Holy Names University
HNU Homepage
header-1 header-3 header-2 header-4

Pathways to Academic Success (Disability Support Services) Handbook

Hospitality, a core value of the Sisters of the Holy Names, means we seek to provide access to the total educational experience for everyone.

About Pathways to Academic Success (PAS)

The mission of Pathways to Academic Success (PAS) is to ensure the rights and promote the self-awareness and self-advocacy of students with disabilities throughout the University. PAS collaborates with faculty, administration, and staff to create and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment that provides equitable learning opportunities for students with disabilities. PAS policies are guided by current disability legislation. PAS is available for any student with an eligible physical, medical, sensory, psychological, learning, or other disability that impacts the major life-activity of learning. Students with a documented, eligible disability are able to receive reasonable, appropriate, and individualized academic accommodations, auxiliary aides, and services to provide equal access to HNU’s educational opportunities.

Back to the Top

Contact Information

Polly Mayer
Coordinator, Pathways to Academic Success (DSS)
Holy Names University
3520 Mountain Blvd
Oakland, CA 94619
(510) 436-1394
(510) 436-1106, non-confidential fax

Back to the Top


It is the policy at Holy Names University to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and state and local regulations regarding students and applicants with disabilities. Pursuant to these laws, no qualified individual with a disability shall unlawfully be denied access to, participation in, or benefits from any services, programs, or activities of Holy Names University. It is possible that these laws may be amended in the future and in such instances, the most current applicable laws shall represent University policy as it applies to the nondiscrimination on the basis of disability.

According to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, “a person with a disability includes any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.” The additional terms below help to clarify the ADA definition of disability.

  • Major Life Activities - Refers to functions such as caring of one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
  • Physical Impairment - Includes but is not limited to conditions affecting one or more of the following body systems and organs: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory and speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, lymphatic, skin, and/or endocrine.
  • Mental Impairment - Includes but is not limited to mental, psychological, and psychiatric conditions such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, brain injury, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
  • Learning Disabilities - A heterogeneous group of conditions manifested by significant difficul ties or differences in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities.

A person with disability must be ensured the same access to programs, opportunities, social life, and activities at the University as all others. Existing barriers, whether physical, programmatic, or attitudinal, must be removed whenever possible. There must be an ongoing vigilance to ensure that new barriers are not erected. The University is strongly committed to promoting and achieving equitable learning opportunities and participation for students with disabilities.

Back to the Top

Accessing Accommodations

Students are strongly encouraged to present their Accommodations Contract to faculty prior to or at the beginning of each term in order to help ensure the provision of needed accommodations. Students’ strengths and needs may change based upon the requirements of each particular class, so appropriate accommodations may vary from class to class. It is often advisable to put specific course adjustments in writing, signed by and copied to both the student and instructor. The Coordinator of Pathways to Academic Success is available for consultation and to otherwise assist in this process.

Back to the Top

Updating Accommodation Contracts and Other Records

Accommodations Contracts are valid for a maximum of one year from the date of issue. Students must make an appointment annually at minimum with the Coordinator of Pathways to Academic Success to renew their accommodation letters. Additional disability documentation is usually unnecessary in the annual renewal appointments. This annual meeting allows the Coordinator to share important information about new policies and procedures; activities and opportunities; and auxiliary aids and services. In addition, students are to schedule an appointment at the conclusion of the initial term for which they are receiving accommodations to review and modify the accommodations as necessary. As needs change, students are encouraged to contact the Coordinator of Pathways to Academic Success at any time if they wish to request adjustments to their contracts. Given that all PAS documentation is kept confidentially in the PAS Office, it is important for students to notify the Pathways to Academic Success Office directly of changes in addresses or phone numbers.

Back to the Top


Confidentiality of students seeking or enrolled in Pathways to Academic Success is a very high priority. The Coordinator keeps confidential all correspondences, conversations, and disability documentation provided by the student, except when disclosure is authorized by the student or in the rare instances where disclosure is required by law. Students must provide a copy of their accommodations letters to specific faculty and staff to receive accommodations, and faculty and staff are required to maintain confidentiality regarding the information contained therein. Although disclosure is sometimes helpful , students are not required to disclose the nature of their disability to faculty or staff when seeking accommodations or access to auxiliary aids or services.

