Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
A student in your class has a disability, and you have received an Accommodation Request Letter. These FAQs provide you with suggestions on how to implement some of those accommodations. In addition, there is some general information about accommodating students with disabilities. Please contact Eric Anderson or Lisa Forsythe with any questions or concerns.
"No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from the participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of any public entity or be subject to discrimination by any such entity."
Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990 (Section 202)
Q: Why do we provide accommodations to students? Doesn't it give those students an unfair advantage?
A: The purpose of accommodation is to ensure EQUAL ACCESS and the opportunity to participate fully in higher education, not to ensure academic success. Accommodations are provided because without them students would not have access to all the same information and facilities as other students in demonstrating their understanding of new learning in your course.
Q: Does anyone who claims that s/he has a disability get accommodations?
A: No, only those who meet very specific criteria. We are obligated by law to provide accommodations when:
- A student identifies that s/he has a disability.
- The student meets eligibility criteria. There are several steps to determine eligibility. First, the student must provide documentation from a qualified professional to verify the disability to Disability Access Services. Second, the documentation is reviewed to assure that content meets specific guidelines and that it sufficiently establishes the existence of a disabling condition. Third, it is determined whether or not the student meets the disability criteria. Once eligibility has been established, the student meets with the Coordinator of Disability Access Services to determine which accommodations are appropriate and reasonable.
- The student requests accommodations in a timely manner.
Q: The type of disability is not identified in the letter of accommodation. Don't I need to know what it is?
A: The primary reason that a disability is not identified is the student's right to privacy. It is the student's choice if s/he wishes to share this information with you. All that you really need to know is that s/he has a qualifying disability and which accommodations are to be provided. If you have questions about how to best help this student, please contact the DAS Coordinator.
Q: The letter says that the student needs a notetaker. How do I help a student find a notetaker in my class?
A: Here are two options:
- If you have thorough outlines or notes for your lectures, you can provide the student with these.
- Work with the student to identify a good student notetaker in the class and ask that student if s/he would be willing to share his/her notes with the student needing notes. A good way of doing this is to announce to the class that a student in the class (student's name should not be disclosed) requires someone to take notes for him/her and then ask if someone willing to share his/her lecture notes will meet with you after class. Refer the interested student to the DAS office who will arrange to pay the student a stipend and provide him/her with NCR paper to simplify the process. All notetakers are required to complete an online notetaker's training program (information on request).
Q: The letter indicates that a student is allowed extended time on tests. How do I assist with this?
A: A student may not use "other class" time for extended testing. For this reason, students must often schedule tests so that there are no conflicts with other classes. There are two basic options, and you can work with the student to see which will work best in your situation:
- If it is feasible, you may arrange for extra time and/or a non-distracting environment for the student to test, OR
- The student may take the test through Disability Access Services by arrangement with DAS Office. The student is familiarized with the process when accommodations are requested and signs an agreement stating that s/he understands the process. Finished exams are placed in the instructor's box in the mailroom in a sealed envelope marked "Confidential." DAS is eager to do everything possible to maintain test integrity.
Q: The letter states that the student should have a non-distracting environment for testing. Where do I send him/her?
A: The student must make arrangements, in advance, with Disability Access Services. If the student does not need a proctor and an empty classroom is available, the instructor may arrange for the student to use that space. Testing space can be made available through the DAS office at the scheduled time, the student must also make this arrangement with the DAS office. (See previous answer.)
Q: The letter says that the student needs tests read and answered verbally. How do I implement this?
A: Here are three options:
- Instructors may read the test to the student so that any questions can be clarified and have the student respond verbally to them.
- Advance arrangements can be made with Disability Access Services to read and provide the student with a scribe for the test.
- Instructors may also record test questions and accept recorded answers.
Q: How do I grade a student with a disability?
A: The student has accommodations to provide him/her with equal access and to demonstrate his/her learning. He/she should not be graded any differently from any other student. The integrity of your course should not be compromised; the student is expected to meet the objectives of the course and submit quality work. To grade a student differently is discriminatory.
Q: How can I encourage students with disabilities to seek services?
