ACCESS Services: Academic Challenges and Cultivating Excellence in Student Success
(formerly Accessibility Services)
Overview of services
The ACCESS Services office is the place to come for all student accessibility-related issues at NMHU’s University main campus and centers. While NMHU’s ACCESS Services office does not normally provide academic accommodations directly, we help arrange them with appropriate university departments and employees. We advise faculty, staff, and management on disability issues, and we advocate on issues of concern to students with disabilities. ACCESS Services also advises students on academic, career, and transitional issues. We can also provide referrals where appropriate.
Staff, faculty and other employees who need accessibility help, including EEO related matters, will find assistance through Human Resources.
How to apply for ACCESS services
Complete and submit application form at https://apply.nmhu.edu/register/disabilityservices
ACCESS Services is located in the Lora Shields Building, 2nd floor, room 250.
Legal Notice: Policy, procedures, and services provided and implemented by ACCESS Services are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1991, the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1974 (as amended), and other laws governing the disabled. ACCESS Services also adheres to the professional code of conduct adhered to by the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). Individuals have a right to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education.
The address of the OCR Regional Office that covers New Mexico is:
Office of Civil Rights/ED
1244 Speer Boulevard, Suite 310
Denver, CO 80204-3582
Confidentiality Notice: As an ethical matter, ACCESS Services places the highest priority upon maintaining confidentiality of all personal information in its care. We are aware of the fact that individuals with disabilities still face misunderstanding and discrimination. Student records in the possession of ACCESS Services are governed under the legal requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This law prevents release of student information to individuals outside the university unless explicit consent is given by the student. Note that confidential information may be shared with university employees outside of ACCESS Services if deemed necessary to ensure the successful implementation of accommodations or to respond to a student grievance or appeal. Full information about FERPA can be found on the web site of the U.S. Department of Education.
Conduct Notice: Students with disabilities are held responsible for the same university standards of conduct as students without disabilities. https://www.nmhu.edu/student-handbook/
Vision, values, mission, and goals
Vision: Students with disabilities have a right to equal access to all programs, services, and courses delivered at, or officially sponsored by Highlands University. They have a right to learn and achieve, based upon their abilities, and will not be judged solely on the basis of a disability.
Values: ACCESS Services refrains from overbearing interventions, which are the root of oppression and discrimination against people with disabilities.
Mission: To successfully integrate students with disabilities into the academic and social life of the campus community and ensure university compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. To advocate responsibly for an accessible and hospitable learning environment through the removal of informational, physical, and attitudinal barriers. To promote student self-awareness, self-determination, and personal responsibilities.
Goals: “To fully integrate the disabled into the intellectual and social life of the campus community, including compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Highlands Strategic Plan Action Item A.6.8., adopted December 2003.
Definition of a disability
The primary definition of a disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of [a person’s] major life activities.” The definition includes “[having] a record of such impairment” or “[is] regarded as having such an impairment.”
Documenting your disability
Accommodations are provided only to students who have current and appropriate clinical documentation of their disability on file with ACCESS Services. Documentation of a disability should be current up to three years from the date of the evaluation/ diagnosis. Cases will be reviewed on individual basis if updated documentation is not available for reasons beyond student’s control.
Basic policy and procedure
The purpose of New Mexico Highlands University ACCESS Services policy and procedures is to implement the legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other applicable laws in a way that is fair to all students and respects the fundamental concept of “equal opportunity.”
Disabled student’s list of rights
You have the right to equal access and equal opportunity.
You have a right to be treated in a respectful and courteous manner.
You have a right to a reasonable accommodation for your documented disability.
You have a right to services, facilities, and activities comparable to those provided to non-disabled students.
You have a right to appeal any decision by Coordinator of Disability Services, Academic Affairs.
You have a right to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education.
Camille Bohannon-Sweitzer, Coordinator of Disability Services
Monday – Friday
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
What we do
ACCESS Services’ focus is removing barriers at the university for students with physical, psychological, developmental, and learning disabilities by providing appropriate accommodations. We also serve as a campus resource for students, faculty, and staff of the college. ACCESS Services abides by the professional guidelines of the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD).
Services we offer
We work with students to arrange for alternate format instructional material.
Work with students to address and resolve access issues, both programmatic and physical.
Work with students to reach out to all available resources to assist with academic success.
Offer extended testing time.
Provide a distraction-reduced testing area.
Make materials/books available in alternate format.
Provide sign language interpreters.
Provide use of assistive technology.
