DESP Faculty Handbook

Please contact the DESP office at (408) 741-2010 to obtain a large print or Braille version of this handbook.


The Disability and Educational Support Program was established in 1973 to provide support services, special instruction, counseling, assessments, and educational accommodations to adult students with disabilities. The Program currently serves over 800 students each year.

The information and policies set forth in this handbook are meant to clarify the roles and responsibilities of both the Disability and Educational Support Program and of the faculty who serve students with disabilities.

Mission Statement

The primary purpose of the Disability and Educational Support Program (DESP) at West Valley College is to integrate all students with disabilities into classes and programs with their fellow students consistent with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, California Education Code Title V regulations, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the ADA Amendments Act. DESP assists students with disabilities achieve their educational goals by providing a variety of services and special courses designed to insure access to all campus programs, services and facilities, and to facilitate maximum student independence and success.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Students receiving services through DESP must be enrolled at WVC and must have a temporary or permanent disabling condition that has been verified by an appropriate professional. The student's disabling condition must limit one or more major life activities, and also impose an "educational limitation." An educational limitation is a disability-related functional limitation in the educational setting that occurs when the limitation prevents a student from fully benefiting from classes, activities, or services offered by the college without specific additional support services or instruction. Examples of disabilities include physical, communication, acquired brain injury, psychological, developmentally delayed learning and learning disabilities.
  • Students must possess the ability to respond appropriately to questions, follow directions, and demonstrate the potential to benefit from college programs and services.
  • Students must demonstrate appropriate adaptive and/or self-help behavior. This includes providing their own personal attendant care if needed. DESP does not provide this service.
  • Students must demonstrate annual measurable academic progress as outlined on their DESP Student Educational Contract.

How Students Receive Services

Students requesting services and/or academic accommodations offered at WVC need to arrange an appointment with a DESP counselor or learning disability specialist and complete an application for services. DESP will then review the disability documentation provided by the student and verify the existence of a disability by using one of the following means:

  1. Review of documentation by certificated staff provided by appropriate agencies or certified or licensed professionals outside of DESP;
  2. Assessment by DESP certificated staff;
  3. Observation by DESP certificated staff.

The student’s educational limitations are identified by certificated staff and described in the student’s Academic Accommodation Plan. Eligibility for each service provided must be directly related to an educational limitation of the disability.

How to Refer Students to DESP

If a student has a disability and requests accommodations or services, refer the student to DESP.

Occasionally you will notice a student struggling in your class whom you suspect may need special accommodations. In this case, it may be appropriate for you to make a referral. If you decide to approach the student to discuss a possible need for services, it is important to address your concerns with the student in private and be sensitive that the student may reluctant to discuss his/her disability, or may have difficulty explaining it to you. Point out that you have noticed the student has been having difficulty in an academic area and encourage the student to seek out support services on campus such as DESP.

If you are unsure of how to approach a student you suspect might have a disability, someone in DESP would be happy to discuss this with you. Call the DESP Office at (408) 741-2010 and ask to speak to a DESP specialist.

It would be helpful to include a disability statement in your syllabus in order to inform students of the support offered by DESP. For example:

West Valley College makes reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. The Disability and Educational Support Program (DESP) coordinates accommodations and services for all students who are eligible. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodations and have not already done so, please contact DESP as soon as possible. Their office is located in the LS building; their phone number is (408) 741-2010 (voice) or (408) 741-2658 (TTY).

Information about their services can be found at You may also contact me privately in regard to your needs in this course.

Working with Students with Disabilities: A Guide to Disability Etiquette

Ask the student

While we encourage students with disabilities to discuss their needs with their instructors, this is not always done. If you have questions about whether or not a student needs an accommodation, the first person to ask is the student.

Don't assume people with disabilities need your help. Ask if you can be of assistance.

Be aware of your language

Using terms such as "student with disabilities" rather than "disabled student" puts the emphasis on the person rather than the disability.


Don't be afraid to approach a person with a disability. Don't worry about using words like "walk" with a person using a wheelchair. As with anyone else, just treat them, as you would like to be treated - with the same respect and consideration that you have for everyone else.

Speak directly to the student

Don't consider a companion to be a conversation go-between. Even if the student has an interpreter present, speak directly to the student, not to the interpreter. Make eye contact.

Give your full attention

Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person with a disability to get things said or done. Don't talk for the person who has difficulty speaking, but give help when needed. Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting.

