Transcript by wuyunqing


									             "The Role of an ADA Coordinator in Post-Secondary Education"
                              Presented by L. Scott Lissner
                                 Friday, March 11, 2011

Marisa Demaya:
So sorry. Very, very sorry, everyone. Good afternoon.
Welcome to our webinar today on "The Role of an ADA Coordinator in Post-Secondary
Education" with L. Scott Lissner, ADA Coordinator with Ohio State University. I'm Marisa
Demaya with the DBTAC Southwest ADA Center here at ILRU. I'll be moderating today's
presentation. For those tuning in today, you may submit your questions by typing them into
the text chat area located on the right side of the screen and under the emoticons there. Press
the ENTER key when you have finished typing to submit your question to us. For those of you
participating by CART, you can enter your question into that chat area as well, or you may also
e-mail them directly to us at Again, thanks for tuning in today! Now, I'm
pleased to welcome L. Scott Lissner.

Scott Lissner:
        Hello. How is everybody this afternoon? Don't answer. I'm going to talk a bit about
the role of ADA coordinator in higher education in particular. I guess the framing piece I would
give to this is in my background I've worked in higher ED I entire career, fairly early I began
working with students as with disabilities as a direct service provide or as the first couple of
cohorts of students what was under the education of all handicapped children act, which is
now IDEA. Right as the ADA was being passed and implemented I had switched jobs. I was at a
new college. I was doing direct service provision, and I went to the vice-president and said,
"Gee, there's this new piece of law." I had been there a couple of weeks. "It's going to require
that we redo our 504 transition plan and that you appoint a ADA coordinator. I assume that
will be your 504 compliance person, and I should probably meet him now that I'm on campus
providing services." And he went to his drawer in his file cabinet and took out after a couple
minutes a fairly thick folder, which was the transition plan from the -- from Section 504, from
back in 1977. I would now know to be surprised, but then it seemed pretty reasonable that he
would have it. And he looked at it and got a sheepish look on his face and said, "Gee, the guy
who was our 504 compliance officer died a few years ago. You're the first person to ask a
reasonable question. You're in charge. Congratulations, I'll talk to your boss."
        So that's, I guess, a caveat as well as kind of an introduction to how I got into doing
compliance. So if we could that advance the slide. This is a brief summary of what would be
the primary mandate in the ADA and Section 504. It's about providing equal and effective
access to our programs benefits and services. It's about integration, Section 504, and there is a
citation there from the Code of Federal Regulations to kind of go with this is kind of the basic
mandate. 504, as most of you know, is a funding-based law. You take federal dollars, you play
by their rules. The ADA, Title II, is focused on state and local government agencies. The ADA is
inherently a civil rights law and owes its authority to the Civil Rights Act and goes beyond
government agencies and government operations and government funded operations to
private businesses and private institutions. If we could go onto the next slide. Real briefly,
what's covered under the ADA that at some level an ADA coordinator has to be cognizant of...
your programs, benefits and services is what it said in the last slide. That's pretty
comprehensive. Communications have some particular -- in the regulation some particular
attention paid to them. And facilities, of course, has some particular attention paid to it.
What's covered essentially are in quotation marks new facilities which under the rehab act, if
you receive federal dollars, and that includes being a private institution and distributing
federal-based financial aid to your students, June 1977 defines when a building became a new
building versus an old building. Construction after that date was covered by the uniform
federal accessibility standards.

          January 1991 would be the date for the first set of ADA standards for accessible design,
coverage by the ADA, which is often referred to as ADAAG, the ADA accessibility guideline. It's
ADAAG when it's at the U.S. access board and a recommendation. Once it had been
incorporated into the regulations it became the ADA standards for accessible design. And in
March 2012 we'll have some new standards, they've been published. You can start to use
them earlier, but you have no choice after March 15th, 2012.
          So that's one way to think about it. Another way to think about it is it covers
employment, and that's all types of employment, full time, part time, faculty, work study
students, you name it, education, all the kinds of education we do, matriculated, non-
matriculated, distance learning, students in practice and internships and et cetera. It doesn't
have to be -- it's not necessarily driven by tuition dollars. Public events are also covered in all
of their various forms, athletics, lectures, concerts, job fairs. If your library is open to the
public, et cetera, those are all kind of covered entities. So if we go onto the next slide.
          As I start to talk about the specific role of an ADA coordinator, I have this quote as kind
of a piece of framework, both I think legally and it's been reemphasized lately and certainly for
me philosophically. It's a quote from William Brennan. It is a case about a teacher who had
tuberculosis and wasn't being allowed to go back to the classroom and she was released by her
physician as able to do so. Ultimately she won her case. It was under Section 504, and this
case was cited a lot as the model of good law when the ADA Amendments were passed in
2008, kind of resetting the definition of disability. So, you know, being focused on the fact that
it is civil rights law and acknowledgment that the myth and fears about disability are as
problematic if not more so than anything that is the actual impairment itself.
