STUDENT DISABILITY POLICY AND ACCOMMODATION PROCEDURES
Pursuant to several federal and state laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Massachusetts Gen. Laws c. 151C, all qualified students with disabilities are protected from discrimination on the basis of disability and are eligible for reasonable accommodations or modifications in the academic environment to enable them to enjoy equal access to academic programs, services or activities.
The Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (“MSPP” or “School”) is fully committed to: complying with the laws regarding equal opportunity for all qualified students with disabilities; promoting the full participation of all qualified students in all aspects of campus life; and making reasonable accommodations as are necessary to ensure that its programs and activities do not discriminate, or have the effect of discriminating, on the basis of disability.
MSPP therefore prohibits discrimination against any individual on the basis of physical or mental disability. It is also the policy of MSPP to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities unless such accommodations would impose an undue burden or fundamental alteration to the program in question.
Students with disabilities at MSPP are required to meet the same academic standards as nondisabled students at the School. Moreover, it is only through a student’s voluntary disclosure of his or her disability and request for accommodation(s) that MSPP can support the student’s needs.
This Policy extends to all rights, privileges, programs and activities, including admissions, financial assistance, and educational programming. MSPP encourages all students with disabilities to self-identify.
- An individual with a disability is a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more “major life activities.” Physical or mental impairments include, for example, specific learning disabilities, emotional or mental illness, blindness and visual impairments, deafness and hearing impairments, mobility impairments and some chronic illnesses.
A person is considered to be an individual with a disability and legally protected if he/she has the disability, has a record of having the disability, or, for certain purposes, is regarded as having the disability An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
- Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
- Substantially limits means a material restriction of the duration, manner or condition under which an individual can perform a major life activity exists when compared to the average person’s ability to perform that same major life activity. Temporary impairments that take significantly longer than normal to heal, long-term impairments, or potentially long-term impairments of indefinite duration may be disabilities if they are severe. The School will evaluate whether the impairment substantially limits any of the major life activities of a specific student, not whether the impairment is substantially limiting in general.
MSPP also will determine whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity without regard to effects of mitigating measures such as medication, medical supplies, hearing aids, etc. For example, a student with hearing loss will still qualify as an individual with a disability, even though the individual may substantially improve his or her hearing impairment while using hearing aids. The one exception to this rule is eyeglasses or contact lenses. Because so many individuals wear corrective lenses, the effects of corrective lenses on one’s vision shall be considered in determining substantially limits. Thus, a student with good vision with corrective lens will not be considered disabled for the purposes of this Policy.
- A qualified student with a disability means an individual who, with reasonable accommodations to rules, policies or practices, the removal of barriers or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the eligibility requirements for the receipt of services and the participation in programs or activities.
- Accommodation refers to an adjustment or modification in the academic environment that enables an individual to enjoy equal access to the School’s programs, services or activities. An example of an accommodation would be one that allows a student to complete the same assignment or test as other students, but with a change in the timing, formatting, setting, scheduling, response and/or presentation. The accommodation does not alter in any significant way what the test or assignment measures.
Personal aids and services, including help in bathing, dressing, or other personal care, are not required to be provided by postsecondary institutions.
- Reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a course, program, or activity or facility that allows the student with a disability to participate as fully as possible in the programs and activities offered by MSPP. Accommodation may be necessary where the student has, or has a record of having, a disability.
- Auxiliary aids and services refer to a wide range of devices and services that provide effective communication for students with disabilities. Examples of auxiliary aids and services are taped texts, note takers, interpreters, readers, videotext displays, television enlargers, talking calculators, electronic readers, Braille calculators, printers or typewriters, and telephone handset amplifiers.
- Fundamental Alteration. While the School makes every effort to provide reasonable accommodations, it is not required to provide any aid or service or make any modification that would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of its academic programs. In evaluating whether the requested program modifications would require substantial program alteration or would fundamentally alter academic standards or programs, the program administrator should consider the underlying academic reasons for the program components, the academic standards institutionalized in the program, how the challenged components are consistent with the program standards, and how the requested accommodations would be inconsistent with the academic goals and standards of the program.
For example, where a course requirement is essential to the program of instruction taken by the student, MSPP is not required to waive the requirement.
More specifically, in accordance with MSPP’s Guidelines on Professional Behavior, all students, including those with documented disabilities, must sustain an overall attitude of receptivity to all sources of personal and professional learning during the course of professional training. These attitudes and attributes include, but are not limited to, the following:
- An overall knowledge, appreciation, and acceptance of the ethical standards and guidelines for the practice of psychology.
