Office of Specialized Services (OSS)
Both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) are intended to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities by ensuring equal access and opportunity. As applied to a post-secondary setting, these laws guarantee that individuals who are otherwise qualified for educational programs cannot be denied access to college programs and services simply because they have a disability. At the college level, by law it is the student’s responsibility to document eligibility for accommodations and/or academic adjustments to ensure equal access.
Upon admission to Ramapo College, a student wanting to establish eligibility for protection under the law as a person with a disability, and to substantiate the need for accommodations to ensure equal access must provide comprehensive documentation to the Office of Specialized Services (OSS). The student must also complete OSS affiliation procedures before requests for accommodations will be considered.
Policies and Procedures
To affiliate with OSS in order to request accommodations and/or qualify for receiving support services through the US Department of Education Student Support Services (SSS) Project, a student must:
- Complete and return the following forms:
- Eligibility Information for Disability Support Services
- Authorization to Release Information
- Authorization to Inform Professors
- Financial Statement (required by federal SSS Project)
- Academic Accommodations Request
- Submit comprehensive documentation which:
- Establishes the presence of a disability(ies), and
- Supports the need for any requested accommodations.
- Meet with OSS director or professional staff to review submitted materials, establish eligibility, and conduct initial needs assessment to determine accommodations for which the student is eligible. Additional documentation to establish eligibility or support specific accommodation needs may be requested by OSS at this time.
A student’s request for disability-related accommodations will not be considered until these three steps have been completed. Once a student has been found eligible for affiliation with OSS, s/he will receive a letter of confirmation. The student is then assigned to an OSS academic counselor.
In order to ensure that any approved accommodations or academic adjustments are in place at the start of a semester, the student should be in contact with OSS as soon as s/he has accepted the College’s offer of admission.
- The student completes procedures for affiliation with OSS. (see above)
- The student meets with the assigned OSS counselor to review the initial Needs Assessment and to plan the implementation of approved accommodations. These accommodations are then listed on an Approved Accommodations Summary, which is signed by both the student and the OSS counselor. The student is given a copy of the Summary and the original remains on file in the OSS office. Photocopies of the Approved Accommodations summary can be made available to the student’s professors, if requested. An initial Academic Accommodations Plan for implementing approved accommodations is devised.
- With the student’s written permission, at the beginning of each semester a letter is sent to the student’s professors indicating the student’s affiliation with OSS, and listing the accommodations for which the student is eligible. The nature of the student’s disability is NOT disclosed.
- At the beginning of each semester, the student must review the Approved Accommodations Summary with his/her OSS academic counselor to ensure that the listed accommodations are still appropriate. This review must take place regardless of whether or not the student sees a need to revise his /her requests for accommodations.
- If at any time a student wishes to revise his/her accommodations request, it is the student’s right and responsibility to do so by informing his/her OSS counselor immediately. Should the previously submitted documentation be insufficient to support the revised request, the student will be required to submit additional documentation from an appropriate professional. If any changes in accommodations are approved, the student will sign and receive a copy of the revised Approved Accommodations Summary form.
- It is the student’s responsibility to make accommodation request(s), in writing, in a timely manner.
- It is the student’s responsibility to provide documentation, obtained at his/her own expense, which provides objective, measurable evidence of the need for the provision of accommodations to equalize access.
- It is the college’s responsibility to have each accommodation(s) request reviewed, in a timely manner, by designated OSS professional staff to determine eligibility for and appropriateness of the requested accommodations.
- It is the college’s responsibility to facilitate the implementation of accommodations for which the student has been found eligible.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, PL 93-112, establishes the basis for program access at post-secondary institutions for students with disabilities. A college cannot discriminate against an otherwise qualified student solely on the basis of disability, and must reasonably accommodate students with disabilities to ensure equal access to the programs and services of the institution. Specifically, this law states that a college “shall make such modifications to its academic requirements as are necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate or have the effect of discriminating, on the basis of disability, against a qualified applicant or student with a disability. … Modifications may include changes in the length of time permitted for the completion of degree requirements, substitution of specific courses required for the completion of degree requirements, and adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted.” 34 C.F.R. § 104.44(a) To reflect the language of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, PL 101-336, the term disability replaces the word handicap throughout the 504 Regulations, as specified by the 1992 Amendments.
