Student Accessibility and Accommodations
Mission & Vision
Piedmont Virginia Community College offers accessible, affordable, high-quality educational programs that promote student success and community vitality. PVCC shows commitment to all students, staff, and faculty to have the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge. The mission of the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations is to ensure equal access to programs, services, supports, and education. We assist qualified students who may need accommodations or accessibility options. Staff members approve services and accommodations each semester based on each student’s individual strengths and needs.
Students that wish to access services from our office must self-identify and provide qualified documentation of their mental health, physical, medical, or other impairment. Relevant and recent documentation should identify which major life activities are impacted. PVCC implements accommodations and services if they do not fundamentally alter the integrity of the class and learning objectives. PVCC does not charge students for any approved services.
PVCC complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008.
- Our Staff
The Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations is available to counsel and assist you. Please call, email, or use My PVCC/Navigate to set an appointment to talk about services.
Sandra Bullins, Assistant Director of Student Accessibility and Accommodations, assists students with last names A-L. You can reach her directly at (434) 961-5285 or at SBullins@pvcc.edu. You can also set appointments through My PVCC/Navigate.
Kari Hirst, Director of Student Accessibility and Accommodations, assists students with last names M-Z. You can reach her directly at (434) 961-5281 or KHirst@pvcc.edu. You can also set appointments through My PVCC/Navigate.
PVCC is a Virginia Relay partner. For students who are deaf or hard of hearing please use www.varelay.org.
The first step is for you to contact the staff in the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations. You can request an appointment to discuss your situation and the benefits of accommodations.
We understand that disclosing health information is a personal decision. Prospective and current students are welcome to contact our office with questions about obtaining accommodations. If you are new to PVCC, we encourage you to contact our offices as soon as possible. We are happy to meet with prospective students and high school seniors who are planning a transition to PVCC.
- Provide Documentation
If you are seeking accommodations or assistance with accessibility, you must supply documentation or a completed Verification Form to your assigned staff member in the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations. Professional documentation could be evaluations, testing results, medical reports, or clinical reports from a qualified mental health, health, or educational provider. You can send documentation and verification forms via email attachments, fax, or during first appointment. Please see the Documentation section for more information.
- Meet With Staff
We will meet with you to review your documentation, to interview you about your success and concerns, and to plan collaboration on accommodations. You can schedule a first meeting prior to starting at PVCC. Ideally, requests for services would occur at least three weeks prior to the start of your courses or program. We need sufficient time to arrange quality services. While we consider and approve requests for services as quickly as possible, we cannot make accommodations retroactive. PVCC can only implement accommodations moving forward.
- Accommodation Letters
If we approve accommodations, your assigned staff person in the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations emails your accommodation letter to you and to your professor(s) for that semester. You should follow up with your professor(s) to plan for the accommodations in that class. At no time will a professor receive information on your medical, mental health, learning, or other diagnoses; your assigned staff person will only share information on the accommodations and provide guidance on implementation.
- Ongoing Services
You should maintain contact with the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations throughout the semester for counseling and guidance on academic, health, self-advocacy, self-care, or other areas of need. First year students, transfer students, and students on academic probation should have regular meetings with staff throughout the semester. We are here as a free resource for you, and we want to see you succeed!
- Returning Students
If you would like to continue with accommodations and accessibility services, you need to connect with the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations prior to starting classes each semester. You and your assigned staff member will review your progress, note which accommodations were helpful, and plan for unique accommodations for your classes in the next semester. Your assigned staff member generates a unique accommodation letter for you for each semester and sends it only to the professors that you have for that semester.
It is the student’s responsibility to contact or meet with the staff in the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations each semester – staff will not notify your instructors until you have requested accommodations for that semester.
Staff members keep all documentation provided in a secured and confidential site separate from educational records. We destroy documentation five years after the student’s last class at PVCC.
While an IEP or a 504 plan is helpful to identify services that were effective in high school, staff members may find IEPs and 504 Plans to be insufficient documentation for post-secondary accommodations. Students should give IEPs or 504 Plans along with recent medical, psychological, the educational evaluations that determined the student’s eligibility for accommodations in high school, or other evaluation documentation. If you do not have documentation, then our staff can recommend local providers. The costs of obtaining evaluations or records will be the responsibility of the student.
