Polly A. Bush, Student Services and Financial Aid Associate, VA Certifying Officer
Office of Academic Life
320 North Goodman St., Suite 207
Rochester, NY 14607
The Divinity School is committed to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Fair Housing Act. The Divinity School does not discriminate in the admission or service of students on the basis of disability. It is the responsibility of all members of the Divinity School community to adhere to the philosophy of equal access and opportunity for students with disabilities.
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.”
While ensuring the integrity of its programs, the Divinity School is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to ensure equal access to educational opportunities for students with appropriately documented disabilities.
An individual with a disability is someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more “major life activities.” Physical or mental impairments include, for example, specific learning disabilities, emotional or mental illness, blindness and visual impairments, deafness and hearing impairments, mobility impairments and some chronic illnesses. A person is also considered to be an individual with a disability and protected by the law if he/she has the disability, has a record of having the disability or is regarded as having the disability.
Major life activity means functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working and learning
A qualified person with a disability means an individual who, with reasonable modifications or “accommodations” (if necessary) to rules, policies or practices, the removal of barriers or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the eligibility requirements for the receipt of services and the participation in programs or activities.
Accommodation refers to a change in the status quo. A reasonable accommodation in the student setting is a modification or adjustment to a course, program or building that allows the person with a disability to participate as fully as possible in the programs and activities offered by the Divinity School.
Services that may be provided to students with disabilities include, but are not limited to, classroom and test accommodations, early registration, housing accommodations, books on tape, note takers, interpreters, readers, assistive technology and referral for testing or additional services.
Note that colleges and universities are not required to supply students with attendants, individually prescribed devices such as hearing aids and wheelchairs, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature.
The needs of students with disabilities may be related to vision, hearing, or mobility impairments, learning disabilities, psychological and medical conditions (both permanent and temporary) that necessitate modifications to the programs or services of the School.
Students with disabilities are required to meet the same academic standards as other students at the School. It is only through a student’s voluntary disclosure of disability and request for accommodation that the Divinity School can support disability needs.
Students with disabilities who wish to receive accommodations or services must disclose the disability and make a personal request to the Student Services Representative. The student meets with the Student Services Representative; submits any required disability documentation; and formally requests services, including accommodations. A disclosure of disability or request for an accommodation made to a faculty or staff member, other than the Student Services Representative, will not be treated as a request for an accommodation.
Requests for services or accommodation are best made early (in some cases prior to the start of the semester or very early in the semester) to allow time to review requests and documentation and make proper arrangements. Reasonable accommodations will normally be granted prospectively following a request for the same.
Requests for academic accommodations need to be renewed each semester.
Disabled students are encouraged to identify themselves and to outline the services they require by returning the Needs Identification Form included with your admittance letter. This allows the Student Services Representative to be aware of special needs before the term begins.
Returning students are encouraged to identify themselves to the Student Services Representative as soon as they perceive a special need that affects their participation in the Divinity School community.
Disabilities may require documentation. Disability documentation must be current and may include the following elements:
The type of documentation will vary according to the disability. Whether or not documentation is current will depend on the nature of the disability. For more specific information regarding documentation requirements contact the Student Services Representative.
Disability documentation is used to determine eligibility for services and establish accommodations.
Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis taking into account the learning needs of the student, the requirements of the learning task, the course standards and essential requirements, and the educational environment.
The School will give primary consideration to a specific accommodation requested by a student in recognition of the fact that students with disabilities typically have the best and most accurate knowledge about the functional limitations posed by their disabilities. As part of an interactive process with the student, the School may also propose alternative reasonable accommodations.
At the Divinity School, the determination of an appropriate and reasonable accommodation is based on an interaction between the individual and the School. Specifically, accommodations are determined by the Student Services Representative in consultation with the student and with input from the faculty or staff, as needed. Determining how students are to be evaluated in a course is an example of an area where faculty input would be solicited.
Students who have special needs in the classroom are also encouraged to meet with their professors before the term begins to review special requirements such as the use of enlarged print for handouts, oral or taped exams, special seating arrangements, or the use of an assistive listening system.
Students who require special services concerning participation in the All-School Worship program are encouraged to meet with one of the Worship Committee co-conveners to review their needs.
Questions about the process involved in the determination of reasonable accommodations should be directed to the Student Services Representative.
Documentation of a student’s disability is maintained in a confidential file in the office of the Student Services Representative. This documentation is not a part of the student’s academic record.
All information related to a disability is confidential and may be disclosed only with the permission of the student or otherwise as permitted by the School’s student records policy and federal laws.
Disability information so disclosed should be maintained in a confidential file and never discussed with other individuals without permission of the student.
The Divinity School reserves the right to deny services or accommodations in the event that documentation does not comply with its published guidelines for service eligibility, e.g., the student does not meet the criteria of ADA, Section 504, or the Fair Housing Act, or documentation is out-of-date or incomplete.
If the documentation provided by a student does not support the existence of a disability or the need for an accommodation, the student will be so advised. Students will be given the opportunity to supplement the initial documentation with further information.
The School is not required to provide an accommodation that compromises the essential requirements of a course or program, imposes an undue financial burden based on the School’s overall institutional budget or poses a threat to the health or safety of the student or others.
A student who disagrees with a determination of the Student Services Representative regarding eligibility for accommodations or the extent of accommodations is encouraged to meet with the Student Services Representative to resolve the matter informally.
The Divinity School has adopted an internal appeal process providing prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging a violation of the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, or the Fair Housing Act.
A student who disputes the determination by the Student Services Representative regarding the existence of a disability or denial of an accommodation may file a written appeal with the School’s Section 504 Coordinator within 30 days of the date of the Student Services Representative’s determination. The decision of the Section 504 Coordinator shall be final.
The appeal must be submitted in writing to the Section 504 Coordinator and must include the specific action disputed and the specific accommodation(s) sought by the student. The Section 504 Coordinator will notify the Student Services Representative and obtain a copy of the student’s file, including the documentation of the disability and the need for accommodation, if any, recommended by the evaluator and the Student Services Representative. The Section 504 Coordinator will convene a meeting to discuss the appeal with the student and the Student Services Representative as soon as practicable after receiving the written complaint. The Section 504 Coordinator will make a decision on the complaint within 10 business days after meeting with the student and reviewing the file and documentation.
A student who believes that the School has discriminated against him or her on the basis of their disability may contact the Section 504 Coordinator to discuss filing a formal complaint of discrimination.
The Divinity School’s Section 504 Coordinator is the Assistant Dean of Students or his/her designee.
At all stages of the appeals process, the Student Services Representative will be available to provide information regarding any issue relevant to the student’s appeal.
The role of the Student Services Representative is to assess the documentation of disabilities and to approve the appropriate accommodations in an objective manner on behalf of the Divinity School. The Student Services Representative also assists faculty and staff in understanding the need for appropriate accommodations.
A student who wishes an accommodation is responsible for obtaining a letter from the Student Services Representative that states that he or she is a qualified individual with a disability. The letter also advises the faculty or staff member of the action required to provide an accommodation for the student.
Students are not required to divulge the nature of their disabilities or provide copies of their disability documentation to faculty or staff.
Students are responsible for working directly with the faculty or staff member involved in the provision of an accommodation. Contact should be maintained throughout the semester.
Students need to provide feedback to the Student Services Representative on the effectiveness of accommodations. The Student Services Representative should be notified if an accommodation is not provided.
Questions about the provision of reasonable accommodations should be directed to the Student Services Representative.