Equal Access to Education Policy
Cambridge College strives to make its programs accessible to all individuals, in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (amended in 2008).
To create and maintain an environment that provides reasonable accommodations and supports to students with disabilities so they may participate in and benefit from as fully as possible the programs and services offered at Cambridge College. Such disabilities include physical or mental impairment that substantially limit major life functions.
All faculty, staff, and students of Cambridge College are expected to adhere to this philosophy of equal access to educational opportunity and to assume broad responsibility for its implementation. Disclosure of a disability is not required, but if disclosed, it is the responsibility of the individual to seek available assistance through the Office of Disability Services.
The Office of Disability Services is the designated office at Cambridge College that maintains disability-related documents, certifies eligibility for services, and determines and communicates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. As an institution, implementation of accommodations is a shared responsibility and faculty, students, and the Office of Disability Services are all held responsible.
Policy on Confidentiality of Disability Documentation and Status
The Office of Disability Support Services (ODS) is committed to ensuring that all information and communication pertaining to a student's disability is maintained as confidential as required or permitted by law. The following guidelines about the treatment of such information have been adopted by ODS. These guidelines incorporate relevant state and federal regulations.
- This information is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). All records received and kept by the ODS are considered educational records. All documentation is kept in secure files, with access limited to the Coordinator of Academic and Disability Support.
- No one will have immediate access to student Disability Support Services files except authorized staff. Any information regarding a disability is considered confidential and will be shared only with others within Cambridge College who have a legitimate educational interest.
- Sensitive information in student disability files will not be released except in accordance with federal and state laws.
- A student's file may be released pursuant to a court order or subpoena.
- The student’s disability file is separate from the student’s educational record. If a student wishes to have information about his/her disability shared with others outside the institution, the student must provide written authorization to ODS to release the information.
- The student should understand that there may be occasions when ODS will share information regarding a student's disability if circumstances necessitate the sharing of information and ODS has determined that there is an appropriate, legitimate, educational need to know.
- A student has the right to review his/her own ODS file with reasonable notification.
Upon agreement of disabilities with ODS, students who take classes at a Cambridge College regional center will be asked if they would like their accommodations disclosed to regional center directors or to student service coordinators. Based on the student’s response, staff at regional centers will be notified appropriately.
Disability Declaration and Documentation Policy
- Students with disabilities at Cambridge College are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Support (ODS) to request appropriate services but are not required to disclose any disability.
- All students seeking accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act must self-identify with ODS and provide appropriate information.
- Students must disclose disability directly to ODS in order to receive status as a student with a disability.
- Disclosure to faculty, admissions counselors, or other staff members is not considered official disclosure.
- Initial self-disclosure may be initiated through phone, email, or in-person, but receipt of accommodations will require an in-person meeting unless the student takes classes at one of the College’s regional centers or unless an in-person meeting is impossible for another legitimate reason.
- In cases where an in-person meeting is not possible, only phone conversations will be acceptable.
ODS asks students who request disability accommodations to describe their disability, their past use of accommodations, and the disability's likely impact on their educational experiences.
Documentation provides a valuable tool for helping Cambridge College understand how courses, systems, and facilities may present barriers, and for planning strategies, including reasonable accommodations, that provide access.
ODS uses external documentation to augment conversations with students and to support requests for accommodations.
Types of documentation supportive of requests include:
- Medical records
- Psycho-educational testing
- School records
- Letters or affidavits from mental health professionals
If students do not have copies of this type of information, they are welcome to meet with ODS to discuss other ways to demonstrate a connection between the condition and academic barriers anticipated or currently being faced.
Any expenses incurred in the obtaining of professional verification are the individual's responsibility. The following documentation criteria will be used:
- The documentation must state the diagnosis
- The documentation must state the functional limitations of the diagnosis as they pertain to academics
- The documentation must state recommendations for academic accommodations
All documentation must:
- Be signed by the treating clinician and be written on official letterhead
- Be recent except in cases of neuropsychological testing done as an adult
- Be complete (all pages included) except in cases of neuropsychological testing where students might prefer to omit personal background or history
- Treating clinician is defined as a qualified, licensed health care professional, currently or recently associated with a student.
- Family members who are health care providers or work colleagues associated with students may not act as treating clinicians for the purposes of providing disability documentation.