Contact faculty regarding approved accommodations for students.
Work with faculty to address access issues and issues with accommodations.
Provide faculty with information regarding Americans with Disabilities Act.
What we don’t do
ACCESS Services does not provide accommodations that are “unreasonable” under federal law nor can its decisions overrule appropriate university policy and procedures on financial aid, grade appeals, academic hardship, student conduct, etc. Should a student with disabilities experiences difficulties in one of these areas, the office can assist students with the necessary appeal procedures as outlined in the university’s student handbook.
At the college level, students must become their own disability advocates and learn to negotiate with faculty, staff, and administrators. Students do not have to disclose specific information about their disabilities to instructors or university administrators. Any questions about the appropriateness of an accommodation can be directed to ACCESS Services. Faculty and staff need to recognize that many students find disclosing their disability threatening and difficult. This is especially true of freshmen, newly diagnosed students, or students with an acquired disability who have not had to explain it at the high school level.
It is important to note that regardless of what accommodations the office recommends, the ultimate responsibility for making accommodations lies with the faculty or staff member. Students with disabilities are not required to register with the office of accessibility services unless they wish to receive official accommodations. However, a delay by the student in the registration of the disability often results in a delay in accommodations being provided. Students are strongly encouraged to register their disability before academic difficulties arise.
Accommodations are provided to meet the requirements of the ADA and Section 504 and to equalize the opportunity for success by minimizing the impact of the disability.
Accommodations provided to students are as varied as the myriad ways people experience disability. All accommodations reflect the reality that two people with similar medical diagnosis may experience their disabilities in unique ways. There is no set of accommodations that applies to every student or every situation. Accommodations provided to a student are based upon the medical documentation provided by the student and, where necessary, discussion with medical providers. Whenever practicable, it is the policy of ACCESS Services to meet with the student and discuss each personal situation before approval of accommodations is made.
Please note that it is the practice at Highlands University to provide in-classroom accommodations to students on a semester basis. Students are given the latitude to determine whether or not they wish to take advantage of an authorized accommodation at any particular time or place. Students must request accommodations each semester and provide a current copy of their class schedule that includes instructors’ names.
Students are strongly encouraged to meet with their professors to discuss how accommodations will be implemented in their class. Typical accommodations are discussed further in the following section. Please note that tutoring services are not considered an academic accommodation. However, students with a documented disability may take advantage of tutoring services that are provided to all students at Highlands. Accommodations must be within reason and not every request may be filled.
The following may be considered unreasonable accommodations: a change in course requirements, fundamentally alteration of the nature of the program, an undue financial or administrative burden, and/or anything that poses an appreciable threat to personal or public safety. The university is not required to provide items that are considered personal that could be needed in accomplishing daily activities both at school and elsewhere, such as a wheelchair, hearing aid, etc.
Testing accommodations are the most frequently requested academic accommodation. Because of its potential impact on academic integrity, it is also the accommodation evaluated most carefully by the Office of ACCESS Services. Even when recommended by medical professionals, requests for testing accommodations are never automatically approved. ACCESS Services strives to find the level of accommodation that ensures academic integrity while allowing the student a fair opportunity to be successful.
Other accommodations may be made based on the student’s unique situation.
NMHU supplies appropriate adaptive technology to students with disabilities. Such technology includes recording devices, CCTVs, hearing equipment, speech-to-text and text-to-speech software, and usable print materials.
ACCESS Services provides sign language services or captioning services for students who are deaf or hearing impaired. Interpreting will be provided via Video Remote Interpreting (VRI).
Request for unscheduled services should be provided at least five days in advance. ACCESS cannot guarantee the provision for request specific interpreters.
ACCESS Services does not authorize or issue permits to park in parking spaces reserved for individuals with disabilities. Students parking in reserved parking spaces must possess a state-issued license plate, decal, or placard that identifies them as an individual with a disability. Parking regulations are enforced by university police and complaints regarding code enforcement should be directed to them.
Should a dispute arise between a student and a faculty or staff member, the student should attempt to resolve the matter with the other party directly, if possible. If the student is not successful, they should bring the matter to the attention to ACCESS Services. ACCESS Services will attempt to resolve the complaint informally. If the student still does not receive satisfaction, they should follow the grievance procedures outlined in the official Highlands Student Handbook. If the student’s complaint is against ACCESS Services, the student should contact the Director of Compliance, Rogers Administration Building, Room 205, 505-454-3363.
