Faculty and Staff Information

For Faculty and Staff

Welcome Faculty!

Information in this section of the website is intended to serve two objectives. It should provide an understanding regarding how and why this office functions as it does. It can also provide useful information about teaching college students who have medical, physical, sensory, and brain related issues.

Faculty Resources and Tools

What is Disability?

Under Section 504 of the ADA, disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment.

Major Life Activities?
Examples of major life activities include: caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, standing, sitting, lifting, sleeping, speaking, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and interacting with others.

Record of Impairment?
Documentation is required for a student to receive academic accommodations from an appropriate evaluator. Each disability category has slightly different requirements in regards to who should complete the required documentation.
In general, the documentation should meet these requirements:
•    Be recent and comprehensive
•    Demonstrate a substantial impairment to one or more major life activities
•    Describe the specific accommodations necessary for the student as a result of their disability
•    Completed by licensed clinical professional familiar with the impairment/condition
Students who do not provide appropriate documentation that outlines their specific functional limitations and need for academic accommodations based on their diagnosis will not be provided accommodations. Also, if a condition does not substantially impair one or more major life activities, it would be determined that the student does not have a disability, thus not eligible for accommodations.

Who is Eligible for Accommodations?

There are 10 primary categories that are used in determining who is eligible for academic accommodations at the college level. The 10 disability areas are general in nature and include subsets in each categories.

Disability Categories and Subsets

  1. Visual- Blind, low-vision, etc.
  2. Hearing- Deaf, hearing loss, etc.
  3. Mobility- Paraplegic, Arthritis, Cerebral Palsy, Back Disorders, Amputation, etc.
  4. Psych- Anxiety Disorders, Bi-Polar Disorder, Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Specified Phobias, Panic Disorders etc.
  5. Learning Disability- Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Language Processing Disorder, Non-Verbal Learning Disability, Dyspraxia, etc.
  6. ADHD- Inattentive Type, Hyperactive Impulse Type, Combination Type
  7. Autism Spectrum Disorder- Asperger’s, or Pervasive Developmental Disability Not Otherwise Specified
  8. Brain Injury -Concussion, Traumatic Brain Injury, Hematoma, Hemorrhage, etc.
  9. Health-Cystic Fibrosis, Chron’s Disease, Epilepsy, Fibromyalgia, Kidney Diseases, Cancer, Autoimmune Disease, etc.
  10. Temp- Concussions, broken limbs, postsurgical procedures (depending on severity and determined on a case-by-case basis).
Syllabus Statement

Students with disabilities are a protected class under ADA and have the right to reasonable accommodations that promote equal access and opportunity.  To appropriately fulfill reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities, the Ability Services office recommends that professors use the syllabus statement listed below in all taught courses:  

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls welcomes students with disabilities into its educational programs, activities, residential halls, and everything else it offers.  Those who’ll need academic adjustments or accommodations for a disability should contact the Ability Services office, 129 Hagestad Hall, 715-425-0740.  Decisions to allow adjustments and accommodations are made on the basis of clinical documentation the students provide to sufficiently indicate the nature of their situation. Additional information is found at”

Common Accommodations

Test Taking Accommodations:
•    Extended test time is usually 50% longer than what the class receives. Greater percentages of additional time, frequent breaks during tests, or other specific accommodations may be possible if justified by documentation.
•    Questions read out loud. Almost always the person who’s reading the questions is not the professor who wrote the test, so in that situation the wording of questions will not be changed or explained.
•    Writing Assistance allows students to answer questions verbally while someone else does the writing.
•    Alternative test taking locations can reduce distractions that might occur in the classroom.

Copies of Lecture Notes:
Professors may choose to provide copies of their own lecture notes to the student, or ask the student to obtain any copies of notes through Ability Services.  Lecture notes that the student receives from Ability Services are obtained anonymously from a classmate in the course. 

Text Accommodations:
Text accommodations could be audio textbooks, electronic textbooks, or written transcripts of audio media such as the soundtracks of a videos. Typically the office must develop these accommodations itself (versus being able to purchase them commercially). The U.S. Copyright Law usually makes it illegal to develop the accommodations unless a student's documentation thoroughly indicates the need, and the student has signed certain agreements to honor a publisher's copyright. Because of these things, it can take the office considerable time to deliver text accommodations.

