Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC)

Faculty Resource Guide

College Students with Disabilities:
A Desk Reference Guide for Faculty and Staff

This resource guide is designed to assist the faculty and staff at Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) to provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. The mandate to provide reasonable accommodations comes from federal law and from theMission of CCAC to provide an educational opportunity to all of its students. CCAC is recognized for its commitment to provide campus and academic accessibility for all qualified students.

Faculty and staff need to know:

  • What do the laws require?
  • What recent legal decisions further define the requirements of the law?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • What are reasonable accommodations for different types of disabilities?
  • What are the college’s resources?
  • Tips that facilitate student learning.
  • Tips for disability awareness.
  • What are the college resources?

The college is not required to lower its standards. Section 504 does require the college to provide reasonable accommodations that afford an equal opportunity for students with disabilities. Achieving reasonable accommodations for a student with a disability involves shared responsibility between students, faculty, and staff.

Table of Contents

The Law 

Recent Legal Decisions


Types of Disabilities/Reasonable Accommodations

             Orthopedic/Mobility Impairment  

             Blindness/Visual Impairments 

             Learning Disabilities 

             Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder

             Traumatic Brain Injury 

             Deafness/Hearing Impairments 

             Speech and Language Disorders 

             Psychological Disorders


            Other Disabilities 

Tips that Facilitate Student Learning 

Tips for Disability Awareness 

Grievance Procedures for Individuals with Disabilities

This guide is designed to serve as a quick referencefor information, accommodations, and legal requirements in providing equal access for students with disabilities.


The Law

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that:

"No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States... shall, solely by reason of... disability, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

A person with a disability includes:

"Any person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) has a record of such impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such impairment."

A "qualified person with a disability" is defined as one:

"Who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the education program or activity."

Section 504 protects the rights of qualified individuals who have disabilities such as, but not limited to:

  • Blindness/visual impairment
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Deafness/hearing impairment
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorder
  • Orthopedic/mobility impairment
  • Specific learning disability
  • Speech and language disorder
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Tourette's syndrome,
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Chronic illnesses, such as:
    • AIDS                                                                                                  
    • Arthritis
    • Cancer
    • Cardiac disease
    • Diabetes
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Muscular dystrophy

Under the provisions of Section 504:

Post secondary education may not discriminate in the recruitment, admission, educational process, or treatment of students. Students who have self-identified, provided documentation of disability, and requested reasonable accommodations are entitled to receive approved modifications of programs, appropriate academic adjustments, or auxiliary aids that enable them to participate in and benefit from all educational programs and activities.

Section 504 specifies that colleges may not:

limit the number of students with disabilities admitted, make preadmission inquires as to whether or not an applicant has a disability, use admission tests or criteria that inadequately measure the academic qualifications of students with disabilities because special provisions were not made, exclude a qualified student with a disability from any course of study, or establish rules and policies that may adversely affect students with disabilities.

Program access is guaranteed under this law. Examples of specific accommodations include, but are not limited to:

  • Assistance with note taking
  • Use of recorders to record lectures
  • Use of specialized equipment
  • Use of modified textbook formats; and
  • Extended test time and / or auditory testing

American with Disabilities Act of 1990

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives individuals with disabilities civil right protection under the law. The Act guarantees equal opportunity in employment, public accommodation, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications.

The American with Disabilities Act reaffirms the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act and may include the altering of facilities, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, provision of qualified readers and interpreters, job restructuring and adjustment of training materials, tests or policies.

Recent Legal Decisions

Academic Freedom
Academic freedom does not permit instructors to decide if they will provide special aids and services for students with documented disabilities in the classroom. 

Testing accommodations
Accommodations for testing such as readers, scribes, or the use of adaptive equipment must be provided for a student with a documented disability.

Personal Services and Aids
The college is not required to provide personal services such as attendant care, or personal aids such as wheelchairs or eyeglasses.

Accessible Programs
The college must operate its programs in the most integrated setting appropriate.

Job Announcement Postings             
Postings for job announcements must be readily accessible to students with visual impairments.

Bulletin Identify 504 Coordinator
The name of the Section 504 coordinator must be identified in recruiting materials such as application forms and school bulletins.

Housing Options
A student with a disability is entitled to have more than one housing option presented if options exist for nondisabled students.

Student May File Grievance
A student with a disability may not only file a claim with the U. S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, but may also file a complaint with Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Weight Training
The college must provide comparable opportunities for weight training to students with disabilities.

Career Counseling
Career counselors are prohibited from counseling a student with a disability into more restrictive career paths than are recommended to nondisabled students with similar abilities and interests.

