Office of Specialized Services (OSS)

OSS Handbooks and Forms

This student handbook is designed to assist in your understanding of how OSS operates. We hope you will continue to use it as a handy reference guide when you have questions about arranging for accommodations, academic adjustments, or support services while attending Ramapo College.

I. The Office of Specialized Services

Description / Policy


Even before it was law, Ramapo College of New Jersey demonstrated a strong commitment to providing equal access to all students through the removal of architectural and attitudinal barriers. Integration of qualified students with disabilities into the college community has been the Ramapo way since it opened in 1971.

The College established the Office of Specialized Services (OSS) to facilitate equal access and to offer optional academic support services for eligible students with disabilities. Since 1976, the office has also been partially funded by federal and state grants and has been the recipient of numerous corporate and private contributions for special projects.

The office is staffed by a director, assistant director, academic counselors, a learning disabilities specialist, a career development counselor, and an independent living counselor who, through frequent contact with each student, help create a positive, supportive college environment.

Policy Statement

Ramapo College of New Jersey supports the protections available to students with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The Office of Specialized Services facilitates equal access to the programs and activities at Ramapo College for students with documented physical, sensory, learning or psychological disabilities. Students must initiate contact with this office in order to receive services or to arrange appropriate accommodations and/or academic adjustments. Comprehensive documentation of a disability from a licensed physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or certified learning disabilities specialist must be submitted in order to establish eligibility and to determine which accommodations and/or adjustments are appropriate for each student.

Any student with a disability who believes that he or she has been discriminated against should refer to the Ramapo College Anti-Discrimination Policy Statement and Discrimination Complaint Procedures published in the Student Handbook for resolution of the grievance.

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Who's Who in the Office of Specialized Services

Liz Jocham
Program Assistant
Phone: (201) 684-7514

Barbara Wexler
Career Development/ Transition Experiences Coordinator
Phone: (201) 684-7686

Abbe Benowitz
Disability Counselor
Phone: (201) 684-7693

Missy Long
Independent Living Counselor/Residence Life Liason
Phone: (201) 684-7511

Ramona Kopacz
Learning Disabilities Specialist/Testing Coordinator
Phone: (201) 684-7512

Sample Letters/Forms to Professors

The following forms are sent to professors, upon written student consent:

1. Introduction Letter

Sent to verify association with OSS; sent Fall and Spring terms, following the add/drop period.

Dear Professor:

Enclosed please find a list of your students who are affiliated with the Office of Specialized Services and who have given us written permission to send this letter of introduction.  These students have provided documentation of a disability and may request academic adaptations during the semester if needed.

We recommend to all of our students that they make appointments with their instructors to explain the limiting effects of their disability and any special learning needs they may have.  We also encourage you to approach students whose names appear on your list to discuss these academic needs.  Please be aware that all information that you obtain is confidential and cannot be shared with others without the students’ consent.  If a student not affiliated with OSS discloses the presence of a disability, please encourage adherence to the college policy by referring the student to the OSS Director in order to establish eligibility.

Students may benefit from, and are legally entitled to, certain modifications according to their disability.  Accommodations frequently provided include alternative test arrangements, notetakers, interpreters, taped lectures, or the use of readers or scribes.

Academic accommodations are meant to equalize opportunities for learning, not to provide an advantage nor to lower college standards.  Each matriculated student affiliated with OSS has met Ramapo College admission standards and is expected to satisfy all college requirements.

We will be happy to assist you in determining what, if any, academic accommodations are appropriate.  Upon request, OSS can provide you with a written list of accommodations to which the student is entitled and may need during the semester.

Office of Specialized Services

2. Midterm Letter and Progress Report

Sent to request midsemester status; sent by the 7th week of Fall and Spring terms.

Dear Professor:

Enclosed are the mid-term progress reports requested by OSS for students who are enrolled in your class(es).  These students have given us permission to contact you in this way.  Please complete the forms and return the top two pages of each to OSS no later than [date].

Your cooperation is greatly appreciated, as the information you provide is utilized during our one-to-one student meetings.  Sometimes students need encouragement to keep up the good work, to take a more active role in their education, to consider other academic adjustments, and/or to be realistic about the consequences of their choices.  We also will use your input in order to offer academic advisement for the following semester.

