Faculty and Staff Information


As of 2016, students with disabilities made up about 19% of undergraduate postsecondary students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019), and that number is expected to continue growing. Many students seeking accommodations have disabilities that may not be readily apparent, like learning disabilities, chronic illnesses, and emotional/psychological disabilities. Despite this trend of increased disclosure, we know that some students with disabilities do not disclose their diagnoses or needs at the postsecondary level. Based on this data, it is expected that most if not all faculty and staff members will work with a student who has a disability, whether the disability has been disclosed or not. Increasing our own understanding of disability legislation and rights, as well as best practices, will lead to a more accessible, inclusive, and equitable university environment.


Disability Legislation: Terms and Important Details

Section 504 refers to a specific section (Section 504) of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which “is designed to eliminate discrimination on the basis of handicap in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (Title 34 Education, 2009).

ADA is a commonly used abbreviation for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), including changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-325), which became effective on January 1, 2009. Building on Section 504, the ADA enacted broader policy stating that no institution can discriminate against students with disabilities, regardless of whether or not the institution received federal funding among public and privately held institutions.

Fair Housing Act refers to legislation (originally passed in 1968 and later amended in 1988) that makes it illegal for housing providers to discriminate against individuals based on disability and requires that they “make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies and practices when necessary to provide a person with a disability with the same enjoyment of dwelling” and ” to allow people with disabilities to make reasonable physical modifications of premises.”

IDEA is a commonly used abbreviation for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (originally passed as the Education of All Handicapped Children Act in 1975), which requires all children with disabilities be provided with special education services, as well as individualized education programs based on personal and specific needs, at primary and secondary levels of education.

Disability is defined by federal law as an impairment that substantially limits the condition, manner, or duration under which a person can perform a major life activity (i.e. seeing, hearing, walking, reading, writing, self-care, self-direction).

  • The existence of a disability does not necessarily impair the individual’s ability to perform, but it may require the use of alternative methods to carry out a given task or alternative methods of evaluation of a skill.
  • In postsecondary education settings, students with disabilities are entitled to “appropriate academic adjustments” and “auxiliary aides” to prevent discrimination under Section 504 and ADA.


The Role of DSS

The Disability Support Services (DSS) office exists to ensure that students with disabilities are provided equal access to educational opportunities while at Trinity. This includes equal access in academic setting as well as in housing, dining, and other aspects of campus life, such as ability to navigate and access campus spaces.

DSS does not diagnosis student disabilities, but instead provides accommodations to students who have been diagnosed or are in the process of being diagnosed by medical professionals.

Each student goes through an individualized, interactive process, which involves:

  • Disclosure of disability and intent to register for accommodations
  • Submission of support documentation relative to the impacting disability or diagnosis
  • Meeting with DSS staff to discuss student experiences, history, and needs, in order to approve and assign accommodations

Once DSS has approved an accommodation for a student, the accommodation cannot be denied by a faculty or staff member without the explicit involvement and approval of DSS.

DSS works closely with faculty, staff, and students to implement assigned accommodations in order to provide access while also ensuring there are no fundamental alterations of course or degree requirements.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact DSS via e-mail, phone, or in-person. Please avoid using identifying information about students and their disabilities when e-mailing.

Accommodations In-Depth

Disability Support Services (DSS) conducts various trainings for faculty and staff (separate sessions) through The College of Arts & Sciences and The Trinity Institute for Professional Development each semester. Please check the Human Resources calendar periodically for upcoming sessions of “Accessibility and Accommodations: Students with Disabilities in Higher Education.”

  • Can’t attend a FACULTY or STAFF session? Check out our online training videos by Dr. Sarah Young, DSS Director, regarding information about students with disabilities and how you can support them. 
    • Training videos to be posted soon.

The links below will lead you to pages that are designed especially for faculty members:

  • Accommodation Letters: Q&A for instructors with questions about the letter that lists a student’s approved accommodations
  • DSS Faculty Test Form: directions for faculty members who are unable to provide DSS testing accommodations for students due to time and resource constraints
  • Tips for Accessible Classrooms: specific recommendations for accessible curriculum development

DSS pages that may also be of interest to faculty members: