Bristol Community College

Bristol Community College

Frequently Asked Questions

What laws apply to students with disabilities?
The ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a federal law written to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination. The ADA defines disability as any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities such as (but not limited to): caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, or working.

What is Section 504?
Section 504 is a portion of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that protects people with disabilities. Section 504 States:

“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.”

What is the difference between the ADA and Section 504?
The primary difference is that while Section 504 applies only to organizations that receive Federal funding, the ADA applies to a much broader universe. Section 504 established a "level playing field" and to prevent discrimination based on a Disability, the ADA Strengthened Section 504 and extended coverage to employment, private institutions and other previously unnamed agencies and organizations.

If a student received accommodations in high school, will the student receive the same accommodations at BCC?
Accommodations for college are determined differently than accommodations for college; a student’s IEP will be reviewed for general information but their BCC accommodations will be based on the information contained in their most recent psychoeducational evaluation (Note: the documentation must be dated within the last 3 years.) It is important to note that, because tutoring is offered free to all students, tutoring is not considered an accommodation. For more information about BCC’s tutoring center, visit the Tutoring and Academic Support Center (TASC)

Following is a more detailed outline of the differences between being a high school student with a disability and a college student with a disability:

High School versus College (for a student with a disability)

High School:
High School is governed by IDEA (IndividuaLearning Specialist with Disabilities Education Act), and 504/ADA ( Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 , and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1992)

In high school, students with disabilities are sought out and identified.
School districts are responsible for providing trained personnel to assess eligibility, plan and implement educational services.

IDEA (IndividuaLearning Specialist with Disabilities Education Act) provides specially designed instruction (Special Education) and related services to eligible students with disabilities (birth – 21 years).

504 and ADA ensures accommodations necessary to access education for any student with a disability.

Colleges are governed by 504 (particularly subpart E, which focuses on postsecondary campuses), and the ADA.

College students must disclose (identify themselves) and provided recent documentation of a disability. (“Recent” documentation at BCC refers to documentation within the last 3 years.)

Students entering colleges are responsible for obtaining appropriate documentation from a professional who is certified to assess disabilities.

504/ADA require colleges to provide appropriate services and accommodations to those who meet that institution's entry criteria (or a particular program's entry criteria), and can provide appropriate documentation of their disability.

Disability Services is responsible for reviewing and approving – or for determining the appropriateness of – that documentation. They are not required by law to provide assessments if the student doesn't have appropriate documentation.

Accommodations can be provided for any eligible student, whether they are taking credit or non-credit courses or participating in another postsecondary program such as a professional / technical program, ABSE, High School Equivalency, etc.

Disability Services

What is Disability Services?
Disability Services provides support services that enable students with disabilities to fully participate in the life of the academic community.

How does Disability Services Work?
Disability Services…

  • determines classroom accommodations needed by students with learning disabilities on an individual basis
  • recommends strategies to capitalize on strengths and to compensate for learning weaknesses
  • is a resource to faculty and staff who wish to know more about learning disabilities and good teaching strategies
  • Screens students referred by faculty and staff for a learning disability (formal testing is done independently, off campus)

What are the Office Hours for Disability Services?
Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and additional hours by appointment.

Where is Disability Services located?
Disability Services is located in the L building  Room 109

What is Disability Services phone number?
The Disability Services phone number is 508.678.2811, ext. 2955


What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation may include:

  • modifications to rules, policies, or practices,
  • the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers,
  • provision of auxiliary aids or the provision of equally effective programs, services, or activities.

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, accommodations will not be provided:

  • for personal devices or services even though the individual may be a qualified individual with a disability, or
  • that result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a service, program, or activity or in undue financial or administrative burdens.
  • the elimination of an essential function of a job.

What are the requirements for receiving accommodations?
In order to receive support services, students must register with the Disability Services. Students are strongly encouraged to contact Disability Services at least 3-6 weeks before the start of the semester.

To be eligible to receive services, Disability Services requires that students provide medical and/or diagnostic documentation of their disability. Documentation should be current (within the last three years) and for students with learning disabilities, must include psychological and/or educational testing. While your high school IEP can be helpful in determining accommodations, the IEP alone is not sufficient documentation for obtaining accommodations at BCC.

Learning Specialist

What is a Learning Specialist?
A Learning Specialist is the person in Disability Services who will act as the student’s advisor.

What is the function of the Learning Specialist?
The function of the Learning Specialist is to evaluate a student’s disability-related documentation and determine if they are eligible for accommodations. The Learning Specialist will also assist students with any disability issues that may arise through the course of their education at BCC.

Classroom/Instructor Issues

I have a student that I suspect may have a disability, what should I do?
If you have a student that you suspect may have a disability, please complete the Request for Academic Needs Assessment. You may download this form by clicking here. The form is also available in the public folders of Outlook.

How will I know if a student is registered with Disability Services and is eligible for accommodations?
During the process of working with a Learning Specialist students and their Learning Specialist will develop an accommodations sheet. This sheet will list the accommodations for which the student is eligible. The student will bring a signed accommodations sheet to you, indicating what accommodations he/she is eligible for. Students are responsible for initiating new accommodation forms every semester.

How do I know if a student REALLY needs an accommodation?
You will be glad to know that you do not have to make that decision. If a student brings you an accommodation sheet signed by a Learning Specialist from Disability Services, you can be assured the student has met the criteria necessary to receive the accommodations list on the form.

How should I respond if a student tells me he or she has a disability?
If a student discloses to you that he or she has a disability, ask the student if they have shared this information with Disability Services. If the student has registered with Disability Services and is eligible for accommodations, the student should have a signed accommodations sheet to give to you.

If the student has not registered with Disability Services, you can let them know they must register with our office in order to receive accommodations. You SHOULD NOT collect any documentation from the student about his/her disability. This information should be given to Disability Services by the student.

What if a student does not wish to share disability information with Disability Services?
There are many reasons a student may not want to disclose their disability. However, because college disability laws are very different from high school disability laws, it is essential that students disclose a disability to Disability Services if they want to receive any accommodations.

You can assure the student that Disability Services is available to assist them and will keep information regarding their disability confidential.

What is my responsibility as an Instructor, in terms of students with disabilities?
Your responsibillity includes:

  • Ensure a student receives the accommodations for he/she is eligible according to the accommodation sheet.
  • Keep all disability related information confidential
  • Speak with Disability Services if you have any questions regarding a student’s accommodations or progress.
  • Treat students with disabilities as you would the other students in your class in regards to grading procedures and discipline

What should I do if a student with a disability who is receiving accommodations is working very hard, and is not succeeding?
The first step is to contact a Learning Specialist in Disability Services who will work with you and the student as a team, with student success as the goal. A tutor or mentor may be brought in.

If, after completing this process, the student’s grade has not improved, you should do the very same thing you would do in the case of a student that does not have a disability. If the student does not satisfy the essential requirements of the course, then the student must be graded accordingly.

Also: we have a PowerPoint presentation with more information available for download here: FAQ.