          So the core of today is talking a little bit about the role of the ADA coordinator. I'm
going to talk some with -- about a model for that role, go through some of the specific
administrative requirements in the ADA and Section 504, and I include Section 504 both
because there are places where it gives some more specific information and for those of you
that are private colleges, if you take any federal dollars, you're covered by Section 504, which
requires a 504 compliance officer, which is the same role as the ADA coordinator under the
ADA. They're really very similar roles.
          So the primary role is about ensuring compliance since it really flows from 504, the
regulatory role is with federal discrimination law, antidiscrimination laws, but it would be
reasonable to think about state laws at the same time, and this is supposed to be a good
model. Compliance officer and coordinator is not necessarily an advocate, not necessarily an
adversary. Should be a balanced position focused on law and policy rather than just advocacy.
It doesn't mean you don't wind up being an advocate of sorts at times. From my perspective,
good public policy, good law and good institutional policy is the right thing, and if it's the right
thing advocating for it is not really a problem.
         When I interviewed for my current position at OSU, the previous provost -- actually two
provosts back at this point -- who hired me when I asked why are you hiring an ADA
coordinator, at that point it was 10 years since passage of the ADA and 30 years since passage
of 504, why hiring a full-time person to do this now. And he actually said to me, "If we have
someone to help ups do the right thing, compliance should take care of itself." And I'm a firm
believer in that approach.
         So as we move through this, this is kind of a model. I'm going to talk about how you
staff that model some different ways and we'll talk about the legislative requirements. So if
you move past that kind of basic primary thing, clearly helping review policy and refine policy
and practice on campus, working with your senior administration, your Deans, chairs, program
directors, human resources, faculty governance, student life, everybody on campus, if you have
a medical center, a hotel, an extension program, those too, and at some level all these things
need to have the right assurances in place that reasonable accommodations can happen, that
nondiscrimination is being taken care of, that they're informed and not discriminating in the
form of exclusion.
         One of the things you do as ADA coordinator may be to either investigate directly or to
refer to a group that does do investigation complaints about disability discrimination and
harassment. There's surely different models for doing that. I do direct complaint
investigations, but I'm not the only one on campus who can do that. You may want to co-op
groups that are already trained or individuals that are already trained to do other protected
class civil rights investigations, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, et cetera. There is a
place where disability law is different because there are two forms of discrimination under
disability law. There is discrimination in the traditional old-fashioned sense of "We don't want
your kind here. We don't believe individuals in wheelchairs should be doctors." You know,
that kind of discrimination. Then there's also reasonable discrimination, "We don't want to
give extended time on tests. What do you mean giving additional time to someone in their
tenure process?"
         You know, whether it's an employment accommodation, program accommodation,
classroom accommodation, there's that denial of accommodation that would be the other
form of discrimination under disability that traditional EEO affirmative action investigators on
campus may be less familiar with.
         There is consulting directly with managers, supervisors, faculty and staff around
brainstorming accommodations on identifying the resources to make them happen. And
working with your planners and architects or your outside architects and engineers and
facilities folks to make sure that your campus is accessible, your buildings are accessible,
sidewalks and paths of travel. It's all about parking on most college campuses, so you surely
want to pay attention to your parking spaces and accessible parking. But that's another role
where compliance has to happen. And then ideally you would have a role in encouraging -- or
being a catalyst for disability-related initiatives and programs on campus that might be
expansion, clearly not just doing compliance, but doing compliance well or going a little further
than compliance. There's a difference between that minimum compliance, stay out of court
approach, versus seamless access and really embracing the integrative mission of the ADA in
terms of fully integrating individuals with disabilities into all aspects of society.
         Figuring out who serves as the ADA coordinator, some people serve by accident. That's
how I got started. I did that wearing multiple hats, so I was at a small college when that
started. I oversaw our academic support programs. I ran a tutoring program, study skills,
workshops, our services for students with disabilities, a writing lab, a math lab, and placement
testing for incoming students were all run out of my shop, and then eventually I also became
the institutional compliance officer. So I was wearing multiple hats. Clearly that role of
grievance had to be referral. I couldn't grieve complaints against myself. Sometimes it's by
committee, an advisory committee is certainly helpful is there is an officer, but you -- I have
seen compliance setups where someone oversees compliance in the human resources
employment world, someone oversees compliance as a disability service provider to students
and takes care of kind of academic classroom issues. Someone else takes care of facilities. And
they come together as a committee to coordinate their efforts to take care of the broader
trainings, the broader aspects of campus that are shared between offices. Sometimes it's that
appointed person, where they're located, like I said, can vary. Often for those of you out there
in the audience who are service providers, and I recognize a few names, you are visible
because you have to advertise your services. If you're visible, you get the phone calls and kind
of on a practical default level you may become the compliance officer. That's one place to
locate it because you may have the expertise around accommodation, you may know more
about the requirements for reasonable accommodation than most people on your campus.
