Modification to Class Attendance

University policy states that students are expected to attend all classes, but absences should be excused when a student is unable to attend class due to a documented illness.  

Students with disabilities that are chronic or episodic in nature may be approved for an accommodation that allows for a modification of class attendance policies. These disabilities may include, but are not limited to, students with diabetes, epilepsy, cancer, mental health disabilities, migraines and conditions requiring on-going or specialized medical treatment. The purpose of this accommodation is to provide equal access and ensure students with disabilities are not unduly penalized for absences when their disability prevents them from meeting the stated class attendance policy.

Modifications of class attendance policies are determined on an individual, course-by-course basis and supported by the student’s medical documentation provided to ADS. Students who are approved for this accommodation are responsible for providing their professor with a copy of their current ADS memo and engaging in an interactive discussion with the professor, and ADS as needed, to determine the number of reasonable additional absences.  

How to implement this accommodation

As each course and situation is different, the number of additional absences to a course attendance policy should be determined by an interactive discussion between the professor and student in consultation with ADS as needed. ADS recommends that a specific number of disability-related absences be established to avoid confusion. 

The discussion should include an agreement between the professor and student regarding how and when the student will notify the professor of each disability-related absence (e.g., emailing within 24 hours), the specific amount of time the student has to make up missed work, any critical dates that cannot be missed, and whether there are any alternatives to missed participation points or quizzes on days the student is absent. It is highly recommended that the agreement be summarized through email so the expectations are clear regarding how the accommodation will be implemented. Professors and students should include ADS on these email exchanges for documentation purposes. 

Responsibilities and other considerations

The student is still expected to meet all course requirements.  When absent, the student is responsible for the class content, lecture notes and information presented that day. The student should arrange how he or she will obtain this information. Professors are not obligated to re-teach material that the student has missed. Make-up tests and missed work due to absences should typically have short extensions (e.g., within 48 hours of the missed class). 

If a student’s absences reach or exceed the number of specified absences, or if the student does not adhere to other agreed-upon expectations, ADS should be notified. ADS is available to mediate any issues and may request that the student provide updated medical documentation in order to determine appropriate next steps and discuss options with the student.

This accommodation does not cover non-disability illness or other non-disability reasons as to why the student is absent. As accommodations are not retroactive, professors are not obligated to apply this agreement to earlier absences if the student provides an ADS memo later in the semester.

How to evaluate the extent to which attendance is an essential part of the course

Professors are expected to provide this accommodation unless it is determined that doing so would fundamentally alter an essential element of their course. If a professor believes that additional absences beyond their stated policy would be a fundamental alteration, the professor should consult with the student’s ADS specialist as soon as possible. The Office of Civil Rights provides the following factors to be used in considering whether attendance is an essential part of a course:

  • Is there classroom interaction between the professor and students, and among students?
  • Do student contributions 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 and assessment?
  • To what degree does a student’s failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
  • What does the course description and syllabus say?
  • What is the method by which the final course grade is calculated?
  • What are classroom practices and policies regarding attendance? Is the attendance policy equally applied? Has the policy been modified for others or have any exceptions been made to the policy for students without identified disabilities (e.g., are athletes allowed excused absences)? Is the attendance policy similar to that of professors teaching other sections of the course?

In those cases where professors believe that a modified attendance policy would constitute a fundamental alteration, TU procedures provide for a review of this decision by a committee consisting of appropriate administrators, faculty and staff. If appropriate, ADS will be responsible for initiating a committee meeting to review the course requirements with the professor and conduct a fundamental alteration analysis, as well as explore options and possible alternative accommodations. See Fundamental Alteration Process (DOCX) for more information.