Your opinion is invaluable to the student’s academic progress.

Thank you in advance,
Office of Specialized Services

Office of Specialized Services


[Student Name, Course ID, Prof. Name]

 Semester: _________________

Counselor Contact: __________________

Please return top two copies by: ___________________

1.  Attendance
Satisfactory     Frequently late     Frequently absent     Stopped attending      Withdrew

2.  Apparent Effort
Good    Satisfactory   Inconsistent   Negligible

Please comment:   __________________________________________________________________

3.  Student has discussed academic adjustment needs with me.     Yes   No

4.  What academic adjustments does this student use in your course?

Tapes lecture       FM Loop        Speech communicator        Alternative test site       Notetaker

Interpreter      Extended due dates          Other _________________________________________

Laptop computer      Classroom aide       Extended test time       None

I am unaware of any academic adjustments used by this student.

5.  Academic Performance

a)  Grades:          Quizzes _____________________  Participation _________________________

Exams _____________________   Other __________________________________________

Papers/Projects ______________________________________________________________

b)  Current Average:     A       A/B       B       B/C       C       C/D       D       F

6.  Should this student arrange for a conference with you?    Yes          No

7.  Comments/Specific Recommendations  _________________________________________________

8.  Would you be willing to discuss appropriate academic adjustments with this student’s future teachers?  __________________________________________________________________________________

Signature/Date of Report

Distribution:  (1)  White – OSS Office; (2) Yellow – Student; (3) Pink – Professor
Rev. 1/97

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II. Equal Access

Equal Access Defined

At the college level, by law it is the student’s responsibility to notify the institution of any accommodations and/or academic adjustments appropriate to ensure equal access to programs and services. Notification needs to be made as early as possible to allow sufficient time for planning.

Once a student’s eligibility has been established, the Office of Specialized Services assigns a primary counselor who conducts an annual needs assessment to consider with the student what accommodations and/or academic adjustments might be necessary. All such modifications must be supported by documentation in order to be considered appropriate. Possible arrangements include:

  • Alternative testing
  • Adaptive technology
  • In-class accommodations
  • Alternate media

Whether living on-campus or commuting, students with disabilities can expect full involvement in a wide range of extracurricular activities. Student government, the campus radio station and newspaper, service learning, internships, clubs and organizations, employment, athletic activities, and cultural events are available to all students. Anyone planning or arranging for accessibility not already in common practice may request the assistance of an OSS counselor as needed.

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Confidentiality in Disclosing Disability

A student voluntarily submits to OSS information about a disability and its impact on learning in order to establish eligibility for services. However, any information regarding disability is considered confidential and is to be shared by OSS staff with others within the college on a “need-to-know” basis only.

Under the law, faculty or professional staff do not have a right or a need to access information about a student’s disability. They only “need to know” what accommodations or academic adjustments are necessary and appropriate for the individual student as it relates to equal access, and then only with the written permission of the student. Students do not have to respond to any intrusive questions about their disability.

Communicating with a faculty member – Prior to the beginning of the course or as early in the semester as possible, the student and faculty member are advised to discuss what accommodations and or/academic adjustments are necessary in a particular course.

A student may choose to reveal specific information about the nature of his/her disability, and may do so directly, or can provide written consent for the OSS counselor to speak with a faculty member. Faculty members must regard this information as extremely confidential and are not free to discuss the nature of a student’s disability with other parties.

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Appropriate Academic Adjustment

An appropriate academic adjustment is a modification to the learning environment or learning process that removes a barrier to full participation and allows equal access for students with disabilities. Academic adjustments are meant to equalize opportunities, not to provide an unfair advantage to eligible students.

Appropriate academic adjustments fall into four categories:

  1. Services – e.g. note taking, reader services, scribing, interpreting
  2. Alternate media – e.g. large print, recorded textbooks, Braille materials
  3. Adaptive technology – e.g. adaptive computer keyboards, assistive listening devices, computer voice output, magnifying microscopes
  4. Modifications to Policies, Procedures, Practices – e.g. alternative testing procedures, extended deadlines, course substitutions.

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Alternative Testing

Alternative testing conditions are the most-frequently requested academic adjustments.

