Disability Services

In accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, Misericordia University strives to ensure that "no otherwise qualified" individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program administered by the University.

All students entering the University receive a Request for Accommodations Form from the Admissions Department which affords them the opportunity to seek academic adjustments, auxiliary aids and services under Section 504 free of charge. Students with a documented disability may seek services at any time.

Students may also elect to apply to Misericordia University's Alternative Learners Program (ALP). ALP is designed to provide support to students with disabilities that extend beyond those accommodations required under the University's Section 504 program. ALP students pay a fee each semester for participation in the program.

Personnel from the Office for Students with Disabilities complete an intake process in which the student's expressed needs and the disability documentation are reviewed. Eligibility for services is based on a combination of the student's description of need, the thoroughness of the disability documentation, and documentation policies. Students determined eligible for either 504 and/or ALP services receive an Accommodation Plan to initiate service delivery.

Section 504 Accommodations

In accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, Misericordia University strives to ensure that "no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program administered by the university."

Self-Disclosure

All students entering the University receive a Request for Accommodations Form which affords them the opportunity to seek academic adjustments, auxiliary aids and services under Section 504 free of charge. Students with a documented disability may seek services at any time by contacting Kristen Ricardo 570-674-6205 or kricardo@misericordia.edu.

Alternative Learners Program

Students may also elect to apply to Misericordia University's fee-based Alternative Learner's Program (ALP) for services that extend beyond those accommodations referred to under Section 504.

Documentation

A qualified professional must provide documentation and interpretation which clearly identifies and explains the applicant's disability.

Applicants with learning disabilities should submit the results of recent (no more than two years old) tests of:

  • Aptitude/Cognitive Ability: The preferred instrument is the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS III). The results of Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III), or Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale IV are also acceptable.
  • Achievement: Assessment in the following areas is required
    -Reading (decoding, rate, and comprehension)
    -Mathematics (calculations, reasoning, and algebra)
    -Written Language (spelling and written expression)
  • Other: Pertinent diagnoses or recommendations from other evaluations as needed.

Students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder need to provide the following documentation:

  • A specific diagnosis that conforms to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - IV (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association for Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without hyperactivity.
  • Current functional limitations on major life activities, resulting from the Attention Disorder.
  • Evidence to support the functional limitations derived from Aptitude/Cognitive Ability and Achievement testing as described in the previous paragraph related to applicants with learning disabilities.
  • Requested accommodations; additional information (optional): Tests of information processing, clinical observations/interview, teacher observations.
  • Other pertinent diagnoses or recommendations from other evaluations that may be needed.

Students with a sensory, physical, or psychological disability must meet the following documentation requirements:

  • Documentation must be completed by a professional qualified to diagnose the nature and extent of the disability.
  • Documentation from a professional must be no more than one year old.
  • Documentation must contain a specific diagnosis, state major life activities limited by the disability and resulting functional limitations, and list prescribed medications.
  • Documentation must include recommendations regarding accommodations; and
  • Other pertinent evaluations as needed.

Accessing Accommodations

At the beginning of each semester, a student who is registered with the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) should contact the OSD for an updated Accommodation Plan (AP)Examples of accommodations include: extended time on tests, use of a note sharer, and recording of lectures.

Once the AP is completed and approved by the student and the OSD, faculty can be informed of the accommodations they can expect to be utilized by the students. Students should provide a copy of the AP to their professors.

By contacting the OSD each semester and informing the professors in a timely manner, students who need accommodations will be supported for academic success. Any student who has concerns about the provision of reasonable accommodations should first contact the Office for Students with Disabilities.

Alternative Learners Program (ALP)

In 1979, the Alternative Learners Program (ALP) was founded as the first program of its kind in Pennsylvania to provide support to students with learning disabilities. Since that time, the ALP has focused on helping students with all types of disabilities to succeed in college. With a dedicated professional staff that includes highly-qualified full-time program coordinators, two testing center coordinators, and an abundance of cooperation and support from an excellent faculty and administration.