Back to the Top

Prospective Students

All prospective students are protected by law from discrimination based on disability status when seeking admission to college. You should know that the presence of a disability may not help or hinder you in your candidacy for admission to Holy Names University. If you are qualified based on our admission standards, you will not be discriminated against on the basis of the presence of a disability.

During the admissions process, it is the responsibility of staff members in the Admissions Office to refer you to the PAS Office after you indicate to them that you have a disability or if they discover during the process of applying to the University that you have a disability.

When the Coordinator of Pathways to Academic Success learns that you may have a disability, the Director can provide you information about available support services. The director can also provide you an overview of how to apply for accommodations once you enroll at HNU.

The University may retain or return disability related documents used during the admissions process; however, you may be required to resubmit them or others to determine eligibility for accommodations at any time after you enroll.

Entrance Math and English Assessments

Following acceptance to the University, if you believe you are eligible for testing accommodations to complete the entrance Math and English Assessments, you must contact the Coordinator of Pathways to Academic Success as soon as possible for assistance. Academic advising and course registration cannot occur prior to completion of the Math and English Assessments, so prompt attention to this matter is critical. Holy Names University offers alternate testing formats and other auxiliary aids to eligible students.

Back to the Top

Rights and Responsibilities

All students have the right to equal access to educational opportunities, regardless of disability status. These rights are supported by current legislation that holds the University responsible for providing adequate disability support services and reasonable accommodations. Accessing these services and accommodations is the shared responsibility of the individual student, the PAS Office, and the University as a whole.

The University is responsible to ensure that all of its programs – including but not limited to academic offerings, housing, student organizations, and support services – are nondiscriminatory and accessible to all students. In order to ensure accessibility, the University must make individualized and reasonable accommodations, adjustments, substitutions, and waivers that do not pose an undue burden on the college or alter the fundamental nature of a course or program. As such, the PAS Office must be responsive to student needs and inquiries, act as a student advocate, make appropriate support referrals, and continue to develop new resources. The University must disseminate information about availability and changes in services, as well as policies and procedures for accessing services and filing grievances. The University cannot limit eligibility for financial assistance or scholarships based on disability. The University cannot charge for necessary accommodations. However, it can select among equally effective accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

Individual students are responsible for self-identifying to PAS and providing necessary documentation of disability. Students have a right to privacy and are not otherwise required to share the specifics of their disability. Once determined eligible for accommodations, students are responsible for self-identifying to faculty or staff from whom they wish to request accommodations. Students are also responsible for communicating educational and other support needs, as well as informing PAS, faculty, and staff about what is and is not working well. Students must directly notify PAS of changes in contact information to facilitate communication, given that PAS records are kept separately from other University records. As all Holy Names University students, students with disability accommodations are responsible for maintaining the required academic and institutional standards. Students are also responsible for updating their accommodations letters annually, as well as informing PAS of changes in contact information, as well as educational and support needs as they arise.

These shared responsibilities between student and University are reflected in the policies, procedures, resources, and suggestions described throughout this handbook.

Back to the Top

Services in College vs. K-12

Students accustomed to receiving services for their disabilities in their K-12 education should be aware that responsibilities shift when entering the University. Different laws guide the provision of services in each setting.

Upon entering the University, students are considered independent, self-determining, responsible adul ts with privacy and confidentiality protections. Whereas parental involvement is central in K-12 education, University faculty and staff are prohibited from discussing students’ academic activities with parents or guardians, except when authorized specifically by the student. Students themselves must obtain diagnostic summaries or assessment resul ts and must self-identify to the DSS Office by providing written disability documentation. The Coordinator of Pathways to Academic Success will determine eligibility and develop an individualize accommodations contract.

Following enrollment in PAS, students must request recommended and approved accommodations, auxiliary aids, and services from individual faculty and staff. It is also the student’s responsibility to request assistance from the PAS Office when needed, and to regularly communicate with the PAS Office to assist them in assessing changing needs and keeping the Accommodations Contract current. The PAS Office is responsible for providing support, advocacy, and referrals to assist the student in accessing and utilizing appropriate resources and strategies. The PAS Office must also keep students informed of their rights and responsibilities, as well as changes in available resources, policies, and procedures.

