NMSU branding
New Mexico State University
New Mexico State University

Introduction

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide New Mexico State University faculty with practical information and suggestions to help meet the needs of students with disabilities in the classroom.

The obligation to accommodate students with disabilities extends beyond the University’s commitment to fulfill the promise of access. There is also a legal imperative embodied in:

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, often referred to as the “Civil Rights Act” for people with disabilities. It states, in part: No otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 states, in part: No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by such entity.
  • ADA Amendments Act of 2008 which expanded the definition of “major life activities” as well as included impairments that are in remission or episodic, and mitigating measures (such as medical therapies, etc.) have no bearing in determining whether a disability qualifies under the law.

In order to comply with these mandates, colleges and universities must assure that the same programs and services offered other students are accessible to students with disabilities. Academic ability must be the sole basis for participation in postsecondary education. To accomplish this goal, physical and programmatic access must be provided. This means more than the removal of architectural barriers and the provision of auxiliary services. It means that reasonable accommodations must be made in the instructional process to ensure full educational opportunity. This principle applies to all teaching strategies and modes, as well as to institutional and departmental policies. The means of achieving this ideal are often not merely matters of judgment. They are matters of knowledge and sensitivities that most of us simply do not have because of inexperience in dealing with people with disabilities. These guidelines are designed to fill such gaps – to heighten awareness and provide basic information for the benefit of both faculty and students.

Disabling Myths

The first step in dealing with students with disabilities seems obvious: treat them, simply, as students. After all, they come to college for many of the same reasons others do (to be challenged, productive and pursue a career.) They bring with them the same range of intelligence and scholastic skills. Yet these truisms are easier said than acted upon. Our best intentions often run into attitudes that dramatically distort our relations with people who have disabilities. Some disabling myths:

  • Myth of the Helpless Invalid – manifests itself in excessive deference and solicitousness.
  • Myth of the Heroic Cripple – places people who have disabilities on a pedestal making it difficult for them to be assimilated and to function.
  • Myth of the Invisible Untouchable – avoids or denies the existence of people with disabilities.
  • Myth of the “Spread” Phenomenon – generalizes from a single disability and assumes there are also intellectual, social and other physical deficits.

Such attitudes may be natural and innocent, deriving as they do from fears, guilt and inexperience with people who have disabilities. As forms of prejudice, these attitudes can be devastating to people with disabilities. They reduce our expectations of the individual’s performance. They define the person by the disability, so that it comprises the total person. They lead us to isolate and segregate people who have disabilities, hurt their pride and damage their confidence. The wrong attitudes can be more disabling than any handicap. Stereotyping exists on campus as it does in the larger society. In college, though, it not only perpetuates the prejudicial treatment suffered by people who have disabilities elsewhere, it may also undermine their scholastic performance and reinforce the negatives they are trying to surmount at critical junctions in their lives. As prophecy, it can be self-fulfilling. In accommodating students who learn or perform in ways that are different from others or who present themselves in ways that are different from others, it is vital to remember that their similarities with others are much more significant.

Where to Go for Help

Student Accessibility Services is located in Rm. 244, Corbett Center and provides students, faculty and staff with information and assistance in meeting the requirements of the applicable laws. Staff work with students who self-identify as having disabilities, and all the students registered with this office are required to provide appropriate documentation of their disabilities. The staff at Student Accessibility Services is committed to providing information and services which assist students with disabilities in personal and academic adjustment to the University environment. They provide information, referral and assistance with procuring auxiliary aids, coordinating services and resources on campus, discussing special needs and accommodations for students with disabilities and serving as consultants for University students, faculty and staff regarding questions about various accommodations. Student Accessibility Services works with campus members throughout the University to ensure that students with disabilities have the physical and programmatic access to all programs and services that will affect their full participation in the campus community. All information is confidential and may only be released with the student’s written permission. Students wishing to receive services from Student Accessibiity Services should complete the necessary paperwork and provide the appropriate documentation of their disability. The documentation will be reviewed and accommodations will be determined. Accommodations include readers, ASL interpreters, notetaking, and various testing accommodations. Contact our office at 646-6840 (voice/TTY) or email sas@nmsu.edu for more information.