Other typical locations are within the H.R. office, for somebody who is also doing other
protected class affirmative action, equal opportunity, equal employment opportunity kinds of
roles for a -- for a diversity office to exist either under H.R. or the president's office is another
fairly common model that might have your ADA coordinator/compliance person folded into
that. Whether you're in those offices or a committee, you have to have funding to meet some
of the compliance mandates, either direct cash dollars to spend on fixing buildings and
repairing door openers and funding interpreters and converting materials to Braille, or money
for training, faculty and staff so they can do some of those things, or money in the context of
human capital resources, people to get the job done. So you always need funding. A
complaint about noncompliance is almost never addressed to the disability services office or
the director of equal opportunity or diversity programs on your campus. It usually says, "dear
president, so and so," "dear chancellor, so and so." It is an institutional issue, and there are
parts of that funding that just simply need to be found to stay in compliance in the same way
that you need to meet OSHA standards and other kinds of standards on campus, cybersecurity
standards and those things. So if you spent a lot of money on HIPAA compliance, if you have a
medical center, that's a model of how you spend money on other types of compliance on your
         I don't have a magic answer. It is conceivable to be able to write into your funding or
your fees for students a dollar for every student that is an access infrastructure, but you can't
pass those costs along to that students and employees who need accommodations.
         So as I go through this next set of slides where there are some direct statements in the
regulations, that's one place you might look to that gives you Congress' or the Department of
Education's or the Department of Justice's regulatory definition of the standards for an ADA
compliance officer or a 504 compliance officer. So the way I've done these is there's an
opening slide, this is about self-evaluation. The first reference, the 28 Code of Federal
Regulations reference is Section 504 and the 34 CFR reference is the Title II of the ADA. It is
those two pieces of regulation that have requirements for an ADA coordinator, and we'll talk a
little bit about who's required to have one, but those cover the majority of colleges that are
out there because between one and the other you're covered either under 504 as a private
institution or both as a public.
         Back in 1977, in theory, when 504 first applied, we did self-evaluations to see how we
were going to provide program access. The last slide in this series has a web site, the ADA
coordinator's special interest group from AHEAD. It has grant funded materials from way back
then by a gentleman named Beale who was -- Richard Beale who did a guide to doing your 504
self-evaluation. That's still a pretty useful document. It was a federal copyright. It's available
on that web site that I put a link up to, and that would be a useful guide to do it.
         If you have one and can find one, and the original requirement was to keep it available
to the public for three years, along with your transition plan, how were you going to move
from where you were to where you needed to be in terms of providing access, so you may not
be able to find those, but if you can, it's important to look at it and say, was there any
follow-up done? Did we say these were the buildings that were not accessible, these were the
programmatic access plans we put in place how to move a classroom from the second floor of
a building with no elevator in it to an accessible location, and what's happened to the
environment since then? Have we torn down the building, added an elevator? Are we still
doing that notice and rescheduling routine as our plan and, if so, if we updated it so that the
right name and phone numbers and people know it's out there.
         When Title II passed, when the ADA passed, Title II entities had to update that
transition plan and 504 self-evaluation, and again it was required that it be kept on record for
three years and available to the public. So it may or may not be available. If you have those
things, they're a great piece of document to have as a starting point. There's not an absolute
requirement that you keep track of your entire facility and know what is and isn't accessible,
but it certainly is best practice. It certainly provides you with some protections as we move
from the current 1994 ADA standards of accessible design to the ones that will become
effective in 2012, and it's certainly effective to demonstrate you're paying attention to
compliance and have a policy to work around where you're not accessible.
         If the building is old enough, if it predates those construction dates we talked about
earlier, and hasn't been fully renovated, it may be in technical compliance with the facilities
access. You still have to provide access to the programs that take place, programmatic access.
So you have to have some workaround for those inaccessible facilities, and tracking those
facilities in some kind of plan and having them on the proposal list for funding when eventually
budgets are better again and funding is available is important and a good piece of armor
against complaints and towards doing a good job of institutional compliance.