Faculty members may be able to directly provide appropriate testing conditions.

It is the student’s responsibility to request these accommodations in a timely fashion and to make necessary arrangements with each faculty member.

When necessary, OSS can proctor exams. Test Request forms (see sample included) must be submitted for each test or quiz that OSS will be supervising.

Required testing conditions vary according to individual needs, course content, or test format.

Adaptive technology for test-taking purposes is available in the OSS area.

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Adaptive Technology

Assistive technology refers to any device that you can use to help you to be more independent. It may range from an easy-tip pen to a sophisticated computer with adaptive technology software capabilities.

At Ramapo, large print is available on designated computers on campus to accommodate students. In the OSS labs, voice output is an important component added to our computers’ capability. A “stand-alone” reading machine, with voice output, is an option for reading tests and other printed materials. Closed circuit televisions (CCTVs), which enlarge characters on a printed page, are available in the OSS computer labs/study rooms and other locations on campus. More “low tech” equipment, such as tape recorders and magnifying glasses are available for loan on a very limited basis. However, it is best to research and own the proper equipment for your needs.

OSS recommends completing an adaptive computer evaluation by an adaptive computer consultant and an occupational therapist before the start of the semester and prior to investing in specific equipment. Students who would benefit from such an evaluation are those who believe that screen, keyboard or screen adaptations will make a difference in their independence, efficiency and/or comfort level when completing assignments.

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III. Services

Academic Advisement and Counseling / Academic Support

In addition to having other responsibilities, all OSS professional staff serve as academic counselors to a designated group of students. The person assigned can assist students in the following ways:

  • Determining an academic plan of action with specific achievement goals
  • Determining appropriate academic accommodations
  • Assessing academic progress and needs on an on-going basis
  • Teaching self-advocacy skills that may be needed in obtaining accommodations
  • Intervening with faculty members when appropriate
  • Referring students to support services or outside agencies
  • Assisting freshmen, sophomores, and new students in course selection and registration (Upperclassmen plan schedules and register for classes with advisors in their major.)

It is expected that each OSS student meets with his or her counselor on a regular basis.

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OSS Peer Tutoring Services

When Do I Request A Peer Tutor?

  • If you require additional support after working with the professor, classmates, and tutors in DBS or other areas, or are repeating a previously failed course
  • If you have difficulty understanding the assignments
  • If you have difficulty getting started on papers or homework
  • If you are using notes from another classmate and require clarification of information

How Do I Proceed?

  • Discuss tutoring with your OSS counselor.
  • Continue to attend class, participate, complete assignments and use other college resources for assistance.
  • Discuss your idea for using a tutor with your professor; get names of recommended students.
  • Fill out both sides of the request form (see sample) and leave it in the Tutor Request slot in the main office.
  • Request a tutor between the 2nd and 12th week of the course or in the first week of a summer course.
  • Allow for 2 to 3 hours of tutoring per week in your schedule. Discuss additional hours with the tutoring coordinator.
  • Explain your tutoring needs to the tutor and tutoring coordinator at your first meeting.
  • Exchange phone numbers with the tutor and confirm your appointment each week.
  • Tutors are under the supervision of OSS. Discuss any problems with your counselor or the tutoring coordinator.

Tutoring services are contingent upon availability of funds and tutors in specific content areas.

Tutoring is a supplement to classroom instruction.
For the best results, additional independent study time is required.

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Computer Instruction

OSS offers computer workshops geared to individual student needs and abilities. Instruction is available to any OSS student in areas such as word processing, web page design, databases, spreadsheets, computer science courses, MIS courses, etc. Sign up sheet is in the main office.

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Career Counseling and Planning

The OSS Career Counselor is responsible for meeting with students, both individually and in groups, to help clarify career goals, define values and interests, explore attitudes and expectations, and to refine plans for independent and productive living. It is expected that students meet with the OSS Career Counselor during their first semester at Ramapo.

