Disability Support Services, a division of Student Affairs, is the designated office that provides services to students with disabilities.
The mission of the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) is to coordinate services and accommodations for students with disabilities to ensure accessibility and usability of all programs, services, and activities. Disability Support Services also serves as a resource for information and as an advocate for students with disabilities for full participation in all aspects of campus life.
To be eligible for academic accommodations through Disability Support Services (DSS), students must present documentation of a disability. Documentation must be provided before accommodations can be arranged. In most cases, documentation is needed from doctoral-level professionals such as psychologists, medical doctors, psychiatrists or neurologists. The professional should be experienced in diagnosing and treating the disability, should prepare the documentation on appropriate clinical letterhead, should sign the document, and should be able to provide the University with verification of the experience and expertise in the specialty if asked.
The type of documentation may vary depending on the type of disability. Documentation should be current within three years, but exceptions may be necessary, dependent upon individual circumstances and disability. Students with physical, intellectual, and mental health disabilities are asked to provide documentation by an appropriate, qualified professional.
Students may make an appointment to meet with the Director of Disability Support Services (DSS) to set up an accommodations request. After the meeting, the Director of DSS will review the documentation and, if accepted, will email a Faculty Notification Letter to the student’s instructor(s) that teach the class that the student requests accommodations in. It is necessary for the student to contact their professors to work out accommodation logistics and to follow up to be sure the instructor received the Faculty Notification Letter. Students MUST contact the Disability Support Services office each semester to renew accommodations, as they do not renew automatically.
You can access our DSS Student Handbook here.
We require students seeking services to fill out our intake form. You can print it here and return it to us via email, fax, mail, or in person.
Students who reside outside the campus community and are taking only online courses also need to provide documentation for accommodations. The DSS application process can be conducted by phone, e-mail, and/or Zoom meetings. Instead of meeting personally with professors to discuss the logistics and accommodations, students may contact the instructors by phone or e-mail. Students will need to indicate to DSS (our office) that they are an online student. It is necessary for the student to contact their professors to work out accommodation logistics and to follow up to be sure the instructor received the Faculty Notification Letter.
Students Without Documentation
Some students contact our office who have not been tested for cognitive disabilities, such as a learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or a psychological disability but suspect they may have one. Southern Arkansas University does not have the resources to provide the necessary testing. The cost of evaluations can range between $450.00 and $1,200.00. Insurance companies sometimes pay for testing, but often they do not. In some cases, local service agencies can provide financial help to students. Please contact our Disability Support Services Director for more information.
If you are approved for test-taking accommodations and you plan to take your tests in the Testing Center, please read the following:
- An appointment must be made at least two days prior to the date the test is scheduled to be given. This allows us and you time to contact your instructor as needed.
- It is your responsibility as a student to make an appointment with the Testing Center to take each test you would like to take in the Testing Center.
- It is your responsibility as a student to make arrangements with your instructor to take each test in the Testing Center.
- If test dates change, when you know the correct information, call our office and make necessary changes to re-schedule your test.
- While an instructor might contact the Testing Center about a test, it is not the faculty’s responsibility to make an appointment for a student to test.
Administration of Tests
- Arrangements will be made for staff in our office to pick up and return all tests. This is to protect your credibility.
- To take tests you should schedule an appointment with the Testing Center at (870) 235-4145 or come by Reynolds 216.
- Only materials, such as calculators, books, notes, etc., specified by the instructor will be permitted in the testing room.
Do not hesitate to ask if you have questions or are unclear about the use of Test-Taking Accommodations.
If you are approved for extended time on tests and quizzes, you are responsible for reminding each instructor at least 2 days before each test or quiz that you would like to use your extended time accommodation on the test or quiz. If you have been approved to test in the Testing Center, you are required to make an appointment with the Testing Center at least 2 days before each test or quiz so that the Testing Center can reserve a testing lab for you. This also allows the Testing Center to receive any instructions or testing information from your instructor.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives individuals with disabilities civil rights protection that is similar to that provided to all individuals on the basis of race, sex, national origin, and religion. The act guarantees equal opportunity in employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. In addition, Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act states: “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely on the basis of his/her handicap, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”.
The policy at Southern Arkansas University is consistent with the ADA and Section 504. SAU is open and accessible to students with disabilities. We are committed to providing assistance to enable qualified students to accomplish their educational goals as well as assuring equal opportunity to derive all of the benefits of campus life.
Confidentiality and Release of Information
The Office of Disability Support Services is committed to ensuring all information regarding a student remains confidential as required or permitted by law. This information may include grades, biographical history, disability information, and case notes. No one has immediate access to student files in our office except authorized staff. Any information regarding a disability gained from medical or psychological evaluations shall be considered confidential and shall be shared with others within the institution on a need-to-know basis only.
Disability-related information is to be treated as medical information is treated. For example, University faculty and staff do not have a right or a need to access diagnostic or other information regarding a student’s disability-related needs. A student may sign a written consent form giving our office permission to discuss the disability with faculty and staff, parents, coaches, and/or advisors who require further information. Information will not be released without consent unless it is required by federal or state law.
Helpful Information about Disability Services
- The purpose of disability accommodations is to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability: Specific barriers that significantly impact the student and impede access to the same opportunities as their peers.
- A provider’s letter with a diagnosis and a recommendation does not automatically guarantee an accommodation of choice. The letter is not a prescription, nor are disability accommodations in Higher Ed an Entitlement Program.
- The doctor, therapist, or provider is welcome to provide suggestions for accommodations per their medical perspective.
- Our Disability Support Services Director will review provider recommendations but will make accommodation decisions based on the interactive process with the student and based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA and its amendments, and the Fair Housing Act as they apply to higher education institutions; and in accordance with the institutional knowledge of opportunities provided to all via Southern Arkansas University’s housing program.
- Accommodations are not determined to ensure success (as is the law for K-12 institutions). Higher Education disability laws ensure equal access to the same features/programs/facilities as all other students. Our University wants all students to succeed, but at the Higher Education level, success is up to the student.
- Reasonable accommodations, by their nature, are designed to increase inclusion for a student with a disability so that they have access to the same opportunities as their peers. Reasonable accommodations are not intended to excuse the responsibilities or expectations the College holds for all students.
- Disability accommodations are deemed “Reasonable” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act if they are necessary to ensure equal access to the same opportunities as provided to all students at Southern Arkansas University.
- Accommodations are not considered Reasonable if they are merely to improve chances of success. The University certainly wants all of its students to succeed; however, now that the student is an adult, success is the responsibility of the student, not the institution.
- Disability accommodations are only appropriate when there is a barrier to equal access.
- Accommodations are reasonable when they include the student in the same opportunities everyone else has. Accommodations are not reasonable if they let students with disabilities out of the responsibilities or expectations the University holds for everyone else.
Current students registered with our office, take our survey at: https://web.saumag.edu/testing/disability-support-services/survey/