According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018), one in four adults
in the United States has some form of disability, such as mobility, cognition, independent
living, hearing, vision, and self-care. Adequately meeting the needs of all college
students with disabilities can be challenging; doing so during a deadly pandemic in which
emergency remote and online instruction are the primary modes of delivery can be even more
difficult. Colleges must comply with Americans with Disabilities Act §504 and Rehabilitation
Act §508 and with the Civil Rights Restoration Act, as well as relevant state laws and regulations.
Postsecondary institutions are required to make all programs and services accessible
to all students, provide auxiliary aids, notetakers, and appropriate equipment to ensure the
participation of students with disabilities in college classes and activities, and accommodate
the academic participation of qualified students with disabilities in college classes and activities,
whether online or in person.
Students with psychological, physical, and learning disabilities may utilize Disability Support
Programs and Services (DSPS) to request academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, services, and
instructional support. The goal of DSPS is to foster the California community college experience
through inclusive excellence and equitable access. However, the National Center for
Education Statistics (2019) reports that only 17% of college students with learning disabilities
take advantage of learning assistance resources at their respective campuses. According to
the California Community Colleges Student Mental Health Program (2017), new students
may be unfamiliar with the range of services offered by their s chools’ disabilities services
offices or they may feel embarrassed to reach out for assistance.
A student may decide to use alternative support services outside the traditional campus DSPS
office and consult with the college’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator for assistance. When a student elects to work with the ADA coordinator, the ADA coordinator should collaborate with DSPS support faculty to determine and develop academic adjustments
and devise an academic plan that supports the needs for that student. The DSPS coordinator and ADA coordinator should collaborate on each student’s academic plan to create inclusive learning environments, academic accessibility, and the appropriate learning accommodations. This process will communicate a message to the students with diverse learning needs that student inclusion and accessibility are important and fully supported.
Title 5 §56048 requires, as a condition of colleges receiving DSPS funds, that DSPS coordinators must meet the minimum qualifications for DSPS faculty stated in Title 5 §53414 or be academic administrators that “meet the minimum qualifications for academic administrators in Title 5 section 53420, and, in addition, have two years full-time experience or the equivalent within the last four years in one or more of the following fields:
- instruction or counseling or both in a higher education program for students with disabilities;
- administration of a program for students with disabilities in an institution of higher education;
- teaching, counseling or administration in secondary education, working predominantly or exclusively in programs for students with disabilities; or
- administrative or supervisory experience in industry, government, public agencies, the military, or private social welfare organizations, in which the responsibilities of the position were predominantly or exclusively related to persons with disabilities”
Because an ADA coordinator may not have the same minimum qualifications or recent experience with current best practices in student support as a DSPS coordinator, ADA coordinators are encouraged to consult and collaborate with their local DSPS coordinators to provide appropriate and intentional technical assistance to any student that may contact them for academic adjustments and assistance with access.
California Community Colleges Student Mental Health Program. (2017, June). Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) for Students with Mental Health Disabilities Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.cccstudentmentalhealth.org
Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. (2018). CDC: 1in 4 US adults live with a disability. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0816-disability.html
National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Digest of Education Statistics, 2018 (2020-009), Chapter 3. U.S. Department of Education, Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/ch_3.asp