Education and Special Services for Students
VCU Medical Center Campus
1000 E. Marshall St.
Phone: (804) 828-9782
TTY: (804) 828-4608
Fax: (804) 828-4609