This handbook is intended to answer student's questions about what types of services are available through Disability Support Services (DSS).

It is DSS' goal to promote access at Montana State University Billings.

"If a man advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours."  Henry David Thoreau

"Knowledge is Power!" "Go for it!"

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You are the key

Q. Is THIS the key? Image of a key

A. No, YOU are the key!

CONGRATULATIONS! You have just taken a first step in the right direction. As a student with a disability, it is YOUR responsibility (the KEY) to disclose your disability to the Disability Support Services office so that you may acquire information that will help you with your postsecondary education at Montana State University Billings and City College. By opening the "door" of this handbook, you are gathering knowledge that will help ensure that you receive the support and accommodations that ensure access to your education.

It is against the law for colleges to ask you at the time of registration if you have a disability, so it will be up to YOU (the KEY) to "open the doors" to the proper disability support systems. Keep up the "door opening" attitude as you seek your degree at Montana State University Billings and City College.

"The way I see it, if you have a disability, or even if you don't, you should focus on what you can do, and do it well. I am not defined by my disability." Margeret Mortz, Assistant Professor of Engineering , University of Denver, Colorado

"To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge." Confucius

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Questions and Answers About DSS

Philosophical Underpinnings

Q. What exactly IS Disability Support Services (DSS)?

A. DSS is established for the purpose of helping to make the college environment more accessible to students with disabilities and to help make postsecondary education at MSU Billings and City College a viable option.

Q. Does DSS have a mission statement?

A. You bet! Disability Support Services strives to create an inclusive and accessible environment by collaborating with students, faculty, and staff to facilitate solutions to environmental and educational barriers.

Q. Why do MSU Billings and City College have a DSS office?

A. That is a complicated question that requires an answer involving your civil rights. In September of 1973, Congress passed PL 93-112, "Handicapped Persons' Rights Under Federal Law," the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 of that Law, along with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), prohibit discrimination in public entities that receive federal funds against qualified people with disabilities in any program, service or activity they offer. In fact, Title II of the ADA extends this prohibition against discrimination to all programs of public entities, regardless of whether they receive federal funds.

To comply with this mandate, colleges (MSU Billings and City College) that receive federal assistance must assure that the same educational programs and services offered to nondisabled students are available to students with disabilities.

To accomplish this goal, students who are able to meet MSU Billings' and City College's program requirements are entitled to reasonable adjustments to help them access the college environment.

In other words, using DSS is a CIVIL RIGHT! - Exercise it!

Knowledge is Empowerment

"There is first the literature of knowledge, and secondly, the literature of power. The function of the first is to teach; the function of the second is to move." De Quincey

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Support: After all, it is DSS' middle name!

Where is DSS?

Q. Where is the DSS office located at MSU Billings?

A. "Come one, come all" to the College of Education, Room 135 at MSUB or the Tech Building, Room A008 at City College.

Q. What hours does DSS keep?

A. DSS' doors are open five days a week from 8:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. for your shopping convenience.

Q. Can I still receive services from DSS if I have a night class?

A. You bet! Call DSS to discuss arrangements. No RSVP needed--drop by the DSS office anytime --"We'll leave the light on for you."

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What type of documentation is required?

Q. Exactly who is eligible to receive services from DSS?

A. Another good question! MSU Billings' students who are currently enrolled and have a documented disability that substantially affects a major life activity are eligible to receive DSS services.

If you have a question about whether you qualify for services, check with DSS. DSS has guidelines and policies to determine what constitutes a disability that substantially affects a major life activity.

Each student's documentation is considered individually. DSS will work with the student and cooperating professionals to come up with accommodation solutions (See "Accommodations Policy"under Procedures and Policies).

Q. Does DSS serve students with disabilities from a Medical Model?

A. Good question! DSS acknowledges that students are using their services because they have a documented disability; however, DSS prefers to focus on the student, not the disability. Therefore, the DSS office focus is on the Interactional Model of Disability.

