What constitutes a disability?

An individual with a disability is defined as anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, working, or learning.   Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) further defines "disability" as broadly covering people in three categories:

  • people who currently have a disability;
  • people who have a history of a disability; and
  • those who are regarded* as having a disability whether or not they actually have a disability.

What is the role of OSSD?

The OSSD works to provide students with disabilities a learning and community environment that affords them full participation, equal access, and reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. OSSD works collaboratively with students and faculty, staff, and administrators to coordinate reasonable accommodations that allow equal access and opportunity to courses, programs, and services. Ultimately, this can improve a student's ability to learn, study, and participate in campus activities.

What is the accommodation process?

A student enrolled at Old Westbury who wishes to receive accommodations must self-identify as having a disability, make a request to OSSD and provide appropriate documentation.  The student will then meet with a member of the OSSD team to discuss their disability and accommodations that may reduce the impact of the environment on the disability. Once OSSD completes its review and reasonable accommodations are determined, the student will receive an accommodations letter from OSSD to provide to the members of the faculty for the courses in which they are enrolled.  The student is encouraged to  initiate conversations with faculty to determine how accommodations will work for each particular course.

How are accommodation decisions made for students with disabilities?

Requests for accommodations are evaluated on an individual basis by the staff of OSSD.  In reviewing requests, among the considerations are:

  • barriers resulting from the interaction between the disability and the institution's courses, programs, services, and activities 
  • potential accommodations that may remove the barriers
  • whether equal access is available to the student without accommodation
  • whether essential elements of our University's program or course would be fundamentally altered by any accommodation
  • the reasonableness and/or unreasonableness of the accommodation request.

As previously mentioned, the student is responsible for contacting the OSSD to request accommodations. If the student does not initiate this process, accommodations are not provided.

What are reasonable accommodations?

Accommodations are modifications to the ways in which things are usually done.   The purpose of effective accommodations is to provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate and benefit from college.

Colleges and universities are required to provide students with appropriate academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services that are necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in the institution’s academic program.  The institution is not required to make adjustments or provide aids or services that would result in a fundamental alteration of a recipient's program or impose an undue burden.

The following are examples of the most common accommodations that permit a student with a disability to effectively participate in the educational process:

  • Changes to a classroom environment or task: extended time for an exam, a separate location to take an exam, materials in alternative format;
  • Removal of architectural barriers: adapting a classroom to meet the needs of a student who uses a wheelchair;
  • Provision of auxiliary aids and services: providing a sign language interpreter, or providing note-taking assistance or a scribe for exams.

What is considered an unreasonable accommodation?

SUNY Old Westbury is not required to offer or provide an accommodation, to admit or continue to admit an individual with a disability to any course, program, service or activity, or to provide educational opportunities and other services when:

  • the educational standards or mission of the University would be substantially altered
  • the nature of the course, program, service or activity would be fundamentally altered
  • the student is not otherwise qualified (with or without accommodations) to meet the academic and technical standards required for admission or participation in an education course, program, service or activity
  • an undue financial or administrative hardship for the University would be caused by the accommodation, and
  • if the individual would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of self or others.