ALP Services

Students who are served by the ALP participate in regular university classes - the same courses all MU students take. There are no special courses, special sections, or special teachers. Our majors dictate which courses and experiences students must complete. While students with disabilities must meet the same requirements as all other students, it is often suggested that they take a carefully-selected, reduced credit load (12-15 credits) each semester. (Note: Some majors may require a minimum of 15 or more credits).

The ALP helps students to successfully complete their course requirements by offering:

  • Participation in the BRIDGE Program, which provides incoming first-year ALP students the opportunity to arrive on campus early (one week prior to the start of the fall semester) and features a series of assessments and workshops designed to assist students in identifying both strengths and needs in their learning styles.
  • Training in the use of the Learning Strategies Curriculum, techniques developed by Kansas University's Center for Research in Learning, designed to help adolescents and adults with disabilities become more effective and efficient learners.
  • An individualized Program of Accommodations (POA), an array of strategies and supports that students can use to bypass challenges produced by their disabilities.
  • Support by a staff of master-level prepared Program Coordinators.

Bridge Program

First Year ALP students are included with a number of other first-year students in the Bridge Program, which traditionally operates for five days, Sunday through Thursday, the week prior to the official start of the Fall semester. A variety of techniques are presented by ALP Coordinators and members of the Student Success Center (SSC) Staff to aid students in attaining their educational goals.

Bridge affords students the opportunity to become acquainted with in-coming peers as a means of helping to allay some of the usual anxieties associated with being in a new environment. ALP students are integrated with other freshmen from the University at-large.

Learning Strategies

All incoming ALP students participate in the Learning Strategies Course during Bridge and for the first eight weeks of the Fall semester of their freshmen year. The curriculum for Learning Strategies was developed by Kansas University's Center for Research in Learning, and is designed to teach students to more efficiently acquire, store, and express information. The instruction focuses on making the students more active learners by teaching them how to learn and how to use what they have learned to solve problems and be successful.

Program of Accommodations (POA) (click here to view document)

Prior to the beginning of each semester, the ALP staff works with students to establish their POA, which includes a list of courses to be taken, the names of the professors, and a list of accommodations the students should use during the semester. Accommodations, such as Kurzweil Text to Speech software, scanners, note-sharing services, and alternative test-taking procedures allow students to work around their disabilities. The services listed on a student's POA are intended to support each individual's areas of need. However, the accommodations do not minimize the necessity for ALP students to master the essential academic competencies required of all students. Curriculum requirements in students' majors are not otherwise adjusted.

With the student's approval, the Program Coordinator (PC) shares the POA (and no other information) with affected members of the faculty and the student's advisor. In doing so, the ALP notifies professors of the students served by the Program (if any are in their classes) and which accommodations will be needed by the students. Students do not have to ask faculty for anything: ALP staff do all of the arranging. Moreover, we do not ask faculty to teach or test differently; we just ask them to allow us to provide the accommodations.

Supplemental services for ALP students also include:

  • Case management by academic specialists
  • Writing support including assistance with editing and transcription
  • Planning and selecting courses in collaboration with department advisors
  • Communicating with faculty and administration
  • Dedicated study room with access to technology
  • Time management support

Program Coordinators

Each student served by the ALP is assigned a program coordinator(PC), an ALP staff member who manages the delivery of the program of accommodations. The PC, with the advance permission of students, arranges all accommodations. In addition, the PC meets individually with students according to the following schedule to make sure that the accommodations are working:

  • First year freshmen: two hours per week
  • Second semester freshmen and all upperclassmen: one hour per week

As students progress, they become more personally responsible for dealing with faculty members, However, ALP staff and support are available whenever needed throughout the students' years at Misericordia University.

In addition to the supports provided by the ALP, Misericordia University offers a wide variety of special services that may be accessed by ALP students. Counseling, peer and on-line tutoring, writing center services, and general and specialized career programs are also available.

Application and Eligibility for ALP

Each student interested in applying for admission to ALP should submit the following documents to the Assistant Director, Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities.