Speak slowly and distinctly

When talking to a person who is hard of hearing or has other difficulty understanding, speak slowly without exaggerating your lip movement. Stand in front of the person and use gestures to aid communication. Many students who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on being able to read your lips. When full understanding is doubtful, write notes.

Appreciate abilities

Students with disabilities, like those without disabilities, do some things well and others not as well. By focusing on what they can do, instead of what they can't, you will help build confidence.

Use common sense

Although some students with disabilities may require significant adaptation and modification in the classroom, more often common sense approaches can be applied to ensure that students have access to course content. When necessary the DESP Alternate Media Specialist will provide students with materials in alternate formats.

Teaching Students with Disabilities

Adapted from "Reasonable Accommodations," The City College of New York

Students bring a unique set of strengths and experiences to college, and students with disabilities are no exception. While many learn in different ways, their differences do not imply inferior capacities. There is no need to dilute curriculum or to reduce course requirements for the disabled student. The student with a disability is responsible for participating and performing in class just like any student and should be held to the same standard for class work and grading.

However, special accommodations may be needed, as well as modifications in the way information is presented and in methods of testing and evaluation. Community college policy is to provide reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments or modifications to eligible students that do not result in unfair advantage, require significant alteration to a program or activity, or result in the lowering of academic or technical standards. Faculty will be assisted in the academic support of students with disabilities by drawing upon the student's own prior learning experiences, using available college and department resources, and collaborating with the Disability and Educational Support Program.

Specific suggestions for teaching disabled students can be discussed with DESP Specialists; however, the following general considerations may be helpful.

Identifying the Disabled Student

Determining that a student is disabled may not always be a simple process. Visible disabilities are noticeable through casual observation of an immediately recognizable physical impairment, for example, or the use of a cane, a wheelchair or crutches.

Other students may have hidden disabilities, such as hearing deficits, legal blindness, cardiac conditions, learning disabilities, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and psychiatric or seizure disorders, all of which are usually not apparent.

Finally, there are students with multiple disabilities, which are caused by such primary conditions as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis. Depending on the nature and progression of the illness or injury, it may be accompanied by a secondary impairment in mobility, vision, speech, or coordination which may, in fact, pose greater difficulties.

Some disabled students will identify themselves as such by contacting DESP early in the semester. DESP will send out a notification to instructors that lists accommodations for which a student is eligible. Other students may identify themselves as disabled to their instructors. Please refer these students to DESP if they are requesting accommodations. Still others, especially those students with "hidden" disabilities, may self-identify not because of shame, their distaste for pity, or their fear or disbelief either about the legitimacy of their problem or the need for accommodation. Such students, in the absence of instructional adjustment, may run into trouble in their college work. In a panic they may self-identify just before an examination and expect instant attention to their needs.

Again, it is important for faculty members to inform students of services available through DESP and let them know that they can contact you privately to discuss their needs in your course.

Dividing the Responsibilities

To the extent manageable, students with disabilities bear the primary responsibility, with the assistance of DESP, not only for identifying their disabilities, but for making necessary adjustments to the learning environment. For certain accommodations, testing accommodations for example, the cooperation of the faculty member is vital.

Faculty-Student Relationships

Dialogue between the student and instructor is essential early in the term, and follow-up meetings are recommended. Faculty should not feel apprehensive about discussing the student's disabling condition as it relates to the course. There is no reason to avoid using terms that refer to the disability, such as "blind," and "see," or "walk." However, care should be taken to avoid generalizing a particular limitation to other aspects of a student's functioning. The student with a disability will probably have had some experience with the kind of initial uneasiness you may bring to the relationship. The student's own suggestions, based on experience with the disability and with, school work, are invaluable in accommodating disabilities in college.

Attendance and Promptness

The student using a wheelchair or other assistive devices may encounter obstacles or barriers in getting to class on time. Others may have periodic or irregular curtailments of functioning, either from their disability or from medication. Flexibility in applying attendance and promptness rules to such students would be helpful. You can check with a DESP counselor to see if this flexibility would be a "reasonable accommodation" for the individual student.

Classroom Adjustments

A wide range of students with disabilities may be served in the classroom by making book lists available prior to the beginning of the term, by thoughtful seating arrangements, by speaking directly toward the class, and by writing key lecture points and assignments on the chalkboard. Posting class material on the college's on-line management system is also helpful.

Functional Problems

In addition to the adjustments for each category of disability, some understanding is required in coping with more subtle and sometimes unexpected manifestations of disability. Chronic weakness and fatigue characterize some disabilities and medical conditions. Drowsiness, fatigue or impairments of memory or speed may result from prescribed medications. Such curtailments of functioning and interference with the student's ability to perform should be distinguished from the apathetic behavior it may resemble.


Students who cannot take notes or have difficulty taking notes adequately would be helped by allowing them to tape-record lectures, by making an outline of lecture materials available to them and through the use of a note-taker if prescribed by DESP.

Testing and Evaluation

Depending on the disability, the student may require the administration of examinations orally, the use of readers and/or scribes, extension of time for exams, a modification of the test formats or, in some cases, make-up exams. For out-of-class assignments, the extension of deadlines may be justified. The objective of such special considerations should always be to accommodate the student's learning differences, not to water down scholastic requirements. The same standards should be applied to disabled students as to all other students in evaluation and assigning grades.

Academic Accommodations

Students have the right to request reasonable modifications to college requirements, services, facilities or programs if their documented disability imposes an educational limitation or impedes access to such requirements, services, facilities or programs. A student with a disability who requests a modification, accommodation, or adjustment is responsible for identifying himself/herself to the instructor and, if desired, to DESP. Students who consult or request assistance from DESP regarding specific modifications, accommodations, adjustments or use of auxiliary aids will be required to meet timelines and procedural requirements established by DESP.

Decisions about the appropriate accommodations for any given student are made on an individual basis in an interactive process between each DESP student and a DESP certificated staff member, taking into consideration documentation the student provides as well as assessment or observation by DESP certificated staff that document a disability.

Accommodations may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Adjustments Needed Due to Disability Related Absences Make-up tests Provision of assignments

DESP Computer Lab and Alternate Media

  • Adapted Computer Access Evaluations
  • Drop-In Computer Lab
  • Screen Enlargers
  • Voice Activated Software (and training)
  • Braille Keyboard
  • Text Enlarger (CCTV)
  • Text Readers (Jaws, Kurzweil)
  • Alternate Media workshops and training
  • Braille embossing
  • E-text

Enrollment assistance

  • Class selection advisement
  • Priority registration


  • Adjustable work stations and/or specialized seating
  • FM Loop System
  • Tape Recorder
  • "Pulse Pen"

Interpreter/Captioner Services:

  • Real-time educational transcriber
  • Sign language interpreter Mobility Assistance
  • On campus tram services

Note taking:

  • Note takers
  • NCR paper for note taking by classmate
  • "Pulse Pen"

Reader Services:

  • Enrollment assistance with Recordings for Blind and Dyslexic
  • E-text

 Testing Accommodations:

  • Extended Time - Extending Time for Online Tests ^ ( accessible PDF 226 KB )
  • Print/Text enlargement
  • Scribe/Reader
  • Periodic breaks
  • Distraction-reduced environment
  • Computer use for tests
  • White Board use for tests
  • Calculator

Service Animal:

  • Provided by student
  • Cared for and supervised by student

Important Note: DESP is not responsible for providing "personal attendant care".

Alternate Media

DESP provides alternate media for class handouts, quizzes, tests, textbooks, and videotapes for students with verified disabilities including vision impairments, dyslexia, deafness, and some other disabilities. All of your class materials can be provided in alternate formats such as large print, Braille, MP3, and Kurzweil 3000. The Alternate Media Specialist works with faculty members to make sure students with disabilities receive their course materials in alternate media at the same time their classmates receive traditional print handouts. The Alternate Media Specialist can also work with faculty to caption videos that are used in class.

Alternative Testing

DSPS provides testing accommodations for students with verified disabilities. Alternative testing may be used to allow the student extra time, to provide a quieter environment, to allow a student to use a computer or a reader/scribe, or for other appropriate accommodations. The student makes the request for testing accommodations in the DESP office by following the procedures required by DESP. Faculty will receive a document entitled Instructor Notification of Accommodations which lists the testing accommodations for which their student is eligible. This notification should be returned to DESP with any instructions specific to the course, for example, how much time exams are allotted. Students are required to inform DESP of upcoming quizzes and tests one week in advance. Most students working with DESP will take their quizzes and tests with DESP at the time the class is scheduled to take the test. An exception is when the student has back to back classes and receives extended test time as an accommodation. In this case, the test may be scheduled at a different time.

Faculty is requested to deliver quizzes and exams to DESP at least one day before the scheduled test.

Note taking and Tape Recording

The student makes the request for note taking and tape recording accommodations in the DESP office by following the procedures required by DESP. Faculty will receive a document entitled Instructor Notification of Accommodations which lists the note taking and tape recording accommodations for which their student is eligible. This notification should be returned to DESP with any instructions specific to the course. The student has the option of finding a fellow student to take notes, but may request assistance from his instructor. If assistance in finding a note taker is requested, the student with the disability will give his instructor a note taking information packet and ask him to make a general announcement to the class that a note taker is needed. The announcement should not identify the student with the disability. If tape recording is an approved accommodation, the student is required to sign an agreement agree that he will not copy or release any tape recording or transcription and that he will use the tape recorded information solely for my educational needs.

Accommodations for Students taking On-line Classes

West Valley College requires that all materials are accessible and compliant with electronic and Information Technology Section 508, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (1998, 2000 Amendments) and California SB 105 (September, 2002). This includes content and instructional systems such as the course management system. Accessibility Guidelines for on-line courses may be found at: DESP 508 simplified checklist ^.

Accommodations for Hearing Impaired Students

DESP provides support services for eligible West Valley College students with a documented hearing impairment that prevents them from hearing orally presented material. These services may include real time captioning, sign language interpreting or loan of specialized equipment, like the FM loop. DESP will work closely with faculty when students require these accommodations.

Accommodations for Visually Impaired Students

DESP provides class materials in alternate formats for visually impaired students. Some students may require use of a CCTV in the classroom to enlarge print. Faculty may assist students who require large print by providing large-print handouts, quizzes and tests.

Service Animals

Service Animals are dogs or miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Other animals, whether wild or domestic, do not qualify as service animals. Dogs or miniature horses that are not trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a disability, including those that are used purely for emotional support, are not service animals.

  • The care and supervision of a service animal is the responsibility of the student.
  • Faculty may ask a student if the animal is a service animal and what tasks the service animal performs for the student. No other questions are permitted.

Adaptive Furniture

Each classroom is equipped with an accessible table and chair. It is identified with a handicapped decal (wheelchair). Faculty will receive an "Instructor Notification of Accommodations" specifying adaptive furniture as the accommodation for a student with a disability enrolled in their course. Faculty should ensure that the accessible table and chair is reserved for that student.

Student Rights

Students have the right to:

  • Expect all disability-related information to be treated confidentially.
  • Receive appropriate accommodations in a timely manner from faculty or DESP. Students should have the opportunity to meet privately with faculty to discuss needed accommodations and any other concerns. Please keep in mind that DESP has the responsibility to review disability documentation and determine eligibility for appropriate accommodations.
  • Appeal decisions regarding accommodations and auxiliary aids. Students may choose to request services through the ADA 504 Coordinator. This coordinator will then designate a district official with knowledge of accommodation requirements to review such requests. Students will be required to provide disability verification before services are provided.

Faculty Rights

Faculty has the right to:

  • Request verification of a student's eligibility for any requested accommodations. Such notification will be in the form of a Faculty Notification Letter emailed directly to you.
  • Expect the student to initiate accommodation requests. If the student is taking their tests in DESP, faculty can expect DESP to administer exams in a secure and monitored environment. A faculty member has the right to challenge an accommodation request if s/he believes the accommodation is not appropriate for the class. If the accommodation would result in a fundamental alteration to a course curriculum or course of study, then the college may deny a request for a specific accommodation. DESP will work with the department and the student to determine whether the requested accommodation constitutes a fundamental alteration.
  • Expect students to adhere to the West Valley College Student Code of Conduct regardless of whether they have a disability. Infractions of this code should be directed to the Vice-President of Student Services. If the student has been identified as a student with a disability, this information should be provided to the Vice President to facilitate collaboration with DESP.
  • Request a copy of the signed Tape Recording Agreement before allowing the student to tape record the class.

DESP Rights

DESP has the right to:

  • Request and receive the appropriate documentation from the student prior to the services being initiated.
  • Expect students and faculty to work cooperatively with DESP to facilitate academic accommodations.
  • Deny unreasonable academic accommodations, adjustments, and/or auxiliary services. Accommodations cannot impose undue hardship to, or fundamentally alter, a program or activity of the college.
  • Deny academic accommodations/services if appropriate documentation has not been provided.

Student Responsibilities

Students receiving services and/or instruction through the DESP office have the responsibility to:

  • Provide DESP with the information, documentation and/or forms (medical, educational, etc.) deemed necessary by DESP to verify the disability(ies).
  • Initiate requests for specific accommodations in a timely manner and follow procedures with faculty and DESP in order to get the appropriate accommodations.
  • Be responsible in the use of DESP services and adhere to written service provision policies adopted by DESP. Failure to comply with DESP standards may result in suspension of DESP services, as well as, consequences outlined in the College's Student Disciplinary Policy.
  • Notify faculty/DESP immediately when an accommodation is not being provided completely or correctly. Notify faculty/DESP immediately when a decision has been made to not use an accommodation or the accommodation is no longer needed.
  • Provide for their own personal independent living needs or other personal disability-related needs. For example, coordinating services of personal care attendants or acquiring homework assistance are student responsibilities and are not the responsibilities of DESP.
  • Comply with the Student Code of Conduct adopted by the college as written in the college catalog.
  • Make measurable progress toward the goals established in the student's Student Educational Contract and meet academic standards established by the college (see Measurable Progress below)

Faculty Responsibilities

Faculty has the responsibility to:

  • Share the responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. The faculty member is a partner in helping to meet the needs of the qualified disabled student and participates in the development of accommodations for their students.
  • Maintain Confidentiality. Students with disabilities are protected under Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the civil rights laws. At no time should the faculty make any statements or implications that the student is any different from the general student population. Examples: -Do not ask the student to come to the classroom to pick up a test he will be taking in DESP. -Do not discuss the student's needs or accommodations in other than a private place. -Do not identify the student with a disability when assisting the student obtain a note taker. -Do not make comparisons between students with disabilities and other students.
  • Make an announcement about the availability of services for students with disabilities. It is recommended that each course syllabus contain a disability statement. For example: West Valley College makes reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. The Disability and Educational Support Program (DESP) coordinates accommodations and services for all students who are eligible. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodations and have not already done so, please contact DESP as soon as possible. Their office is located in the LS building; their phone number is (408)
  • 741-2010 (voice) or (408) 741-2658 (TTY). Information about their services can be found at You may also contact me privately in regard to your needs in this course.
  • Act immediately upon getting a student's request for accommodations by completing and signing the "Instructor Notification of Accommodations." If requested, assist student in finding a note taker. If a student will be taking exams in DESP, send exams to DESP in a timely manner.
  • Work to ensure that all audio-visual materials used in class are accessible (e.g., that videos shown are captioned for students with hearing impairments and that the VCR equipment used has captioning capabilities, that videos shown will be made with auditory description in some way etc.)

DESP Responsibilities

DESP has the responsibility to:

  • Collect, evaluate, securely house disability documentation and determine eligibility for services. Treat and protect all disability-related information as confidential medical information.
  • Keep all disability-related contacts with the DESP office and resulting information confidential unless a student signs a specific written release to share that information. For reasons of confidentiality, DESP staff members will not discuss a student's disability with either faculty or staff without the student's permission.
  • When requested by a student, DESP staff may intervene on the student's behalf to facilitate provision of services or to help students communicate their needs to others.
  • Meet with the student privately in an accessible location to discuss disability-related needs.
  • Help students obtain reasonable academic accommodations necessary to allow equal access to West Valley College's programs and services.
  • Provide appropriate accommodations in collaboration with the instructor and student.
  • Administer exams as directed in a secure and monitored environment.
  • Provide print materials in accessible format once the faculty member and student identifies them.
  • Communicate procedures clearly to the student and the faculty.
  • Assist students with disabilities in understanding their strengths and functional limitations. Provide them with the skills to become self-advocates. ? Establish requirements for measurable progress and abuse of services. If a student does not adhere to established policies, suspension of DESP services may result.


Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in recruitment, admission and treatment after admission. It mandates all recipients of federal funding to make adjustments and accommodations in their programs and activities in order to provide qualified individuals with disabilities with opportunities equal to those enjoyed by individuals without disabilities.

Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Section 508amended the Rehabilitation Act to require federal agencies to make electronic and information technology accessible to individuals with disabilities. It provides students with disabilities access to electronic and information technology comparable to the access available to students without disabilities.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) extends federal civil rights protection in several areas to people who are considered disabled. To be considered disabled under the ADA, a person must have a condition that impairs a major life activity, or a history of such a condition, or be regarded as having such a condition. A disabled person must be qualified for the job, program or activity to which s/he seeks access. That means the person must be able to perform the essential functions of the job or meet the essential eligibility requirements of the program or benefit. Reasonable accommodations provide students with adjustments that assure equal rights and privileges.

ADA Amendments Act of 2008 The ADA Amendments Act broadens the coverage of the Americans with Disabilities and Rehabilitation Acts in four key areas: the definition of "disability", the list of "major life activities", the use of mitigating measures and individuals regarded as disabled.