Medical Model
Disability is a deficiency or abnormality; being disabled is negative; disability resides in the individual; the remedy for disability-related problems is cure or normalization of the individual

Interactional Model
Disability is a difference; being disabled, in itself, is neutral; disability derives from the interaction between the individual and society; the remedy for disability-related problems is a change in the interaction between the individual and society; the agent of remedy can be the individual, an advocate, or anyone who affects the arrangements between the individual and society

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What about accommodations?

Q. What type of disability does DSS accommodate?

A. DSS accommodates students with all kinds of disabilities such as, but not limited to: Learning Disabilities, AD/HD, Psychological Disabilities, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Paraplegia, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Speech Impairments, Visual Impairments, etc. (Select  "Accommodations Policy" from Procedures and Policies for more information).

Image of a Llama with bad hair
Sorry, bad hair days aren't included! 


Q. How does a student with a disability arrange for services and/or accommodations?

A. Remember the discussion under Philosophical Underpinnings where students' RIGHTS were discussed? Well, here is where students' RESPONSIBILITIES are discussed. It is the students' responsibility to contact the DSS office in order to make arrangements for services from DSS [College of Education, Room 135 or City College, Tech Building, Room A008.]

Contact Disability Support Service to make an appointment for an initial visit to discuss the barriers you have experienced in the past and/or anticipate in the future.  Work with the staff to discuss appropriate documentation and determine accommodations that will reduce or remove those barriers.  To make an appointment, contact DSS at MSU Billings (406) 657-2283 (voice) (406) 545-2518 (Video Phone) or City College at MSU Billings (406) 247-3029 (voice) (406) 545-1026 (video phone).

Q. Is DSS aware of the roadblocks to support?

A. DSS is aware that stairs, heavy doors, lack of elevators, narrow walkways, etc. all present architectural barriers. We are committed to eliminating or circumventing architectural barriers by installing ramps, elevators, curb cuts, accessible restrooms, and special lab workbenches.

But DSS is acutely aware that the most devastating roadblock for students with disabilities can be the ATTITUDINAL BARRIER erected by other people.

It's not uncommon to hear students with disabilities say that overcoming the limiting attitudes of those who are uninformed about disabilities is far more difficult to adjust to than the disability itself.



Q. Since DSS provides support, does DSS assume the role of caretaker?

A. DSS' motto is "Go for it!" not "Let me do it for you!" DSS does provide personal support, but encourages autonomy and competency which can help students with disabilities live life with a greater level of independence and achievement outside of the University setting.

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"Go for it!"

Learning Strategies

Q. I would like to "go for it", but I don't feel like I have the skills to know how to do it.  Is there any way for me to get them?

A. Great question.  There are several ways that you can improve skills to help you to be a better student.  DSS will introduce you to Student Opportunity Services, an organization that provides mentoring and tutoring for qualified students enrolled at MSUB.  In addition, SOS provides workshops on how to read a book, take better notes, and other useful subjects.

The Academic Support Center has tutors available for most major subjects.  Call 657-1641 on the university campus and 247-3022 at City College.

DSS also has handouts and other material that explain learning strategies, or strategies to make your learning more efficient and effective.  Also, check out these super web sites for more information about learning strategies:

Q. "SEPARATE IS NOT EQUAL": How does that quote relate to support and accommodation issues?

A. Excellent questions! Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) provide the framework from which DSS provides support and accommodations. Subpart E of Section 504 requires that qualified persons with a disability be provided aids, benefits and services that are effective to afford them the opportunity to obtain the same level of achievement as non-disabled persons. This should be accomplished in the most integrated setting that is appropriate; therefore, SEPARATE IS NOT EQUAL! Subpart E also emphasizes that students with disabilities, once admitted, must be allowed the opportunity to be full and active participants in the programs and activities of the University. 

MSU Billings is responding to the law!

Q. What is a reasonable accommodation?

A. DSS thought you would never ask! Accommodations are determined reasonable on a case by case basis. Furthermore, a wide variation of student capabilities and limitations prevents establishing set rules regarding reasonable accommodations. The goal of a reasonable accommodation is to ensure that a student's academic achievement, not his/her functional limitations, will be measured (See Accommodations Policy by selecting  Procedures and Policies).