- A demonstration of the capacity to work collaboratively and respectfully with others throughout all ranges of professional training experience (peers, colleagues, supervisors, patients/clients, other professionals, faculty, advisors, administrators, support staff, etc.).
- A demonstration of and willingness to assume responsibility for learning by utilizing appropriate available resources to fulfill clinical and academic responsibilities (e.g., consultation, supervision, literature, etc.).
- A demonstration of and willingness to meet professional obligations in a timely and responsible manner.
- A sustained awareness of one’s effectiveness and functioning in clinical and academic settings, as well as an awareness of one’s personal/professional impact on others.
- A receptivity to constructive commentary and/or criticism with a demonstration of a capacity to address such issues that may have been identified.
- A demonstration of the capacity for perceptiveness and empathy and a growing sense of how to use these qualities effectively in the service of others or of professional role responsibilities (i.e., in both clinical and applied work as well as in general commerce within school, field, or other work settings).
- A demonstration of the capacity to interpret accurately and reasonably the conduct of one’s self and of others.
- A demonstration of the capacity to evaluate one’s self and others honestly, fairly, and sensitively (e.g., in supervision, in classroom exchanges and exercises, during A& P conferences, etc.).
- A recognition of, appreciation of, and sensitivity to individual differences and diversity in the human experience and the relevance of such understanding for the practice of psychology.
- A desire to provide human services and to acknowledge and address both individual and broad psychosocial issues within the scope of psychological knowledge, practice, and professional responsibility.
- Essential Element. An accommodation is not reasonable if it means making a substantial change in an essential element of a course or a given student’s curriculum. It is MSPP’s responsibility to demonstrate both that the change requested is substantial and that the element targeted for change is essential to the conduct of the course or program curriculum. Whether or not the change requested is substantial/essential may be based on pedagogical precepts and/or documented in the class syllabus. Sometimes the question hinges not on the course of study but the manner in which a specific course is conducted.
- MSPP need not accommodate a student who poses a direct threat to health or safety of others, which means a significant risk to health or safety that cannot be eliminated by modification of policies, practices, or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services. In determining whether a student poses a direct threat to health or safety, the School must make an individualized assessment, based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or the best available objective evidence, to ascertain: (a) the nature, duration, and severity of the risk; (b) the probability that the potential injury will actually occur; and (c) whether reasonable modification of policies, practices, or procedures will mitigate the risk.
- Undue Burden. MSPP need not make modifications or provide auxiliary aids or services if it constitutes an undue burden. In determining whether or not an undue burden exists, the factors to be considered are the nature and cost of the action needed in the context of the overall financial resources of the School.
Procedures to Obtain Accommodations
Students with disabilities who wish to make a request for accommodations, modifications, auxiliary aids and/or disability-related services must do so through MSPP’s Dean of Students’ Office (“Dean’s Office”), which serves students with all types of disabilities, including visual, mobility and hearing impairments, and learning and psychiatric disabilities. The Assistant Dean of Students works with students on an individual basis to determine which, if any, accommodations, modifications, auxiliary aids and/or services would be most effective to help them achieve academic success. For the purposes of these Accommodation Procedures, MSPP will refer to accommodations, modifications, auxiliary aids and/or services collectively as “accommodations.”
A. Registering for Services
In order to receive reasonable accommodations, students must contact the Assistant Dean of Students, Dr. Jane Utley Adelizzi, Director of the Academic Resource Center. Ideally, this contact should be made prior to a student’s arrival at MSPP as a new student, and prior to the beginning of each semester for established students in order to update documentation and ensure accommodations are in place. No student is entitled to reasonable accommodations unless they self-identify and contact the Assistant Dean of Students at MSPP.
To begin the process each student must submit formal documentation of their disability to the Assistant Dean of Students, who may then request further documentation if what has been submitted thus far seems incomplete or inconsistent with what is being requested as a reasonable accommodation. The Assistant Dean of Students meets with the student and develops a formal letter which lists appropriate accommodations for that student. It then becomes the responsibility of the student to distribute the letter to instructors and other members of the MSPP community on an as-needed basis in order to receive reasonable accommodations. The eligibility for reasonable accommodations is determined by the Assistant Dean of Students on a case-by-case basis.
