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Student ADA/Rehabilitation Act Grievance & Appeal Procedure

Title: Student ADA/Rehabilitation Act Grievance & Appeal Procedure
Effective Date: November 21, 2011
Responsible Office: Compliance & Equity
Last Updated: January 28, 2021

 I. Purpose

This is the university’s grievance procedure mandated under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the Rehabilitation Act). The ADA and the Rehabilitation Act prohibit the university from excluding people from participation in its educational programs or activities based on their disability, from denying them the benefits of such programs or activities, and from discriminating against such individuals. The ADA and Rehabilitation Act also requires a process for grievances relating to disability-based discrimination. 

II. Scope

This procedure applies to the College of William & Mary, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (the university).

Any student who believes that they have been discriminated against on the basis of their disability or has been denied access or accommodations required by law may make a complaint under this procedure. Specifically, students may make a complaint about:

  • A requested service or accommodation, including appeals of Student Accessibility Services’ determinations regarding  accommodations;
  • Inaccessibility of a university program or activity;
  • Harassment on the basis of disability in violation of university policy; or
  • Any other alleged university violation of the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act. 

This is not the procedure for students initially seeking accommodations; students who have a disability that requires accommodations should contact Student Accessibility Services. Student Accessibility Services also is charged with handling any instance of an instructor, program director, or other university employee or agent who refuses or fails to make or offer an accommodation approved by that office.[1] 

This is also not the procedure for allegations by students against other students or student organizations; the Student Code of Conduct outlines the process for disciplining students. This is the procedure for complaints against the university itself or university employees or agents. 

The university encourages students to use these procedures before pursuing remedies outside the university, but students have the right to file a complaint directly with the Office of Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education. 

III. Making a Complaint
A. Disagreements About Determinations Made by Student Accessibility Services; Requests for Review

 A student who has been denied a requested accommodation or otherwise disagrees with an Accessibility Services accommodation decision is encouraged – but not required – to discuss their concern with the Director of Student Accessibility Services. A conversation may resolve a disagreement quickly.  

  • Initial Review by the Dean of Students is a student who disagrees in any way with an Accessibility Services decision regarding a request for accommodation may seek a review of an Accessibility Services decision under this procedure by contacting the Dean of Students or designee. Requests for review of a decision should be made promptly and, in any event, within 60 days of the decision being made unless the student can show good cause for the delay. Time-sensitive requests should be made as far in advance as possible. Although the university tries to expedite urgent matters, requests made fewer than ten business days in advance of a deadline typically do not allow for adequate time for a review.   If the Dean or designee feels that the disagreement can be resolved informally, they will try to do so, working with the student and the Director of Student Accessibility Services and any other necessary individuals (such as a faculty member, for example). 

    If informal resolution is ineffective or impractical, and/or the student wishes to pursue a formal review and appeal of the Student Accessibility Services accommodation decision, the Dean or designee will review the case file information and alert the student of their decision. Students will also be provided information about the next level of review to the ADA/Rehabilitation Act Coordinator/Chief Compliance Officer.[2]
  • A Next Level Review is a student who disagrees in any way with a decision made during the initial review and may seek the next level of review by submitting an appeal to the ADA Coordinator/Compliance Officer. The Coordinator/Compliance Officer will review the Accessibility Services determination and investigate the matter as needed.[3]  The Coordinator/Compliance Officer will seek information from the instructor or director of the relevant program, office, or activity for which the student is seeking an accommodation, where necessary. The Coordinator/Compliance Officer will present their findings to the Provost, who will decide whether any changes to the original decision should be made.   

If the Provost decides that an additional or different accommodation should be afforded, the Director of Student Accessibility Services will issue a (revised) accommodation letter(s) to the student and any other necessary parties (such as the instructor). If the Provost upholds the initial accommodation determination, they will notify the student, the Director, and the Dean, and the matter will be closed. The review and determination will typically be made within 30 business days of the next level review being sought.[4] 

B. Other Disability Complaints
Informal Resolution

The university generally encourages early resolution of complaints. Typically, that means a resolution between the two individuals involved, such as a student and a faculty member. Students are not required, however, to try to resolve their grievances informally; they can proceed directly to filing a complaint. The ADA/Rehabilitation Act Coordinator may assist students by providing information about the process for disability-based discrimination complaints or facilitating informal resolution when appropriate.  

Formal Complaints
The university has a detailed process for handling discrimination complaints. A complaint must be documented and must include a clear statement of the grounds for the complaint. The ADA/Rehabilitation Act Coordinator may explain the complaint process and what information needs to be included in a complaint.  
IV. Protection from Retaliation

Federal and state law and university policy prohibits any form of retaliation against a person who participates in a grievance process.   Retaliation can take many forms, ranging from students harassing or ostracizing another student to a faculty member excluding a student from an educational activity. The university will take immediate steps to protect students who make a complaint under this procedure when needed. The university will also immediately address any retaliatory actions that occur. 

V. Confidentiality

Reviews and investigations will be conducted confidentially to the greatest extent possible and in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. All participants in the process will be advised of their obligation to maintain confidentiality.

VI. Approval & Amendment

This procedure was approved by the Provost. The Provost has authorized the ADA/Rehabilitation Act Coordinator to make minor and technical amendments and clarifications. 

Technical amendments to update office names and officer titles were made effective January 2013 and to update office locations effective October 3, 2014. Additional technical amendments to update office names were made effective July 15, 2015. Additional technical amendments to update the next level review process and to update contact information were made effective on August 21, 2018. Additional technical amendments to clarify the appeal process were made on January 28, 2021.  

VII. Interpretation & Compliance; ADA/Rehabilitation Act Coordinator

Questions about this procedure or rights and responsibilities concerning discriminatory behavior, including the application of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, may be brought to the university ADA/Rehabilitation Act Coordinator. The ADA/Rehabilitation Act Coordinator has the primary responsibility for coordinating the university’s efforts to comply with the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. These responsibilities include monitoring compliance with related policies and procedures.    

ADA/Rehabilitation Act Coordinator

Carla Costello, Ed.D. ’15
ADA/504 Coordinator
Deputy Compliance Officer
108 James Blair Hall
College of William & Mary
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, Virginia

VIII. Related Policies

[1] Disciplinary action against a faculty member is governed by procedures set forth in the Faculty Handbook.

[2] The Chief Compliance Officer will conduct the investigation when the complaint is about the ADA Coordinator or when the Coordinator needs to recuse themself for just cause. 

[3] The Coordinator may require the student to provide additional information or documentation as necessary. 

[4] This time frame may be adjusted based on the complexity of the matter, the availability of involved parties, or other intervening events or circumstances.   The university is mindful of the importance of promptly and effectively resolving complaints and will make such adjustments only as needed.