Some reasonable accommodations include:

    • Physical modifications so that facilities are accessible to students with disabilities
    • Direct support: advocates, sign language interpreters, notetaker, scribes, and alternative testing
    • Indirect support: assistive technology, priority class scheduling, and textbooks in audio format.

All information that DSS obtains will be kept confidential and used to authorize reasonable academic accommodations.

"Determination plus Support equals Success"

Q. Do reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities guarantee graduation?

A. Sorry to say, but no. Although EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY does not guarantee EQUALITY OF RESULTS, reasonable accommodations will give students with disabilities the opportunity to live up to their potential for success or failure. It was once true that it was next to impossible for a person with a disability to achieve academic success. Since enactment of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, academically qualified people with disabilities are entering college, diligently studying, successfully graduating, and pursuing productive careers.

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Terps, tests and technology

Q. What exactly are interpreters, captionists, notetaker, scribes, alternative tests, test proctors, assistive technology devices and adaptive aids, priority class scheduling and alternative texts?

A. We're glad you asked. After all, KNOWLEDGE IS EMPOWERMENT!

Advocates - DSS does promote student self-advocacy, yet on the other hand, DSS is here to champion the students' cause. For example, if a student is having trouble acquiring accommodations, DSS will suggest, advise and collaborate (advocate) with/for the student to obtain the appropriate accommodation. 

DSS is here to give a "hand up" vs. a "hand out" 

Interpreters and Captionists - Some students who are hard-of-hearing or deaf may need to utilize the services of a sign language interpreter or a captionist as a class accommodation. DSS provides interpreting services and C Print and/or Remote Captioning services. Requests for this service should be made through the DSS office at least four weeks in advance. An interpreter translates oral directions or information but does not act as a counselor, notetaker or tutor. In addition, interpreters abide by a strict code of ethics that requires confidentiality of private communications and honesty in interpretation.  Captioning services provide voice-to-text transcripts of classroom lectures.

If interpreters are needed outside of the classroom, such as in advisement situations, requests need to be made at least five working days in advance. Attempts will be made to honor requests made on shorter notice, with the understanding that interpreters may not be available on such short notice. Contact the DSS office for more information about the interpreter service.

Accessibility in the truest sense means more than physical accessibility.

Notetakers- Certain disabilities preclude students from taking their own notes (hard-of-hearing, limited hand mobility, etc).  DSS works with students who qualify for notes to find volunteers in the class to share notes with the student.  Volunteers who take class notes for students who are eligible to receive them are called "notetakers". Notetakers may copy their class notes at no charge on a copy machine in the DSS office.  The notetaker puts the student's notes in a folder in the DSS office. The student can get the class notes when it is convenient.

Students must attend class if they want to receive class notes. If for some reason they are unable to attend class, then it is the student's responsibility to arrange for notes. Contact DSS for more notetaker information (See "Procedures for Arranging for a Notetaker" by selecting Procedures and Policies).

Disabilities are not contagious.

Scribes - Persons who write down verbatim what a student has verbally dictated, usually in testing situations, are known as "scribes." The scribe is not responsible for organizing or paraphrasing student's thoughts. A scribe is responsible for writing or keyboarding the information students provide.

Test Proctors - If a student is eligible for DSS' services and needs alternative testing accommodations, then DSS will provide a proctor to provide test monitoring and security. Most tests are proctored via video camera.  DSS is responsible for following the instructor's direction when proctoring tests.

If a student is unclear about the test instructions or conditions, the student may stop the test and ask the proctor to seek assistance from one of the DSS staff members.

Contact DSS for more information about test proctors (See "Alternative Testing Procedures" by selecting Procedures and Policies).

Technology is available for student use on both campuses and includes the following:

  • ZoomText magnifier/screen reader
  • Video Magnifier
  • JAWS
  • Read&Write Gold
  • Assistive listening devices
  • Raised line drawing kit (Picture in a Flash)
  • Video phone
  • Braille label maker
  • Livescribe Smart Pens
  • High-speed scanner

Opportunity, technology, treatment, and attitude adjustment have enabled people with disabilities to overcome functional limitations and be in a position to pursue educational opportunities.