         The next requirement is notice. Both pieces of regulations require that you provide
         Broadly speaking, it's notice in large publications, in your catalog, in your student
handbook. If those things are online, it should be in those online versions. And the last phrase
in the first blush that says "activities of the government," that's what happens when you edit
slides and don't pay full attention about that that should say institution again. I'm not talking
to a government agency necessarily today. But you have to do some good notice that you're
under coverage of the ADA and Section 504. The Department of Justice in their ADA toolkit
chapter 2 has a great model notice statement. The link for that is in the last slide of resources
and is available to you. That's your large-scale notice. That's the kind of notice you post on the
web. You post in your catalog. You might post outside of H.R. You also want to think about
notice on a finer grain. So that notice of having a focus at the -- you're having a program
announcement about a particular recruitment event, a particular job fair, on a syllabus, a level
of notice that brings it down to if you're participating in this event and you have questions
about access or accommodations, please contact us at...
         it's a reach-out statement and that's a good proactive way to provide seamless access.
         So you need to post that notice. You need to make sure it's available in alternate
formats, and the web becomes a great tool for making sure, assuming your web space is
accessible, that you've done it on an accessible web page in a clear format, that you make it
available digitally goes a long way to making sure it's accessible in alternate formats.
         I'm going to try to speed this up. I know lots of folks had time planned until 4:30, and I
want to leave some time for some questions and answers. So as you have questions, I know
some of you have been typing them in the public chat, and we'll track those and start
answering them as quickly as I can if I don't build them into the conversation to some degree.
         So you have -- the law says you have to designate a responsible person. If you have
more than 50 people and you are a state -- 50 employees and you are a state institution, a
public institution, you're covered by Title II, you have to have a designated ADA coordinator.
Doesn't have to be a full-time person like me. The law does not require a particular skill set,
although best practice and the Department of Justice think there is one. But you have to have
a designated person, and that person has to show up in your notice statements as a contact to
at least take questions about access and take questions about accommodations and take
questions about grievance or complaints in the disability arena and get them to the right
people. If all you have is your lowest paid work study student doing that, you're probably in
trouble. But you have to have somebody designated to do that.
         The next couple of statements are questions from the Title II toolkit, ADA toolkit,
published by the Department of Justice. It's on their web page. There's a link in the last slide.
This is their questions about evaluating do you have an effective ADA coordinator in place.
These would all work for 504 compliance officers. The roles are really the same. It's just if
you're not a public institution, you would be the 504 compliance officer, unless you get no
dollars in federal funding or are a religious -- purely religiously controlled educational
institution. Those are pretty much the only exceptions that would keep you out from either
piece of legislation.
         So do you have the expertise? If it's an add-on to another job, do they have time to
actually carry out those duties given the context, given the size of the institution? Do they
have the resources and authority necessary to either coordinate or require and get done,
spend the money those efforts to comply to get those things to happen?
         Does the ADA coordinator investigate all complaints to the institution alleging that it
does not comply? Somebody has to. The ADA coordinator might be that referral point, but it
also might be the person that does the complaint investigation if they're not making the
first-round decision. But somebody needs to, and that's an item justice would track if it was
doing a review, or the Department of Education might track if it was doing a review of your
         Does the ADA coordinator actually carry out these duties? That's an actual question
they put in the toolkit. In terms of evaluating the ADA coordinator, when they first published
that I had to say I sent it to my boss and said you could use this as my annual review since this
is my full-time job.
         The law also requires that you have a grievance procedure. So that's the next piece. If
you flip to the next slide, please. So what people would grieve is discrimination on the basis of
disability, and that's the new phrasing, as opposed to discrimination against a qualified
individual with a disability. The ADA Amendments act would change the phrasing to
discrimination on the basis of disability. That's now in sync with race, national origin, sex Dot,
Dot, Dot discrimination. It's phrased the same way. There's basically two forms of
discrimination, exclusion, the old-fashioned sense, and failure to accommodate. You can fail to
accommodate by not providing a specific modification or tool they've requested, or you could
fail to accommodate by saying "you're not covered by the ADA and 504, we don't have to
accommodate you." That was the whole purpose of the ADA Amendments act and expanding
and clarifying the definition of disability was because that was happening a lot, that not
consider covered a reason to not accommodate in a way Congress felt was discrimination, was
not what it meant. There are two other issues that are out there, and one is facilities
compliance. So do you meet the standards for access given your construction and renovation
history? And there are some -- there's the possibility of discriminating against somebody
because their spouse, child, whoever has a disability, and you're not willing to allow them
appropriate time off for taking their significant other to therapy, et cetera.
         So a good complaint process has much to notice. People need to know how, when and
where to file a complaint. There needs to be a clear distinction if you try an informal dispute
resolution process, you need to make sure people understand when and how they can kick in
the formal process, and that when should be whenever they're ready. You need to have fairly
tight time frames for how you will process a complaint, collect, information, review it, do
interviews, allow the person a chance to respond and come up with a conclusion.