Suggestions/recommendations for instructors
Instructors should not make accommodations without first consulting with the ACCESS Services staff, nor should instructors accept or review medical or psychological reports if offered them by a student to support a request for accommodation. Students should be referred to ACCESS Services to meet with staff for a review of these documents, and to determine eligibility for services and accommodations.
NOTE: “In accordance with federal law, it is university policy to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you believe that you have a physical, learning, or psychological disability that requires an academic accommodation, contact the Coordinator of Disability Services by phone at (505) 454-3250 or via e-mail at ACCESS@nmhu.edu or email email@example.com to schedule a zoom appointment or in-person appointment in Room 250 of the Lora Shields building on the Las Vegas campus. If you need the document upon which this notice appears in an alternative format, you may also contact the Coordinator of Disability Services.”
It is inappropriate to ask a student if they have a disability, nor should an instructor ask the student what’s “wrong” with them. It is also inappropriate to inquire about the details of the disability when presented with a Notification to Instructors/Faculty letter. You may privately ask the student how the disability will affect specific tasks required in your class.
Always make sure that your discussions with students happen in private, and be aware that many students are very uncomfortable in approaching instructors to discuss their special academic needs.
Instructors should know that accommodations are not retroactive. Instructors do not need to re-administer tests or make adjustments to course activities/grades that have already occurred. Instructors must make accommodations from the date a “Notification to instructors” letter is received.
Specific modalities for working with specific disabilities (i.e. learning disability, deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired, etc.) are available at the Office of Disability Services.
Q: Will I get the same accommodations I received in high school?
A: It depends on the accommodation. Many accommodations can be carried forward, but some adjustments made in high school are modifications, not accommodations, and will have to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Q: What do I have to do to receive accommodations?
A: Students must self-disclose, complete an application, and provide documentation to ACCESS Services prior to any accommodation(s) being approved.
Q: Is there a fee for services for the disabled?
A: There is no fee to access ACCESS Services.
Q: Do I have to complete all classes even if my disability shows I have difficulty in that area?
A: Students with disabilities are required to complete all requirements of core and major classes. This includes completing all assignments required of a course. Accommodations may be put in place regarding assignments. However, academic adjustments and accommodations may be put in place regarding assignments and course requirements.
Q: What are some typical accommodations that I may receive?
A: All accommodations are based on a case-by-case basis. Some general accommodations include: Extra time for exams, test room accommodations, alternate media, etc.
Q: What constitutes my responsibilities as a student with a disability?
A: Your first responsibility is to self-identify. If you do not identify as a student with a disability, ACCESS Services cannot provide you with accommodations. After you have self-identified, you should provide ACCESS Services with the appropriate documentation. This documentation should be from an appropriate professional source that verifies the nature of the disability, its functional limitations, and the need for special accommodations. Before every semester, it is the responsibility of the student to contact ACCESS Services and request reasonable accommodations by providing class schedule and instructors’ names. In most cases, making this request within the first two weeks of school will provide sufficient time to implement accommodations. However, some accommodations require significant advanced notice (text in alternative format, accessibility requests). It is recommended that you inform professors about your accommodations and arrange a meeting with them. You could tell the professor about how your disability might affect your performance and also about the necessary accommodations you will need. You must request accommodations in a timely manner.
Q: Is ACCESS Services responsible to provide tuition and fee waivers for students with disabilities, and help with the cost of books?
A: No. Financial aid and scholarships may be available through the Financial Aid Office located in the Felix Martinez Building. Other resources include the N.M. Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, New Mexico Commission for the Blind, and other state agencies or federal agencies.
Q: Will whatever accommodations I say I need, be provided?
A: Accommodations are based on disability documentation and substantial limitation of the disability. The university does not make fundamental alterations to classes, degrees or programs. Consideration is given to individual preferences. However; it is the institution’s decision, as long as accommodations provided can be shown to be reasonable and equally effective as any the student suggests.
Q: Are colleges required to provide one-on-one tutoring?
A: Tutoring is considered an item of personal nature and, therefore, outside the scope of accommodations. Highlands provides equal access to the same tutoring provided to all students. Students should contact Student Support Services for more information on available tutoring services.
Q: Since I provided the other college with documentation about my disability, do I just need to bring the accommodation list to the college to which I am transferring?
A: Each college is permitted to establish their documentation guidelines/requirements. Accommodations provided at one institution do not obligate another institution to the same. Each institution of higher education is required to make its own informed judgment. Documentation of the disability diagnosis is still required.