Full text of these laws can be found on:

The ADA can also be found in the DESP Library.

California Community Colleges Title V Regulations

Sections 56000-56076 of Title 5 California Code of Regulations delineates the State regulations which apply to community colleges that offer support services or instruction to students with disabilities through Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS). Explanation of Title V Regulations can be found under Disabled Students Programs and Services at

Definitions of Title V Disability Categories:

Acquired Brain Injury

Acquired Brain Injury means a deficit in brain functioning which is non-degenerative and is medically verifiable, resulting in a total or partial loss of one or more of the following: cognitive, communication, motor, psychosocial and sensory perceptual abilities. (Administrative Code, Title V.)

Among the cognitive deficits persons with head injuries may experience are difficulties with concentration, memory, problem solving and abstract reasoning.

Communication Disabilities Title V defines a communication disability as impairment in the processes of speech, language or hearing (see Deaf and Hard of Hearing section). Communication disorders take many forms. Students can be born with these disorders, or accidental injury or illness can cause them at any age. Some common disorders include stuttering; articulation problems that cause people to pronounce sounds incorrectly, making their speech difficult to understand; language disorders that limit a person's ability to understand or use spoken or written words; and voice disorders that make speaking extremely difficult. Aphasia is a speech and language disorder that frequently follows stroke or brain injury. People with aphasia often can think clearly, but cannot effectively express their thoughts. Whatever the kind or cause, a communication disability can have serious academic, social and vocational consequences.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing The generic term Hearing Impairment is used to describe all types of hearing deficits, ranging from a mild loss to profound deafness. Hearing impairment is the most prevalent chronic physical disability in the United States with over 13 million individuals being affected. More specifically, Hard of Hearing is a condition where hearing is defective to varying degrees (usually a hearing aid can enhance the understanding of speech.) Deaf/Deafness is a condition in which perceivable sounds have no meaning for ordinary life purposes (hearing aids enhance awareness of vibrations such as horns and sirens, but not speech.) Title V lists Hearing Impairments under the heading of Communication Disability.

Developmentally Delayed Learners The Title V Definition of a Developmentally Delayed Learner is a student who exhibits the following: (a) Below average intellectual functioning; and (b) Potential for measurable achievement in instructional and employment settings.

Accommodations appropriate to the functional limitations exhibited in the regular instructional setting are mandated for all students with disabilities. Developmentally Delayed Learners must be otherwise qualified to be in the class in order to be entitled to such accommodations. This means that they must meet any properly established and validated prerequisites for the course.

Learning Disabilities

Learning disability in the California Community College system is a persistent condition of presumed neurological dysfunction which may also exist with other disabling conditions. This dysfunction continues despite instruction in standard classroom situations. Learning disabled adults, a heterogeneous group, have these common attributes: a) Average to above average intellectual ability; b) Severe processing deficit; c) Severe aptitude-achievement discrepancy(ies); and d) Measured achievement in an instructional or employment setting

Mobility and Physical Disabilities Physical Disability means visual, mobility, orthopedic or other health impairment. Mobility and orthopedic impairment means a serious limitation in locomotion or motion functions.

Visual Impairment Visual Impairment means total or partial loss of sight. Title V defines blindness as a visual acuity 20/200 or less in the better eye after correction or visual loss so severe it does not serve as a major channel of information processing. Partial sightedness is defined as visual acuity of 20/70 or less in the better eye with correction.

Psychological Disabilities According to Title V, psychological disability means a persistent psychological or psychiatric disorder, or emotional or mental illness.

A psychological disability must be verified by an appropriately licensed or certified professional (licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, MFT, or LCSW), and the accommodations for the students with psychological disabilities must adhere to disability-related support services defined in Title V regulations and may not include psychotherapy.

Other Disabilities

This category includes all students with disabilities, as defined who do not fall into any of the categories described previously, but who indicate a need for support services or instruction, (as defined by Title 5).

This includes medical and physical disabilities such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), attention deficit and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADD and AD/HD), Asperger's syndrome or Autism, chronic pain, diabetes, environmental illness, cardiac disorders, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders and muscular dystrophy.

West Valley - Mission Community College District Board Policy


5.11.1 The Disability Instructional Support Center (Mission College) and Disability and Educational Support Program (West Valley College) are the primary providers of support programs and services that facilitate equal educational opportunities for disabled students who can profit from instruction as required by Federal and State laws. The services to be provided include, but are not limited to reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, accessible facilities, equipment, instructional programs, rehabilitation counseling, and academic counseling. Services shall be available to students with verified disabilities.

