Understanding Disabilities: A Guide for Faculty and Staff
During the past twenty-four plus years, access to higher education, previously only a dream for many otherwise qualified students with disabilities, has become a reality through legislation, student perseverance, colleges recognizing their obligation to help educate those with special needs, and, most importantly, through the work of dedicated faculty. Recent statistics supplied by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) indicated that 10-12% of the college population has been diagnosed with some type of disability. Muhlenberg College reflects this trend. Muhlenberg was among the first colleges in its competitive circle to pay serious attention to the needs of students with disabilities. Today, those students make up approximately 16% of the College’s student body and graduate at the same high rate as the rest of the student body.
The purpose of this handbook is to provide the Muhlenberg community with information that will help build pathways to learning for students with disabilities. The handbook will describe our student population, identify barriers to learning, and provide recommendations for meeting the needs of our students. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and the newly reauthorized Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADAAA) of 2008, make clear our responsibilities in meeting these needs. In order to comply with these laws, colleges and universities receiving any form of Federal assistance must offer qualified students with disabilities access to the same programs and services available to non-disabled students.
All students with disabilities admitted to Muhlenberg College are qualified to attend and meet the same rigorous admission requirements. In fact, many choose not to disclose until after admission. These students major in various areas, bring a range of talents and abilities, serve in organizations and earn academic honors. The intent of providing access is not meant to compromise the integrity of the degree nor the expectations for course work; rather, it is meant to give students with disabilities the same opportunities as nondisabled students. Although students are helped to understand the dimensions of their own learning and to utilize appropriate strategies, faculty understanding and assistance are critical to the ultimate success of students with disabilities. Working together, faculty, students, and staff professionals will continue to applaud the accomplishments of ALL of our students.