  1. A personally written cover letter which briefly summarizes the student's disability and indicates a desire to participate in ALP.
  2. A copy of the most recent IEP or 504 Plan would be helpful.
  3. A copy of the student's high school transcript.
  4. Two letters of recommendation by educational professionals. A special education teacher (if appropriate) should complete one of these letters.
  5. A qualified professional must provide documentation and interpretation which clearly identifies and explains the applicant's disability.

(a). Applicants with learning disabilities should submit the results of recent (no more than two years old) tests of:

  • Aptitude/Cognitive Ability: The preferred instrument is the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS III). The results of Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III), or Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale IV are also acceptable.
  • Tests of Achievement: Assessment in the following areas is required:
    • Reading (decoding, rate and comprehension)
    • Mathematics (calculations, reasoning and algebra)
    • Written Language (spelling and written expression)
  • Other pertinent evaluations as needed.

(b). Students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder need to provide the following documentation:

  • A specific diagnosis that conforms to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - IV (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association for Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without hyperactivity;
  • Current functional limitations on major life activities resulting from the Attention Disorder;
  • Evidence to support the functional limitations derived from Aptitude/Cognitive Ability and achievement testing as described in the previous paragraph related to applicants with learning disabilities;
  • Requested accommodations;
  • Additional information (optional): Tests of Information Processing, clinical observations/interview, teacher observations.
  • Other pertinent evaluations as needed.

(c). Students with a sensory, physical, or psychological disability must meet the following documentation standards:

  • Documentation must be completed by a professional qualified to diagnose the nature and extent of the disability;
  • Documentation from a professional must be no more than one year old;
  • Documentation must contain a specific diagnosis, state major life activities limited by the disability and resulting functional limitations, and list prescribed medications;
  • Documentation must include recommendations regarding accommodations; and
  • Other pertinent evaluations as needed.

Review of Documentation

The Assistant Director, Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities will review the aforementioned information along with the standard admission information. If it is determined that an individual is a suitable applicant, he/she will be invited for an on-campus 60 to 90 minute interview. The interview will be an opportunity for gathering and sharing information.

Walk-On Students

Students who are already enrolled at Misericordia may apply for the services of the ALP by contacting Kristen Ricardo, Assistant Director, Student Success Center Office for Students with Disabilities, 570-674-6205 or kricardo@misericordia.edu

Costs

Misericordia University's Alternative Learners Program is designed to provide support to students with disabilities that extends beyond those accommodations required under the University's Section 504 program. ALP students pay a fee each semester for the program as follows:

  • First Year Freshmen: $2250(first semester). Fee includes Bridge, Learning Strategies and weekly one-to-one two-hour sessions with an ALP Coordinator.
  • Second Semester Freshmen and All Upperclassmen: $1750 per semester. Fee includes one hour individual weekly session with an ALP Coordinator.

Students may be eligible for financial assistance, grants, work study, and loans. They are welcome to contact Misericordia University's Financial Aid Office at (570)674-6715 or (570)674-3338.

For More Information about ALP

You can write, call, or e-mail us at:

Kristen Ricardo
Assistant Director, Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities
Misericordia University
Student Success Center
301 Lake Street
Dallas, PA 18612-1090
Tel: (570)674-6205
Fax: (570)674-3026
kricardo@misericordia.edu.

We look forward to hearing from you!

You might also consider:

  • Attending an MU Open House where ALP staff will be available to meet with you and your family
  • Scheduling a visit or phone conference with our Assistant Director, Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities

Grievance Procedure

Office for Students with Disabilities Grievance Procedure

Misericordia University is committed to a policy of ensuring that no otherwise qualified individual with a disability is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination in university programs or activities due to his or her disability. The university is fully committed to complying with all requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (section 504) and to providing equal educational opportunities to otherwise qualified students with disabilities. Any university student who believes that he or she has been subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability or has been denied access or accommodations required by law shall have the right to invoke the Office for Students with Disabilities Grievance Procedure. This procedure is designed to address disagreements or denials regarding requested services, accommodations, or modifications to university academic practices or requirements. The Office for Students with Disabilities Grievance Procedure is not intended and shall not supersede other university policies and procedures.

Informal Procedure

A student should first attempt to resolve his or her complaint informally by meeting with the Assistant Director of the Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities when the accommodation-related concerns arise. If the grievance is not resolved informally then the student has the right to invoke the appropriate formal grievance procedure detailed below.

