Faculty play an important role in assuring that all individuals, including those with disabilities, have access to course content and instructional activities. Participation in lectures, written assignments, field or lab work, exams, class discussions, and computer applications may be impacted by an individual's disability. A student with a disability may need accommodations in one or more of these areas in order to gain or demonstrate knowledge of the course content.
Faculty Fast Facts
- Disabilities and the Law
- Faculty Rights and Responsibilities
- Reasonable Accommodations
- Accessible Course Materials
Universal Design in Learning
Universal Design is an approach to designing course instruction, materials, and content to benefit people of all learning styles without adaptation or retrofitting. By incorporating Universal Design principles in instruction that allow students with disabilities access to the classroom, you may also be designing instruction that works better for everyone in the class. Classes designed with this concept in mind offer a variety of methods of content presentation, flexible teaching strategies, and options for demonstrating mastery of course content.
Accommodations are defined as:
Academic adjustments that allow students with disabilities to access information and materials and to demonstrate knowledge or mastery in a manner that is not affected negatively by the disability
Academic accommodations are those adjustments which allow equal access to academic programs and include classroom and assessment accommodations.
Some frequently used academic accommodations include but are not limited to:
- Extended time on exams
- Exams administered on computer
- Exams administered in a setting that minimizes distractions
- Volunteer note-taker
- Textbooks in alternative format
- Use of calculator
All personal services (attendant care) and equipment (e.g., wheelchairs, hearing aids) are the responsibility of each student and will not be provided by the Center for Accessibility Resources.
Information for Syllabi
Faculty should include the following statement in the course syllabus regarding services and accommodations for students with disabilities participating in traditional classes:
"Any student who needs classroom or testing accommodations is invited to present letters from the Center for Accessibility Resources and discuss accommodations with me after class or during office hours. The Center for Accessibility Resources is located in the Lebegern Learning Commons — Mund Suite 002. Students may schedule an appointment by calling 717-867-6028.”
Faculty should include the following statement in the course syllabus regarding services and accommodations for students with disabilities participating in online classes:
“Any student who needs accommodations is invited to send letters from the Center for Accessibility Resources and discuss accommodations with me. The Center for Accessibility Resources is located in the Lebegern Learning Commons — Mund Suite 002. Students may schedule an appointment by calling 717-867-6028.”
Students who are eligible for course notes as a reasonable accommodation will have this designation on the accommodation letter. Eligible students must request a note-taker using the online note-taker request form, which notifies the Center for Accessibility Resources that a note-taker is being requested for a specific course. Once a request is received, the Center for Accessibility Resources will email the faculty member asking him/her to seek a volunteer note-taker for the course. It is important that all note-takers report to the Center office for instructions in how to upload course notes to a designated note-taker course in CANVAS. Students who will be receiving course notes will be responsible for downloading their own notes via the note-taker course in CANVAS.
When a note-taker is requested for a course, faculty should:
- Contact the class via an announcement, email, or CANVAS message requesting a note-taker without identifying the student who requested this accommodation.
- Review the notes of any volunteer to ensure that notes are comprehensive.
- Send the note-taker to the Center for Accessibility Resources to register as a volunteer note-taker and email the name of the volunteer to the director of Accessibility Resources. The Center will follow up with special instructions for the note-taker.
- Volunteer note-takers receive 15 campus service hours for the semester.
- Note-takers must be registered with the Center for Accessibility Resources in order to receive service hours for the semester.
- Note-takers should use black or blue ink pen for taking notes to ensure clear scanning capability. Typed notes may be required for some students with print disabilities. (We will inform the note-taker if notes must be typed and will grant additional service hours for typed notes.)
- Notes must be labeled by Course, Section, and Professor; Example: SOC-110–06 J. Smith
- Note-takers are required to scan notes at least once per week and the post course notes to their designated CANVAS note-taker section. (A scanner is located in the Lebegern Learning Commons—Center for Writing and Peer Tutoring—MUND.) The Center for Accessibility Resources staff distribute notes confidentially to receiving students.
Examination accommodations may be provided to eligible students with disabilities. When approved as an allowable accommodation by the Director of Accessibility Resources, exam accommodations will be noted on the student’s letter of accommodation. Example accommodations may include additional time, reduced distraction environment, use of computer and assistive technology, scribe, etc.
Faculty utilizing the Center for Accessibility Resources testing facility must:
- Provide examinations to the Center within 3-5 days of the scheduled exam.
- Complete a proctoring form for all examinations to be administered in the Center testing facility.
- Provide any additional media necessary for students to complete the exam (e.g., if exam items are presented to students in color, the faculty member must deliver color copies to the Center).
Approximately 3 days prior to a scheduled exam, the Center assistant will email the faculty member indicating the student(s) who have scheduled to take the exam in the Center testing facility. Questions regarding examinations administered in the Center for Accessibility Resources may be sent to Kris Shutter, Accessibility Resources Assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 6028.
How can I encourage students that may have disabilities to visit or register with the Center for Accessibility Resources?
Include a statement in your syllabus and make the announcement on the first day of class. A sample syllabus statement is available here.
What should I do if a student comes up to me right before, during, or after class and hands me an Accommodation Letter?
