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.
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