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Disability Support Services

Working with Students with Disabilities: A Faculty/Staff Guide

Accommodating Students with Disabilities

A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a course or program that eliminates or minimizes disability-related barriers and enable a qualified student with a disability to participate.  It is meant to make it possible for the student to learn the material presented and for the instructor to fairly evaluate the student's understanding of the material without interference from the disability.

At the college level, the purpose of an accommodation is to correct or circumvent a functional impairment rather than to ensure a student's success.  Providing an accommodation does not mean compromising the content, quality or level of instruction.  All students are required to meet a standard of competency in course work, and students with disabilities are no exception.

A student should have authorization from DSS before accommodations are provided.  To request accommodations, the student should provide the DSS office with current documentation from a qualified professional regarding the nature of the disability.  After interviewing the student and, as

necessary, consulting with the instructor, a DSS specialist determines appropriate accommodations based on the nature and the extent of the disability.  DSS then develops a memo for the instructors specifying the student's approved accommodations.

The student is responsible for delivering the DSS memo to instructors each term and talking with them about arrangements for accommodations in each course based on the contents of the memo.  Students are encouraged to do this as early as possible in the term.

The process of requesting and receiving accommodations is interactive; all people involved— the instructor, the student and the DSS staff—have a shared responsibility to make sure the process works.  DSS works collaboratively in this shared responsibility so instructors are not managing accommodations in isolation.

Note-Taking Accommodations:

If the student needs note-taking accommodations, this will be documented in the DSS memo. In most cases the student will need to be accommodated by being provided a copy of a classmate's notes.  Audio-recording lectures or using a laptop are other examples of note-taking accommodations.

When providing copies of class notes, the instructor assists the student by recruiting another student in class who is willing to provide notes. The DSS memo provides directions for the instructor, including a suggested class announcement that keeps the identity of the student with the disability private. Please note that student confidentiality is of the utmost importance.

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has ruled that notes should be provided to the student within 2 weeks of the initial request.  Therefore, it is important that the instructor contact the DSS office if a classmate cannot be identified within this time frame.  DSS will then follow up to ensure the student is accommodated.

Instructors can be of great assistance in quality assurance by occasionally reviewing copies of the notes, especially early in the term, and giving feedback.  DSS asks the instructor to contact the office with any concerns regarding note-taking, including the quality of the notes.

Testing Accommodations:

Testing accommodations will be documented in the DSS memo if they have been approved.  The student is responsible for making testing arrangements with the instructor before each test and quiz.

The student is responsible for requesting the use of the Testing Services Center and following all of the documented procedures.  Five days prior to the scheduled test, the students should submit either the online or paper version of the Testing Accommodation Request Form to the instructor.  The instructor should then provide the test to the Center at least 24 hours in advance of test time.  After the student takes the test, the Center will return it to the instructor's department.

The instructor may provide testing accommodations in the classroom if the student can be accommodated appropriately.  It is the Testing Services Center policy that students take exams at the scheduled time of the course unless the instructor approves an alternative time.  All test are proctored to ensure academic honesty.  For further information, see the Testing Services Center section of this guide.

Class Attendance Accommodations:

Students with disabilities are expected to attend class regularly and comply with class attendance policies. However, there may be times when a student will be absent due to disability-related reasons. For such absences, it may be considered a reasonable accommodation to have the instructor relax a class attendance policy.

Students are required to give their DSS memo to the instructor and specifically discuss this accommodation with the instructor.  The student is expected to contact in the instructor in advance of any absence when possible; for unexpected absences, he or she should contact you as soon as possible to discuss making up missed work and/or to verify the reason for the absence.  The instructor should discuss excessive absences with the student and contact DSS as appropriate.

At times, this accommodation may not be reasonable due to the nature of the course.  Instructors are asked to contact DSS if they consider attendance to be an essential requirement of their course. The determination regarding whether attendance is essential should be made via an interactive process with the instructor, students, DSS, and the academic department chair, as appropriate.  In determining whether attendance is an essential requirement for a particular course, the Office for Civil Rights has indicated that the following factors should be considered:

  • Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students and among the students themselves?
  • Do student contributions in class constitute a significant component of the learning process?
  • Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method for learning?
  • To what degree does a student’s failure to attend class constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
  • What does the course description and syllabus say regarding attendance?
  • What is the method by which the final course grade is calculated?

Faculty, Student and DSS Responsibilities in the Accommodations Process

Faculty Responsibilities

  • Ensure that each course, viewed in its entirety, is accessible (e.g., content, texts and materials, assessment methods, on-line instruction and requirements).
  • Submit books lists to the bookstore as early as possible so students have time to obtain text/materials in alternate formats.
  • Include an announcement in syllabus directing students to DSS if they have a need for an accommodation related to a disability.
  • Support and implement accommodations as specified in the DSS memo.
  • Consult with DSS if accommodation requests conflict with course objectives/requirements.
  • Maintain student's right to privacy and confidentiality.

Student Responsibilities

  • Provide DSS with appropriate disability documentation in support of accommodation requests.
  • Make requests for accommodations in a timely manner.
  • Provide instructors with DSS memo as early as possible each term.
  • Request a DSS memo each term.  Accommodations are not granted retroactively.
  • Talk with instructors about how accommodations will be implemented in each course.
  • Inform DSS of difficulties regarding accommodations.
  • Meet essential qualifications and standards for courses and programs.

Disability Support Services Responsibilities

  • Inform students of the DSS office location, services and procedures for requesting accommodations.
  • Conduct intake interviews with students and evaluate documentation in support of accommodation requests.
  • Approve appropriate and reasonable accommodations.
  • Maintain disability-related documentation for registered students.
  • Communicate with faculty and staff on a need-to-know basis or as requested by the student.
  • Protect student's privacy and confidentiality
  • Provide equal access to courses, programs and services in collaboration with faculty, staff and students.








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