Providing Student Accommodations
Why do we offer accommodations?
W&L must provide equal access to its University programs and activities to students with disabilities. While equal access can often be achieved through course design, barriers to learning or assessment may still exist for a student with a disability. Accommodations alter the learning environment in such a manner that the student with a disability has the same opportunity to learn and demonstrate their learning as the student without a disability. Accommodations do not give a student with a disability an unfair advantage. Decisions about academic disability accommodations are made based on current levels of functioning and what is appropriate to give a student an equal opportunity to participate in university courses by specifically addressing a substantially-limiting impairment. Accommodations are not granted to ensure better academic performance or to maximize a student's ability to succeed.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
Accommodations simply provide an alternative way to accomplish the course requirements by eliminating or reducing disability-related barriers. This could include:
- Changes to a classroom environment or task;
- Removal of architectural barriers;
- Modifications to policies, practices or procedures;and/or
- Provision of auxiliary aids and services.
Reasonable accommodations do not:
- Require a fundamental alteration of the essential elements of a course or curriculum;
- Weaken the academic standards or integrity of the course or curriculum; or
- Include personal services such as tutoring or personal attendants.
How will I know that a student has approved accommodations?
Students with approved accommodations should hand-deliver an Official Accommodation Letter, signed by the Director of Disability Resources, to their instructors. The letter will not provide any details about the student's specific disability as that information is protected by law, but will list and explain the approved accommodations. Instructors should discuss with the student how best to implement the accommodations.
If the instructor has any questions about a particular accommodation, please contact Lauren Kozak, the Director of Disability Resources.
Does the letter of accommodation expire?
It depends. If a letter of accommodation is only valid for a particular time period, it will say so clearly on the letter. If no end date is listed on the letter, then the letter will remain valid while the student is enrolled.
What if a student asks me for an accommodation but has not shown me a letter of accommodation?
Instructors often provide flexibility to students who are encountering any type of barrier to learning or participation. Of course, this should be provided fairly and equitably. When disability related barriers are raised, you should feel free to have a conversation with that student about the perceived barrier and what may be helpful. You may consider ways to ensure equal access to this student and all students using aspects of universal design. W&L does not require you to alter any aspect of your course without a letter of accommodation, but you may make pedagogical decisions, as you would with any student who approaches you with a concern or idea about the course. You should also encourage the student to connect with Disability Resources to make an accommodation request. This will help ensure that for specific accommodations all students go through the same process, that there is consistency across courses and instructors, and that the student is aware of related resources. If a student attempts to provide you with medical documentation, please direct them to the Director of Disability Resources as it is not appropriate for professors to evaluate documentation and determine disability accommodation needs.
What if I believe an approved accommodation fundamentally alters the nature of my course?
Accommodations should never require an instructor to lower academic standards or fundamentally alter their course or program. If an instructor believes that an accommodation listed in a student's letter may do this, he or she should discuss the matter with the Director of Disability Resources, Lauren Kozak.
What if a student asks for accommodations in the middle or end of my course?
Ideally, discussing the disability accommodation syllabus statement in your class will encourage students to secure accommodations early in the course. However, it is also possible that students may be diagnosed with disabilities, or realize that they need accommodations, after class is already underway. If this occurs, take time to review the student's accommodation letter with the student. Instructors must provide accommodations when a student presents an official accommodation letter at any time during the course, but accommodations are not retroactive. Additionally, instructors must be given reasonable notification (within one week of an exam) of an accommodation such as extended time or low distraction, and it is within the instructor's discretion to not grant said accommodation for an immediately upcoming exam.