Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQs | Case scenarios | Common accommodations

When I receive a copy of a student's accommodation letter, do I have the right to know the specifics regarding the student's disability?

OAS cannot release details of a student's disability unless the student has given the office consent to do so. This information is confidential.

What is most important is the impact of the disability on the student's learning in your course. The accommodations are developed to ensure that the student has equal opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of your course content by eliminating barriers that might otherwise exist. Some students may feel comfortable disclosing particulars regarding the disability in relation to their specific accommodation needs for your course. However, it is never appropriate to inquire about the disability. This may be viewed as intrusive and insensitive.

What is appropriate is for faculty to ask the student how he/she can best support the educational needs of the student as it relates to the implementation of their accommodations.

What are "reasonable accommodations?"

Reasonable accommodations are modifications or adjustments to a course, program, service, job, activity, or facility that helps to ensure that an equal opportunity exists for students with disabilities and provides access to these programs and services. Access may be achieved through the provision of auxiliary aids, assistive technologies, and modification of instructional and examination practices.

When is it appropriate to provide a student with accommodations?

Faculty should only provide accommodations to students after receiving a formal accommodation notification letter from the Office of Accessibility Services.

OAS discourages faculty from providing accommodations in the absence of an official accommodation letter. If the student does not have an accommodation letter and makes such a request, please refer the student to OAS.

What if the student has requested additional accommodations not outlined in the accommodation letter?

If the student request considerations that are not listed in the accommodation letter, it is recommended that the instructor only provide considerations that are available to any student with a comparable need. These considerations should not be referred to as "accommodations," as OAS is designated to determine accommodations.

If faculty would like to grant the students' request they should also guarantee that the considerations do not fundamentally alter the nature or purpose of the course requirements, and if necessary are capable of defending the decision without disability eligibility. For further questions faculty are encouraged to seek guidance from OAS prior to making a consideration.

What if I have concerns that the requested accommodation will alter the essential components of my course?

Accommodations based on a disability are intended to remove barriers to learning and demonstration of knowledge. In no way should an accommodation compromise the academic standards of a course or program. To ensure that this is a legitimate concern you may want to consider the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the course?
  • What method of instruction is absolutely necessary? Why? One consideration: will altering the method of instruction compromise the purpose of the course
  • What outcomes are absolutely required of all students? Why? What specific knowledge, principles, concepts and skills do I believe must be mastered by students?
  • What method of assessing student outcomes is absolutely necessary? Why? For example, if a student, based on their disability, requested an audio recorded essay exam, would this compromise the purpose of the course?

If concerns remain after review of these questions, the faculty should contact OAS to discuss the specific nature of the accommodation's impact on the course and should consider offering suggestions for accommodating the student. Accommodations are not intended to be a process of student notice and faculty acceptance but are most effective and supportive when there is collaboration between the faculty, the student, and OAS.

When is a student required to notify faculty of a need for accommodations?

The student has the right to provide notification of accommodations at any time during the semester/term. Once a student is registered with OAS and requests a notification letter, the student will deliver an accommodation notification letter. Accommodations should then be provided from that point forward in the semester. Accommodations are not expected to be applied retroactively. To ensure that there is adequate time to arrange accommodations, the student has the responsibility to give the instructor "reasonable notice." Without reasonable notice the instructor is not obligated to provide the accommodation(s).

There is a student in my class who I think may have a disability -- what do I do?

Many students are referred to the office out of concern by faculty members.

Faculty members are encouraged to speak with the student about concerns regarding his or her academic performance. If the concern seems disability related it is appropriate to refer the student directly to OAS. The student may contact the office to discuss the academic accommodation process.

If documentation is submitted directly to faculty, they should not review the documents and should refer the student to OAS.

What obligation do I have to accommodate students with disabilities? Do I have the right to deny a particular accommodation for my course?

In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, provision of equal access to students with disabilities is an institutional requirement.

The university is committed to ensuring that all qualified students are provided equal academic opportunities. Regarding denial of accommodations, the instructor has the right to refuse a particular accommodation if he/she can demonstrate that the accommodation fundamentally alters the nature or purpose of the course or its requirements.

When feasible, the instructor should contact OAS prior to refusal to discuss other alternatives for the student. At no time is the university required to compromise its academic standards.