Formal Procedure

If you wish to file a formal grievance, you may do so by submitting a written and signed grievance to the Director of the Student Success Center within 10 working days of the Assistant Director’s decision regarding the Informal Grievance Procedure. The Director of the Student Success Center will assess the formal complaint and review all necessary information. Relevant information may be requested from involved parties. The Director of the Student Success Center will issue a written finding to the student upon completion of the review within 10 working days of the receipt of the formal grievance and supporting documentation. If you disagree with the determination, you may submit a written and signed appeal within 10 working days of the receipt of the Director’s written decision to the Vice President of Academic Affairs. The Vice President of Academic Affairs will make a determination on the appeal within 20 working days and inform the student in writing of the outcome.

Resources for Faculty/Staff

Information for Faculty and Staff

The information in this document was prepared by Misericordia University's Office for Students with Disabilities and is intended to assist members of the MU community to understand how the University chooses to respond to students with disabilities, especially in regard to the roles and responsibilities of the faculty.

Legal Background: Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Two laws that impact on higher education and students with disabilities are: the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This legislation was designed to protect the rights of qualified individuals with disabilities. Tittle II of ADA states that:

"No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of disability, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

Section 504 defines a person with a disability as:
"Any person who ...

  • has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • has a record of such an impairment;
  • is regarded as having such an impairment."

Disabling conditions include, but are not limited to:

- Acquired Brain Injuries
- Attention Deficit Disorders
- Blindness/Visual Impairments
- Cerebral Palsy
- Deafness/Hearing Impairments
- Learning Disabilities
- Orthopedic/Mobility Impairments
- Psychological Disorders
- Speech and Language Disorders
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Tourette's Syndrome
- Chronic Illnesses

Misericordia's Programs Serving Students with Disabilities

Section 504 Academic Adjustments Program

Misericordia University provides the academic adjustments and reasonable auxiliary aids and services that are necessary under Section 504 free of charge to students with disabilities. Students interested in obtaining academic adjustments and auxiliary services at no cost should contact Kristen Ricardo., Assistant Director Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities, at 570-674-6205 or kricardo@misericordia.edu

Alternative Learners Program

Students may also elect to apply to Misericordia University's Alternative Learners Program (ALP). Founded in 1979, ALP was one of the nation's first formal college-level programs for students with learning disabilities. In 1995, the program expanded to serve all students with disabilities who attend the University. ALP is designed to provide support to students with documented disabilities that extends beyond those accommodations required under the University's 504 program. ALP students pay a fee each semester for participation in the program.

Modifications and Accommodations

The modifications and accommodations Misericordia University provides for qualified students with disabilities may include:

  • Architecturally accessible buildings and facilities.
  • Reasonable services such as qualified sign language interpreters.
  • Provision of reasonable accommodations such as extended time on exams or in-class assignments, priority seating assignments, use of assistive devices or technology such as recorders for class notes, note sharers, and other accommodations or services.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

  • A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment that will allow a student with a disability to perform in a program or have the same rights and privileges as students without disabilities.
  • Reasonable accommodations make it possible for a student with a disability to participate fully in the educational programs and activities; and for the faculty member to fairly evaluate the student's understanding of the material without interference from the disability.

Confidentiality

Information regarding a disability is treated as confidential information as defined by the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) http://www.ed.gov/offices/OM/ferpa.html.

Information about the existence and details of an individual's disability will be shared by the OSD on a "need-to-know" basis only. Students are asked to sign a written release of information which is kept on file; and the student is informed that OSD staff must have permission to share disability status with instructors in order to facilitate the provision of accommodations. Obviously, a student can voluntarily choose to share information regarding his/her disability with faculty or staff. If a student does share this information with you, please remember that the information should remain confidential.

