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Student Responsibility (sample case assessment)

There is shared responsibility between institutions and students regarding the provision of accommodations. The University is obligated to provide notice of the availability of academic adjustments, auxiliary aids and services; designate the office where students seek or make requests and outline the steps that students must follow in order to obtain accommodations. The information provided clearly reflects that the University has put necessary procedures in place for providing academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services and has adequately notified students, parents, etc… of those procedures. Therefore, it appears that the University has met its initial statutory obligations by establishing reasonable procedures for providing academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services which would have obligated the student to initiate the accommodation process if he desired academic adjustments. (See Elmhurst College, No. 05-05-2138 (OCR 05/01/2006)).

The evidence clearly establishes that the student was aware of and understood those accommodation policies and procedures as he followed them to obtain a housing accommodation and signed the University’s Services for Students with Disabilities Rights and Responsibilities Agreement ( October 1, 2010). He cannot avail himself of those procedures on the one hand and on the other hand assert that the University is guilty of discrimination for not providing him other accommodations that he did not request. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has taken the position that if the evidence establishes that a student has notice of an institution’s accommodation processes and procedures he/she will not be permitted to claim lack of knowledge or understanding to justify his/her subsequent failure to act, i.e., seek academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services. (See Broward Community College, No. 04-07-2049 (OCR 08/07/2007); Cochise College, No. 08-07-2065 (OCR 08/06/2007) and University of Tampa, No. 04-02-2100 (OCR 01/22/2003)).  

The student did not receive academic adjustments in the first semester because he chose not to initiate the accommodation process. More importantly, when contacted by University officials regarding his academic difficulties and offered academic adjustments he expressly declined to accept any adjustments. He clearly rejected accommodation for the course. OCR has consistently ruled that “it is the responsibility of a college student with a disability to make known his need for academic adjustments and the nature of the adjustments requested.” Further, an institution is “not obligated to seek out the student and offer academic adjustments to him when he has not requested such.” Northwestern Michigan College, No. 15-02-2047 (OCR 02/10/2003)). Thus, under such circumstances, “… there is an insufficient basis to find that [the University] denied [the student] an academic adjustment” and is guilty of discrimination. (See Florida International University, No. 04-06-2127 (OCR 04/01/2006)).

State University of New York at Buffalo, 02-06-2023, (OCR 06/2006) is a case which is strikingly similar to the situation in this particular case. In the New York at Buffalo case, a student with a hearing impairment alleged that the University discriminated against her by failing to provide her sign language interpreter services. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigation revealed that:

  • the student by her own admission failed to request interpreter services;
  • the University initiated contact with the student over her failure to seek accommodations and attempted to provide services despite her failure;
  • the University provided alternative accommodations to address the academic difficulties the student was experiencing; and
  • the University made offers of academic adjustments (i.e., one-on-one assistance from professors and permission to take “Incompletes” in courses) that the student declined to accept.

OCR concluded that the University did not discriminate against the student. It ruled, in pertinent part, that the student was aware of the University’s procedures for requesting services; but, “did not meet her obligation of following the University’s procedures”; and her failures prevented the University from rectifying the problem. (See also Allegany College of Maryland, No. 03-05-2018 (OCR 05/11/2005).