To receive services and obtain the protection of Section 504 and the ADA, each individual must show that they are an individual with a disability who is requesting reasonable accommodations. Students are eligible to receive official accommodations only if they request accommodations through the DSS Office. VCU faculty are not obligated to provide accommodations for students with disabilities without proper notification from DSS. Students may initiate the accommodation process at any time, however accommodations are not retroactive and the registration process takes time. Therefore, DSS staff always recommend that students initiate the process as soon as possible rather than wait for academic and social-emotional responsibilities to become overly stressful and/or overwhelming.
In order to be eligible to receive accommodations, students must complete a three-step process of self-identification.
While it is recommended to register with DSS upon arrival to VCU, students may complete an intake form at any time during their enrollment (i.e., there is no deadline for registering with DSS). An intake form is required in order to register at DSS and it should be completed by the student, even if they are under 18 years of age. The intake form provides students the opportunity to describe their disability in their own words, which helps guide their intake meeting with their case manager (see below).
In addition to the paperwork completed by the student, all students who wish to register at DSS must provide documentation of their disability. Documentation must be supplied by a qualified professional, be relatively current, and follow certain criteria, as provided in the Documentation Guidelines. As with the intake paperwork, documentation can be provided to DSS in person or via fax, snail-mail, or e-mail.
Once both proper documentation and intake paperwork are received by DSS, the student will be contacted by a staff member at DSS regarding scheduling an intake meeting.
Intake meetings are a chance for students to further clarify their needs and concerns, as well as familiarize themselves with the DSS staff, procedures, and facility. Students can expect for these meetings to be an open dialogue related to their paperwork, documentation, and past and current experiences. Intake meetings also serve as an opportunity to discuss student rights and responsibilities and DSS procedures. Intake meetings are typically held in person, take 30-60 minutes, and are scheduled during regular business hours (8 - 5 Monday through Friday during the school year, and 8 - 4:30 Monday through Friday during the summer). These meetings culminate in the student being formally approved for accommodations.
For distance learning students, please contact DSS to make other arrangements regarding an intake meeting.
Once a student has been formally approved for accommodations, an accommodation letter will be drafted and signed by the case manager and then shared with the student via their official VCU e-mail. Accommodation letters clearly denote accommodations, but do not disclose the nature of the disability.
In order to implement accommodations, students must provide their instructor(s) with an accommodation letter. To do so, students are highly encouraged to make an appointment with their instructors to discuss accommodation needs in a private setting. Students are never required to disclose information about their disability, but clarification and planning related to accommodations, such as alternative testing or peer note taking, may be necessary.
While students have the right to distribute their accommodation letters and other materials at any point during the semester, DSS encourages students to do so during the first week of class. Students can always opt not to use accommodations once a letter is distributed. Waiting for academic and social stressors to compound before alerting professors to accommodations can often result in more stress for both instructor and student, which can otherwise be avoided. *Accommodations are never retroactive*; students are entitled to their accommodations only after they share their accommodation letter with each instructor from whom they wish to receive accommodations.
Although the intake process is designed to identify all relevant accommodations, some accommodations may need to be modified throughout a student's tenure at VCU. Additionally, a student's needs may change over time. Accommodation letters may be revised at any point during the course of a student's enrollment, however some changes may require updated and/or additional documentation. If students ever have questions about modifications, they should contact their case manager.