Priority Class Scheduling - Students qualified for services through DSS may be eligible for priority registration. Priority registration allows students to consider their disability-related needs and issues when scheduling. For example, students might consider how often the classes meet, whether or not the classes are spread out all over the campus, or if classes are offered back to back.

These are important issues if a student has attention, concentration, or mobility barriers. Balancing course loads is an important aspect when scheduling classes. It is also a good idea to meet with an academic advisor prior to scheduling classes. Contact DSS for information concerning priority registration.

More than five percent of the students at MSU Billings are registered with Disability Support Services.

Alternative Text - Alternative text comes in lots of shapes and sizes.  It's like shopping--it helps to have in mind what you need to know how to get what you need.  Examples of alternative text are enlarged copies, materials scanned into electronic format, Brailled and audio formats.

Some students with disabilities are eligible for audio versions of their textbooks from Learning Ally, formerly known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. Students who might qualify include students with low-vision/blind disabilities. If a student is physically disabled so the student has difficulty holding a book or turning a page, that student may have a "print disability" and may find audio texts a beneficial accommodation to support learning.

  • Students who receive audio textbooks as one of their accommodations need to provide a copy of the book receipt to DSS before receiving a copy of the textbook.  If DSS is able to get a copy of the textbook from the publisher, students can utilize a free download of Natural Reader to use the textbook in an audio format on their computer.  Requests for alternative text should be given to DSS as soon as the student registers for the class.

There is no charge for E-Text or WAV files produced by DSS, but the student is required to purchase the textbook. (See "Alternative Text Procedures" by selecting  Procedures and Policies ).

Students may also scan printed material onto a computer with screen reading software. Contact DSS for more information about getting printed matter in an accessible format.

Voter Registration Service - Voter registration forms are available in our office, and we can assist you in completing one.  You have the right to vote, be sure you exercise that right.

MSU Billings has made significant progress in the elimination of academic and architectural barriers.

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Flexible Attendance

Q. Can DSS ensure that students can have flexible attendance as an accommodation?

A. Well, no. Class attendance policies are not determined by DSS.  Because attendance may be necessary to the teaching process, attendance policies are set by faculty at the college, departmental, or individual level.

Sometimes, attendance is fundamental to course objectives.  For example, class interaction may be required where students demonstrate the ability to think and then state the good and bad points about a subject. On the other hand, some instructors may determine that students can master course content even though they have some absences.  DSS recommends that you talk to individual instructors about attendance requirements. In the meantime, listen closely to instructors' announcements about attendance and make-up policies and procedures.  Also, be sure to check the course syllabus about these issues.

Q. Can DSS' accommodations and support be terminated?

A. Yes, if a student does not provide documentation of a diagnosed disability, or does not have a disability, or does not follow DSS and University policies and procedures (see MSU Billings bulletin and Student Handbook for information about policies and procedures) support can be terminated.

Q. Does DSS provide tutoring assistance?

A. No, DSS might answer a few questions "here and there," but DSS advises students with disabilities to utilize the Academic Support Center.  Call 657-1641 to inquire about hours and tutor availability.

Q. Can a student request special in-class/lab furnishings?

A. In some cases, special furnishings may be readily available. Please contact DSS as soon as possible so that they may work with you to arrange for services.

Meet with instructors by the first week of school to discuss needed adaptations in tests, written assignments, deadlines, or classroom arrangements.

Q. Can students with disabilities use service animals?

A. Yes, service animals are permitted by state and federal law in all university buildings, including labs, housing and administrative buildings.  See our Service Animal Policy in  Procedures and Policies.

Q. Does MSU Billings offer recharges for power-operated wheelchairs?

A. No, MSU Billings is aware that power-operated chairs need to have their batteries recharged, but the University, at this time, does not provide a recharge station for that purpose.

Q. Does MSU Billings provide special transportation?

A. MSU Billings does not provide vans with wheelchair lifts, nor does it offer free on-campus transportation for students with mobility impairments.