If the Dean’s Office determines that the student is eligible, an accommodation plan will be developed. All accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis.
B. Documentation Requirements
Appropriate medical documentation of disability must be provided so that the Assistant Dean of Students may: (1) determine the student’s eligibility for accommodation; and (2) if the student is eligible, determine appropriate academic accommodations, modification, aids and/or services.
Disability documentation must include a written evaluation from a physician, psychologist or other qualified specialist that establishes the nature and extent of the disability and includes the basis for the diagnosis and the dates of testing. The documentation must establish the current need for accommodation. At a minimum, the documentation must:
- Clearly identify the diagnosed disability or disabilities.
- Describe the functional limitations resulting from the disability or disabilities.
- Be current within three (3) years for learning disabilities and ADHD, and within six (6) months for psychiatric impairments.
- Be current for visual, hearing or mobility-related impairments. (Although some individuals have long-standing or permanent diagnoses, because of the changing manifestations of many physical disabilities, it is essential for those individuals to provide recent and appropriate documentation from a qualified evaluator.)
- Include a complete educational, developmental and medical history relevant to the disability.
- Include a list of all test instruments used in evaluation and relevant subtest scores. (This requirement does not apply to visual, hearing or mobility-related impairments.)
- Describe the specific accommodations, adaptive devices, assistive services, compensatory strategies and/or collateral support services requested.
- Be typed or printed on official letterhead and be signed by an evaluator qualified to make the diagnosis, including licensure or certification and area of specialization.
Documentation may need to be updated or augmented in order to be reviewed more fully. Students who submit documentation that does not meet the above guidelines will be required to send a revised evaluation before being considered for accommodations.
C. Determining Eligibility
If the Assistant Dean of Students determines that the student has a disability and is a qualified student with a disability, it will determine the student’s reasonable accommodations on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the needs of the student, the course standards and essential requirements, and the educational environment. Eligibility for accommodations is determined through an examination of the student’s description of need and the thoroughness of his or her disability documentation. More particularly, accommodations are determined by the Assistant Dean of Students in consultation with the student and with input from the faculty and staff, where needed.
In general terms, the Assistant Dean of Students makes determinations regarding reasonable accommodations by examining the following:
- the barriers resulting from the interaction between the documented disability and the campus environment;
- the possible accommodations that might remove the barriers;
- whether or not the student has access to the course, program, service, activity or facility without an accommodation; and
- whether or not essential elements of the course, program, service, activity or facility are compromised by the accommodations.
In reviewing the specific accommodation requests by the student or recommended by the physician/evaluator, the Dean’s Office may find that while a recommendation is clinically supported, it is not the most appropriate accommodation given the requirements of a particular student’s academic program. In addition, the Assistant Dean of Students may also propose clinically supported accommodations that would be appropriate and useful for the student, but which neither the student nor the evaluator have requested.
The Assistant Dean of Students reserves the right to determine eligibility for accommodations based on the quality of the submitted documentation.
D. Accommodation Requests
Accommodations may include, but are not limited to: tape recorders; signing interpreters; note-takers; extended time testing; distraction-reduced testing setting; oral exams; use of computer/word processor for testing; and alternatively formatted texts. Under certain circumstances, course substitutions may be appropriate modifications.
For each semester in which a student seeks accommodations, he or she must submit an Accommodation Request Form and a copy of his or her course schedule. Ideally, students should submit their Accommodation Request Form prior to the start of the semester. Otherwise, requests for accommodation should be made as early as possible to allow the Dean’s Office sufficient time to review requests and documentation, and to make proper arrangements. Accommodation may be compromised or denied if a request is not made in a timely manner.
A disclosure of disability or request for an accommodation made to a faculty member, administrator or staff member, other than the staff of the Dean’s Office, will not be treated as a request for an accommodation.
E. Denial of Accommodations
MSPP reserves the right to deny services or accommodations in the event that documentation does not comply with its guidelines for service eligibility or documentation, is out-of-date, incomplete or otherwise insufficient.
If the documentation provided by a student does not support the existence of a disability or the need for an accommodation, the student will be so advised. Students will be given the opportunity to supplement the initial documentation with further information from a physician, psychologist or other specialist.
MSPP is not required to provide an accommodation that compromises the essential requirements of a course or program, imposes an undue burden or that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of the student or others.