Altered Form of Exam
The form of an exam must be altered if the testing procedure puts a student with a disability at a disadvantage based on the student's documented disability. There may be an exception when the purpose of the test is to measure a particular skill.

Accommodation Must be Documented
The college may refuse to grant a student's request for an accommodation which is not specifically recommended in the student's documentation.

Handouts in Alternate Format
If a student with a visual impairment is enrolled in a class, the instructor must provide all handouts in the alternate format requested by the student. In addition, all handouts must be made available to students on the same day they are distributed to nondisabled students.

Material on Reserve in Library
The instructor must make course material on reserve in the library available in alternate formats for students with visual impairments enrolled in the course.

Diagnostic Information Confidential
Faculty/staff do not have the right to access diagnostic information regarding a student's disability. Faculty/staff need only know the accommodations that are necessary to guarantee an equal opportunity for the student.

Personal Liability
An individual faculty member who fails to provide an accommodation to a student with a documented disability may be held personally liable.

For additional information explore Section 504 Compliance Handbook online at 

Username: CCAC
Password: CCAC                                                                                                        


Responsibilities of Students

Students with disabilities have the responsibility to:

  1. Self-Identify concerning disability status to the Office of Supportive Services for Students with Disabilities (OSSSD) in a timely manner.
  2. Provide disability documentation that is as recent as within the last three years.
  3. Request necessary accommodation.
  4. Even though students are receiving the recommended accommodations, they are still expected to fulfill the requirements of the course as listed in the syllabus.

Responsibilities of Faculty/Staff Members

If notified in writing:

Faculty/staff members have the responsibility to cooperate with the OSSSD in providing authorized accommodations in a reasonable and timely manner. Faculty/staff members should meet with students who provide a letter of request for accommodations to establish the means of providing.

If not notified in writing:

If student requests accommodations and the faculty/staff members have not been notified of the student’s need for accommodations, then the faculty/staff members should refer the student to the OSSSD. If the disability is visible and the accommodation appears appropriate, the faculty/staff members should provide the accommodation while awaiting official notification.

If Question Appropriateness of Accommodation

If a faculty/staff members has questions about the appropriateness of certain accommodations, the OSSSD should be contacted for further clarification. The faculty/staff members should continue to provide accommodations while the issue is being resolved. When a student uses a recorder for recording lectures in the classroom, it is appropriate to ask the student to sign an agreement not to release the recording or otherwise obstruct the copyright (see page 28 for agreement form).     


Diagnostic Information:
The physician’s and/or psychologist’s report concerning the disability or condition.

Reasonable Accommodations:
The physician’s and/or psychologist’s specific recommendations of strategies, technology, or aids need to provide the student with equal access to an education. 

Faculty and staff members do not have the right to access the student’s diagnostic information or fail to provide the authorized accommodations.

Shared Responsibilities


  • Students with disabilities have the first responsibility to report their needs to the faculty in a timely manner, as faculty are not required to anticipate the needs of students with disabilities. Faculty/staff members should keep students in mind, when making special class arrangements such as field trips. Faculty/staff members should state on the syllabus that students need to inform them that they are a member of the OSSSD. This should be done as soon as possible to ensure that the student’s needs are met in a timely manner. If a student waits until the day of an exam to ask for extended time for exams to or a separate testing area, the student has failed to make the request in a timely manner. If the student fails to ask for extended in time until late in the semester, the instructor is only required to provide accommodations from that point on and does not have to offer makeup exams.
  • When a student discloses a disability, faculty/staff members should ask what they can do to facilitate learning. Often, it is as simple as allowing the student to sit in the front of the class.
  • Faculty/staff members may not discourage students from specific fields of study, if the student is qualified, meets the admission requirements and maintains the appropriate grades. Faculty/staff members are responsible for providing an education, and the student is responsible for maintaining academic requirements.           

Orthopedic/Mobility Impairments

A variety of orthopedic/mobility-related disabilities result from congenital conditions, accidents, or progressive neuromuscular diseases. These disabilities include the following conditions and others: Spinal Cord Injuries (Paraplegia or Quadriplegia), Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Amputations, Muscular Dystrophy, Cardiac Conditions, Cystic Fibrosis, Paralysis, Polio/Post Polio, and Strokes. Functional limitations and abilities vary widely even within one group of disabilities; therefore, accommodations vary greatly and can best be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Accommodations may include 

  • Accessible location for the classroom and place for faculty to meet with the student
  • Preferential seating in classrooms
  • Note takers, use of recorders, laptop computers, or photographing of peer notes
  • Extra time to get from one class to another, especially in inclement weather
  • Test accommodations: extended time for exams, quiet area for testing, testing low-distraction, scribes, access to word
  • Special computer equipment/software: voice activated word processing, word prediction, key board modification
  • Extra time for assignments due to slow writing speed
  • Adjustable lab tables or drafting tables for classes taught in lab settings
  • Lab assistance
  • Accessible parking in close proximity to the building
  • Customized physical education class activities that allow the student to participate within their capabilities
  • Course waiver or substitution for certain students
  • Alternate format texts
  • Advance planning for field trips to ensure accessibility

