How do I know if I have a disability?
As defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, a "person with a disability" is someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, or concentrating.
It is important to know that an impairment or diagnosis in and of itself does not necessarily constitute a disability. The degree of the impairment must be significant enough to "substantially limit" one or more major life activities.
How do I obtain disability accommodations?
Current learners and program applicants bear the burden of requesting reasonable accommodation, and must produce supporting documentation sufficient to substantiate their disability-based accommodation requests. Supporting documentation submitted by a learner/applicant must address the substantial limitation on major life activities posed by the disability for which an accommodation is being requested. For more information on supporting documentation requirements, refer to Section VII.A (Stakeholder Compliance) of the Accommodations for Learners and Program Applicants with Disabilities Policy (23.1.07).
How are accommodations determined at BCM?
Accommodations requests are reviewed and approved by the Office of Student & Trainee Disability Services (STDS) for each learner/applicant on a case-by-case basis. It is important to keep in mind that this is an interactive process. Accommodations are best established and appropriately implemented when there is a collaboration between the instructor, learner, and STDS. Contact the STDS at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin this interactive process.
Once STDS determines reasonable accommodations, it is the learner/applicant's responsibility to share their approved accommodation letter with the school's designated accommodations liaison as well as any faculty and course administrators who need to know.
Can any faculty or staff member approve disability accommodations?
No. Student & Trainee Disability Services (STDS) is the only entity who can approve accommodations on behalf of Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). BCM does not allow faculty and staff outside of STDS to approve accommodations. However, BCM does require faculty and staff to implement STDS-approved accommodations when a student makes a timely request to use those accommodations for a particular course assessment or learning activity.
What is an "unreasonable" accommodation request?
An accommodation request is considered unreasonable if it:
- Would fundamentally alter the essential nature of a program or element of the curriculum,
- Poses an undue hardship to the institution, or
- Creates a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
I believe I have a disability, but I do not have documentation to support it. Does BCM provide evaluations to determine a disability?
Production of supporting documentation is the sole responsibility of the learner/applicant. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not require colleges or universities to conduct or pay for medical or cognitive evaluations that may be necessary to generate supporting documentation that substantiates a disability accommodation request. Student & Trainee Disability Services (STDS) is not authorized to provide any financial assistance for this purpose.
Learners seeking financial assistance to generate documentation of disability should contact Student Financial Aid (email@example.com or 713-798-4603) to determine their eligibility. Eligible learners may be approved for loans to cover testing/evaluation fees.
When is the best time for me to request accommodations from STDS?
It is important that learners have a good understanding of what their course/program obligations and expectations will be prior to requesting accommodations. Contact STDS immediately after you have completed the onboarding process of your program. Requests that are received prior to the start of the term or as early as possible, will allow STDS to adequately process services and provide learners an opportunity to provide faculty or necessary administrators with reasonable notice.
When should I notify my professors and/or course directors that I want to use STDS-approved disability accommodations?
As provided in the Accommodations for Learners and Program Applicants with Disabilities Policy (23.1.07), students and trainees should notify the program administrators of their need for accommodations at least 30 days prior to the start of a term to avoid implementation delays. Students and trainees have sole responsibility for ensuring provision of their Accommodation Letter to the school's disability accommodation liaison and/or program administrators.
Can disability accommodations change over time?
Yes. The needs of a learner may vary according to course requirements, format, and course content. Depending on the documented limitations, accommodations may vary by course or term. Refer to Accommodation Procedures for Learners and Program Applicants with Disabilities (23.3.10) for more information on how STDS determines and approves disability accommodations.
I have a disability and a history of using accommodations, but I think I can be successful without them. Do I still need to request accommodations?
No. Learners are not obligated to disclose that they have a disability or request accommodations. However, Student & Trainee Disability Services (STDS) recommends that learners with disabilities that have utilized educational accommodations in the past proactively establish and use accommodations. Learners/applicants may opt out of using their accommodations at any time.
Note: It is advantageous to establish accommodations at the beginning of the program or activity, and easier to determine that there is no need to use them than to need the accommodations and not have them established.
What should I do if my approved accommodations or services are not effective, or if my accommodation needs to change during an academic period?
The learner is responsible for notifying STDS regarding any changes to the academic environment or accommodations that are needed. Learners have the right to request additional accommodations for which they are eligible at any time. However, it is the learner's responsibility to provide STDS with "reasonable notice" of perceived ineffectiveness and inform STDS as soon as you become aware that a change is needed. It may be challenging and take more time to correct a long-standing problem. Learners and STDS designee(s) will work collaboratively with school officials as appropriate to resolve the concern.
Timely notice to STDS results in reassessment and if necessary, determination of new or alternative accommodation(s). If the documentation on file does not support the request, a learner may be required to provide additional documentation. The learner's file will be re-evaluated by the STDS designee to determine if the new request is reasonable.
A learner's timely disclosure of new or alternative accommodations to program faculty/staff will minimize or eliminate delay in implementation. Program faculty/staff will endeavor to implement such accommodations within the desired time frame or by an anticipated event whenever possible.