         You have to have a hearing officer or an investigator who has the right knowledge and
training to actually be there investigating the complaint. I don't need to know everything
about veterinary care of livestock to go out to our veterinary clinic and talk to a customer of
our veterinary clinic that comes in or an employee there about the fact that they need
accommodations. I can understand the relevant aspects of the accommodation process, of
collecting data -- collecting information, doing an investigative interview. I don't need that
content expertise in every field on earth, but you do need to know about accommodation,
about -- a little bit about disability in general, about that reasonable accommodation process
and about that investigating process. We talked about prompt time frames. So there's some
duplication here.
         The hearing officer needs to be free of a conflict of interest. Yes, I'm an employee of
the institution, but beyond that, if there's someone who comes in for a hearing and I worked
on the front line of getting things organized, I'm clearly not the right person to do the
         The investigation needs to be thorough. It needs to be as objective as humanly
possible. You need the individual filing the -- the individual filing the complaint needs an
opportunity to present their evidence. And the people -- the other relevant parties involved
need an opportunity to present their evidence. And you need to provide written results to the
        I will work on a slightly edited set of slides to clean up the couple of typos and things
that they can repost to the web site later. I'm going to do this one really quick. When you're
doing an investigation you have to weigh the evidence. For most disability and
accommodation issues, the standard of evidence you have used is a preponderance of
evidence. Occasionally you might use clear and convincing, but typically you evaluate it as, is
this the most probable -- does the information most probably support the position stated, the
complaint or the opposite of the complaint rather than lots of other possible explanations. It's
not beyond a reasonable doubt. You're not doing a murder trial. So typically these kinds of
claims for disability are done at kind of that preponderance of evidence level. So you need to
be persuaded what most probably supports that position in kind of the most probably
supported position.
        So those are my resource slides. I did manage to do that rather quickly. While we're
organizing the set of questions, I will respond to one that I saw. Religious institutions who
receive federal dollars are covered by Section 504. So if you're distributing student financial
aid on campus, you are required to meet the obligations of Section 504, even if you are -- gee, I
don't think they're out there, but they're friends of mine -- if you're at the Methodist
theological seminary in Ohio, you are working hard to meet your 504 qualifications because
you are there. Other questions? Other questions?
        >> M. DEMAYA: Thank you so much, Scott. Wow! Thank you, everybody, too, for your
patience and you as well, Scott. We want to thank everyone again for staying with us through
the technical difficulty.
        This question is: Are there any national ADA coordinator standards? For example,
based on size of institution.
        >> S. LISSNER: The only -- there are two things you can look at that give you some basis
for saying standards. One is the Title II toolkit that I mentioned that's on the resource slide.
The other is not on the resource slide, but there is a book focused on ADA coordinators in
higher education. It was published by LRP, Virginia Reilly was one of the authors. It was
Virginia Reilly, Joni Friend and Barbara Judy from JAN, were the three authors, and if that's still
available, it was a Delphi study from working ADA coordinators. They talked about what were
the essential elements of the role. So it is -- it's well researched and well written. I have a
philosophical schism with Delphi studies because they inherently look for the common
denominator and there are some, I'm not sure, good compliances about what everybody does.
It might be about what the best person does. So I just have a method issue with that approach.
But those two are there.
        The national association of ADA coordinators, NADAC, is a good group. They do a
couple workshops a year. They do some great training. But they don't publish standards, and
in the sense that you can go out and get the WC3 standards for the web or something like that,
there aren't really ADA standards out there.
        >> M. DEMAYA: Okay. Next question is: Could you expand a bit on the idea of a
compliance committee and their duties or role?
         >> S. LISSNER: For me, there are kind much three models for how you might do a
compliance committee on your campus. If you're not going to appoint a full-time ADA
coordinator and you don't have the resources to devote the manpower to that, and this might
be particularly relevant to a smaller institution, where you're already wearing 12 hats, and -- so
one model would be a group of individuals who are solicited in part for their expertise and in
part for their knowledge around disability. You would certainly want some individuals with
disabilities on it. And it might follow the model of many of your advisory committees on
campus. It might have a little more decision-making authority, and it might have a budget
affiliated to it, and when you move from just advisory about policy and practice to they can
spend money and they help make decisions and are operational at some level, it usually means
your expertise includes, say, your director of facilities, possibly your disability service provider,
whoever has that tag, possibly your -- somebody from the budget office, someone from faculty
governance or academic affairs. Those are kind of your content area control expertise and
then you would that want some students, faculty, staff with disabilities, possibly tapping some
expertise if you have a rehabilitation counseling program or special education program or a
disability studies program on your campus. So that's kind of one model.
