The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care
INTRODUCTION: Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are the primary sections preventing discrimination of persons with disabilities in post secondary institutions. A search of the literature indicated information is readily available regarding assisting individuals with disabilities in living skills and job performance. However, little is found regarding assistance in the education of health care students with disabilities. There were two hypotheses for this study. (1) The number of respiratory care students who can be defined as disabled is not significant and (2) The majority of respiratory care programs do not have specific provisions in place to comply with the ADA. METHODOLOGY: A survey was designed to identify demographics of associate and bachelor degree respiratory care programs including the admission of students with disabilities, accommodations to facilitate completion of the educational programs for those students, and policies in place for students with disabilities. The proposed policies were based on suggestions by Essex-Sorlie (1994) for medical schools. The survey was mailed to the 290 qualifying programs.
Results: One hundred twenty-seven (44%) programs returned the survey. Most respondents were from associate degree programs (81%) and community colleges (67%). Seventy-nine (63%) had knowingly admitted students with disabilities, learning disabilities being the most frequently identified disability. Sixty-three (50%) programs indicated they had provided accommodations for students, listing counselors and tutors most frequently. Ninety-nine (79%) had essential job functions or technical standards either available or in the process of being developed. Oral communication skills were most often required. Only thirty-seven (29%) programs have a standards committee to deal with direct threat issues. Sixteen (13%) stated they did not know if such a committee existed in their institution.
Conclusions: A significant number of respiratory care programs (63%) have admitted students with disabilities. Most programs (94%) have one or more provisions in place to assure compliance with the ADA. Chi Square analysis was done to determine correlations between demographics and having policies in place. Associate degree programs are significantly more likely to have policies for students needing accommodations (p<0.05) than bachelor degree programs. Community colleges were significantly more likely to have admitted students with disabilities (p<0.01) and have consistent teams for resources when either accommodations are requested (p<0.05) or assessment for disabilities are requested (p<0.05). Higher numbers of significant correlations exist as to the relationship between having previously admitted students with disabilities and the presence of policies for students with disabilities. The areas of significance in which policies exist are: providing accommodations (p<0.05), having a consistent resource team when accommodations were requested (p<0.05), having a policy for program applicants requesting accommodations (p<0.05), and having training materials on the ADA available to staff (p<0.01). No significant correlation exists between class size and the presence of policies for students with disabilities.