Once my approved accommodations are implemented, do I have to use them?
No. Learners are not required to use approved accommodations during every course or learning experience. Learners have the right to assert/discontinue their accommodations on a case-by-case basis. To activate accommodations for a specific course or learning experience, the learner must provide their Accommodation Letter directly to the designated liaison for their school/ program, or the course faculty or program director via email in a timely manner.
What if a faculty or staff member does not want to implement my approved accommodations?
Oftentimes these situations arise due to miscommunication. If any issues arise, please contact STDS immediately at 713-798-2528 or STDServices@bcm.edu.
Is my service animal allowed?
Yes. Learners can bring Service Animals into any areas on BCM campuses that are open to the public, as well as any areas the learners must enter to complete their training program. Learners with Service Animals that must enter a clinical setting should consult with and abide by the Service Animals in a Clinical Setting Policy (26.1.31).
I need personal assistance, will BCM provide a personal attendant or device that will assist me?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (see Sec.36.306 Personal devices and services) does not require a public accommodation to provide its customers, clients, or participants with personal devices, such as wheelchairs; individually prescribed devices, such as prescription eyeglasses or hearing aids; or services of a personal nature including assistance in eating, toileting, or dressing.
For example: Harold, who has provided adequate supporting documentation of his disability, has recently noticed that the wheelchair he has used for years at home and in school has become difficult to operate and needs new wheels. Harold submits a request for a new wheelchair to BCM's Student and Trainee Disability Services (STDS). Because the applicable law does not require the provision of personal devices and services, BCM STDs can deny the request and still be in ADA compliance. However, Harold could obtain the new wheelchair he needs through his insurance plan, which should cover medically necessary medical devices such as wheelchairs.
How do I use my accommodations for a national board exam or other assessment administered by a third party?
According to Equal Access for Students with Disabilities - The Guide for Health Science and Professional Education, it is important to consider the following best practices when applying for testing accommodations for a Third-Party or Board exams:
- Requirements are typically outlined by the administrator's website, for example:
- It is recommended that requestors attend to all deadlines and guidance regarding the expected turnaround time.
- Generally, an agency's decision time is 60-120 days
- Preparing a suitable submission can take 3-6 months to gather the following information:
- Develop a personal statement.
- Collect documentation that show a history of receiving accommodations for school and standardized testing; with the most recent being within 3 years.
- Detailed evaluation containing diagnostic process, limitations, and recommendations.
- Letter of support from a qualified professional and a school counselor or instructor.
- Investigate published timelines and apply for accommodations far in advance.
- Submit the necessary requirements early, in the event an appeal to the agency's decision needs to be filed (this could take up to an additional 120 days to review).
- There is no intake interview to gather feedback regarding self-reported challenges. So, the more written information that supports your request, the better.
- If consultation or a certification of prior testing accommodations is needed, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com as soon as possible.
FAQs for Learners with Disabilities Transitioning to the Workplace
What career options are available for an individual with a disability?
All career options are available for individuals with disabilities with or without accommodations.
It is important to know your specific limitations to ensure you can perform the essential functions of the job indicated in the description.
When considering a potential employer, what resources, approaches, accommodations, etc should I be requesting (or can I request)?
A ‘reasonable accommodation’ is a change to the application or hiring process, job, the way the job is done, or the work environment that allows an individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job or enjoy equal employment opportunities.
Accommodation requests should be made based on the disability and the documented limitations and suggestions by a qualified professional.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers with over 15 employees are required to provide reasonable accommodations. While companies with less than 15 employees may be willing to make temporary adjustments, it may not be required of them to make reasonable accommodations. Please check with your state and local laws when considering employment with startup companies, small businesses, and private practices.
What are some "red flags" in terms of support (or lack thereof) offered by a company?
When participating in the application or hiring process, it may be a good idea to observe the workplace culture around accessibility. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Is the application, interview, or workspace accessible?
- How does the employer speak to individuals with differences? or react to requests for flexibility in how things are ‘typically’ done?
- Is the employer modern and abreast of inclusive business practices?
- Does the website or training materials offer accessible formats? Are videos or photos captioned?
- Do the company’s diversity goals include individuals with different abilities?
What can I do now, during my training period, to increase my skillset and advocate for my needs for when I transition into the marketplace?
This depends on the specific limitations of the individual. With the advancement of technology, if there are foreseeable challenges, individuals with disabilities should explore assistive or adaptive technologies that are available. All learners are encouraged to connect with professional organizations of support or counselors who specialize in assisting individuals with disabilities with their transition into the workplace.
Also, you may request a job coach from company, state, or local services.
Once I am hired, who is the best advocate in a company for an individual with a disability?
Yourself, the ADA Coordinator (in Human Resources) and your direct supervisor or manager.
When should I disclose that I have a disability or need accommodations (application, interview, negotiation phase)?
Individuals with disabilities have a right to disclose a disability at any time. It is best to self-disclose when it is necessary due to a present or a foreseeable challenge in the near future. Employers are prohibited from asking you specific questions about your disability.