Career Management Plan

Phase 1 – Goals

Self assessment
Self awareness of your disability
Identifying Needs for Future Employment
Self advocacy
Independent living
Knowledge of Computer Skills
Adaptive technology
Knowledge of the World of Work
Pre-Career Achievement course

Phase 2- Goal

Exploration Through Experience
Knowledge of self in a work setting
Career Achievement Course
Enhance computer skills
Develop job search skills
Initiate services to address needs identified in Phase 1
Internships, co-op program, volunteer work

Phase 3 – Goal

Implementation of a Post-Graduate Career
Develop successful job seeking skills
Consolidate computer skills
Complete graduation requirements
Identify potential job sites
Investigate graduate school
Finalize independent living issues
Work experience

Pre-CAP Course

This non-credit mini-course is designed for students with disabilities and little or no work experience. Students are referred by the Independent Living Counselor or Academic Counselor.

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Joint Programs in Association with the Cahill Center for Experiential Learning and Career Services


Throughout the year the Center offers workshops on a wide variety of career topics. Subjects include: choosing a major, identifying career options, résumé writing, interviewing skills, networking techniques, effective job search strategies and family/career issues.

Computerized Career Guidance

Students are encouraged to use FOCUS and Discover throughout their academic careers. Both are systems of interactive guidance and discovery. FOCUS and Discover help students to assess their skills, values and interests in order to develop a personal list of career choices.

Career Resource Center

Our Career Resource Center has over 400 books, periodicals and video tapes on careers, graduate schools, job search strategies, career planning, internships and employers. The majority of these materials can be borrowed by students.

Graduate School Day

During the fall semester approximately fifty graduate and professional school representatives come to Ramapo College to describe their programs and admission requirements to interested students.

Job Fair

In the spring semester, approximately one hundred employer representatives visit Ramapo’s campus to recruit students for full-time, part-time and summer positions.

On Campus Recruitment

The center arranges interviews for graduating students every spring with corporate/non-profit/ governmental agency recruiters offering professional positions.

Job Listings and Placement

Part-time, full-time, permanent and temporary jobs are available for students and alumni in cooperation with a New Jersey Job Service counselor.


A file of available internships in maintained. Internships are generally unpaid semester- long experiences related to students’ academic studies and/or career interests. Students may arrange academic credit for these experiences through the appropriate Ramapo School.

Alumni Resource Network

Our Center will put undergraduates in touch with successful Ramapo alumni who can offer advice about potential career fields, entrance requirements, professional development and career advancement.

Cooperative Education

Cooperative Education is an academic program in which eligible students apply what they learned in the classroom to positions related to their major or career goals. By working in business, government or public service organizations, students gain hands- on experience as they earn a salary and academic credit toward a degree. Ramapo’s Co-op Program has been named a national demonstration model by the U.S. Department of Education and has received over $750,000 in grant awards from federal, state and private sources.

International Cooperative Education

Ramapo students have worked in Canada, England, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Norway, Russia and Wales. Upon the completion of a domestic Cooperative Education placement and demonstration of high levels of academic achievement and maturity, students may be selected for this program.

Career Achievement Program

The goal of CAP is to encourage students’ retention and to facilitate entry into a career. An intensive two-credit course, CAP is designed to help students develop academic and career goals as well as leadership abilities. As part of the program, company visits are arranged and corporate professionals act as mentors to prepare students to enter the corporate environment with a clearer understanding of its demands.

Service Learning

Through service-learning, students learn that they make a difference. Service- learning incorporates a volunteer service project into the college classroom as part of the curriculum. In selected courses, students have an option to choose a community service project as extra credit or in lieu of a research paper or other assignment. Students have volunteered in homeless shelters, bereavement groups, programs for abused women and children, wildlife centers, hospitals, mental health centers and other agencies. The college’s Student Literacy Corps is housed in the Service Learning Program.

Student Assistant Program

Ramapo students are offered the opportunity to work on campus in a wide variety of paid positions. The program matches both college work-study students (eligibility is determined by the Financial Aid Office) and student aides with college programs and offices needing their talents and skills.

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Transitions to Independent Living

Independent living counseling is available to you as an OSS student for advice and/or assistance in dealing with personal needs as you adjust to the demands of college life. Counseling is available to help you cope with all the changes and challenges you will face throughout your college years, and finally help you make a smooth transition from college life to the demands of the workplace.

