Students with Disabilities

California Community Colleges Disabled Students Programs and Services Mission

DSPS embraces and expands upon the general mission of the college by responding to the needs of individuals with disabilities in the community. This is achieved by offering programs and services that:

  • Increase independence
  • Integrate students with disabilities into the general college programs
  • Facilitates general education, transfer or vocational preparation
  • Help students identify, clarify, develop and achieve their academic and/or vocational goals and successfully transition to the community.


What is a disability?
Disabilities involve a physical and/or mental impairment, which may not be directly observable. The laws define a person with a disability as any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing and learning. Some of the disabilities covered by legislation include AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, head injuries, hearing impairments, learning disabilities, multiple sclerosis, psychiatric disorders, speech and visual impairments.

Do faculty have a legal responsibility to accommodate qualified students with disabilities?
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) , and section 504 ( and section 508 ( prohibit discrimination against students with disabilities. These laws state that no qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, or be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program, activity or services of any public entity.

The California Code of Regulations, Title 5 contains regulations on implementing the California Education Code. Division 6 refers specifically to the California Community Colleges. These regulations can be accessed from the California Community Colleges Human Resources Division Title 5 Regulations web page. Sections 56000-56076 encompass almost all the DSP&S-related sections.

Students with verified disabilities are entitled to receive approved accommodations including appropriate academic adjustments (e.g., extended time on exams) and/or auxiliary aids (e.g., assistive listening devices, computer with screen reading technology) that will enable them to participate in and have the opportunity to benefit from all educational programs and activities in California Community Colleges.
(Adapted from Accommodating Students with Disabilities, A Resource Guide for Santa Monica College and Staff, "The Laws"

What are the responsibilities of the DSPS?
DSPS provides support services to students with disabilities. Support services are specialized services in addition to the regular services available to all students. The underlying purpose of these services is to "enable students to participate in regular activities, programs and classes offered by the college" (Title 5 Implementing Guidelines Section 56026 Support Services). These services include, but are not limited to, the following services:
· Academic Counseling
· Testing accommodations
· Sign language and oral interpreting
· Disability-related tutoring
· College-related and academic information in the preferred, appropriate alternate format
· Technology access

What are the responsibilities of students with disabilities?
1. Students with disabilities must follow the same code of conduct established for all students at each California Community College.
2. Students with disabilities must follow written DSPS procedures and policies.
3. Students must make measurable progress towards the goals established in their Student Educational Contract. If the students are enrolled in college courses, they must meet the academic standards established by the college.
4. Students with disabilities must meet the same course objectives established for all students in a given course. They may request reasonable accommodations (e.g., extended time on exams), but the essential information being assessed should not be changed. For example, requesting extended time on a timed typing test is not a reasonable accommodation. The accommodation alters the vital essence of what is being measured.
5. Students with disabilities must provide appropriate documentation of their disability to Disabled Student Services or the ADA/504 Officer.
6. Students should request their accommodations in a timely manner.
7. Students with disabilities should consult with the college staff if an agreed-upon adjustment does not work.
8. Students with disabilities must assume personal responsibility for taking any medications, and be responsible for the provision of personal attendant care.
9. Students are encouraged to understand their functional limitations and advocate for the accommodations they need to work around their disabilities and reach their goals.

Are students required to provide information about their disability?
1. The Right to Privacy Act ensures that students are not obligated to disclose the nature of their disability to faculty or provide faculty with a copy of their disability documentation. Students requesting academic adjustments from their professors are required to provide verification from a DSPS counselor or a DSPS faculty member that they have a documented disability on file at DSPS.
2. If the student does disclose their documented disability, this information is confidential and should never be discussed or referred to in front of classmates or other individuals. When disclosing their disabilities, students expect that confidentiality will be maintained.
3. All disability-related contact with the DSPS office remains confidential unless the student signs a written release. Unless the student signs a release of information, the DSPS staff may not discuss a student's disability status with either faculty or staff. However, DSPS is allowed to verify eligibility for specific academic adjustment such as testing accommodations or note-taking services.
4. Students are encouraged to talk with their instructors about their specific academic adjustment needs.

