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Information for Students

"I wish for a world that views disability … not as a hindrance but as unique attributes that can be seen as powerful assets if given the right opportunities.”  - Oliver Sacks

Western New England University (WNE) embraces the ideals shared by Oliver Sacks. Faculty and staff recognize that students with disabilities represent an equally important aspect of diversity as any other student on campus and are an integral part of our community.

Student Accessibility Services (SAS) is the office on campus designated to determining and coordinating reasonable accommodations for students having documented disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. SAS fosters an individual and interactive process. 

Understanding the Student Accessibility Welcome Meeting:

Dear Student, thank you for choosing WNE, we are excited to Welcome you to campus.  As the Director of Student Accessibility Services, I wanted to share with you the importance and purpose  of the SAS  Welcome Meeting.

As a new student seeking college accommodations, once you have submitted the completed SAS Intake Form and, in most cases, provide all required supporting documentation the Director or the Accessibility Specialist will ask to meet with you by phone, in-person, or virtually. The Welcome Meeting is an opportunity to discuss your needs and learn more about you.

The college accommodation process is very much  individualized to meet the needs of each student. This process includes an interactive self-report meeting, the welcome/intake meeting, and, in most cases, requires supporting documentation.  Determining a disability is not limited to the presence of a diagnosis; according to the ADA  a disability is a diagnosis that substantially limits one or more major life activities, while  the definition of “substantially limits” is not specified, it is clear that the term is meant to determine the impact of the diagnosis on the individual.  Major life activities can range from concentration, breathing,  and seeing to being able to use the restroom independently. The general rule of thumb is that a major life activity is something that contributes to the proper functioning of the human body (seeing, sleeping, hearing, talking,  and moving) or the proper functioning of internal organs. The 2008 amendments to the ADA expanded major life activities to include self-care, the ability to perform manual tasks, learning, thinking, and working, to name the most important.

Determining reasonable and appropriate accommodations at the college level  requires understanding of the law and the ability to listen to students as they share “how the diagnosis impacts a major life-activity”; if the disability is not easily identifiable (as noted in the ADA law) this requires self-report from the student. Most students have not learned how  to express the impact of the diagnosis on their major life activities, in part because they have never had share this information  before college, at the K-12 level this process is entirely managed by parents/guardians and IEP/504 teams, but  in an effort to support students as they learn to express their accommodation needs and the diagnosis relationship to their needs  the SAS team will utilize  a somewhat standard questionnaire to manage this process.

The questionnaire is designed to understand the relationship to the diagnosis and the potential accommodations that may reduce or remove barriers. The questionnaire is standard and a document we use with most new students seeking accommodations, by asking the student to answer the questions we are able to better understand their needs and ask clarifying questions as needed. This process  may feel slightly intrusive as we are asking about your diagnosis, the date of diagnosis, how you manage the diagnosis to name a few questions.  The completed welcome meeting, the completed  SAS Intake form and the supporting documentation support the accommodation review process. Accommodation requests are not immediately approved, but careful consideration is given to understanding the students needs and determining reasonable and appropriate accommodations.

I am happy to answer any questions you may have related to the Welcome Meeting and the Accommodation Review process as we use a similar process to review new accommodation requests.

If you have questions or would like to discuss scheduling a Welcome Meeting please feel free to email me directly.