Policy on Attendance Flexibility for Students with Disabilities
As an institution, Cambridge College has established policies regarding attendance specific to each school and classroom format (see Academic Policies and Procedures, college catalog. Recognizing that students with disabilities might have conditions of an episodic nature, the Office of Disability Services (ODS) has established a procedure for requests for leniency in attendance. The strong emphasis on participatory learning at Cambridge College suggests that review of courses based on these parameters will likely provide infrequent opportunities to extend attendance requirements; we will consider each case separately but want to make clear the importance of meeting curricular goals as well as requirements.
- Students with disabilities must self-disclose their disability to ODS. For more information, please see the Disability Declaration and Documentation Policy. ODS will review the documentation provided and determine eligibility for leniency in attendance. The student will be asked to provide some indication of the scope of the request. Documentation provided must indicate both why the student may need to miss classes and to what extent. Though many conditions make it impossible to predict exactly when and to what extent class will be missed, students are asked to provide as much information as possible.
- Faculty in each class in which the student is enrolled will be contacted through email by ODS in order to determine the effect that leniency in attendance might have on their specific course. The following criteria will be used in this consideration:
- The extent of the interaction between faculty and students in the particular course
- The extent of the importance of student contribution to the learning outcomes of the course
- The extent that student participation is a fundamental method of learning
- The extent to which the absence of any one student will affect the learning outcomes of the other students enrolled
- The method of grading for the course, including final grade calculation, and whether or not attendance is factored into grading
- The extent to which class attendance is necessary for meeting licensure requirements
- If faculty and ODS determine that leniency in attendance will not be possible for a specific course, ODS will inform the student and discuss alternative options.
- If leniency in attendance is possible according to the mentioned criteria, leniency in attendance will be listed on a student’s Letter of Accommodation (LOA); the LOA will list the parameters of the attendance leniency including the scope outlined by the student in his or her initial request. The responsibilities of both the faculty and student will be outlined in the LOA.
At any time, students may follow the Disability Accommodation Grievance Policy and Procedure as outlined to appeal decisions.
Disability Grievance Policy and Procedure
Cambridge College is committed to providing a learning and working environment that is free from discrimination. Cambridge College does not discriminate on the basis of disability. As such, the College has adopted an internal grievance procedure providing for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in the programs, activities, and employment opportunities available at the College. These laws also prohibit retaliation against an individual who alleges discrimination.
Students, faculty, staff, applicants, guests, contractors, and other third parties of the college who are qualified individuals with disabilities as defined by law may request reasonable accommodations which afford them equal opportunity to access, use, and participate in the programs, activities, facilities, and employment available at Cambridge College. Accommodations are provided unless they would present an undue burden, make a fundamental alteration to the nature of the academic program or activity at issue, or an exception is otherwise permitted under law. In some cases, the College may provide an equally effective alternative to the requested accommodation.
If a requested accommodation is not provided, the College will attempt to propose alternatives if appropriate. The College will work with the person requesting the accommodation to determine if there are acceptable alternatives. If a dispute concerning an accommodation is not resolved by the College’s interactive process, the individual may file a complaint using the process outlined below.
Individuals who wish to request an accommodation or who have questions about the process should contact:
- Rebecca Sheils
- Coordinator of Academic and Disability Support Services (Section 504 Disability Coordinator)
- Room 319
- 1000 Massachusetts Avenue
- Cambridge, MA 02138
- 617-873-0191 (phone)
- 617-873-0454 (fax)
The College’s Equal Access to Education Policy and Disability Declaration and Documentation Policy gives more information for students and applicants and the ADA and Reasonable Accommodations Policy gives more information for employees.
Any person who believes he/she has been discriminated against or has been the victim of retaliation on the basis of disability by any party at Cambridge College may file a grievance. Discrimination or retaliation complaints grieved under this policy may be directed against fellow students, employees, contractors or other third parties. The College will investigate the grievance and if there is a finding that discrimination occurred, the College will take steps to prevent recurrence of discrimination and address any resulting discriminatory effects on the complaining party if appropriate.
