In addition to seeing students with potential mental health issues, you might also see some students in your class that might require accommodations due to a disability. Therefore, Teaching Assistants should familiarize themselves with the general guidelines applicable to students with disabilities.
The primary office for handling disabilities at SMU is DASS, or Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies. This office is the result of two important laws: the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Also many Texas state laws guide this work.
DASS helps level the playing field and ensure equal access for all. Accommodations are designed to remove or minimize barriers.
What is a Disability?
1) Chronic or permanent condition
2) Interferes with or makes impossible a crucial area of life
3) Many types, in order of prevalence here at SMU: ADHD, learning, psychological, medical, and a small number of students in the categories of mobility, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), blind, deaf, and hard of hearing.
VERY IMPORTANT: Students are responsible for submitting documentation that complies with these guidelines, NOT teaching assistants.
Guidelines for Service Requests/Documentation
To establish eligibility for services and accommodations on the basis of a disability, students must complete and submit an online Accommodation Request form along with supporting documentation to determine eligibility for services. Students should carefully read the Guidelines for Documenting a Disability before submitting supporting medical documentation.
Documentation must be comprehensive and current, even if the student has had a long-standing disability diagnosis. The review process could take 2-3 weeks from the time the online form and documentation are submitted. Students will receive correspondence through DASS Link, the DASS office’s online data management system used to facilitate accommodation requests and communicate with students and instructors. On a case-by-case basis, based on the impact of a documented disability on the individual student, DASS staff will verify the disability, determine effective and reasonable accommodations, and recommend accommodations and services. After the review, DASS will notify the student of the outcome of the review.
The DASS Office is Located in the
Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center
If the documentation provided is adequate: the student will schedule an intake appointment with a member of the DASS staff. At that appointment, DASS staff go over procedures for how to make accommodations official with faculty and/or implement services. The student will then be expected to communicate with each instructor personally about implementing the accommodations listed in the electronic DASS letter.
If the documentation is inadequate: DASS will inform the student (in writing if needed) as to what additional information is needed. DASS reserves the right to request additional or updated documentation, as needed.
Caution: Even if students with disabilities shared information about their disability with SMU Admissions, that information is not shared with the DASS office. Individual Education Plans (IEP's) and 504 plans from high school are generally not considered sufficient documentation at the post-secondary level, but in some cases may contain the test report and scores required. At the university level, it is the student's responsibility to pay all costs involved in obtaining evaluations and documentation of a disability.
Lastly, please note that accommodations authorized by SMU may not necessarily be the same as those received in high school or at another college or university, and accommodations do NOT apply retroactively.
If a student and/or qualified professional wishes to discuss the documentation guidelines, he or she may call DASS at 214-768-1470.
What Does An Accommodation Letter Look Like?
After several months of preparation and testing, DASS is rolling out a new online system, DASS Link, for managing the disability record of the student, including their accommodation letters. The online system will be fully functional for the Fall 2019 Semester. You should NOT be receiving any electronic letters from DASS Link for your summer 2019 courses. You could start receiving electronic letters for FALL incoming students as early as July (NOW), which means you will be notified by email when a letter is received in the system (see below). We’re offering first intakes now (in July) to new incoming Fall students to minimize the bottle-neck that happens the first 3 weeks of classes; the first letter is generated in the intake and this is why you as the professor may receive a DASS letter in DASS Link as early as mid-July. Most/more will be available for you to view after returning students submit a Semester Request in early-mid August.
Here are a few details we want faculty to know in advance:
- Delivery of Accommodation Letters
The DASS Link system gives students digital access to their accommodation letters. At the student’s request, faculty will also gain access to the letter on their faculty DASS Link account. You will receive an email message notifying you that:
- a DASS accommodation letter is now available for your review in your DASS Link account;
- instructions for accessing the DASS Link portal; and,
- requesting you to digitally acknowledge receipt of the accommodation letter.
We recommend you wait to digitally sign the acknowledgement ONLY once the student has reached out to you to discuss the accommodations. This is a clear sign to you and us that you two have communicated about their specific needs.
- Student Communication with Faculty Members:
Undergraduate and graduate students (except for Dedman Law students) will still be advised to communicate with faculty directly, preferably in a meeting, to discuss how their accommodations will be implemented. DASS encourages faculty to:
- continue having these meetings to minimize confusion or misplaced assumptions about delivery of accommodations, especially for extended time testing purposes. This discussion is the time for you and your student to determine the best plan for implementing the accommodations (where to test, when to start, etc.).
- note this expectation for a meeting or communication from the student in your syllabus or by email announcement .
- Storage of Accommodation Letters
Accommodation letters for all DASS students who have made a request to share their letter in your courses will be found by clicking “Accommodation Letters” on the left side bar on your DASS Link account.
You may also access the list of DASS students requiring accommodations by course from the “Courses” side bar on your DASS Link account.
Remember though, that a DASS student may choose NOT to share their DASS letter or status with you, just as they have been able to decide before. No letter will appear in DASS Link, in this case. You are under no obligation to consider disability-related accommodations until the letter has been shared with you through DASS Link and the two of you have communicated.
- Renewal of Accommodation Letters
DASS students will still need to request new accommodation letters each semester. You should expect to receive a current letter from your DASS students by the same method described above each semester. (See Items 1 and 2). We selected the DASS Link system to expedite the entire letter process; students don’t have to wait for printed letters nor walk to the DASS office to pick them up.
For more information visit: https://www.smu.edu/Provost/SASP/DASS/DASS-Link