Tell the student that in respect for her/his confidentiality, you would like to meet during office hours where you can discuss the request further. Tell the student this will give you both an opportunity to review the letter and accommodations. Talking with students about accommodations helps students practice self-advocacy skills.
How do I approach a student who is having difficulty in the class and I suspect he/she may have a disability?
You may not legally ask students if they have a disability, but you can make inquiries about the nature of their academic difficulties. You may ask if they had difficulty before and how they were able to succeed in their classes. The student may voluntarily disclose the disability. A referral to the Center for Accessibility Resources is appropriate at this point. If he/she does not disclose, you may simply tell the student that you notice he/she is having academic difficulty and encourage him/her to talk with you about gaining assistance, just as you would with any student.
What do I do if a student requests an accommodation that is not on his/her Accommodation Letter?
You are not obligated to provide additional accommodations for which you have not received documentation; however, please contact the director of disability resources so the accommodation request can be reviewed. It may be an appropriate and reasonable accommodation to add for the student.
What should I expect to receive from a student with a disability requesting academic adjustments such as extended time on exams?
You should be given an Accommodation Letter from the student that lists the approved academic adjustments that are determined and authorized by the director of accessibility resources.
Is the information regarding a student’s disability and their needs for academic accommodations confidential?
Completely! Instructors must maintain a policy of strict confidentiality about the identity of a student with a disability, the nature of their disability, and the disability–related accommodations they require.
Can I ask a student to disclose her or his disability to me?
Absolutely not. We understand that this may be difficult for some individuals who teach; however, requiring that a student disclose her or his disability puts the university at great legal risk. Although you may be open to listening if a student chooses to explain her or his disability to you—without your actual or implied solicitation of information—it is very important that you communicate respect for the student’s privacy regarding the specific nature of her or his disability.
What happens when the student registers with the Center for Accessibility Resources?
Students will be asked to complete a general registration form. Their disability, as they understand it, will be discussed with the director of disability resources. The student will be informed that to be granted accommodations, she or he will have to submit appropriate documentation of disability from a licensed professional. Once received, the documentation will be reviewed for appropriateness. After review, the director will discuss reasonable accommodations based on the documentation available. Students without appropriate or current documentation will be given an appropriate referral, if the student so desires.
How are instructors informed that a student is qualified to receive disability-related accommodations?
A student who wishes to receive disability-related accommodations must register with the Center for Accessibility Resources before receiving accommodations. Once determined eligible for accommodations, the student provides each of their instructors with a letter written by the director, which substantiates proof of the disability and identifies approved academic accommodations.
How can I encourage students with disabilities to talk with me about their accommodations?
Announce at the beginning of the course that you are available to discuss instructional methods and appropriate course modifications with students who have disabilities. In addition, you should include a note to this effect on your course syllabus.
What is a reasonable academic accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is a modification that allows the student equal access to the learning opportunity. Academic accommodations include, but are not limited to, testing accommodations, adaptive technology services, and assistance in arranging other support services (e.g., interpreters, note-takers, scribes, and readers).
Can I choose to accommodate a student who is not registered with accessibility services and/or who has not provided me with the appropriate forms?
Any exceptions that a professor chooses to make in her or his instructional and/or testing procedures is not deemed an accommodation of a disability if the student has not self-identified and registered with the Center for Accessibility Resources at LVC. We all know that most professors choose to make exceptions for particular students from time to time (e.g., allowing a student to take a make-up test in the event of a family member’s death). However, any exceptions made based on a students alleged, but undocumented disability, can put the university at legal risk.
Do I have any input regarding the manner in which a student is accommodated?
Absolutely! Because you are the person most intimately familiar with your own courses and teaching style, you may provide very valuable input in the process of tailoring the specifics of several accommodations for a given student. Also, any prior experience that you have had with the student or in working with other students with disabilities can be helpful. We welcome your ideas and suggestions as we all work together to meet the needs and accommodations of LVC students with disabilities.
Can I refuse to accommodate a student who presents an Accommodations Letter?
If you have questions about the validity of a letter presented by a student, you are urged to contact the director of disability resources. Although we cannot disclose the specifics about a student’s disability without the student’s consent, the director can review the files and tell you if the forms you were presented were originated from the Center office and if the accommodations listed are in fact the accommodations granted. Students are issued new letters each semester and must present current letters to faculty. Faculty are not to accept letters that appear altered or are dated for previous semesters.
How do I accommodate a student whose disability causes them to miss class?
An LVC focus group representative of several faculty members helped to develop specific language to include in accommodation letters for students who may miss class due to exacerbation of disability-related symptoms. When this accommodation is needed, students must notify professors in a timely manner. If absences exceed the instructor’s attendance policies, the student must meet with his or her academic advisor to discuss the impact excessive absence may have in completing the course successfully.
Can a student with a disability receive a failing grade?
Yes. The laws mandate access to education for students with disabilities, not guaranteed academic success.
How can I ensure that I am meeting legal requirements for students with disabilities?
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.
- 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 (e.g., note takers, readers, scribes, tape recorders, assistive listening devices).
- Assure that your course materials, whether printed or electronic, are accessible and available in alternative formats.
- Consult with the director of accessibility resources if you have questions regarding an accommodation.
- Keep student disability–related information strictly confidential.