Students with orthopedic/mobility impairments may have any of the following conditions:

  • Pain, spasticity, or lack of coordination 
  • Flare-ups or intensity of the symptoms 
  • Periods of remission in which little or no symptoms are visible 
  • Inability to walk without crutches, canes, braces, or walkers 
  • Ability to stand or walk but may use wheelchair to conserve energy or gain speed 
  • Inability to stand or walk and use wheelchair for total mobility 
  • Limited use of lower body and limited use of arms and hands 
  • Impairment of speech or hearing 
  • Limited head or neck movement 
  • Decreased physical stamina and endurance 
  • Decreased eye-hand coordination 

Disabilities that generally restrict mobility functioning:

Cerebral Palsy:
The term applies to a number of non-progressive motor disorders of the central nervous system. The effects can be severe, causing inability to control bodily movement, or mild, only slightly affecting speech or hearing. The term is a general classification for stable cerebral lesions that usually occur at or before birth.

Spinal Cord Injury:
In damage; to the spinal cord, the extent of the resultant paralysis and sensory loss is determined by the level of injury. Injuries below the first thoracic nerve root (TI) level result in paraplegia, a spastic paralysis of the lower extremities. Injuries above the TI level result in quadriplegia, a spastic or flaccid paralysis of the lower and upper extremities. The injury may be complete or incomplete.

Degenerative Diseases:
Progressive diseases include muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis that may limit gross motor functions and/or fine motor activity.

Post-Polio Syndrome:
A variety of problems are presumed to be the late effects of polio and the symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and pain.

Motor Neuron Diseases:
A group of disorders such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Progressive Bulbar Palsy )PBP), Progressive Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease produce symptoms such as pain, numbness, weakness, loss of breathing. 

Blindness/Visual Impairments

Visual impairments include disorders in the sense of vision that affect the central vision acuity, the field of vision, color perception, or binocular visual function. The American Medical Association defined legal blindness as visual acuity not exceeding 20/200 in the better eye with correction, or a limit in the field of vision that is less than a 20 degree angle (tunnel vision). Legal blindness may be caused by tumors, infections, injuries, retrolental fibroplasis, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, vascular impairments, or myopia. Visual disabilities vary widely. Some students may use a guide dog, others a white cane, while others may not require any mobility assistance.

 Accommodations may include

  • Reading lists or syllabi in advance to permit time for transferring them into alternate format
  • Text books ordered in the preferred medium of the student
  • Seating in the front of the class without glare from windows
  • Use of recorders to record lectures and class discussions
  • Handouts in the medium that the student prefers
  • Clear black print on white or pale yellow paper for students with visual impairments
  • Testing accommodations: alternate format tests, scribe, extend time for exams, quiet are for testing low-distraction
  • Lab assistance
  • Advance notice of class schedule changes 

Types of alternate format of printed material for students with blindness/visual impairments:

  • Audio: Most text books can be ordered on tape from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (1.800.221.4792)
  • Large Print: Standard size materials can be enlarged on a copier using 11 X 17” paper
  • Computer Disk: Convert the text of materials to ASCII format
  • Braille: Adaptive equipment will be necessary to provide alternate format in Braille; however, it should be noted that Braille is probably the least requested alternate format for students with blindness. 

Students with no light perception or no functional vision may rely on a white cane, a guide dog, or sighted guide for mobility purposes. There should be no interaction with the guide dog. When serving as a sighted guide, let the student take your arm just above the elbow.

A lower noise level in the classroom is important for hearing. Students may require a reader for assignments and exams, and may use a note taking device in class to take notes.

Passageways through the door and aisles should be kept clear. When furniture is moved, students should be advised of the new arrangement. Any changes in class locations should be given to students in advance, or assign a student without a visual impairment to wait at the door and guide the student to the new location.

It is helpful to identify yourself first, when speaking with a student with blindness.

Approximately 80% of all legally blind individuals have some usable vision. Students with visual impairments benefit from seating in the front of the class. Lighting is very important and should be discussed with the professor. Glare may be especially troublesome. Poor quality print or copies and materials on colored paper may reduce legibility for the student.

Students with visual impairments may use individually prescribed low vision aids such as magnifying glasses or a monocular, large print books, enlarged screen reading programs for computers, and/or felt tip markers for note taking in class.