         Another model would be a director's model so it is a group of somebody who actually
has the role of ADA compliance for a unit within the organization. You might have a facilities
person who does building access and is responsible for compliance in that end of the world,
somebody from H.R. who does H.R., somebody who's responsible for access for students,
someone who is responsible to think about other program participants, public, that comes into
the campus, and that group coordinates their efforts and becomes a compliance committee.
So you can have kind of the motivated committee that are like many committees on our
campuses, that's usually an advisory group. You can have the subset of ADA coordinators with
some facilitating person controlling the group or kind of a mixed model in between. Those are
kind of the group-compliant models I've seen follow along those dimensions.
         >> M. DEMAYA: Okay. Thank you, Scott. Another person would like to know: Are there
any regulations regarding giving students notice of the grievance procedure?
         >> S. LISSNER: Both the -- the Department of Education has some good models of how
you include notice of the grievance procedures on their web page. Now let me think for a
minute. Did I do their -- I did a link in my resources actually to their complaint -- their
complaint processing manual, but if you stopped after -- even if you go to that page, if you look
at the top of the page there will be a link to reading room. And if you go to reading room you
can get their model statements for combined notice and it has a good notice for a grievance
process. It simply needs to be in the right places. So you need to reach students. You need to
reach employees for their parts in the process. And it needs to be places the general public
might see it if they come to your campus for lectures, workshops, sporting events, whatever.
So it needs to go there. And it needs to say, here's the contact person, here is who to call if
you have questions about access, complaints about access around disability. So it has to be
clear that it's about disability and in places that reaches those folks.
         Once they're there, then you should have a published policy they can link to that gives
the time frame, when you file a complaint here is what we try to do, outlines the process, and
you might very much use the outline of the process that was on my -- the slide a few slides
back as a way of crafting that policy.
         >> M. DEMAYA: Okay. Good stuff, Scott. Another question: On standards of evidence,
does the burden of proof lie on the institution or on the individual?
         >> S. LISSNER: Well, that depends on whether you're doing an internal investigation or
you're in court or you're -- so let me -- in the context I was using it, if I'm doing an investigation
and a student or an employee or a visitor from off campus comes in and says "I was
discriminated against, I asked for this accommodation and was refused, they wouldn't do it, or
they excluded me because they don't like me because I'm in a wheelchair," and I'm
interviewing that individual, other parties involved, investigating whether or not that took
place the way the student described it or participants described it or whether -- it took place in
another way, the standard of evidence I use to evaluate the complaint information that I
collect is that preponderance of evidence. So simplistically speaking, and it's never as easy as
that, there is the statement "they discriminated against me," and I can ask, "is that the most
probable explanation given the evidence that I've collected, given what the student has told
me or the participant has told me, given what the service provider or event organizer has told
me, given what I've selected in way of my investigation, is the student's complaint, does it
seem supported by that evidence at that level?"
         If the answer is yes, then I'm making a finding that there seems to have been some
discrimination, I'm an internal grievance process, not the office for civil rights from the
Department of Education, not the Department of Justice and a not a court, but I'll kind of
follow their processing manual and I'll find there's probable cause to think there was
discrimination here. Let's find a solution. I'm about problem solving, not about just saying
"guilty." That solution may be reeducation. It may be reenrolling the program participant in
something. It may be some level of compensation. When I talk about your complaint process
has to wind up with somebody with the authority to carry out the decision, you don't want to
say, gee, they missed out on something and the solution is give them money or waive their
tuition for a semester or give them 50-yard line seats to every OSU home game. You know,
that's a highly valuable piece of commodity. If I don't have the authority to give those things
out, I certainly can't be offering them up as the results of -- as a resolution unless I go clear it
with somebody. And so some level of authority there. So that level of evidence applies to the
question "has discrimination taken place the way they described it?"
         And there's more information on that aspect of doing interviews and coming to a
conclusion in both of the compliance manuals, case manuals I've given links to. So I gave a link
to the EEOC's compliance manual and to the Department of Education's office for civil rights
case processing manual, and they're online and they have a lot of useful information and have
a lot of information about to conduct a review of a complaint.
         >> M. DEMAYA: They sure do, Scott. Lots of good information here.
         Going back to the topic of the grievance procedure, this question is: Our school's
grievance procedure is posted to the office of student services, but must a disability services
office also offer their own grievance procedure?
         >> S. LISSNER: I would be careful about me using the word "must." I think it's good
practice to do something. So let me take the disability services office -- you know, kind of that
perspective and the process. There's two grievances I might see. One is, what do you do when
a student disagrees with you about the accommodations you think the student should have?
You say they don't have a disability or that their documentation doesn't support extended time
on testing or non-distractive test environment or single room in the residence hall. If that's the
case, you need to have some -- where do you refer the student? You might do a quick internal
review, if you're a big enough office, that you have a director and a couple of staff members.