5.11.2 The Board recognizes the increasing importance of equal access to electronic and information technology as more learning opportunities are based on these resources. The District is committed to providing equal access to all members of the District community and to supporting the open access policy of the California Community College system by providing barrier-free access to all students, including access to electronic and information technology in accordance with State and Federal mandates (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and California Senate Bill 105). The District is committed to expanding the boundaries of access beyond the physical setting for students with disabilities recognizing that students are entitled to equal access to electronic information and technology.

5.11.3 The Board recognizes that a disability may preclude a student from demonstrating required proficiencies or from completing course requirements necessary for an AA or AS degree in the same manner as non-disabled students. The Board also recognizes the need to accommodate students with documented disabilities to the greatest extent possible without compromising the student's course of study, the student's confidentiality and dignity, and the integrity of the student's degree.

5.11.4 The Board intends for all graduates to master the competencies required by The California Code of Regulations, Title 5 and to complete the courses required for graduation. The Board recognizes that most disabilities that preclude a student from completing a course can be overcome by altering the method of course delivery and providing a combination of appropriate accommodations. Therefore, for most students with documented disabilities, the first level of accommodation will involve extra help: tutorial assistance, auxiliary aids, test accommodations, and/or a slower-paced version of the course are examples of the kinds of assistance the District may extend to students. For some students with a disability, such accommodations and alterations of course delivery will not be enough to enable completion of the course. For these students, a course substitution will be individually considered under the conditions described in District procedures. Only in the most extreme cases will a course waiver be considered. All policies and procedures that apply to approval of course substitutions or waivers also apply to proficiency requirements.

5.11.5 The Chancellor or designee shall assure that the Disability Instructional Support Center (Mission College) and Disability and Educational Support Program (West Valley College) conform to all requirements established by relevant law and regulations.

Fast Facts for Faculty

Most Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is responsible for determining appropriate accommodations?

A: DESP is the office on campus that determines appropriate accommodations. The office bases their decision upon documentation collected from a student with a disability and the student's functional limitations.

Q: Are all students with disabilities registered with DESP?

A: No, it is likely that many students with disabilities have chosen not to be registered with DESP or they may not have met the eligibility criteria for services. In either instance, faculty does not need to provide these students with accommodations. Students may choose to request services through the ADA 504 Coordinator.

Q: What would be the best way to inform students in the class that I would like to help in facilitating exam accommodations or any classroom accommodations?

A: It is important that faculty put a statement about accommodations in their syllabus. It should go something like this: West Valley College makes reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. The Disability and Educational Support Program (DESP) coordinates accommodations and services for all students who are eligible. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodations and have not already done so, please contact DESP as soon as possible. Their office is located in the LS building; their phone number is (408) 741-2010 (voice) or (408) 741-2658 (TTY).

Information about their services can be found at . You may also contact me privately in regard to your needs in this course.

Q: Am I required to provide exam accommodations to eligible students who request it?

A: Yes you are. Students with disabilities are protected by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504. This law requires that qualified students with disabilities get equal access to an education, and this includes exam accommodations.

Q: A student has asked for accommodations. How do I know the student truly has a disability and needs accommodations?

A: You may ask the student if s/he is registered with DESP. Faculty receives a document titled "Instructor Notification of Accommodations" within 10 days of a student's request for accommodations in a specific course.

Q: I have a student in class who told me that s/he has a disability, but since that time has never requested any accommodations. Am I still responsible for accommodations?

A: No, you are only responsible for reasonable accommodations if requested. In these types of situations, however, it would be appropriate to speak to the student privately to let the student know that you welcome the opportunity to discuss reasonable accommodations if the student is interested.

Q: What are some of the types of exam accommodations available to students with disabilities?

A: First of all, the exam accommodations are based upon the student's functional limitations and the documentation of disability that the student has provided DESP. Some of these accommodations include but are not limited to: extra time for exams (usually 50% extra time but in some cases as much as double time), a reader or scribe (a person who writes answers verbatim), a computer, a Brailled exam, an enlarged exam, use of computer (student uses voice, enlargement options, or spelling/grammar check), a distraction-reduced space, and use of a closed circuit TV to enlarge print.

Q: A student with a disability has requested that s/he take an exam at DESP. How do I know that my exam will be safe and that the student will get no unfair advantage?

