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. Some students with disabilities will choose not to identify themselves as a person with a disability because of embarrassment, negative stigma, disbelief about the legitimacy of their disability, or because they believe they can be successful without special services. Legally, it is the student's right to choose whether to self-identify or not to self-identify.
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 (and conceivably choose not to use accommodations right away), 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.
Students may complete intake paperwork at any time during their enrollment at VCU. All items in the intake packet should be returned to the DSS office, whether by mail, fax, e-mail, or in person. All four documents in the intake packet are required in order to register at DSS and should be completed by the student, even if they are under 18 years of age. The four items in the intake packet include:
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.
If it is easier for a provider to complete a verification form rather than provide a copy of an evaluation, report, or detailed letter, providers may complete either a Physical/Medical/Sensory Verification Form or a Psychological/Psychiatric Verification Form as a means of providing documentation of a disability.
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 interview.
Intake interviews 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 interviews to be an open dialogue related to their paperwork, documentation, and past and current experiences. Intake interviews also include clarification of the student acknowledgement of responsibility, and an in-depth overview of DSS procedures, expectations, and student responsibilities. Intakes are typicall done in person, take 45-90 minutes, and are scheduled during regular business hours (8 - 5 Monday through Friday).
For distance learning students, please contact DSS to make other arrangements regarding an intake.
After the three steps above are completed, the DSS case manager/learning specialist will determine if a student is eligible to receive accommodations as a student with a disability, and for which accommodations they are eligible. This decision is based on a combination of documentation and student input. If eligible, entitled accommodations are based on intake paperwork, documentation, the intake interview, and the clinical judgement of DSS staff.
Once the intake specialist has considered and integrated pertinent information, an accommodation letter will be drafted and signed by the case manager, and then shared with the student via their official VCU e-mail, usually within 72 hours of the intake interview (however, busier times of the semester, such as the first 2 weeks, may result in a longer turn-around). Accommodation letters clearly denote accommodations, but do not disclose the nature of the disability.
In order to receive entitled 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 the noted accommodations. Students are never required to disclose information about their disability, but clarification related to accommodations, such as alternative testing or peer note taking, may be necessary. If instructors have questions concerning a disability or the accommodations set by DSS, they may contact the DSS office.
While students have the right to distribute their accommodation letters and other materials at any point during the semester, DSS encourages students to err on the side of caution and speak with instructors immediately after accommodation letters are received. 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. Accommodation letters may be revised at any point during the course of a student's enrollment; however most adjustments require changes in disability status, disability documentation, and/or program standards and requirements. If students ever have questions about modifications, they should contact their case manager.