MSPP has established specific, internal Discrimination Complaint Procedures to help resolve complaints of discrimination on campus. These procedures specifically address complaints of disability discrimination, including claims that the School failed to properly accommodate a student’s disability. The Discrimination Complaint Procedures will serve as a system of review and resolution for both informal claims and formal complaints of disability discrimination. Any student who believes he or she has been a victim of discrimination or has failed to receive a proper accommodation may initiate an informal claim or formal complaint as outlined below. Further advice or information may be obtained by contacting the Assistant Dean of Students.
A. Informal Procedures
Any student who believes that he or she has been the victim of disability discrimination may arrange to meet with the Section 504/ADA Coordinator, who is the Assistant Dean of Students at MSPP. The purpose of the meeting shall be to ascertain the nature of the acts or events upon which the allegations of disability discrimination are based, and the names of any employees or students alleged to have committed such acts. It shall be the further purpose of this meeting to seek to resolve the issues raised by the allegations or to determine what remedy, if any, the complaining student believes is appropriate. The Section 504/ADA Coordinator may discuss the allegations of disability discrimination with other persons only with the consent of the person making the claim.
Any student who believes himself or herself to have been discriminated against on the basis of disability in violation of this Policy, and who wishes to make use of these informal procedures, shall give written notice to the Section 504/ADA Coordinator of his or her desire to meet for that purpose. Such notice shall be given within ninety (90) days following the date on which the events or actions complained of were first known, or should first have been known, to the person making the complaint. The time limit may be extended where the act complained of is continuing or where circumstances beyond the control of the complaining student prevented the filing of an otherwise timely complaint.
While the School encourages the use of this informal procedure as a means for resolving a complaint of disability discrimination, any student who believes that he or she has been the victim of such discrimination may initiate a formal complaint in accordance with the provisions of the following paragraph B.
Additionally, if the informal procedures fail to resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the person making it, he or she may elect to make use of the formal procedures set forth in the following paragraph B.
B. Formal Procedures.
Any student who believes that, in violation of the School’s Policy, he or she has been discriminated against on the basis of disability by any of the School’s officers, agents, or employees, or by another student, may file a written complaint with the President. The written complaint shall set forth the basis upon which the person making it believes himself or herself to have been discriminated against, the acts or events that he or she believes evidence such discrimination, and any other factual information that is relevant to the claim such as times, dates, and witnesses. The complaint should be signed and dated by the person making it. A copy of this procedure shall be given to the student initiating the complaint.
Any student wishing to initiate these formal procedures shall do so by filing a written complaint within one hundred and twenty (120) days following the date on which the events or actions complained of were first known, or should first have been known, to the person making the complaint. The time limit may be extended where the act complained of is continuing or where circumstances beyond the control of the complaining student prevented the filing of an otherwise timely complaint.
It shall be the usual practice for the President to refer any such complaint to the Section 504/ADA Coordinator. In any case in which the President thinks it appropriate, the President may designate another School official to process the formal complaint, or may elect to discharge the responsibilities hereinafter described himself or herself.
The 504/ADA Coordinator, President’s designee or the President, as the case may require, shall investigate the allegations made in the complaint. It shall be the normal practice for any such investigation to include, at the outset, a meeting with the person who has filed the complaint; it shall also be the normal practice for any such investigation to include a meeting with any other person who is alleged to have been responsible for or to have participated in the conduct complained of. It shall also be the normal practice for any such investigation to include a meeting with any persons identified as witnesses by the complaining student or employee.
Whenever the 504/ADA Coordinator, President’s designee or the President shall have determined that any person has been discrimination against on the basis of disability in violation of this Policy, he or she shall render a decision in writing to that effect and shall set forth in such decision the remedy for such discrimination, provided, however, that no such decision shall be rendered by the 504/ADA Coordinator or President’s designee without the prior approval of the President.
Whenever the 504/ADA Coordinator, President’s designee or the President shall have determined that any person who has filed a complaint hereunder has not been discrimination against in violation of this Policy, he or she shall render a decision in writing to that effect, provided, however, that no such decision shall be rendered by the 504/ADA Coordinator or President’s designee without the prior approval of the President.
Unless impracticable to do so, a decision shall be rendered within thirty (30) days following the date on which a formal complaint has been filed with the President. I
n addition to the formal procedure described herein, the President reserves the right to initiate an investigation when he or she has cause to believe the School’s Policy has been violated.