Back to the Top

Self-Awareness and Self-Advocacy

An important goal of PAS is to assist students in becoming effective, independent self-advocates. This process begins with self-awareness. A student’s understanding of his or her own disability is critical to meeting the educational and other needs that will allow him or her to perform up to potential. Students who are good self-advocates are able to use well-developed interpersonal and communication skills to speak on their own behalf, explaining their needs in concrete terms. A good self-advocate understands his or her disability and its impact on academics. Such students are the experts on their disability-related academic needs and can give examples and suggestions that will help them learn best. Further, they are able to define their disability in plain language and in such a way that others can better understand this aspect of their life experience. They understand the laws protecting their rights as students with disabilities and know how to access resources and ask for assistance when needed. Often a student’s success correlates with self-awareness, self-advocacy, and a general openness toward discussing his or her disability when beneficial.

Back to the Top

Eligibility for Accommodations

The first step in accessing PAS is determining whether a disability can be considered ‘eligible’ under the guidelines of current disability legislation. The PAS Coordinator is responsible for making this decision. The student is responsible for initiating this first step by providing the PAS Coordinator with written documentation of disability, usually in the form of a letter or clinical/testing summary. In most cases, written documentation must contain each of the following:

  • Diagnosis. Diagnosis of the disability must be clear and specific. Psychological disabilities must be based on DSM IV criteria. Physical, medical, and sensory disabilities must be defined by a clear medical diagnosis. Learning disabilities must be characterized using standardized testing methods that identify areas of strengths, as well as areas of differences or difficulty. The characteristics of the diagnosis should be detailed as much as possible, particularly with regard to its relevance to learning.
  • Date of Diagnosis. The initial date of evaluation/treatment for the disability.
  • Assessment Procedures. This may include a description of the initial diagnostic assessment/evaluation procedures, as well as the most current corroborating information. For physical, medical, or sensory disabilities, this may include a physical exam or specific diagnostic exams. For learning disabilities, this most often includes a description of the particular assessment tests and tools utilized. For psychological disabilities, this primarily consists of a psychological evaluation.
  • Current Summary. Summaries should include an assessment of the severity of the disability, current symptoms, and future prognosis. It should address how the condition has or is expected to limit the life-activity of learning.
  • Treatment. It is necessary to provide a description of any current or planned treatment interventions, expected prognosis following treatment, and known or anticipated compliance with treatment. Of particular importance, medication regimens and potential effects of use or nonuse of medications must be detailed.
  • Recommendations for Accommodations. This is one of the most important components of information to assist the Director in determining appropriate accommodations. Each specific recommendation must also include a detailed justification.
  • Signature and Qualifications. Information in the letter must be certified with the signature and full name of the qualified professional who evaluated and diagnosed the student, as well as that person’s credentials.
    • For a physical, medical, or sensory disability, the qualified individual may be a physician, physical or occupational therapist, or other licensed medical professional.
    • For a psychological disability, the qualified professional may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other licensed mental healthcare provider.
    • For learning disabilities, the qualified professional may be an educational therapist, psychologist, or other licensed professional. Documentation should include a history of accommodations in educational settings such as IEP's, 504's, and/or a letter for the school describing accommodations provided.

Check with the PAS Coordinator if you are uncertain of the qualifications of your provider for the purpose of providing documentation. In addition, if the name of the professional who prepared the report is different, the prepare’s signature, full name, title, and credentials must also be included.

Required documentation varies depending in part on the type of disability. In some cases, the Coordinator may be able to determine eligibility based on less information than what is detailed above. In other cases, the Director may request updated or additional documentation if the documentation provided is greater than three years old or fails to demonstrate eligibility. The Coordinator is available to provide more specific information and to assist the student throughout this process.