Filing a Grievance
Grievances must be addressed in writing directly to the Section 504 Disability Coordinator. The written grievance should contain as much information as possible but at a minimum should contain:
- The name and contact information for the person filing the grievance
- A description of the problem or action alleged to be discriminatory or retaliatory
- Where applicable, the names and titles of any persons who were involved in the act of discrimination or who witnessed the discrimination
- The proposed remedy sought if appropriate
Any employee or student, who is aware of someone wishing to pursue a grievance under this policy, should direct the individual to the Section 504 Disability Coordinator.
If the complainant has an issue directly with the Section 504 Disability Coordinator, he/she may file a grievance with a Regional Center Director, the Director of Human Resources, the Dean of Students, or the Academic Dean for his/her program. Contact information for all parties can be found in the College catalog as well as the College’s public web site. In all cases, the Section 504 Disability Coordinator will be made aware that a grievance has been filed so that she/he can direct the process to the appropriate designee, monitor the progress of the grievance procedure, and assure compliance with all applicable laws.
The Designee for Investigating the Grievance
The Section 504 Disability Coordinator will identify the appropriate person (“the designee”) to investigate the grievance. When grievances are filed regarding academic matters such as academic adjustments, the designee will be the academic dean for the program involved because he/she has the most relevant knowledge of the academic requirements and applicable technical standards for the program of study. When grievances are filed regarding non-academic matters such as facilities, operations, events, outside contractors, or parking, the designee will be the Dean of Students. When grievances relate to employment, the designee shall be the Director of Human Resources.
- The designee will determine if the investigation of the grievance will follow an informal process or a formal process.
- For informal processes, the designee will speak directly with the complainant to gather all relevant information and will also seek information from any other parties mentioned in the written grievance. The complainant must agree to proceed with the informal process.
- For formal processes, the designee will meet with all involved parties. This includes but is not limited to administrators, advisors, faculty members, witnesses, health care providers, the complainant, and legal advisors. In circumstances where legal advisors are present for the complainant, the legal advisor may consult with the complainant but may not lead or participate in the meeting.
- During the meeting, the designee will hear all relevant information from involved parties. The complainant will have the opportunity to voice his/her grievance and to present any evidence or witnesses to support his/her case. The designee will be committed to impartial investigation of grievances and will include the opportunity for all parties to present witnesses and evidence.
Academic grievances related to the implementation or denials of accommodations are to be filed as soon as possible but no later than the end of the subsequent term in which the alleged discrimination occurred. Non-academic grievances and employment grievances should be filed as soon as possible but no later than 180 days after the alleged discrimination occurred.
When proceeding formally, the meeting will be scheduled within ten working days of the filed grievance and no later than 30 calendar days from the filing unless extenuating circumstances arise. For both formal and informal procedures, the designee will provide his/her response to the complainant within ten working days, unless extenuating circumstances arise.
During deliberation, the designee is encouraged to communicate with the College’s General Counsel for guidance regarding the legal standards and basis of the decision under the circumstance of the complaint.
Once the designee has made a determination, he/she will respond to the grievance in writing, giving reasoning for his/her determination and outlining any additional actions that will need to take place. If the designee determines that disability discrimination occurred, the College will take steps to correct any discriminatory effects on the complainant and others, if appropriate. The Section 504 Disability Coordinator will be made aware of the response for tracking purposes and to answer any questions or concerns that the complainant has. Other appropriate parties involved in the grievance who have an administrative need to know (e.g. faculty member involved, program chair, facilities director, supervisor, regional center director, Human Resources, etc.) will also be informed of the determination as appropriate.
Previously determined accommodations that are being grieved will remain in place until a determination has been made. The designee may decide to approve an alternative temporary accommodation while the grievance procedure is followed but will be clear with the complainant that the alternative accommodation is temporary in nature.
Use of this grievance procedure is not a prerequisite to the pursuit of other remedies, such as the filing of a 504/ADA complaint with the responsible federal department or agency, although it is strongly suggested that this grievance procedure be used first.
If a student or employee is dissatisfied with the grievance process at any time, he/she may use the following groups for assistance:
- Massachusetts Office on Disability
- One Ashburton Place, Room 1305, Boston, MA 02108
- Voice/TTY 617-727-7440 or 800-322-2020
- Fax 617-727-0965
Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education
- 5 Post Office Square, 8th Floor
- Boston, MA 02190
- Voice phone (617) 280-0111
- FAX (617) 617-289-0150
Please ask your Cambridge College regional center director to put you in touch with state advocacy agencies.