The MET bus systems serve MSU Billings. Both MET and STI provide transportation to and from MSU Billings and have busses which are accessible for students with disabilities. Contact MET at (406) 657-8218 and STI at (406) 248-8805 for more information.

Q. Does MSU Billings have on-campus housing accommodations for students with disabilities?

A. Yes, students with physical disabilities are welcomed and encouraged to live in the on-campus residence halls. Contact Housing and Residence Life in SUB 221 or call (406) 657-2333 for more information about special room arrangements for resident students with disabilities (See Residential Life and Orientation).

Q. Does MSU Billings have reserved parking spaces for people with disabilities?

A. You bet ya! MSU Billings offers disability parking permits and special reserved parking spaces near classroom buildings for students with qualifying disabilities.

Students are required to pay the regular fee for parking. There is no discount for disability. DSS works with Police and Parking to meet students' needs for reserved parking spaces. For more information, contact Police and Parking in the Parking Garage or call (406) 657-2147.

Q. Does MSU Billings provide attendant care?

A. No, students are responsible for their own self-care, according to the ADA.

Q. Does DSS communicate with Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS)?

A. Yes, DSS and VRS often communicate formally and informally to assist VRS students and MSU Billings.

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Emergency Information

Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities need to become familiar with evacuation procedures and rescue assistance areas in each building.  Students should be aware of the exit(s) from each floor where they have a class (the elevator cannot be one of them).

During anemergency, notify authorities immediately using the following numbers:

Emergency Dispatch: 911

University Police Department: 406-657-2222

In emergency situations, persons unable to use the stairways to exit a building should wait at the nearest designated rescue assistance locations, if safe to do so, until someone comes to help them evacuate the building. University Police or first responders will check designated rescue assistance locations for people who need assistance in the building when an evacuation is in progress.

Alert faculty, staff, or classmates and request that they notify emergency responders of your location and that you need emergency evacuation assistance.

Location of Rescue Assistance Areas

Students who are visually impaired may need to be escorted to the nearest emergency exit. Students have the responsibility to verify the following locations upon arrival at MSU Billings.

Wheelchair Evacuation Areas 

Wheelchair users are responsible for verifying the locations of exits and rescue assistance areas.  Please contact University Police at (406) 657-2147 or Disability Support Services at (406) 657-2283 if you have any questions.


  • 1st floor west entrance
  • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors east and west end stairwell landings


  • None (west exit is accessible)


  • 2nd floor north stairwell, west stairwell
  • 3rd floor north stairwell, west stairwell


  • 2nd - 4th floor center stairwells


Tech Building

  • Second floor top of north stairwell
  • Second floor stairwell between elevator and room B012

Health Sciences Building

  • North and south side stairwells


  • 2nd - 8th floors south stairwell (the stairwell to your right if you are facing the elevators)


  • 3rd floor main stairwell
  • 2nd floor near west (reference desk) entrance


  • Center stairwell for basement, 2nd, and 3rd floors


  • Central stairway landings on each floor


  • None (both floors have accessible exits)


  • Central stairway landings on each floor


  • Second floor northeast, southwest, and southeast stairwell landings

If you are in a rescue assistance area, be sure that you tell someone to notify rescue personnel of your location and that you need rescuing immediately.

*The term rescue assistance area is used to describe an area where a person who is unable to evacuate may wait to be rescued.  It is not meant to imply compliance to ADAAG standards for new buildings.  Persons should ask someone to immediately notify rescue personnel of their location.

Emergency Numbers

For all on campus emergencies:ambulance, fire, police - dial 2147 or 9-911

University police: 2147
Health Center: 2153

MSU Billings Operator

From off campus: (406) 657-2011
From on campus: 2011 or 0

Hospital Emergency Health Care (from on campus)

Billings Clinic: 9-657-4150
Saint Vincent: 9-657-7070

Select EMERGENCY PROCEDURES to explore some cool sites that will give you more information about emergency preparedness.

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DSS does not offer "Blanket" accommodations.

Closing Notes

Congratulations! You have concluded your tour of DSS' student handbook--you have unlocked the door and have begun the incredible journey that education has to offer. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, contact us at We would love to hear from you. Till then, Bon voyage!

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