Responsibilities of Students and Faculty

Responsibilities of students with disabilities:

  • Apply and be accepted for admission at Misericordia University. Students with disabilities go through the standard admissions process. Note: Students applying to the Alternative Learners Project must also complete the ALP application process.
  • 504 students complete a Request for Accommodations Form and return it along with sufficient documentation including an evaluation performed by a qualified professional(s). Contact the Office for Students with Disabilities for more information.
  • After a request and sufficient documentation has been received by the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD), the student is required to meet in person with the Assistant Director of the SSC/OSD to discuss reasonable accommodations. In this meeting, an Accommodation Plan (AP) stating the reasonable accommodations that should be provided is given to qualified students with disabilities.
  • ALP students will develop a Program of Accommodation (POA) with their Program Coordinator.
  • Qualified 504 students with disabilities at Misericordia University will provide their instructors with the AP from the OSD in a timely manner. If the student is unable to deliver the Accommodation Plan(AP), a member of the OSD will deliver the AP on the students behalf. It is strongly recommended that this be done in the first week of class.
  • ALP coordinators will provide POAs to faculty members on behalf of their students.

Responsibilities of Faculty/Staff Members:
Once an AP or POA has been received:

  • Faculty/Staff have the responsibility to comply with the provision of authorized reasonable accommodations in a reasonable and timely manner.
  • Faculty/Staff members should meet individually with the student to discuss the details.

If an AP or POA has not been received:

  • If a student requests accommodations for a disability, but does not provide the supporting documentation in the form of an AP or POA, please refer the student to the OSD. If an accommodation request is something that you would feel comfortable providing for any student (for example, closing the door to reduce distractions or providing seating near a window for natural light) the accommodation may be provided without consulting with OSD. However, it is advisable to refer any accommodation request that is questionable to OSD.

When the appropriateness of the accommodation is in question:

  • Please consult with the OSD staff if you have any concerns regarding the appropriateness of or the proper way to facilitate a particular accommodation.

Additional Insights

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act help define how to best accommodate and provide equal access to students with disabilities, certain myths concerning services to students with disabilities continue to exist. Academic accommodations for persons with disabilities should not imply lower academic standards. Most accommodations in the classroom are inexpensive, require minimal time, and do not have an impact on academic standards. Moreover, we must remember that providing accommodations to individuals with disabilities is not unfair to other students. Rather, it is the means by which the individuals with disabilities are provided equal access to all the programs, services and activities provided by the University.

Additionally, persons with the same disability may have different needs and levels of difficulty with similar course materials. Each student with a disability should be approached as an individual, and should have input regarding how mutually satisfactory solutions and accommodations can be developed.

Things to Consider:

  • When discussing a student's disability and accommodation needs, talk only about needs that are relevant to the successful completion of coursework.
  • Often, the most difficult aspect of living with a disability is the negative attitudes of others. It is important for faculty and staff to be aware of this situation when working with a student with a disability. Some students may feel uncomfortable discussing or even disclosing their disability.
  • Remember that an individual with a disability is like anyone else, except for specific limitations of the disability.
  • Be yourself when you meet an individual with a disability, and talk about the same things you would with anyone else.
  • Don't make assumptions about the skills or deficiencies of an individual with a disability.
  • Talk directly to an individual with a disability, not to someone accompanying him/her.
  • Don't be overprotective or over-solicitous, and don't offer pity or charity.
  • Don't assume that an individual with a disability has other limitations; e.g., don't raise your voice when speaking to a person who is visually impaired.
  • When referring to individuals with disabilities, "put people first," not their disabilities. This puts the focus on the individual, not their functional limitation. (e.g., The phrases "students with disabilities", "student with a hearing impairment", "woman with arthritis", etc. are preferred, While, "handicapped students", "deaf girl", "crippled woman", etc. are considered unacceptable terminology.)
  • The term handicap is not a synonym for disability. Handicap can be used when citing laws, but should not be used to describe a disability. ("Accessible parking" is preferred to "handicapped parking".)
  • An individual's disability should not be disclosed to someone who does not have "a need to know." Information regarding a disability is confidential.
  • Do not ask a question you would not want to answer yourself.
For More Information

Office for Students with Disabilities
Kristen Ricardo, Assistant Director
Student Success Center/Office for Students with Disabilities
Tel: 570-674-6205
kricardo@misericordia.edu.

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