Section 504 at the same time clearly states that academic requirements which the college “can demonstrate are essential to the program of instruction being pursued by such student or to any directly-related licensing requirement will not be regarded as discriminatory…” 34 C.F.R. § 104.44(a) It is the responsibility of the institution to show that a requirement is essential to a given course of study or program and that a substitution would fundamentally alter the program for that student. In 2002, there was passage of a New Jersey law concerning “reasonable substitution of certain courses” for certain students with disabilities at institutions of higher education in the state. N.J.S.A.18A:62-44 is consistent with current federal law.
Ramapo College of New Jersey promotes equal access to academic programs for students with disabilities. One of the functions of the Office of Specialized Services (OSS) is to ensure equal access by facilitating the provision of appropriate academic accommodations.
Students registered with the Office of Specialized Services have met the regular entrance requirements of Ramapo College and are expected to meet the college’s established academic standards and requirements. However, if the documented disability precludes a student’s completion of a particular degree requirement through the available course structure, and if the specific course content is considered less essential to the student’s major, discipline, or proposed area(s) of certification, Ramapo College, subject to the limitation of the specified laws, may allow the student to meet the essential objectives of the requirement through an alternative avenue. Each request for a course substitution shall be carefully considered on an individual basis before a final determination is approved.
Because 1) Ramapo College has a General Education mathematics requirement, 2) mathematics is an important component of specific academic programs, and 3) substitution requests nationwide are typically in this subject area, this document was drafted with an eye toward potential petitions for meeting graduation requirements in mathematics. However, the policy has been designed for application to other areas as well, such as the proposed requirement for foreign language.
Overview of Process
In consultation with the Dean of the relevant school and appropriate faculty, the College will decide what is “essential” to a major, course of study, or degree requirement and whether making a substitution would substantially alter the curriculum for the student.
When a course substitution is requested, the student must be able to substantiate that s/he has attempted to meet the requirement or a similar requirement with appropriate academic accommodations, academic support services, and resources. The petition must be made early enough in the student’s college career to be processed according to the established procedure and for the recommended modification(s) to be implemented in a timely manner.
IN EVERY CASE IT IS THE STUDENT’S RESPONSIBILITY TO INITIATE THE PETITION AND TO PROVIDE ALL INFORMATION NECESSARY TO SUPPORT THE NEED FOR A PROGRAM MODIFICATION OF THIS TYPE.
NOTE: This policy is not meant to supplant any arrangements that may already be in place for the Deans to approve substitutions in particular courses of study. Rather, it is designed to provide a procedure for the College to consider program modification petitions based on Section 504 guidelines. It replaces the similar College policy in effect since 1996.
Policy Revision Drafted by:
Jean Balutanski, OSS Director
Ramona Kopacz, Learning Disabilities Specialist
Frances Shapiro-Skrobe, Professor of English, SSHS
Gabriella Wepner, Professor of Mathematics, SSHS
Lawrence D’Antonio, Associate Professor of Mathematics, TAS
Rosetta Geller, Associate Director, CAS
Martha Ecker, Associate Provost/Associate VPAA
Eligibility For Petition
To be eligible as an applicant, the student must meet the following criteria:
- The student has a documented disability and asserts that this disability precludes the successful completion of the requirement under petition.
- The student has attempted to meet the requirement or a similar requirement while using academic accommodations, academic support services, and resources.
The student must provide the Office of Specialized Services (OSS) with the material which follows. (All primary documents will remain in the student’s confidential OSS file.)
- Current, relevant, and comprehensive documentation and assessment data from an appropriate certified professional (e.g. learning disabilities specialist, neuropsychologist, or psychiatrist). Documentation must substantiate both the specific disabling condition and its impact upon the student’s ability in the subject area.