A: Include a statement on your syllabus as follows: "If you are a student with a disability, please contact Disability Access Services in the (Oak Harbor) Student Support Services office (360-679-5319) or (Mount Vernon) Counseling and Career Services office (360-416-7654) to make an informational appointment."
Q: Can a faculty member forbid a student with a disability to use a recorder in class?
A: No. An instructor is typically required to allow a student to record his/her course if recording the class is determined to be an appropriate accommodation for a student's disability. Tape recorders are specifically mentioned in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as a means of providing full participation in educational programs and activities. Occasionally, classroom discussion reveals items of a personal nature about students. If open discussions tend to reveal personal information, it would be appropriate to ask the student with a disability to turn off the recorder during these discussions. Contact the DAS office with questions or concerns about recording lectures.
Q: May I fail a student with a disability?
A: Yes. It is possible to fail a student with a disability. The laws mandate access to education, not guaranteed academic success. When a faculty member has provided reasonable academic accommodations–all that is required to comply with the law–and the student does not meet the course requirements, a failing grade is both appropriate and lawful.
The following is a compliance checklist that may be helpful:
- Stand by academic standards and freedoms, which include full and equitable access to academic programs.
- Provide verbal and written notice to your students of your willingness to accommodate. For example, "I encourage students with disabilities to discuss accommodations with me."
- Communicate clear and concise expectations for performance to your students. Distinguish between essential and non-essential components of the course.
- Respect requests for reasonable accommodations.
- Permit students to use auxiliary aides and technologies that ensure access (examples: note takers, sign language interpreters, readers, scribes, recorders/players, assistive listening devices).
- Assure that your course materials, whether printed or electronic, are accessible and available in alternative formats. The DAS office will expedite production of such alternate formats (examples: Braille, computer electronic text, large print, CDs/cassettes).
Q: Is it acceptable to ask a student who is having obvious difficulties whether he/she has a disability or to refer the student to the office that provides disability support services?
A: No. It is a civil rights violation to ask directly about a possible disability for a couple of reasons. First, the Americans with Disabilities Act states that a public entity may not make unnecessary inquiries into the existence of a disability. These inquiries usually relate to hiring or pre-admission screening, but when talking with students such inquiries should also be avoided. A direct inquiry such as this could also be considered intrusive or insensitive. You may simply tell the student that you notice he/she is having academic difficulty and encourage him/her to come talk with you about gaining assistance, just as you would with any student.
Q: Is the information regarding a student's disability and his/her need for academic accommodations confidential?
A: Privacy of student information, including that regarding student's disabilities or accommodation needs, should generally be handled according to guidelines of FERPA, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Personal information of this nature should only be shared with those people within the institution who have an educational need to know.
Q: What are some examples of accommodations/services provided by the DAS office for different types of disabilities?
A: The following are examples of accommodations/services provided by the DAS office.
- Deaf/ Hard of Hearing: closed/open captioning, FM loops, ASL interpreters, request for face-to-face contact to facilitate lip-reading
- Mobility: ortho chairs, stand/sit workstations, adjustable work tables/desks, testing, ergonomic equipment
- Speech/Language: scribes, literal interpreters
- Learning Disability: recording lectures, testing, assistive technology, recorded texts, notetaker, testing
- Blind/Visual: recording lectures, electronic notetaking, assistive technology, recorded texts, readers, scribes
- Chronic/Acute health: recording lectures, testing, notetaker, recorded texts
- Neurological/Nervous: recording lectures, testing, notetaker, recorded texts
- Psychological/Emotional: recording lectures, testing, notetaker, recorded texts
Q: What if I have additional questions?
A: For any questions regarding disabilities, please contact:
For any questions regarding accommodations, please contact:
NOTE: Tutoring is NOT an academic adjustment nor a reasonable academic accommodation as defined by Section 504 and the ADA. At SVC this service is provided to all eligible students. Have interested students contact (Oak Harbor) Courtney Richmond (360)-679-5393 or (Mount Vernon) Student Support Services, (360) 416-7636, for tutoring-related information.