Some general areas where independent living or transitions counseling could be helpful include:


Accessibility means your right to have the same choices as any Ramapo College student. If you are having difficulty with your housing situation, or your ability to participate in any aspect of college life, the Independent Living Counselor will help you resolve the situation. While Ramapo is fully committed to full accessibility, new problems arise with new situations, and it is the student’s responsibility to bring them to OSS’s attention.

Social Integration

This may be the most important issue for most students beginning college. Making new friends and creating new relationships is essential for your well-being and for a well-rounded college experience. If you feel lonely or isolated, the Independent Living Counselor can help you learn to relax, be yourself, and think of social integration as a position new challenge. One of the best ways to make new friends is to get involved on campus and to give of yourself. Counseling can steer you toward the clubs and organizations best suited to your interests and talents.

Personal Care Needs

Students whose disabilities make it difficult for them to meet their personal needs should come talk about obtaining personal care assistance. Remember that living independently doesn’t necessarily mean living without help. It can mean successfully employing and managing assistance so your needs are met. Although the College does not employ assistants, counseling is available to help you identify sources of funding and employing appropriate aides.


Self-advocacy is the ultimate goal of transitions counseling. In order to best advocate for yourself, you must be aware of all the resources within and outside the Ramapo community designed to help you, and how to best utilize these resources. The Independent Living Counselor can educate you as to which programs you may be eligible for and how to take full advantage of them.

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Recreation and Fitness on the Ramapo Campus

Athletics Building

Students interested in working out, keeping fit, or just enjoying some physical activity can use the facilities located in the Athletic Center. The fitness room is equipped with a treadmill, cross country ski machine, stepper, exercise bicycles and upper body cycle for aerobic activities. Weight training stations and free weights are also available. The Upper Cycle and the Equalizer multi-station training apparatus are both accessible for individuals who use wheelchairs.

Our swimming pool is open at selected times for lap swimming and free swims. The pool is fully accessible, with both a swim lift and Easy Ladder for access to the pool.

Students with a valid Ramapo I.D. may use the pool and fitness rooms during posted hours. Many credit-bearing courses in fitness and conditioning, as well as all levels of swim instruction, are offered through the Athletic Department. You will find them listed in the Schedule of Classes for each semester.

Programs Through OSS

Special fitness programs are also offered through OSS. In the past, we have offered yoga classes and a self-defense seminar. Both of these programs are appropriate for students with and without physical disabilities. We have also offered a skiing trip to Ski Windham and horseback riding.

Physical exercise is a great stress reducer that is available to all Ramapo College students!

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Social Activities

Upcoming programs will be announced on our bulletin boards in the C hallway, 2nd floor.

Student suggestions and involvement are essential to the success of the cultural activities programs.

Past Events

  • U2 Concert
  • Eric Clapton Concert

Disability Awareness Month

Following the nation-wide designation, a number of activities are planned.

  • Annual Wheelchair Basketball Game
  • Dinner and Movies
  • Speakers

All College Activities

Events, including those planned by the Center for Student Involvement, clubs, Greek and other organizations or academic departments can be made accessible to individuals with disabilities. This includes amplification, interpretation, accessible transportation and seating. Anyone requiring a disability- related accommodation should contact the group planning the event one week in advance.

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Accessible Transportation

The Office of Specialized Services has an accessible twelve-passenger van equipped with a wheelchair lift. Accessible transportation is available for students registered with OSS and living on campus. Use of this service is limited to:

  • summer employment
  • work-related internship or co-op assignments
  • off-campus cultural events
  • medical appointments

The cost for transportation through OSS is as follows:

  • $5 per round trip for summer employment
  • $3 per round trip for medical appointments, work-related internships
  • or co-op assignments

Transportation is limited, and is subject to availability. Students should make transportation requests at least ten days in advance.

Those who do not already have accessible transportation for the above purposes should contact Barbara Wexler, C208, 201-684-7686.

The Security Department operates a shuttle service from the academic buildings and the Student Center to the residences during the evening hours. The shuttle bus is accessible and is equipped with a wheelchair lift. For information call 201-684-7432.

College sponsored trips for food shopping, banking, and to malls are posted on the bulletin board in the Student Center, second floor. Trips in an accessible van are scheduled for once a month.

If you have a question concerning accessible transportation for college trips, please contact the department or group who is sponsoring the activity.

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