You might staff it, do a review, come back to the student. No, we're sure this is our answer.
Here's where to go. Grieve our decision if you disagree. If you don't give them a place to go
internally, they can always go to the office for civil rights, the Department of Justice, the local --
the state civil rights commission or go find a lawyer. So you should do that, give that internal
         The next one is you and the student have an accommodation in mind and a program
director, faculty member, somebody says no, and you might have an internal review there
where you try to mediate with the faculty member a little bit or the program director, and you
might go and have a short process that says, we'll go and we'll talk to them and say what's your
concern, why don't you think extended time will work, and they say, well, I'm a nurse teaching
triage. And you go, okay, I can see where -- I would like extra time to make a decision about
who dies first might be a problem, and so you say, tell me more. Are your exams hypothetical
case studies, scenarios or are you asking about the definition of a tourniquet? The definition of
a tourniquet doesn't seem to be essential that I answer it quickly. A scenario about here's a
description of a three-wounded people, who goes first, who goes second, who goes third into
surgery, I can see where extended time would be inappropriate there. So that first stage
informal or review of your initial decision makes some sense, and then if you can't agree, it
needs to go up the ladder to someone who can mediate that resolution. But you also need a
process where the faculty member can say I don't agree and I'm grieving this as much as the
student. If you and the student agree and the faculty member doesn't, we get to that, the test
is tomorrow morning, the grievance process isn't going to be instantaneous, what do we do?
My answer is the disability service provider in that context probably has reading and
understanding documentation and understanding the needs of disability and making
accommodation decisions built into their job description in a way that the accounting faculty
member does not, and so I believe that in most circumstances you would want the disability
service provider to be the decision-maker of first resort. If there is a -- if the test is this
afternoon. Give the accommodation. Seal the test up after the student has taken it. Don't
grade it. Then you can grieve it depending on the grievance you can open it up and grade the
test or you can decide to administer another test without the accommodation. That's a much
cleaner process than grieving it and discovering the accommodation was appropriate, you
didn't give it. How do you do a make-up test? How do you reconsider the student's great?
There's a lot of subjective issues in there that leave room for retaliation complaint. So it's kind
of cleaner the other way around.
         So in that sense, yes, you would have a process. The next step up might be process
that's used for race, gender, sexual orientation, et cetera.
         >> M. DEMAYA: Okay. Trying to keep up with all these great questions here, Scott.
         Someone is asking: At OSU is your position the only position that handles these cases,
that is -- or is there another person who handles student ADA issues and a person who handles
employ employees ADA issues. And also who at OSU is responsible for facilities and the ADA.
Is there like a team of responsible parties?
         >> S. LISSNER: I'll give you my short answer first and then I'll give you my medium
answer, because -- my short answer is, I am the largest office on campus because I have about
29,379 employees, everyone is responsible for access at OSU. So having done my PR that's a,
all work for me. It's everyone's job. Here's how we're set up at OSU. It may be a good model
for some of you. It mate need a bit of adaption for others. I have a full-time job as the ADA
compliance officer and 504 compliance officer for the institution. If you go to my office web
page, which is, I think, on the last slide that has some bio information for me, scroll down to
the bottom, you can find my job description, but I have a full-time job, and I work with other
units on campus. We have an office for disability services that reports to student life. I report
to the provost. So we have an office for disability services that does the day-to-day work with
students. If they can't come up with a satisfactory resolution, if a student and them disagree, I
help them resolve it. I'm the grievance guy. I do some professional development and some
policy development with them and we have a good relationship. And if they have a conflict
with the faculty member, the director over there will do a round of trying to make it work, but
if between her counselors and her directors they can't make it work, I'm the grievance guy for
that. I have a slightly -- and I do a little more direct work with some of the graduate students
who are in unique positions or some of our placement students I might get involved a little
quicker if we're trying to negotiate with a student teaching placement or a hospital site
placement for a nursing student, but that's basically how we're set up.
        I have evolving but similar relationship with our central human resources office,
although I do a little more direct problem solving around employment issues because we're
just building that expertise over there. When I was hired our integrated disability benefits
office was one woman running as fast as she could. There was only so much work could make
her do. We've grown that office in part because we wrote a really good return to work policy
that saved us so much work on our Worker's Comp fees and insurance fees that we were able
to fund a P.T. -- a P.T. and five counselors to help with our return to work BWC short-term
disability claims and they've taken on a role of doing a lot of the front-line accommodations
that are straightforward for employees and left me free to do more of the grievance process,
but we also have some grievance officers in employee relations, and in our legal affairs office
who have the right background to be able to do disability cases if I've been involved up front. I
have a close working relationship with three different facilities offices because of who we are
and our size. They each have a liaison that works with me, but my office does do blueprint
reviews and consults with them and the consulting architects and helps them keep on top of
the changing standards and that stuff. That's a role that I play, but they have a liaison in each
of our facilities offices.
