The Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD)
The Mission of the Office for Students with Disabilities
Bank Street College welcomes diverse students and diverse learning needs, and wants all of its students to succeed academically. The Office for Students with Disabilities at Bank Street College is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified candidates who disclose a disability during the admissions process or during their course of studies at the College.
We want to help you use your learning style (see below) to your advantage, and to provide strategies and resources designed to help you bypass any learning challenges you may have, and increase your overall ability to learn.
We also want our students (with or without disabilities) to be informed of their rights and obligations under the law, so that they know when and how to request academic or physical accommodations.
This information is a natural outgrowth of Bank Street College’s commitment to Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a set of guidelines that can be used to make classroom information accessible to all students. At Bank Street, we encourage faculty to employ such guidelines as they create their courses’ syllabi, and as they present information to students in their classrooms. The hope is that, by example, they will prepare teachers who will be mindful of the need to make their teaching accessible to all children.
Your Rights Under the Law
Section 504 of the rehabilitation act of 1973 and Title II of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990) govern the accommodation that the College provides students with disabilities. The law states: “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the U.S. shall, solely by reason of handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Some of the specific academic implications of this law include:
- No student can be excluded from any course, major, or program solely on the basis of a disability.
- Certain accommodations are mandated, such as the provision of alternate testing and evaluation methods for measuring student mastery.
- Modifications, substitutions, or waivers of a course, major, or degree requirement may be necessary to meet the needs of some students.
- It is discriminatory to restrict the range of career options for students with disabilities as compared to non-disabled students with similar interests and abilities, unless such advice is based on strict licensing or certification requirements that may constitute an obstacle.
Definition of Terms
Who is “otherwise qualified?” Any individual with a disability, who has the ability, skills and education to perform the essential functions of a job either with or without reasonable accommodations, is considered “otherwise qualified.”
What constitutes a “disability?” The law protects anyone who has a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” This covers physical, sensory and health-related disabilities, psychological disorders or attention disorders, and some learning disabilities–anything that might prevent the student from participating fully in the life of the campus community.
What constitutes an “accommodation?” Any change or adjustment in a work or school site, program, or job that makes it possible for an otherwise qualified employee or student with a disability to perform the duties or tasks required.
What are “Reasonable Accommodations”? When a requested accommodation causes undue hardship to an institution, said accommodation may be deemed to be unreasonable. Factors considered in determining undue hardship include the overall financial resources of the organization, the nature and cost of the accommodation, and the impact of providing the accommodation on the particular site or operation of the institution.
Informing the College About Your Disability
May the College deny my admission because I have a disability? No. If you meet the essential requirements for admission, the College may not deny your admission simply because you have a disability as long as you are “otherwise qualified.”
Do I have to inform the College that I have a disability? No. However, if you want the College to provide an academic adjustment, you must identify yourself as having a disability. Likewise, you should let the College know that you have a disability if you want to ensure that you receive the accommodations you need. In any event, your disclosure of a disability is always voluntary.
Can an accommodation be “retroactive?” No. You can only request accommodations at the beginning of your studies at Bank Street, or at the beginning of a course. If a disability arises after your admission into the College, or after a course is already in session, you must notify the Coordinator of OSD as soon as the disability is diagnosed.However, you cannot claim that you have a disability after you have received a grade for a course, or after you have handed in an assignment within a course. When accommodations are granted they begin on or after the date of approval.
What OSD Offers: Reasonable Accommodations
Academic adjustments include modifications to academic requirements and auxiliary aids and services, providing note takers, recording devices, sign language interpreters, extended time to hand in assignments, and equipping at least one College computer with screen-reading, voice recognition or other adaptive software or hardware.
In providing an academic adjustment, the College is not required to lower or effect substantial modifications to essential requirements. For example, although the College may be required to provide extended time to submit assignments, it is not required to change the substantive content of the assignments. In addition, the College does not have to make modifications that would fundamentally alter the nature of a service, program or activity or a service that would result in undue financial or administrative burdens. Finally, the College does not have to provide personal attendants, individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature, such as tutoring and typing.
If I want an academic accommodation, what must I do? All matriculated and non-matriculated students are entitled to accommodations. You must inform the Office for Students of Disabilities (OSD) that you have a disability and need an academic adjustment. The college requires you to follow reasonable procedures to request an academic accommodation. The student is responsible for knowing and following these procedures. The college includes in its publications general information, and information on the procedures and contacts for requesting an academic adjustment. Such publications include recruitment materials, the catalog and student handbook, and are available on the College’s Website.