Test Accommodations

The most common test taking accommodations are: a specified amount of additional time, a distraction reduced testing location, questions read out loud by the proctor, and transcription of student's verbal answers. Educational Support Plans are made for individual students who use particular accommodations which can offset a negative influence of their self-disclosed, document-supported barrier. The objective is not to raise the potential of  success. The objective is to ensure that a test is measuring the student's knowledge and skills, versus measuring how the disability impacts the test taking event.

General Preperation for a Test with Accommodations

  1. The student provides documentation to confirm there is a substantial need for test accommodations.
  2. An Educational Support Plan is collaboratively created to show what accommodations the student may have.
  3. The student receives an Accommocation Notification Memo that identifies the accommodations.
  4. The student gives the professor a copy of the Memo showing the need for test accommodations.
  5. The student makes an outward request each time the test accommodation is wanted, on a per test/quiz basis.
  6. The professor elects to unilaterally give the test with the accommodations, or can refer the student to Ability Services so the test can occur there. The professor contacts Deb Morgan if it seems the accommodation is inappropriate.
  7. If referred to Ability Services, the student fills out an Accommodated Test Request Form and asks the professor to sign it. The student delivers the form to Ability Services a minimum of one week prior the scheduled test.
  8. Ability Services uses the information on the form to make plans for the test. Ability Services will confirm the parameters of the test via email within 3 days of the scheduled test.
  9. If Ability Services administers the test, the professor decides how the test is transported.

Note: It is the professor's responsiblity to get the test to Ability Services in a timely manner.  Email and direct delivery are the two most popular means.  It is not recommended for tests be sent through intercampus mail.  

 Routine Testing Protocols at Ability Services

  • Students should deliver Accommodated Test Request Forms to the office a week in advance of a scheduled test date during the semester. For a final exam, the form should be delivered by the student no later than 2 weeks prior to the start of finals week.  Ability Services will accept all signed test request forms at the beginning of the semester if the student chooses to do this. Confirmation emails are mailed to the student days before the test.
  • Tests take place in small rooms and cubicles.
  • Tests are monitored by video camera and recorded, unless the proctor is physically present to read questions out loud and/or transcribe the student's verbal answers.
  • Students are asked to have nothing on the table, except the test and anything that's necessary to write the answers.
  • Cell phones are not permitted in the testing rooms. 
  • Ability Services must receive a signature for receipt of a completed test.  An attempt is made to return the test on the day it is administered, but there are circumstances which may prevent this. In this case, the test is held, awaiting the professor's directions, in a secure, locked cabinet in the Ability Services office.

Student's Responsibilities

Link to Directions for Test Accommodations

        Note: If you have questions, comments, or concerns on this subject, contact Deb Morgan at 715-425-0740.

Lecture Notes Accommodations

Copies of lecture notes are provided to students with disabilities that make it very difficult to take notes. The objective is to provide equal opportunity to effectively study the information that's delivered during lectures.

Routine Protocols for Copies of Lecture Notes

  1. Student provides documentation to confirm there's a substantial need for copies of lecture notes.
  2. Student gives professor a memo from Ability Services that indicates it can be appropriate to have this kind of accommodation.
  3. Student gives professor a Note Taker Application. The top box is filled out, including the student's folder number, in order to outwardly indicate the accommodation is being requested.
  4. Professor elects to unilaterally provide copies of personal lecture notes to the student, or uses the Note Taker Application to recruit a classmate who will provide copies of lecture notes.
  5. Professor sends the recruited Note Taker, with the completed Application, to Ability Services to be hired for the position and receive further directions.

It's important to know the staff of Ability Services cannot effectively monitor the content or quality of the notes being received by the accommodated student. Therefore, the office has assigned the responsibility of monitoring the copies of lecture notes to the student who is supposed to receive them. The student has been told to immediately notify Ability Services if there is any concern with the quality or timeliness of this accommodation. A link is provided to the professor to verify the content is accurate.

Student's Responsibilities

Link to Directions for Lecture Notes

Note: If you have questions, comments, or concerns about this kind of accommodation contact Deb Morgan at 715-425-0740.

Text Accommodations

There are basically two kinds of text accommodations. One is an audio version of a printed material for students with disabilities that significantly prevent the ability to read. The other is a transcript of an audio media for students with disabilities that significantly prevent the ability to hear. The objective is to create equal access and opportunity to effectively study the course material that are presented in a written and audio formats. Typically these kinds of accommodations can't be purchased in ready made versions. Usually the Ability Services office must actually manufacture the accommodations, and because of the U.S. Copyright Law must first seek the publisher's permission. This process can take weeks. Therefore students are expected to plan ahead and request these kinds of accommodations well in advance.