How do faculty refer students for services from DSPS?
(adapted from
If an instructor suspects that a student has a learning disability, do not tell a student you think they have a disability. Ask the student to come to your office hour as you would any other student having difficulty in a class and inquire about what might be impacting the student's progress in class. If the student discloses that they have a documented disability or they suspect they have a disability, refer the student to DSPS.
Refer to your own college's DSPS for college-specific referral process.  

What are the Faculty responsibilities to the students with disabilities?

Students with verified disabilities are entitled to receive approved accommodations including appropriate academic adjustments (e.g., extended time on exams) and/or auxiliary aids (e.g., assistive listening devices, computer with screen reading technology, adjustable height tables and chairs in classrooms) that will enable them to participate in and have the opportunity to benefit from all educational programs and activities in California Community Colleges.

Adequate time must be allotted for obtaining textbooks in alternative print formats (i.e., Braille, enlarged print, audio tapes, computer-based text). Consequently, faculty must provide names of textbooks and other reading materials as well as a reading list (i.e., the sequence of the chapters or sections that will be assigned, not necessarily a syllabus) to the student with the disability or to Disabled Student Services, when requested.

In-class materials (e.g., reading list, syllabus, handouts, tests, overheads, slides)
Disabled Student Services has resources for translating materials into alternate formats. To ensure that students with disabilities have access to materials at the same time as their peers, the alternate formats need to be generated in a timely manner. Faculty has legal responsibility to provide all in-class materials to Disabled Student Services in enough time to translate the materials into the students' preferred, alternate format.

Videotapes, DVDs
Videotapes and DVDs need to be captioned so they are accessible to students who are deaf and hard of hearing. If videos are part of the course curriculum (i.e. the content of the video will appear on a test), it is important to use only videos that provide captioning and Second Audio Programming (SAP) capabilities. Consult with your college's Alternate Media Specialist/DSPS office for assistance with this process.  
Alternate Media Guidelines

California Community Colleges have a legal and ethical mandate to ensure their courses are accessible to all students. This includes universal access to web-based resources. The goal of universal web access for all places demands on our system. Web pages created with current technologies or viewed through Netscape, for example, can inadvertently create accessibility obstacles for students with disabilities. For example, websites with no text equivalent for visual information (e.g. images, graphs, videos) exclude people who are blind. Similarly, websites with audio content exclude people who are hearing impaired, if there is no text equivalent for the audio files. The California Community College Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities LINK includes universal design guidelines for web pages. Section 508, federal legislation that provides binding, enforceable standards to ensure access to electronic and information technology, includes web design guidelines. These guidelines were adapted from the WWW Consortium Web Content Accessible Guidelines.

Distance Education
Like all programs and activities at each CCC, distance education needs to be accessible. CCC has issued Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities to ensure we are providing accessible distance education programs. In accordance with Section 508, colleges will only be contracting with distance education vendors whose products meet the Section 508 accessibility guidelines. However, it is incumbent upon faculty to follow accessibility guidelines when they modify the distance education web pages (e.g., videos).

Emergency Procedures
Faculty should familiarize themselves with their college's emergency evacuation policy especially the section pertaining to students with disabilities.   


Disabilities Etiquette

Ask the student
While we encourage students to discuss their needs with their instructors, this is not always done. If you have questions about whether or not a student needs an accommodation, the first person to ask is the student.

Be aware of your language
Using terms such as "student with disabilities" rather than "disabled students" puts the emphasis on the person rather than their disability.

Don't be afraid to approach a person with a disability. Don't worry about using words like "walk" with a person using a wheelchair. As with anyone else, just treat them as you would like to be treated, with respect.

Speak directly to the student
Don't consider a companion to be a conversation go-between. Even if the student has an interpreter present, speak directly to the student, not to the interpreter.

Give your full attention
Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person with a disability to get things said or done. Don't talk for the person who has difficulty speaking, but give help when needed. Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting.

Speak slowly and distinctly
When talking to a person, who is hard of hearing or has other difficulty understanding, speak slowly without exaggerating your lip movement. Stand in front of the person and use gestures to aid communication. Many students who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on being able to read your lips. When full understanding is doubtful, write notes.

Appreciate abilities
Students with disabilities, like those without disabilities, do some things well and others not as well. By focusing on what they can do, instead of what they can't, you will help build confidence.

Use common sense
Although some students with disabilities may require significant adaptation and modification in the classroom, more often, common sense approaches can be applied to ensure that students have access to course content.