By CHELSEA NAPPER

Students at the Institute of American Indian Arts come to better their craft skills, to make industry connections, and to strive toward a brighter future for themselves and their families. For some, being here is as easy as their next assignment””but for others, nearly every day brings big challenges.

For those who struggle with disabilities relating to their physical or mental health, there is no need to struggle alone. IAIA is dedicated to making sure the needs of every student are met””and for some, this means providing disability support services, according to information on the IAIA website.

Starting the Process

The process of requesting accommodations is not a difficult one by any means, according to Jeminie Shell, one of the Disability Support Services (ADA office) coordinators.

For students looking to request disability support accommodations, the best place to start is the Disability Support Services page under the Student Success section on the IAIA website. The page includes clear guidelines for requesting accommodations, outlining the step-by step process students take.

The Disability Support Services page includes links to the “IAIA Accommodations Request Form” and the Guide to Disability Rights and Laws.

Students requesting accommodations must do the following:

  • complete the IAIA Accommodations Request Form;
  • provide documentation of health issues via professional assessment pertaining to the associated support request;
  • complete an interview between the student and members of the Disability Support Services team to review the student’s case.

If a student cannot provide documentation of mental health conditions, the counselors on campus are available to provide professional consultations through which students can obtain such documentation.

Steps in the Process

Photo courtesy of pexels.com.
(Photo from pexels.com)

The interview is often the most crucial step in the process, as it is important that the Disability Support Services team is able to hear directly from the student just how their given disadvantage affects their ability to learn.

It is important that the student understands that this interview is their chance to speak on their own behalf, according to Shell.

  • After the interview, the small team, consisting of Shell and Student Housing Director Blue Tarpalechee, will review the student’s case and evaluate the specific disability or disabilities of the student against the accommodation requested.
  • If the two match up and it is determined that the accommodation will indeed help the student to be better prepared to learn, then it will most likely be approved.
  • After the committee meets, the student will be notified of their decision. If their request was approved, the appropriate parties will be notified of the accommodations needed.
  • If the accommodation relates to any part of the student’s classroom experience, the student’s professors will be notified of the changes which need to be made relating to the student.

“The faculty only sees the methods of implementation, not the reasons,” says Shell. The student’s privacy is always a top priority throughout the entire process, and the information shared between the student and the ADA are strictly confidential.

“Accommodations are not designed to ensure success,” says Shell. “Removing barriers to learning is the ultimate goal.” The effort success requires is the individual student’s responsibility, not that of any accommodation made.

A Place to Live, A Place for Support

The most common type of rooming accommodation made within the CLE Resident Center dorms is the assignment of single occupation rooms, according to Tarpalechee. This type of accommodation is often made in response to student health concerns related to immune deficiencies, mental well-being, and mobility.

“Mobility means a lot of things,” Tarpalechee said, explaining that the word is used as a sort of umbrella term for “anything from wheelchairs to chronic disease.”

The Fair Housing Act (1988) requires owners of housing facilities to make reasonable exceptions in their policies and operations to afford people with disabilities equal housing opportunities.

Photo courtesy of pexels.com.
Photo courtesy of pexels.com.

On the IAIA campus, this means that accommodation requests related to housing must be evaluated with the best interests of individual students as the priority.

This is why students with concerns about their capacity for wellbeing in on-campus housing are advised to stand up for their needs.

“Try to familiarize yourself with the support systems available,” said Tarpalechee. “There’s no wrong door to go to. Just knock and ask for help. Be proactive.”

Types of Accommodations

There are accommodations that can be made in the classroom setting, as well as on-campus housing accommodations.

Photo courtesy of pexels.com.
Photo courtesy of pexels.com.

A student with a disability which affects their classroom experience can apply for an accommodation to be implemented in the classroom, but which might not necessarily translate into on-campus housing””and vice-versa.

Shell stresses that all approved accommodations are strictly confidential. This means that the only people aware of the reasons for the accommodations are the student and ADA office.

Students seeking accommodations need to keep in mind that the type of request they make of the Disability Support Services program should align with their specific needs. For example, a student with a documented need for longer testing times would need to request such an accommodation, according to Shell.

As Tarpalechee said, “College is hard enough. Supports are here for you to help you succeed””you’re entitled to them.”

If you have any questions or concerns, contact the Disability Support Services Office at  adaoffice@iaia.edu  or (505) 424-5707.

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