Jessica Traylor" />
side bar
Saturday, September 23, 2023


Blogger, UH disagree over disability policy

Every university is required by law to have a policy for accommodating students with disabilities. The Justin Dart, Jr. Center for Students with Disabilities helps students at UH with these accommodations.

Though UH’s policy is quite similar to those of other universities, one blogger on feels that CSD has one of the worst disability-assistance policies in the U.S.

Tiffany Huggard-Lee, a blogger in Lawrence, Kan., wrote, “some impressively subpar practices have come to light. … The worst one I’ve seen so far comes from the University of Houston.”

Huggard-Lee is referring to a part in the policy that allows professor discretion on whether to assist students. The policy listed online states that “the professor has the option to agree or disagree to each academic accommodation.” This can occur even after the student presents medical proof of disability.

Communication senior Paula Zapata has benefited from CSD’s assistance and denies any problems with UH’s policy. She said she is aware that the professors have a choice to deny her accommodations, but said this has never happened.

“The professors are pretty cooperative,” Zapata said. “I have lots of one-on-one time with them.”

Zapata has osteogenesis imperfecta, better known as “brittle bone disease” and navigates around campus using a wheelchair. In accordance with procedure, she started the process of attending CSD by obtaining a doctor’s note confirming her disability.

“Last semester, I found it kind of tedious because they require a lot of information,” Zapata said. “I got the doctor’s note, but I only got approval for one semester. I had to get another one for the next.”

Once their medical documentation is in order, students’ work with a specialized counselor to agree upon a set of reasonable accommodations to help them succeed academically. The Academic Accommodations Evaluation Committee then approves or denies the accommodations.

Zapata said this process isn’t as lengthy as it may appear.

“You go talk to (the staff at the CSD) for maybe an hour or less. What takes longer is getting the doctor to fill out the paperwork,” Zapata said. “I don’t personally require too many accommodations, but they are pretty good about it.”

Since students must take several steps to obtain approval for their specific accommodations, Huggard-Lee argues that professor discretion after the fact is unreasonable and illegal.

“The student can have these reasonable accommodations denied by a professor who knows nothing of the nature of the student’s disability or of the legal requirements for the provision of reasonable accommodation,” Huggard-Lee wrote.

In her blog, Huggard-Lee references a lawsuit in which former UH student Gary Bradford was allegedly denied such accommodations.

Bradford was born without arms and enrolled with CSD. The center approved note-assistance as a way his professors could help him. Huggard-Lee wrote that in one of Bradford’s required courses, a professor refused to write notes for him. Whether the case was resolved is unknown, but Bradford later dropped out of UH.

CSD Director Cheryl Amuroso said that a vast majority of the time, professors will respect students’ needs and help them however possible.

“It is not too often they deny accommodations,” Amuroso said. “As long as the student has appropriate documentation and the accommodations are reasonable based on their disability. It is actually very rare that they deny them. Usually only if the accommodations would affect an essential requirement of the course or cause an undo hardship.”

It is also unclear why the professor in Bradford’s case would not supply him with notes.

“Occasionally, notes are not available,” Amoruso said.
“Maybe the instructor doesn’t have notes, or maybe they are writing a book and do not want to give that information out.”

Amuroso would not comment on the lawsuit.

Ernest Saadiq Morris, a lawyer for the Texas Civil Rights Project who handled the Bradford case, wrote on Inside Higher ED’s Web site that the “policy allows professors complete discretion, and that’s illegal. They are trying to delegate the undelegatable.”

Morris’ blog also states that this procedure is unique to UH policy. Amuroso doesn’t completely agree.

“I’ve never heard of another school where instructors didn’t have some kind of discretion,” Amuroso said. “Discretion involves lots of checks and balances and there’s definitely instructor responsibility there.”

Amoruso also said communication is key when students are presenting accommodations to professors.

“The majority of the time, if an instructor denies an accommodation, it is because the student doesn’t communicate with the instructor what the accommodations are and why they need them. Communication is obviously needed on both sides,” she said. “We encourage the student to schedule a five to 10-minute meeting with the professor to go over the accommodations.”

Zapata said one-on-one discussions with her professors have benefited her in this way.

In the event that a professor denies students’ accommodations, Amoruso suggests they meet with their counselor again “to discuss other options and alternate accommodations.”

[email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑
  • Sign up for our Email Edition

  • Polls

    What about UH will you miss the least this summer?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...