A: DESP has developed a very systematic and secure procedure for getting exams from faculty and returning them once the student has taken the exam. There are very strict checking in and checking out procedures for exams, and no student is able to take an exam with appropriate accommodations without authorization. While students are taking the exam, they are monitored. Occasionally, there are a few issues; however, DESP works diligently to rectify any problems.

Q: DESP sends me an "Instructor Notification of Accommodations" for each student in my course requesting accommodations. I have a million things to do. I don't mind if they use exam accommodations, but do I have to fill out and return the form?

A: Yes you do! In order for students to arrange for exam accommodations at DESP, and in order for DESP to administer your exam to your student, you must quickly and totally fill out the "proctor sheets." Not only does the form help facilitate the exam accommodation process, but it also helps DESP administer the exams using your specific requirements for the administration of the exam. You may, however, opt to administer the exam yourself to the student, but appropriate exam accommodations must be provided. This includes adaptive technology, a distraction-reduced space, reader/scribes, etc. if needed. If you unable to provide appropriate accommodations or are unsure about what is appropriate, please work with DESP to ensure that the student's accommodation needs are met.

Q: I've been debating about what book I want to use for my class, is it important to decide much before the beginning of a semester?

A: Yes you do. Students who are print impaired have a legal right to equal access to their textbooks or any instruction as their peers. They need to be able to listen to taped or scanned textbooks at the same time as others in the class. By delaying the selection of textbooks, DESP may not be able to get books converted to an appropriate format in a timely fashion. This means that students may have to start the quarter without access to their textbooks. None of us want to contribute to a student getting behind or failing a class.

Q: When I have a deaf student in class, am I required to have an interpreter or real time captioner in the class too? My class is very crowded and also, the students sometimes watch the interpreter instead of me.

A: There is no question about it. You are required by law to have what is essential for the student to have equal access to an education, and this includes a sign language interpreter or real time captioner.

Q: A student with a disability has asked me for a copy of my notes and overheads. Do I have to give this to the student?

A: Some students with disabilities have difficulty taking notes. Sometimes faculty notes are only a brief outline of the actual lecture given. These notes may not be very helpful. It is important that the student has access to class notes. You will receive an "Instructor Notification of Accommodations" which lists note taking as an approved accommodation. The student may decide to find a note taker on her own or may want your help in finding a volunteer note taker by making an announcement in class without revealing the student's name. It may also be appropriate for some students to tape a class.

Q: I have a student who is having difficulty in my class. I think this student may have a disability. What should I do to help the student?

A: Talk privately with the student to discuss your observations. The student may reveal s/he has a disability. If this is the case and the student is registered with DESP, suggest that the student talk to his/her counselor in this office. The student may also be referred to DESP for diagnostic testing for a suspected learning disability. Suggest that the student call DESP at (408) 741-2010 for further information.

Q: Am I required to lower the standards of a required assignment because the student has a disability?

A: No, the standards should be the same for all students; however, some students with disabilities may exhibit their knowledge, production, and other course expectations differently than their peers. For example, a student with a learning disability in writing may produce an essay exam by using a computer or scribe rather than writing out an answer without the use of accommodations. The quality of the work should be the same.

Q: I have a student with a disability getting behind in his/her schoolwork. This student is missing a number of classes and has not handed in several assignments. Although s/he has taken a midterm and used accommodations, the student's grade is about a D. At this point, the student is not passing the class. Do I have a right to fail a student with a disability?

A: The student with a disability has the same right to fail as anyone else. Their work should be equivalent their peers. It may be a good idea to discuss your observations with this student just as you would with anyone else in your class who is experiencing difficulty.

Q: I have a student who is blind in my chemistry lab. How is s/he going to participate and be graded in his/her lab work?

A: If possible, assist the student in getting a lab partner or assign a student assistant to work with the student with a disability. In either situation, the student who is blind should direct the assistant to carry out the functions of the lab assignment. If a volunteer lab partner cannot be found, suggest to the student that s/he needs to contact DESP as soon as possible for assistance in getting a lab partner. The speed in making these arrangements is critical so that the student will not get behind.

Q: Do I have any recourse if I disagree about requested accommodations?

A: To clarify any disagreement about a requested accommodation, you can first contact DESP. Start with the student's disability counselor, but you are also free to talk to the director of DESP. If there continues to be conflict, you can contact the West Valley College ADA Coordinator.

Adapted from Educational Access for Students with Disabilities

The Ohio State University Partnership Grant Improving the Quality of Education for Students with Disabilities

Updated July 2011

Last Updated 8/31/21