To assist students with visual impairments in reading information, the instructor should use a black felt tip marker when commenting on written assignments.

Learning Disabilities

A learning disability is a permanent neurological disorder that affects the manner in which information is received, organized, remembered, and then retrieved or expressed. Students with learning disabilities possess average to above average intelligence. The disability is demonstrated by a significant discrepancy between expected and actual performance in one or more of the basic functions: memory, oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, or mathematical reasoning.

Accommodations may include:

Note: Students will not need all of these accommodations. The specific accommodations are based on the diagnostic information that is one file in the OSSSD. 


  • Reduced course load 
  • Priority registration 


  • Extended time to complete assignments
  • Course substitution for nonessential course requirements in major


  • Alternate format texts 

Note taking:

  • Tape recorders
  • Copies of classmate’s notes


  • Extended time for in-class assignments to correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.
  • Word processor with spell check


  • Calculator for a student with a disability in the area of math processing. The SAT is now allowing the use of a standard four-function calculator as an accommodation.


  • Extended time for exams
  • Proctored testing in a quiet
  • Separate area for testing
  • Alternate format testing
  • Student responding orally to essay
  • Scribe
  • Blank card or paper to assist in reading
  • Calculator

Learning disabilities vary from one person to another and are often inconsistent within an individual. Some of the terms associated with learning disabilities include:

  • Dyslexia – inability to read
  • Dyscalculia – inability to do mathematics
  • Dysgraphia – inability to write words with appropriate syntax
  • Dysphasia – inability to speak with fluency or sometimes to understand others
  • Figure-ground perception – inability to see an object from the background of other objects
  • Visual discrimination – inability to see the difference in objects
  • Auditory figure-ground perception – inability to hear one sound among others
  • Auditory sequencing – inability to hear sounds in the right order

Students may demonstrate one or more problem characteristics. Students can be affected mildly, moderately, or severely in the following areas:

Study Skills:  

  • Inability to organize and budget time
  • Difficulty taking notes/outlining material
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty completing assignments on time

 Writing Skills:           

  • Frequent spelling errors
  • Incorrect grammar
  • Poor penmanship
  • Poor sentence structure
  • Difficulty taking notes while listening to class lectures
  • Problems with organization, development of ideas and transition words   

 Reading Skills:

  • Slow reading rate
  • Inaccurate comprehension
  • Poor retention
  • Poor tracking skills (skip words, lose place, miss lines, etc.)
  • Difficulty with complex syntax on exams
  • Incomplete mastery of phonics
  • Symbols

 Mathematics Skills:

  • Computational skill difficulties
  • Difficulty with basic math operations
  • Number reversals, confusion of symbols
  • Difficulty copying problems
  • Difficulty with concepts of time and money

 Oral Language:

  • Difficulty understanding oral language when lecturer speaks fast
  • Difficulty attending to long lectures
  • Poor vocabulary and word recall
  • Problems with correct grammar
  • Difficulty in remembering a series of events in sequence
  • Difficulty pronouncing multi-syllabic words

 Social Skills:

  • Spatial disorientation
  • Low frustration level
  • Low self-esteem
  • Impulsivity
  • Disorientation in time
  • Difficulty with delaying problem resolution


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)

AD/HD is officially called Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and is a neurologically-based medical problem. It is a developmental disability characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and/or sometimes hyperactivity. The results can lead to lifelong problems.

Students with AD/HD may demonstrate one or more problem characteristics and the form may be mild, moderate, or severe:

  • Concentrating 
  • Listening 
  • Starting, organizing and completing tasks 
  • Following directions 
  • Making transitions 
  • Interacting with others 
  • Producing work at a consistently normal level 
  • Organizing problems that involve multiple steps 

 Accommodations may include the accommodations for students with learning disabilities. 

 A student with AD/HD may:

  • Perform better in morning classes
  • Need to sit in the front of the class
  • Need assignment organizers
  • Need assignments in writing
  • Experience difficulty following through with several directions at once
  • Have problems organizing multi-step tasks
  • Benefit from structure using lists, schedules, etc.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Head injury is one of the fastest growing types of disabilities, especially in the age range of 15 to 28 years of age. Over 500,000 cases are reported and hospitalized each year. There is a wide range of differences in the effects of a TBI on the individual, but most cases result in some type of impairment. The functions that may be affected include: memory, cognitive/perceptual communication, speed of thinking, communication, spatial reasoning, conceptualization, psychosocial behaviors, motor abilities, sensory perception, and physical abilities.

 Students with TBI may demonstrate one or more problems. Characteristics can be mild, moderate, or severe:

  • Organizing thoughts, cause-effect relationships and problem solving
  • Processing information and word retrieving
  • Generalizing and integrating skills
  • Interacting with others
  • Compensating for memory loss

Accommodations may include the accommodations for students with learning disabilities.  

A student with TBI may:

  • Need established routine with step-by-step directions
  • Need books and lectures on tape
  • Need repetition or some type of reinforcement of information to be learned
  • Demonstrate poor judgment and memory problems
  • Need a tutor
  • Exhibit discrepancies in abilities such as reading comprehension at a much lower level than spelling ability


Deafness/Hearing Impairments

More individuals in the United States have a hearing impairment than any other type of physical disability. A hearing impairment is any type or degree of auditory impairment, while deafness is an inability to use hearing as a means of communication. Hearing loss may be sensorineural, involving an impairment of the auditory nerve; conductive, a defect in the auditory system which interferes with sound reaching the cochlea; or a mixed impairment, involving both sensorineural and conductive. Hearing loss is measured in decibels and may be mild, moderate, or profound. A person who is born with a hearing loss may have language deficiencies and exhibit poor vocabulary and syntax. Many students with hearing loss may use hearing aids and rely on lip reading. Other may require an interpreter.

Accommodations may include:

  • Seating in the front of the classroom
  • Written supplement to oral instructions, assignments, and directions
  • Visual aids as often as possible
  • Speaker facing the class during lectures
  • Speaker repeating the questions that other students in the class ask
  • Note taker for class lectures
  • Test accommodation: extended time for exams, quiet area for testing, proof-reading of essay tests, access to word processor, interpreted directions, etc.
  • Unfamiliar vocabulary written on the board or a handout given
  • Small amplification system, called an FM loop system
  • Interpreter seated where the student can see the interpreter and the lecturer
  • Excess noise reduced as much as possible to facilitate communication

Speech and Language Disorders

Speech and language disorders may result from hearing loss, Cerebral Palsy, learning disabilities, or physical conditions. The disorder may result in stuttering, problems with articulation, voice disorders, or aphasia.

Accommodations may include:

  • Modifications of assignments such as one-to-one presentation or use of a computer with voice synthesizer

  • Substitutions for oral class reports

Hearing aids and lip reading:
Some students may use hearing aids and lip reading to assist in discriminating sounds; but only 30% of spoken words in the English language can be lip-read. It is important when speaking to a student with a hearing impairment to look at the student, keep hands away from mouth, use shorter sentences, speak slowly, and use appropriate facial expressions and gestures. Technical and unfamiliar vocabulary should be written down for the student. Standing in front of a window or a source of glare may limit visibility for the student. It is not helpful to shout or exaggerate lip movements.

If the student uses an interpreter remember to look at the student, not the interpreter. The interpreter should be seated so that the student can see the lecturer and the interpreter. If overheads or videos are used, some light should be left on so that the student can see the interpreter. A note taker or copies of another student’s notes may be necessary as the student cannot watch the interpreter and take notes at the same time. Interpreters are professionals with specialized training that do not give opinions about the student’s progress in the course. Consideration of a brief break during a long lecture will give the interpreter and student a much needed break.

Other considerations:
Classroom discussions are difficult and should be followed by summaries of the relevant information. Questions raised by other students should be repeated by instructor. Videos without caption should be repeated by the instructor. Videos without captions require a written summary or outline of the important points. Verbal assignments, due dates, changes in the schedule and other information may be missed by the student, and should be provided in writing. Oral tests may be impossible for the student and can be solved by a written exam. The student may not hear what is said while the instructor writes on the board. The use of overheads and all types of visual aids provide better communication.

Speech and language disorders may be managed by computerized voice synthesizers or electronic speaking machines. Speech therapy is frequently used to improve certain disorders. Anxiety and stress often accompany oral communication and exacerbate issues associated with these disorders.

Special Considerations:
The student may speak slower in class and should be given time to express his/her thoughts. Interrupting or completing a sentence for the student is not helpful and may lead to embarrassment. It is appropriate to ask the student to repeat the statement. Summarizing the message helps the student to check for accuracy of understanding. The instructor’s acceptance and support of the student is important to facilitate communication and manage the speech disorder. If an oral presentation is required, the instructor should discuss alternatives with the student.

 Psychological Disorders

Psychological disorders cover a wide range of disorders such as neuroses, psychoses, and personality disorders. The majority of psychological disorders are controlled by using a combination of medications and psychotherapy. If the student self-discloses to the instructor, it may be appropriate to discuss problems and side effects associated with medications. Only a limited number of court cases have been conducted to set precedents for reasonable accommodations for students with any of these disorders. Based on court rulings of other types of disabilities, it is probable that some of the following accommodations may be considered appropriate and reasonable.

