Disability Service Counselor and Coordinator Responsibility
These responsibilities may vary at a given campus depending on the resources available. Usually the individual that is responsible for services to students who are deaf and hard of hearing will coordinate appropriate services. Some campus’s may not have an individual who works exclusively with deaf and hard of hearing students, but does work with all students with disabilities. Regardless of the particular makeup of disability services, some important functions and responsibilities are inherent.
THE DOCUMENTATION OF A DISABILITY is the basis for providing accommodations. Understanding what the disability is, and determining how to work around it in the postsecondary setting, is the main focus of providing support services. Documentation of a hearing impairment is most often an audiological evaluation. This hearing examination will indicate the presence of a hearing loss and its scope. Being able to interpret an audiogram will provide essential information in understanding the particular hearing loss and what it may mean for that particular student. (Audiogram sample on page37). Obviously, it needs to be clear that a student has a disability that requires accommodation. Realizing that it is perhaps obvious when someone is deaf or hard of hearing, documentation is still a requirement as mandated by the ADA.
Documentation can be other things aside from a hearing test. Sometimes a medical doctor’s diagnosis can be accepted as documentation. When there is a secondary disability such as a visual, cognitive processing disorder, psychological disorder, etc., specific evaluations need to be obtained to better understand the needs of the student. These may be medical, psychological or specialist examinations. Students may sometimes have copies of documentation that is required, but most often, they do not. With the student's permission, a medical release form signed by the student can be used to obtain information from medical doctors, medical facilities, rehabilitation agencies, and prior secondary and postsecondary education programs.
ACCOMMODATION FORMS indicate in writing what specific support services a student requires. This is determined based on the required documentation(s) of disability and student request. This form is signed by the counselor, student and instructor to ensure that communication about what will take place is clear to each individual. Sometimes it is appropriate to distribute a copy to the testing center or another academic support component of the college if a student will require accommodation provided by that program. Accommodations are based on student needs although those needs can change over a period of time from the initial request. It is important to work closely with each student to ensure that their needs are being met.
COORDINATION OF SUPPORT SERVICES involves the support of interpreter services, note taking services, tutoring services, assistive listening devices, testing accommodations and tape recording assistance. For some students it will involve a combination of these support services. For others, a single accommodation is all that is required. The counselor/coordinator oversees the scope of support services needed by an individual student. Working in close proximity with the lead interpreter, note taking / tutoring coordinator, or any other professional staff to ensure that effective accommodations are being provided, is the main focus of this support coordination.
STUDENT ADVOCACY creates an opportunity for adult students to learn the basics of self advocacy. Often students have not had ample opportunity to learn how to advocate for what they need and to express that need in an effective way. One of the roles of the counselor or coordinator involves teaching students how to begin to advocate. Ideally, as a role model, the student can learn from others how to, and what to do in a given situation. Commonly, students and instructors have issues that arise which necessitate intervention.
Counselors / coordinators intervene when needed to mediate when there is conflict or misunderstanding that cannot be resolved by the student and the instructor. Students may know what they want or need, but cannot express it in a way that it is understood. This is where professional intervention can remedy the situation, and in that process the student and instructor both learn how to work better with each other. Advocacy is not limited to on-campus, as communication with sponsoring agencies, such as Vocational Rehabilitation counselors, require intervention and advocacy on behalf of the student as well.