When should I request an academic adjustment? You should request it as early as possible. Some academic adjustments may take more time to provide than others. You should follow the college's procedures to ensure that OSD has enough time to review your request and provide an appropriate academic adjustment.
Do I have to prove that I have a disability to obtain an academic adjustment? Generally, yes. Bank Street College requires you to provide documentation that shows you have a diagnosed learning disability and need an academic or physical accommodation. If your disability is readily apparent, for instance, if you need a wheelchair to get around, medical proof of a disability is not required.
What documentation should I provide? Bank Street College requires you to provide documentation prepared by an appropriate professional, such as a medical doctor, psychologist or other qualified diagnostician. The required documentation may include one or more of the following: a diagnosis of your current disability; the date of the diagnosis; how the diagnosis was reached; the credentials of the professional; how your disability affects a major life activity; and how the disability affects your academic performance. The documentation should provide enough information for you and the College to decide what is an appropriate academic adjustment. In other words, based on the diagnosis, you and the OSD Coordinator will collaborate to determine the specific accommodations that will be provided. If your last evaluation is older than five (5) years, and depending on the nature of your disability, you may need a new evaluation in order to provide the required documentation.
Who has to pay for a new evaluation? The College is not obligated to pay for a new evaluation. However, the Coordinator of the OSD will provide you with referral to places or professionals who charge on a sliding scale.
Once I have obtained the necessary documentation, what should I do? Call or send an email to the OSD Coordinator to make an appointment to meet and discuss your disability and possible accommodations. The OSD Coordinator will let you know bout the available accommodations and will help you determine the appropriate academic adjustments or accommodations that you may need to help you in your studies at the College. It is important to remember that the College is not required to lower or waive essential requirements. If you request a specific academic adjustment, the College may offer that academic adjustment or an alternative one if the alternative also would be effective. Bank Street College is legally bound to provide necessary reasonable accommodations for students who need them, but it also recognizes that helping students who need accommodations will benefit not only the student, but the institution as well.
What must the College provide? The College may be required to remove any barriers impeding the student – whether these are architectural, communication related, or transportation – or to provide reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices. The school may provide aids or services such as interpreters, note-takers, adaptive equipment, relocation of classes to accessible environments, audio recordings, computer programs, allowance of service animals, alteration of materials, or substitution of certain courses in programs.
Any exceptions? The College is not required to meet personal needs, such as glasses, hearing aids, etc. Tutoring may be considered a personal need. Our tutoring services are available to all students, provided that we have enough tutors.
What about confidentiality? At Bank Street, it is entirely up to the student to inform her/his instructors of her or his needs: Neither instructors, nor advisors will be automatically notified by the Office for Students with Disabilities about a student’s disability. However, the Registrar’s Office keeps a list of the student who are registered with OSD in order to corroborate students’ requests.
The student’s ability to advocate for him/herself is important at the college level. Students are encouraged to be proactive, take some risks, assume responsibility and speak up, develop a support system. The student should also learn as much as possible about his/her disability so that s/he can explain it to others.
Learning Style vs. Learning Disability
Your learning style is your preferred learning modality. You may learn better when material is presented pictorially, or when it is organized through charts or diagrams, or through movement, while material that is presented orally or in writing may not be as easy for you to process and understand. Conversely, you may be more of an auditory learner, more comfortable when material is presented orally. Having a particular learning style, however, does not limit the ways in which you are able to learn. As our brain grows and develops we can adapt to different ways of learning in order to match the requirements of the material to be learned. In other words: A preferred learning style does not preclude a student from learning in other modalities.
A learning disability is most commonly a childhood disorder characterized by difficulty with certain skills such as reading or writing in individuals with normal intelligence. Learning disabilities affect the ability to interpret what one sees and hears or the ability to link information from different parts of the brain. These limitations can show up in many ways -- as specific difficulties with spoken and written language, coordination, self-control, or attention. Common causes include problems in brain or brain cell development, neurochemical imbalances, anoxia, metabolic dysfunctions, heredity, brain injury, auditory problems, malnutrition, physical and emotional abuse, maternal illness or addictions and prematurity. People with learning disabilities also present a variety of learning styles.
How to Contact OSD
If you have a diagnosed learning disability or suspect that you may have a disability, you should contact the Coordinator of OSD: Valentine Burr. Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (212) 875-4791. The OSD office is located in Room 605, at Bank Street’s main building: 610 West 112th Street.