 Accommodations may include:

  • Extended time for exams, quiet testing area with proctor

  • Note takers, reader software programs, or use of recorders in class
  • Seating arrangements that enhance the learning experience of the student
  • Incompletes or late withdrawals in place of course failures in the event of prolonged illnesses
  • Assistance with time management and study skills
  • Encouragement to use relaxation and stress reducing techniques during exams
  • Flexibility in the attendance requirements in case of health-related absences

Note: Having a disability does not excuse students from assignments and/or exams. A student is require to makeup missed assignments and exams.

Invisible Disabilities:
Psychological disorders fall into the group of invisible disabilities that may have little or no impact on learning. With proper diagnoses and treatment, students with psychological disorders are productive and successful in the academic environment.

Depression is a common occurrence that may affect social functioning, concentration and motivation, and the ability to tolerate stress. Episodes of lower level academic functioning related to the disability may be time limited. In some cases the student may need to withdrawal from school or take an incomplete in course work to allow time for the condition to stabilize. Flexibility with assignments and exams may need to be negotiated between the student and the instructor.

Medications or changes in the medications that a student is taking may cause sleep disturbances, interfere with concentration, diminish ability to attend lectures or successfully complete assignments or exams. Accommodations may be needed for the presenting disability and the side effects of medication.

Some students may exhibit negative behavior such as indifference or occasionally disruptive behavior. In the event of disruptive behavior, the student should be informed about the specific limits of acceptable behavior, in the classroom and on campus. The Student Code of Conduct must be followed.


Asperger’s syndrome (AS) and autism are closely related neurobiological disorders. Individuals with these disorders exhibit a variety of characteristics ranging from mild to severe. Persons with AS/autism show marked deficiencies in social skills; they have difficulties with changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines or preoccupations with a particular subject. They have much difficulty reading nonverbal cues and may have difficulty determining proper body space. Often overly sensitive to stimuli, the person with AS/autism may prefer soft clothing, certain foods and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see. The person with AS/autism perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behaviors that seem odd are due to those neurological differences and are not intentional rudeness or bad behavior.

Those with AS have a normal IQ as do many individuals with autism. Some exhibit exceptional skills or talents in a specific area. Because of their high degree of functionality and their naiveté, those with AS/autism are often viewed as eccentric and can become victims of teasing and bullying. Individuals with AS/autism often have language deficits. While some have rich vocabularies, students with AS/autism can be extremely literal and have difficulty using language in a social context.

Accommodations may include:

  • In addition to lectures, clear written expectations for assignments for labs, videos, slides, etc., is recommended.
  • Have the student tape his/her lecture or share notes with others in class.
  • Students will need extended time testing in a separate, quiet environment with low-distraction.

Tips for Working with Students with Asperger’s/Autism

  • Keep to your written syllabus
  • If you must change – give students revised syllabus in writing
  • When doing group work, assist students in interactions by assigning mature, caring peers to work with them
  • If student continually interrupts with untimely questions, consult with the Office of Supportive Services for Students with disabilities staff to develop a strategy
  • Strive to avoid abrupt changes and surprises in class
  • Changes in routine should be written (handouts or on the board) before they are announced
  • Assignments and homework should be written (handouts or on the board) before they are announced
  • Seat students in the front of class so they can focus on you as the instructor, not other students or other distractions
  • Test on subjective facts, not instructor’s subtle nuances and humor
  • Check homework to see if they did it

Note: Students with AS/Autism lack understanding of nuance, innuendo, and higher level generalizations. They completely miss body language. They frequently process auditory input with significant delays. When these behaviors and communication deficits present problems in the classroom, consult with the Office of Supportive Services for Students with Disabilities staff to develop strategies to address them. Each student is different so strategies may differ.

Other Disabilities

A large number of students have disabilities that do not necessarily fall into the major categories already discussed but are covered by Section 504/ADA. The degrees to which these disabilities affect students in the academic setting vary widely. At times, it is not the condition itself but the medication that is required to control symptoms that impairs academic performance. Common side effects of medications include fatigue, memory loss, shortened attention span, loss of concentration, and drowsiness. In some cases the degree of impairment may vary from time to time because of the nature of the disability or the medication. Some conditions are progressive and others may be stable.

 A partial list of other disabilities include:

  • AIDS
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Burns
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular Disorders
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Chronic Pain
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Epilepsy
  • Hemophilia
  • Lupus
  • Motor Neuron Diseases
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Renal-kidney Disease
  • Respiratory Disorders
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Stroke
  • Tourette’s Syndrome

 Accommodations may include:

  • Extended time for exams
  • Enlarged printed materials
  • Tape recorded course materials
  • Reader software programs
  • Computers or other adaptive equipment
  • Scribes
  • Flexibility in attendance requirements in case of health-related absences
  • Other accommodations found elsewhere in this guide

Invisible Disabilities:
Students may have invisible disabilities and desire confidentiality about their condition. When discussing an accommodation, it is important to respect the rules of confidentiality. If a student requests accommodations, the student must have medical documentation on file in the OSSSD.