  Routine Text Accommodation Protocols

  1. Student provides documentation to confirm there's a substantial need for text accommodations.
  2. Student receives a memo from Ability Services that indicates it's appropriate to have text accommodations.
  3. Student gives a copy of the memo to professor soon after registering for a course starts and asks for either a list of the reading materials and assignments or list of the audio media that will be used.
  4. Student reviews the list to determine what materials will be needed in an accommodated format.
  5. Student fills out and submits an Text Accommodation Request Form to Ability Services for each material that will be needed in an accommodated format.
  6. Ability Services contacts the publisher for permission to reformat the material into either an audio or transcript version.
  7. After receiving permission, Ability Services creates the accommodation. This can take up to 4 weeks.

Student's Responsibilities

Link to Directions for Text Accommodations

       Note: for questions, comments, or concerns on this subject contact Deb Morgan at 715-425-0740.

Universal Design

Universal Design refers to the development of buildings, products, and teaching methods that eliminate the need to arrange retroactive accommodations. The goal is to develop things in ways that make them automatically accessible to people and students who have disabilities. Typically these ways of doing things also make them considerably more convenient for everyone.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research-based framework for designing curriculum goals, methods, materials, and assessments that enable all students to independently gain knowledge and skills without relying on the need to arrange common kinds of accommodations for students who have a disability. This is accomplished in the planning process by designing in circumstances that can support learning while reducing barriers to the curriculum.

Interesting Scholarly articles about Universal Design found on UW-River Falls Library Article Search:

Title: Faculty Collaboration to Improve Equity, Access, and Inclusion in Higher Education.
Source: Equity & excellence in education [1066-5684] Bernacchio, Charlie yr:2007 vol:40 iss:1 pg:56 - 66

Title: Putting Universal Design for Learning on the Higher Ed Agenda.
Source: Journal of educational technology systems [0047-2395] Gradel, Kathleen yr:2009 vol:38 iss:2 pg:111 - 121

Title: Addressing the Persistence and Retention of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education: Incorporating Key Strategies and Supports on Campus.
Source: Exceptionality [0936-2835] Getzel, Elizabeth yr:2008 vol:16 iss:4 pg:207 - 219

Technology Resources

Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI) provides ten tips for online instructors to make their courses accessible to all students. TEN TIPS FOR ONLINE TEACHERS

Web with Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM) shows instructors how to create PowerPoints that are accessible to nearly all students.

TRACE Center University of Wisconsin-Madison provides a wide range of information and resources related to accessibility and technology.

Captioning resources:

Designing accessible websites:

Accessibility for Videos and Podcasts:

Commons Reasons for Certain Types of Accommodations

  • Common Reasons for Additional Testing Time - slower processing speed, difficulties in reading, struggles with memory recall, lack of concentration and focus, etc. 
  • Common Reasons for Writing Assistance - the physical impairment that makes it difficult to sustain writing tasks for extended periods of time, difficulty in spelling structure and organization, struggles expressing thoughts in writing, and processing disorders which result in difficulty getting thoughts to paper.
  • Common Reasons for Test Questions Read Aloud - offered to students who have difficulties in reading and processing information.  A student who processes information more effectively in an auditory manner due to their disability can see benefits from this accommodation.
  • Students with attention issues may be able to focus on one task (the speaker) rather than trying to multitask.
  • Students with limited mobility in their hands.
  • Students with auditory processing disorders.
  • Students who have slower information processing ability.
  • Students with concentration and attention issues.
  • Students who have barriers in executive functioning.
Alternative Formats

Alternative format text provides copies of textbooks or other print materials in electronic format, Braille, or another accessible format.

  • Reading Issues
  • Visually Impaired Students
  • Students with Visual Processing Issues
  • Students with Executive Functioning Issues
  • Attention and Concentration Issues
Assistive Technology

Various proposed technology which best support a student's disability.  Examples could be screen reading software, personal FM & wireless systems, closed captioning, audio recording, etc.

  • Is used by students with all types of disabilities and learning challenges.
  • Can benefit all students, not just students with disabilities.

Contact Us

Ability Services
Your Access Resource Center

Fax: 715-425-0742
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
129 Hagestad Hall