        So that's -- I guess, a reasonable depiction. I do a lot of policy reviews. I do a lot of
training on campus. I do a lot of informing individuals about changing needs and regulations
and try to be proactive and look at campus initiatives like distance learning or new web
software, et cetera. I do have a contact in our chief information officer's office who is kind of a
point person over there. I have a staff personally that is an assistive technology person who
does a lot of support for the H.R. unit in terms of employees who need assistive technology.
He works with our purchasing and computer folks on making sure things are accessible. And
we have a full-time web accessibility director who has got some part-time staff and one
full-time -- all part-time staff, one full graduate teaching assistant, who I actually share with our
office for disability services. I have a couple of -- I have an office staff person and a couple of
graduate assistants and work study students here in the office. We've intentionally tried to
keep my office small, where I spend that money bringing in a consultant doing some training,
sending someone from the architect's office to training, because if I've got to stay up on top of
everything they're doing in our construction plan, it's never going to happen. So I would rather
that person be embedded there than hanging out in my office.
         >> M. DEMAYA: How common is it that the ADA coordinator and director of student
disability services is the same individual?
         >> S. LISSNER: I used to be both those people, and it's not terribly uncommon. I don't
know if I could give you a statistical answer as a recovering statistics teacher. I'm hesitant to
say. But it's certainly not uncommon. You have a stronger obligation there to make sure
you're pulled out of the grievance process if it has involved decisions you've made. So if you're
directing an office and you're determining accommodations for students and you're staffing
them -- or working closely with your counselors about making decisions in round one, they
can't come to you round two to grieve that complaint as part of the formal process. You can
talk to them informally, but you want to be very clear that there's another office to go to,
another person to go to. It's less problematic with employees and visitors where you may not
have been the person making the initial -- setting up the complaint, so to speak. You may not
have been a participant in that exchange or that performance. So it's doable. Ideally you
would be different people. In a small institution, both inside and outside the role of ADA
coordinator I'm afraid it happens a lot.
         Now, I recognize we're at 4:28 and we technically ran until 4:30. We started late. I can
hang out a little bit if the technology is available for --
         >> M. DEMAYA: I think we have one -- we'll do one last question, and this is also kind of
maybe sounds like a bit of a compliment. They want to know, do you work with your local
disability community in a consulting role?
         >> S. LISSNER: So you haven't flipped to the very last slide, which maybe you want to
get to my bio slide while people are signing up. Yes, that would be a big yes. I'm -- one of my
assigned roles is a liaison to the disability community. So I take that role to heart, as you can
see, so I'm on our governors council for people with disabilities, the ADA Ohio is the state
steering committee for the great lakes regional DBTAC. So I'm involved with them and do a lot
of work with Robin Jones and Peter Berg and those folks. I've been on our HAVA committee.
I'm on the city' advisory committee. So, yes, I do. I do a little work on the side. Occasionally.
But most of my work in Ohio winds up being either under the rubric of OSU as a land grant
institution serving the state or as an appointee to the governor's council. I do a little less
consulting work inside the state. That's not an advertisement. I'm pretty busy and don't have
time to do lots more but I do do a bit of that.
         >> M. DEMAYA: Sounds like you do quite a bit.
         >> S. LISSNER: Yes.
         >> M. DEMAYA: Okay. Well, I think -- if there's anything else we've missed this
afternoon, we will certainly e-mail the questions to Scott and he'll send us back his answers. I
think there was just a couple, Scott. We'll post those on the web site along with the archived
version every today's presentation. I want to give a big, big, big thanks to you, Scott, for your
patience as well as our audience today for their patience and hanging out with us while we got
through our technical issues. Again, we invite everyone to go to our web site and complete an
evaluation. We certainly want your feedback. Again, a recording of today's presentation will
be available on our web site at And you can click on the webcast calendar link to
take you to that. So please feel free to share that information with anyone who you feel might
benefit. Again, this webinar is sponsored by the National Institute On Disability Rehabilitation
and Research, NIDRR, who funds your host for today's program, the DBTAC Southwest ADA
Center. Again, a thousand thanks to you, Scott, our presenter, for chatting with us today.
Thanks again to our webinar team at ILRU and to Closed Caption Productions for providing our
captioning today. We would like to remind everyone the opinions and views expressed today
are those of the presenter and therefore no endorsement of the sponsoring agency should be
inferred. Again, thank you everyone for joining us today. We hope you'll join us again soon.
And thank you, Scott.
       >> S. LISSNER: Not a problem.
       >> M. DEMAYA: Take care.
       >> S. LISSNER: Thank you.

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