- A complete case history documenting the student’s problems in learning related material from high school until the date of the petition, including the following:
- A typed personal statement by the student indicating the reasons for the request, including prior experiences with the subject matter and statement of the student’s educational and career goals;
- A history of academic accommodations, if any, used by student during course attempts at Ramapo College;
- Information regarding special services and program modifications received during elementary, secondary, and/or post-secondary education at other institutions, if relevant;
- Transcripts of courses and grades, as well as any letters from appropriate high school personnel and/or college faculty attesting to the student’s efforts and diligence in attempting to master the subject matter;
- Any additional relevant information the student wishes to submit.
The student’s primary OSS counselor may also submit a statement summarizing the student’s history from the perspective of a disability services professional.
The Review Process will consist of two phases. In Phase 1, OSS will determine whether or not a course substitution is warranted. In Phase 2, a Committee on Program Modification will determine an appropriate course substitution that meets the essential objectives of the requirement under petition.
Phase 1: Determination of Recommendation by OSS
- Student submits required documentation, as previously specified, to the Office of Specialized Services (OSS) for review by the Director and the Learning Disabilities (LD) Specialist. Student will be interviewed by the OSS Director or designee as part of this phase.
- Within thirty days, the OSS Director will notify the student in writing whether additional information is needed to consider the petition. If the student does not submit the requested information by the deadline specified in the written notice, the file will be closed. If the necessary information is secured at a later date, the student may re-initiate the procedure.
- Within forty-five days of receipt of required documentation, the OSS Director and the LD Specialist will make a determination and will notify the student of the decision in writing.
- If the petition results in a recommendation for appropriate academic accommodations other than course substitution, a meeting with the student will be conducted to arrange for implementation of the recommendation(s).
- If the petition results in a recommendation for a course substitution, OSS will send a portfolio containing the student request and relevant supporting documents to the appropriate Committee on Program Modification.
Phase 2: Determination of Appropriate Course Substitution(s) by Committee
- An ad hoc Committee on Program Modification will be formed within ten days to review the case. The Committee members may request additional information at any time during this phase.
- Within thirty days of review of all requested information, the Committee will decide on appropriate course substitution(s) and will design a plan for implementation.
- The Committee will forward its proposed course substitution(s) to the Office of the Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA).
- The Office of the Provost/VPAA will give final approval and will inform the student in writing within ten days of receipt of the Committee’s proposal. Any approved substitution(s) will be documented in the student’s academic file.
Right to Appeal
After Phase 1: If the student disagrees with the recommendation of OSS regarding eligibility for a course substitution, s/he may file an appeal to the college’s ADA/Section 504 Compliance Officer. The Compliance Officer will review all pertinent material and will determine whether or not the review process should continue through Phase 2. The decision of the Compliance Officer is final.
After Phase 2: If the student disagrees with the course substitution(s) proposed by the Committee on Program Modification, s/he may file an appeal directly to the Office of the Provost/VPAA. The Provost/VPAA or his/her designee will review all pertinent material and will consult with the Committee to make a determination. The decision of the Office of the Provost/VPAA is final.
An ad hoc Committee on Program Modification will be formed every time it is determined that a petition of this nature will be forwarded to Phase 2 of the Review Process. Each Committee will consist of five members who shall collaborate in the development of an appropriate course substitution:
- One faculty member from the subject area under petition, appointed by the appropriate Dean in consultation with the OSS Advisory Council;
- One faculty member from the student’s declared major or intended field of study, preferably the student’s assigned Academic Advisor or his/her designee;
- One representative from the faculty/professional staff who has experience in teaching related non-degree credit courses, appointed by the appropriate Dean in consultation with the OSS Advisory Council;
- One representative from Academic Affairs, appointed by the Provost/VPAA;
- The LD Specialist, representing the Office of Specialized Services.
Appointment to this Committee is for the duration of the specific petition under consideration. The Committee will elect a Chairperson from among its members.
The Committee will not meet during July and August.