Temporary Disabilities:
Some disabilities are temporary but may require accommodations for a limited time. Students who are recovering from surgery, injury, or severe illness may be unaware of accommodations that may be reasonable for a limited time period. Encouragement to contact the OSSSD, and to talk with faculty and staff members may prevent students from dropping out of school. The student, faculty/staff member, and staff members of Supportive Services may work together to establish reasonable accommodations.

Permission to Leave Class:
Some disabilities result in the need to consume large quantities of fluids and urinate often. The student may need to leave the classroom more frequently than nondisabled students.

Chronic pain may result in limitations to strength, standing, walking, climbing, sitting, kneeling, stooping, and carrying. Cold or sudden changes in temperature may increase the onset of pain. Students with chronic pain may need to stand or change positions intermittently during class. Severe pain may increase the number of absences but the student would still be required to complete the course assignments.

Respiratory Disorders:
Some respiratory disorders can result in significant limitations to activities such as walking and climbing. Tolerance to temperature changes or extremes in temperature may be limited. Wet or humid conditions, along with fumes and dust may result in exacerbation of the problem. Environments where smoking is permitted should be avoided.

  Tips that Facilitate Student Learning

Many teaching strategies that assist students with disabilities are known to also benefit nondisabled students. Instruction that is provided in an array of approaches will reach more students than instruction using one method. The following are teaching strategies that will benefit students in the academic setting.

Required text:                                                                                                                    

  • Select a text with a study guide

On the syllabi:

  • Include a statement that students need to inform faculty members of their   needs as soon as possible to ensure that those  needs are met in a timely manner

Before the lecture:

  • Write key terms or an outline on the board, or prepare a lecture handout 
  • Create a study guide 
  • Assign advance readings before the topic is due in the class session 
  • Give students questions that they should be able to answer by each lecture

 During the lecture:

  • Briefly review the previous lecture
  • Use visual aids such as overheads,
  • diagrams, charts, graphs, etc.
  • Allow the use of tape recorders
  • Emphasize important points, main ideas, key concepts, etc.
  • Face the class when speaking
  • Explain technical language, terminology, etc.
  • Speak distinctly and at a relaxed rate, pausing to allow students for note    taking
  • Leave time for questions periodically
  • Administer frequent quizzes to provide feedback for students
  • Give assignments in writing as well as orally

 Grading and evaluation:

  • Consider a variant grading system with multiple  grades for various tasks weighted differently 
  • Work with the student to make a arrangement  early with the office of disability services for extended time or proctors for exams

Tips for Disability Awareness

Appropriate Language:

  • People with disabilities are people first. The Americans with Disabilities Act officially changed the way people with disabilities are referred to and provide the model, the person first and then the disability. This emphasizes the person and not the disability.

  • Do use the word disability when referring to someone who has a physical, mental, emotional, sensory, or learning impairment.

  • Do not use the word handicapped. A handicap is what a person with a disability cannot do.
  • Avoid labeling individuals as victims, or the disabled, or names of conditions.
  • Avoid terms such as wheelchair bound. Wheelchairs provide access and enable individuals to get around. Instead, refer to a person who uses a wheelchair or someone with mobility impairment. 
  • When it is appropriate to refer to an individual’s disability choose the correct terminology for the specific disability. Use terms such as quadriplegia, speech impairment, hearing impairment, or specific learning disability.

 Appropriate Interaction

  •  When introduced, offer to shake hands. People with limited hand use or artificial limbs can usually shake hands. It is an acceptable greeting to sue the left hand for shaking.
  • Treat adults as adults. Avoid patronizing people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the shoulder or touching their head. Never place your hands on a person’s wheelchair as the chair is a part of the body space of the user.
  • If possible, sit down when talking to a person who uses a wheelchair so that you are at the person’s eye level.  
  • Speak directly to the person with a disability. Do not communicate through another person. If the person uses an interpreter, look at the person and speak to the person, not the interpreter.  
  • Offer assistance with sensitivity and respect. Ask if there is something you might do to help. If the offer is declined, do not insist. 
  • If you are a sighted guide for a person with a visual impairment, allow the person to take your arm at or above the elbow so that you guide rather than propel. 
  • When talking with a person with a speech impairment, listen attentively, ask short questions that require short answers, avoid correctly, and repeat what you understand if you are uncertain. 
  • When first meeting a person with blindness, identify yourself and any others who may be with you.
  • When speaking to a person with a hearing impairment, look directly at the person and speak slowly. Avoid placing your hand over your mouth when speaking. Written notes may be helpful for short conversations.