In cases where eligibility for services is likely, but there is an unavoidable delay in obtaining current documentation, it may be possible to institute “Provisional Accommodations” Typically, such accommodations will expire at the end of the term in which it was instituted, or at an agreed upon date when updated documentation is likely to have become available and the interim accommodations are replaced by an accommodations letter.

Back to the Top

Common Accommodations

Students enrolled in PAS receive an individualized Accommodations Contract, which must be signed by both the student and Coordinator of Pathways to Academic Success. The purpose of an accommodations letter is to ‘level the playing field’ by providing equal access to educational opportunities readily available to students without disabilities. Reasonable accommodations must preserve the academic standards, integrity, essential content, and fundamental aspects of University courses and programs and avoid placing undue burden on the University. The PAS Coordinator is responsible for making fair, informed decisions regarding appropriate and reasonable accommodations for individual students. These may include student preferences and written recommendations, as well as reasonable alternative solutions.

Below is a list of some typical accommodations:

  • Lecture Content Access. Involves provision of instructor’s lecture notes, when available and appropriate. PAS is available to provide guidance to instructors interested in adopting Universal Design approaches, such as creating class notes for all students. Lecture content access also typically involves informal arrangements to copy class notes from a peer. Another effective approach is tape-recording lectures using an external microphone and placing the recorder at the front of the class.
  • Extended Assignment and Exam Deadlines. Such accommodations are particularly helpful for students with certain types of learning disabilities, or students who may need additional time to make use of adaptive software or equipment.
  • Alternate Examination Formats. This may include extended time, a distraction-reduced environment, oral rather than written exams, use of word processor on exams, permission to use a spelling dictionary.
  • Adaptive Software. Kurzweil 3000 reading software allows students to scan in text and have the text ‘read aloud’ to them. Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice-to-text software is sometimes helpful for students with physical or learning disabilities that make writing by typing or with pen and paper difficult. Other types of adaptive software, including Inspiration essay-writing software, will become available in the near future. Orientation to each software program is provided by the PAS Office from staff and/or peer mentors, or via cross-registration in a computer access course offered at Merritt College just a few minutes up the hill.
  • Adaptive Equipment. May include access to magnification equipment, large print keyboards, assistive listening devices, video captioning.
  • Alternative Media. HNU is a member of Learning Ally and Bookshare and a certain number of books may be ordered through that service, PAS can also assist with large print materials, or electronically-formatted documents.
  • Physical Assistance. Priority attempts are made to schedule courses for students with mobility-limitations into accessible classrooms. Such accommodations require students to maintain frequent communication with PAS Coordinator regarding their course registration.
  • Ergonomic Solutions. Students may receive assistance with retrieval of and access to books, materials, and equipment. PAS is available to orient students to campus accessibility and provide additional assistance with accessing various campus locations.
  • Course Substitutions and Waivers. At the discretion of instructor, department chair, PAS Coordinator, Academic Affairs, and Registrar.
  • Flexibility. To meet the needs of students with specific disabilities, a reasonable level of flexibility is provided around unexpected or frequent absences resulting from a disability. Flexibility can also be offered in the classroom, by allowing students to sit, stand, or move around as needed to accommodate a disability.
  • Reduced Credit Load. If specifically recommended by a licensed provider or if the Coordinator of Pathways to Academic Success determines this is a reasonable accommodation for a particular student based on other available documentation, students in the traditional mode may be considered full-time if enrolled in the equivalent of 9 semester units. Reduced credit load may have Financial Aid implications, students must consul t with the Office of Financial Aid in addition to PAS.
  • Other Disability-Specific Accommodations. Each student’s situation is considered individually and may include accommodations not listed above, such as ASL interpretation for a student who is deaf.

In addition to providing accommodations, the PAS Office also recommends other strategies or provides referrals that may further assist the student academically. Students are encouraged to make an appointment with the PAS Coordinator or stop by the office to learn more about available resources.

  • Community Resources. The PAS Coordinator often refers or acts as a liaison between the student and other support agencies or services. This may include referrals to medical, educational, or mental healthcare providers or non-profits providing community service to individuals with disabilities. It may include government agencies, such as the Office of Civil Rights or the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR). The DOR can assist by providing specific accommodations, tuition support, auxiliary aids, or services to assist qualified students in completing an academic program that will lead to future employment.
  • Campus Resources. Students may be referred to the Counseling Center for supportive counseling, the Learning Center for tutoring, the campus Ombudsperson for assistance with complex issues that involve navigating multiple campus departments, or Career Resources for employment or internship information.

