How will I know if a student in my course has a disability or a need for an accommodation?
Students who need academic accommodations will present you with a personalized letter from our office that confirms the presence of a disability and describes the accommodation request.
Won’t accommodations for one student with a disability give them an advantage over non-disabled students?
No. Accommodations simply level the playing field so that the student with a disability has an equal opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the material. Accommodations never change academic standards nor do they change central elements of the curriculum.
Do I need to provide accommodations to any student who verbally reports a disability or says they need an accommodation?
Every faculty member has the right to request evidence of the need for an accommodation in the form of a letter from Disability Services for Students. This letter gives you evidence that this student may mean a slightly different environment for the them to perform. However, if the student is asking for something that you would do for any student, you are at liberty to proceed with your best judgement. As always, call us at any time to discuss your concern.
What’s the best way for me to provide the accommodation of extended time for tests and exams?
We encourage students to negotiate the logistics of the extended time administration with individual faculty members. Some students choose to arrive early and start the exam before other students, while others will choose to stay later to finish the exam. Alternatively, some students and faculty members choose to make arrangements with other space available in the department.
I know students get extra time on exams, but I’m giving a quiz. How do I handle this?
Extra time does apply to quizzes and we would suggest as a best practice that extra time be given to everyone. As research demonstrates, those who do not need it generally do not do better. For example, you create a 10-minute quiz and give everyone 15 minutes. Collect quizzes at one time, which reduces distractions for all students taking the quiz.
What if my schedule (or the student’s schedule) doesn’t allow for extending the time allotted for the exam?
Professors are at liberty to schedule the exam during an alternate time and location that would still allow the student to have full access to their instructor during the exam. Professors and students are encouraged to communicate to discuss an acceptable alternative for extended time accommodations prior to an exam.
What if I chose to give the entire class extended time?
When a faculty member extends the length of a standard timed test or exam for all the students in a class, then the extended time for the student with a disability should be proportionally increased, according to that student’s approved accommodation for extended test time. For example, if the scheduled exam is 3 hours for nondisabled students, then the student with a disability, with 50% extended test time, would get 4.5 hours.
A student has told me that because she receives extended time on tests and exams she is also entitled to have extended time on out-of-class assignments like papers and projects. Is that correct?
No. Accommodations for extended time apply to tests, exams, and timed, in-class assignments only.
My final exam is part of a national administration (e.g., the American Chemical Society exam), and the exam is timed, on a computer. Do I still have to provide extended time?
Yes. Extended time applies to tests given throughout the semester and to the end of the semester final exam. Arrangements should be made to provide an extended time accommodation.
A student approached me following an exam or an assignment being due, and stated that they have a disability and, therefore, they would like to be able to make-up the exam or turn the assignment in late. How do I handle this?
Accommodations cannot be requested retroactively, i.e., an instructor is not accountable for providing an accommodation when a student has not presented a letter of accommodation before a given exam or assignment in question. Although there are some exceptions to every rule, a member of the DSS staff would be in contact with you directly to discuss any critical concerns.
What if a student requests an accommodation which I feel is not appropriate for my course?
If you have a question about a particular accommodation, please contact DSS to discuss your concern. The staff’s knowledge of the student’s disability related needs and your input about your course requirements will be the foundation for the appropriate decision regarding the accommodation.
Attendance and Disability
Students with disabilities are expected to adhere to the same attendance policies as other students. However, it is a reality that some students have disabilities that may cause an increase in class absences. There is no clear guidance on whether or not an attendance policy must be waived or extended should a student with a disability exceed the number of allowed absences. However, you are responsible for the following:
- Informing students of your attendance policy.
- Meeting with students who wish to discuss the attendance policy.
- Explaining why you will or will not extend your attendance policy and the rationale(s) for this decision.
Students most likely to request modified attendance policies are those with health-related disabilities that flare up episodically. This might include students with lupus or fibromyalgia, sickle cell anemia, seizure disorders, cancer, migraines, and conditions requiring dialysis. Students with psychological disabilities who are experiencing an exacerbation of symptoms may also request modification of attendance policies.
Federal law requires colleges and universities to consider reasonable modification of attendance policies if required to accommodate a student’s disability. In making this determination, two questions must be answered:
- Does the student have a documented disability that directly affects his/her ability to attend class on a regular basis? Disability Services for Students will make this determination based on a review of documentation from the student’s physician or psychologist and provide verification in a letter the student presents to the instructor.
- Is attendance an essential part of the class? Would modification of attendance policies result in a fundamental alteration of the curriculum? Faculty make this determination in consultation with Disability Services for Students.
Disability Services for Students recommends that students with a disability-related need for flexibility in attendance meet with their instructors to discuss the extent to which modification in attendance policies may be reasonable for a particular class. Faculty determine policies regarding make-up work and missed exams or quizzes. The student and instructor should have a clear understanding of what accommodation can be made for disability-related absences. If, at any time, the faculty member believes that the student’s absences from class threatens the academic integrity of the curriculum or the accomplishment of learning objectives, the faculty member should contact the Disability Services Office as soon as possible. In cases where attendance is an essential part of the class, a medical or mental health withdrawal may be considered a reasonable accommodation if absences become excessive.
How Disability Services for Students Can Help
- We meet with students to discuss their concerns and answer any questions they may have concerning attendance and disabilities.
- The same basic information provided to instructors about this issue is discussed with the student to ensure that they have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities in these areas and the rights and responsibilities of the instructors.
- Students are informed of the need for proper medical documentation.
- Students are strongly encouraged to inform their doctor/medical team that they are attending college and to share an understanding of the academic rigors of their program with their doctor/medical team.
- Students are informed of the need to discuss the attendance policy with each instructor.
- Students are given accommodation letters to provide to the instructor as part of a one-on-one conversation. The letters will help instructors know that the student has provided appropriate documentation to the college and that the request to consider an extension of policy is legitimate.
- Students are encouraged to use absences for disability-related reasons only, in order to help minimize the actual number of missed classes.
- Students are encouraged to provide timely notifications as early in the semester as possible.
- The office is available to answer questions from instructors and help faculty develop fair and reasonable policies.