Grievance Procedures for Individuals with Disabilities

The Community College of Allegheny County has adopted an internal grievance procedure providing for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action prohibited by the US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended, (29 USC 794) which prohibit discrimination on the
basis of disability.

Complaints should be addressed to Sumana Misra-Zets, ADA/504 Coordinator, Community College of Allegheny County, 808 Ridge Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, phone 412.237.4535 (voice), who has been designated to coordinate the college's compliance activities pursuant to the above noted regulations.

  1. A complaint should be filed in writing, contain the name and address of the person filing it and briefly describe the alleged violation of the policy and/or rules.
  2.  A complaint should generally be filed within 45 days after the complainant becomes aware of the alleged violation, though the college may be able to pursue complaints made after 45 days depending on the availability of evidence.  
  3. An investigation, as may be appropriate, will follow the filing of the complaint. The investigation will be conducted by Esther M. Mason, unless Ms. Mason is the subject of the complaint, in which case the investigation will be conducted by the functional dean for Supportive Services. These rules contemplate informal but thorough investigation, affording all interested persons and their representatives, if any, an opportunity to submit evidence relevant to a complaint.  
  4. A written determination as to the validity of the complaint and a description of the resolution, if any, will be issued by Esther M. Mason and a copy forwarded to the complainant no later than 45 days after its filing.  Any finding will be based on whether evidence shows it is more likely than not that the alleged behavior violated CCAC policies. 
  5. The college's designated compliance coordinator will maintain the files and records of the Community College of Allegheny County relating to the complaints filed. 
  6. The complainant can request an appeal of the case in instances where he or she is dissatisfied with the resolution.

To appeal:

  1. Student or complainant may petition within seven school days of receiving the written decision of the Compliance Coordinator for the review.  Such petitions will be in writing and will be delivered to the dean of student development or designee.                                                                        
  2. If the dean of student development or designee determines that one of the five bases for appeal below has been met, the dean may re-open the complaint to allow reconsideration of the original determination for reconsideration.  The dean of student development or designee serves as the final level of review in the matter.
  3. Except as required to explain the basis of new information, a review will be limited to review of the record of the initial investigation and supporting documents for one or more of the following purposes: 
    • To consider new information, unavailable during the original complaint, that could be outcome determinative;
    • To assess whether a material deviation from written procedures impacted the fairness of the review;
    • To decide if a sanction(s) is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offense .
    • To determine that the finding does not accord with the information;
    • To assess whether bias on the part of a conduct board member deprived the process of impartiality.
  4. On appeal by any party to the complaint, the dean of student development or designee may support or change a decision, increase, decrease or modify the outcome. The reviewing body will be deferential to the original decision maker, making changes to the finding only where there is clear error and to the outcome only if a compelling justification to do so exists.
  5. The rights of a person to a prompt and equitable resolution of the complaint filed hereunder will not be impaired by the person's pursuit of other remedies such as the filing of a Section 504 complaint with the responsible federal department or agency. Utilization of this grievance procedure is not a prerequisite to the pursuit of other remedies.
  6. These rules shall be construed to protect the substantive rights of interested persons, to meet appropriate due process standards and to ensure that the Community College of Allegheny County is complying with Section 504 and its implementing regulations.

New Nondiscrimination Policy Statement:

Approve by CCAC Board of Trustees on Sept. 6, 2012

The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) and its Board of Trustees are committed to the principle of equal opportunity in education and employment for all.  CCAC does not discriminate based upon race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry or place of birth, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, use of a guide or support animal due to disability, marital status, familial status, genetic information, veteran status, or age.

Creating, supporting and sustaining a diverse community prepares our students to be effective in the world outside of CCAC.

Any employee, student, guest or 3rd party vendor who wishes to report discrimination or harassment based on any of the aforementioned protected classes should contact Sumana Misra-Zets, Director of College and Community Diversity Initiatives  
Title IX and ADA/504 Coordinator

Office of Institutional Diversity & Inclusion 
808 Ridge Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

The college also prohibits and will not engage in retaliation against any person who in good faith reports a violation of this policy, makes a claim of discrimination or harassment, provides investigation of a potential violation of this policy, or otherwise engages in protected activity under the law.

 Individuals with disabilities who are requesting accommodations should contact the Supportive Services for Students with Disabilities office at the campus that they will be attending. This publication is available in alternate formats. Questions may be addressed to the Title IX and ADA/504 Coordinator at