The PAS Coordinator is also always available to provide ongoing advising, support, and assistance.

Back to the Top

Tips for Students

  • Learn about your disability. The more you understand it yourself, the better you can identify situational or environmental circumstances that help or hinder you. Learn about how to explain your disability to your instructors, advisor, friends, and others. Establishing open relationships with other people can benefit you in the long run. On the other hand, don’t feel pressured to discuss your disability unless you want to, or unless you perceive a potential benefit from sharing. If disclosing your disability doesn’t feel comfortable, keep the focus of conversations on your concrete needs and accommodations.
  • Identify priorities and set realistic goals.
  • Get and use a date book or organizer to help you keep track of important deadlines. Develop good time management skills.
  • Attend class on time and sit in a location where you can best listen.
  • Meet with your instructor at the beginning of each course and throughout the term as necessary. Review your accommodations letter, and make plans for class-specific accommodations well in advance. Academic planning for an entire term that incorporates accommodations will be most beneficial in the long run.
  • Get to know and develop relationships with your professors. Introduce yourself, and get to know them. Write down questions as they come up, and take advantage of your instructors’ office hours to answer questions. Before meeting with a professor, prepare what you want to say at the meeting, and decide what you hope to accomplish. Discuss with your PAS Coordinator effective strategies for communicating with your instructors. Be open-minded to accommodations proposed by your professors that differ from those that are included in your accommodations letter.
  • Develop a relationship with your advisor. Meet with him or her at least once per term. Your advisor can be an ongoing support and advocate for you throughout your college career.
  • Meet with the PAS Coordinator often, especially if you are having difficulty. Don’t wait until a small problem becomes a big one.
  • Develop good study habits. Find a good place to study – preferably outside of your room. Determine habits and circumstances that help or hinder your studying, such time of day, location, what and when you eat. If you prefer being alone, with a tutor, or in a study group helps, be sure to make such study arrangements.
  • Ask for help as soon as it is necessary.
  • Find out about the many resources available both on campus and in the community.
  • Develop a support network. Dealing with all the responsibilities of college life can be overwhelming. It’s important to have people that you know you can count on.
  • Find places of refuge from the demands of college life, whether it is your bedroom, a local park, the beach, or a coffee shop. Don’t underestimate the restorative power of some time alone.

Back to the Top

Appeal and Grievance Procedures

Students who wish to file an appeal or grievance regarding their eligibility or access to disability support services are encouraged to seek informal resolution of disputes as the first course of action. Holy Names University additionally supports students’ rights to access more formal resolution procedures when needed.

Students may address a written appeal or grievance to the PAS Coordinator, if appropriate. The appeal should contain the name, address, and phone number of the student with a detailed description of the grievance within 90 calendar days of the incident. The Coordinator will respond within 15 working days, with the exception of complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability, to which the Coordinator will respond within 90 calendar days. If the student does not find the Coordinator’s resolution to be satisfactory, he or she may initiate a second appeal to the Vice President for Academic Affairs within 15 working days of the Coordinator’s decision. The Vice President will respond within the same timeline for the initial appeal. There is no further University appeal.

At any time a student may file a grievance with the United States Department of Education, office of Civil Rights. Such a grievance must be filed no later than 180 days after the alleged discriminatory act, or within 60 days of the final University decision.

California Office:
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Civil Rights, Region IX
Old Federal Building, Room 239
San Francisco, CA 94102-4102
Phone: (415) 556-4275
TDD: (415) 437-7786
Fax: (415) 437-7783
Email: OCR_SanFrancisco@ed.gov

National Office:
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Civil Rights
Customer Service Team
550 – 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20202-1100
Phone: 1-800-421-3481
TDD: (877) 521-2172
Fax: (202) 245-6840
Email: OCR@ed.gov
Web site: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/qa-complaints.html?exp=0

Back to the Top