Documentation should include:
- The qualified professional’s name, title, and professional credentials.
- The professional should have completed training in the diagnostic criteria for the condition, should be impartial, and should not be related to student. Qualified professionals may include psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor with clinical licensure, doctor, physician’s assistant, ophthalmologist, audiologist, etc.
- Summary of information gathered for the assessment (e.g., interviews, checklists, observations, scores on tests/instruments – especially for learning disabilities)
- Diagnosis of your condition including severity, stability, duration, and present status
- Date of diagnosis and date last seen by provider
- Major life activities impacted – e.g., hearing, speaking, learning, working, taking care of oneself, breathing, walking, thinking, or vision
- Recommended accommodations that would compensate for limitations and ensure equal access to post-secondary education, programs, and opportunities
A provider may document this information on their professional letterhead (not on a prescription pad) or complete a PVCC Verification Form.
Staff members approve accommodations and modifications based on your needs and specific functional limitations. Reasonable accommodations are determined by documentation and interactive consultation with the student. The following list contains examples of accommodations based on individual student needs in post-secondary education environment. The list is not all-inclusive, as individual student needs may call for other accommodations.
- Testing environment that is quiet with reduced distractions
- Note taking software
- Reading pen to speak text on printed page
- Reduced course load – meet with financial aid personnel to discuss impact
- Service Animals (link to policy) – additional planning needed for some classes
- Sign language interpreter
- Calculator for some math tests or exams
- Computer with JAWS for text-to-speech
- Enlarged or high contrast documents
- Extended time for tests, quizzes, and assessments
- Guidance on apps for time management, stress reduction, organization, etc.
- Accessible classrooms and equipment
- Adjustable seats and tables
- Assistive technology
- Audiobooks or accessible textbooks
- Transitioning From High School
Resources for students:
- Going to College has a self-guided module to prepare for your transition.
- Intelligent.com has a College Planning Guide for Students with Learning Disabilities that is useful to any student transitioning to post-secondary education.
- VCU Center on Transitions has many useful resources, fast facts, and even modules for students and support teams. Sign up for their weekly newsletter to find out about other services. Get Ready for College is a self-guided module that is great to complete before your first semester at college.
- U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights has information about your rights and answers to frequently asked questions.
- Organization for Autism Research has information and recommendations. They also have Finding Your Way - a free guidebook that can be downloaded or ordered with real world advice for lots of situations that may come up in post-secondary education settings.
For the Parents, Former Guardians, and Support Network of students:
Transitioning to college can be just as difficult for the parents, former guardians, and larger support teams, as it can be for their students. One of the biggest changes is the responsibility for advocacy and success shifts fully to the student. Many parents, former guardians, and support teams took a highly active role in advocacy and in obtaining resources necessary for their student’s success in K-12. College staff expect that the student to self-advocate, to experience individual responsibility, and to feel self-empowered.
You can still offer support in many ways. One way is to ensure that your student knows their rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Also, you can help your student learn to fully understand and to communicate the impact of their condition. Students should be the best expert on their history, their use of accommodations, what worked and what did not work for them, and be able to communicate that to the staff in the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations.
Once the student has started classes, you can ask them questions about their classes, their performance, and the services they are accessing. If you sense they are struggling or disengaged, ask them about it and work with them to identify what steps the student wants to take to help themselves.
The most important way you can support the continued growth of your student is to let them assume personal responsibility for their own education and their own decisions. The staff in the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations appreciate the growing independence of our students and we want to support that growth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will my professors know my specific diagnoses?
Accommodation letters include a list of approved accommodations, but they do not include diagnostic or medical information. We encourage you to discuss your accommodations needs with faculty as early as possible in the semester, but you should not disclose any medical, mental health, or learning diagnoses.
What should I do if I am struggling in classes and think I may need accommodations?
Contact the staff in the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations. They can talk with you to assess your situation and to make recommendations on how to move forward with getting qualified documentation or assessments.
I had an IEP or 504 in high school. What if I do not want those services now?
As a student in post-secondary education, it is your choice to self-disclose and it is your educational path. However, our office is here to help you transition into this new educational environment. We would like your first year to be a successful one that builds your confidence and sets a good foundation for you completing your educational goals.