C. Appeal Procedures.
If the formal procedures described in the foregoing Paragraph B shall have failed to resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the person making it, he or she may elect to appeal the matter to the Committee on Non-Discrimination and Affirmative Action of the Board of Trustees. Every such appeal shall be made by giving notice thereof to the President in writing within seven (7) days following receipt by the complainant of the decision from which the appeal is taken. The President shall transmit such notice to the Chairman of the Committee together with a copy of such decision.
The Chairman of the Committee shall convene a meeting within thirty (30) days following receipt of the notice of appeal. If a request is made on the notice of appeal that the person making such appeal be given an opportunity to be heard by the Committee, the Committee shall give such person not less than three (3) days’ advance written notice of the time, date, and place of its meeting and shall grant such person an opportunity to be heard before making its decision. The respondent and any witnesses may be given an opportunity to be heard or interviewed by the Committee. The meeting of the Committee shall be held in executive session unless the Committee shall otherwise determine.
The decision of the Committee shall take the form of a recommendation to the Board of Trustees regarding final disposition of the complaint and shall include a brief statement of the reasons for the recommendation. Such recommendation shall be placed on the agenda of the next meeting of the Board of Trustees or of its Executive Committee, whichever is sooner scheduled. That item on the agenda shall be considered in executive session unless the Board or its Committee shall otherwise determine.
The decision of the Board or of the Executive Committee, as the case may require, shall be final.
D. Transfer of Function.
If the 504/ADA Coordinator is named as the respondent in any complaint, the President either shall designate another individual to conduct the informal or formal stages of this procedure or shall personally conduct these stages of this procedure.
If the President is named as the respondent in any complaint, the student complaining may arrange to meet with the Chairperson of the Committee on Non-Discrimination and Affirmative Action who shall receive any complaint and conduct the informal or formal stages of this procedure.
E. Retaliatory Action Prohibited.
The School prohibits retaliatory action against persons who file claims, complaints, or charges under these procedures, under applicable local, state, or federal non-discrimination statutes, who are suspected of having filed such claims, complaints, or charges, who have assisted or participated in an investigation or resolution of such claims, complaints, or charges, or who have protested practices alleged to be a violation of the non-discrimination policy of the School, or of local, state, or federal non-discrimination regulations or statutes. Such retaliation is cognizable under these procedures as well as under state and federal law. Retaliation, even in the absence of provable discrimination is the original complaint, charge or allegation, constitutes a violation as serious as proved discrimination under the original claim, complaint, charge, or allegation. Any person who believes he or she has been retaliated against in this manner is encouraged to immediately file a claim or complaint under these procedures.
F. Other Administrative Options.
While it is the intent of the School to actively respond to all claims/complaints of discrimination with the hope that it can fully, quickly, and adequately resolve them internally, the School recognizes the right of all complainants to file charges of unlawful discrimination with the appropriate federal, state, or local agency with or without first pursuing a resolution of the claim/complaint through the School’s complaint procedures. These agencies include:
Office of Civil Rights, Region One
U. S. Department of Education
33 Arch Street
Boston, MA 02119-1424
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
JFK Federal Building
Boston, MA 02203
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 720-6054 TTY
MSPP recognizes that student disability records contain confidential information and are to be treated as such. Therefore, documentation of a student’s disability is maintained in a confidential file in the office of the Assistant Dean of Students and is considered part of the student’s education record. Information related to a disability may be disclosed only with the permission of the student, or as permitted by the School’s student records policy and federal law.
At the same time, however, a student’s right to privacy must still be balanced against the School’s need to know the information in order to provide requested and recommended services and accommodations. Therefore, in the interest of serving the needs of the student, the provision of services may involve the office of the Assistant Dean of Students disclosing disability information provided by the student to appropriate School personnel participating in the accommodation process.
Information may also be disclosed to appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. This is limited to a specific situation that presents imminent danger to a student, other students, or other members of the School community. Any release of information must be narrowly tailored considering the immediacy, magnitude, and specificity of information concerning the emergency. The amount of information that may be released is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Section 504/ADA Coordinator
MSPP has designated the following person as its Section 504/ADA Coordinator to coordinate the School’s Section 504 and ADA compliance efforts:
Dr. Jane Utley Adelizzi
Assistant Dean of Students at MSPP
Inquiries regarding this Policy and all other disability-related issues, including the physical accessibility of the School and its grounds, should be directed to the Section 504/ADA Coordinator.