Course and classroom accommodations may be necessary to achieve equity for students with disabilities.
Accommodations are determined on an individual basis by the LEADS Director after obtaining information about a student’s disability and the impact of that disability in a learning setting. This information is used to consider traditional classroom techniques and determine what adjustments may be needed. Accommodations are an individual’s right and are expected to be implemented. However, faculty may always discuss options with the Director should a particular accommodation appear to have an adverse impact on the learning goals or experiences of an individual student or others in the class.
There are two basic types of course accommodations and they are implemented in different ways:
- Accommodations that are based on routinely used teaching/learning methods and are straightforward in their implementation are most common. These include such accommodations as extra time on any timed in-class evaluations such as most commonly used tests and quizzes, a low distraction area in which to take an exam, and note-taking assistance. When a student is eligible for these types of accommodations, they are communicated to the professor via a paper letter, called an Access Letter, signed by the Director, and are delivered to the professor by the student. Because there are some logistics involved in most of these, the student and the professor are to discuss together how the accommodations will be implemented.
- Accommodations of “leniency with attendance” and “leniency with deadlines” rely more heavily on nuanced knowledge of the course activities and learning goals. Consequently, the Director sends an email to the professor asking the professor to consider the amount of leniency the professor can allow given the course structure and learning goals. The professor should respond to the email detailing specific ways in which leniency can be provided. For those times when such leniency would directly impact learning by classmates or affect an experience that would be impossible to replicate if missed, a faculty member should provide the specific rationale that supports the decision to not allow leniency. Faculty are asked to reply to the email from the Director with these specifics so that any misunderstandings or lack of clarity can be addressed before communicating with the student. Faculty also need to establish, in advance, the maximum amount of classes that can be missed. Establishing this decision in advance and in writing with an accompanying rationale, prevents a faculty member from being viewed as arbitrary and capricious.
- Accommodations are to be implemented as indicated, even when the faculty member has concerns and proceeds to discuss alternatives with the Director.
- Faculty are not to involve the student in a discussion of determining accommodations. For the leniency accommodation, the decisions by the faculty are to be made independent of the student’s disability, beliefs about the student’s capabilities, and/or beliefs about the student’s perceived ability to attend class or complete coursework in a timely basis.
- The very nature of disabilities which require leniency with attendance and deadlines is that those students are unable to know or control in advance when they will be impacted by their disability. Therefore, indicating that a student needs to notify a faculty member in advance is an unrealistic requirement. Most faculty allow 24-48 hours after the deadline for the student to contact the faculty member.
- With leniency accommodations for attendance and deadlines, the students with disabilities are to have no less leniency than any other student for any other reason.
- Because most students have multiple disabilities, faculty frequently receive letters of accommodation from the student and an email from the Director. Both are to be attended to and the faculty member is to track the accommodation needs of individual students in their courses.
- LEADS does not know each individual student’s reason for absences to verify them for faculty. However, a faculty member who is concerned about repeated absences without contact from the student is encouraged to notify LEADS or other Dean of Students staff so that they can try to connect with the student.
These statements for implementing accommodations are the minimum necessary for compliance. However, many faculty and staff are interested in inclusive practices, universal design methods, and other strategies for making a better learning experience for all learners, including students with disabilities. At times this may have a bearing on accommodations and would be best discussed with the Director if there are any concerns about whether or not it meets the needs of the student.
Types of Classroom Accommodations
MAJOR POINTS FOR FACULTY
The following are some basic facts for faculty to keep in mind regarding academic accommodations:
Accommodations are a right, not a privilege. It is the responsibility of the College to ensure that students with disabilities are provided equal access to their college education. In making decisions, the Director relies heavily on professional standards, consults colleagues within the disability services field and remains mindful of Beloit College’s academic standards.
Compromising essential components of a course shall not be required. Accommodations are to provide that a student with equal access to the essential course content and to mitigate the impact of the disability on the student’s learning and/or academic performance without compromising course or program integrity.
Accommodations may involve modifications of the way in which course material is presented or how learning is evaluated as long as it does not compromise essential components.
Faculty have the right to question accommodation decisions and to suggest alternatives perceived to be more appropriate in light of the essential components of the course, program or activity. Alternative accommodations must be equitable to the original accommodation and should not be implemented until discussed with both the student and the Director and consequently authorized by the Director.
Specific information about the student’s disability is confidential and will not be revealed to a faculty member unless there is a “need to know.” Students are also NOT required to reveal any information about their disability with the faculty member in order to obtain the accommodations listed in the Access Letter (AL) or via the Leniency email. Faculty are encouraged to share with the Director information about the essential components of the course and/or program so that the Director can make appropriate decisions regarding accommodations.
Even if there are concerns about the accommodations faculty are to implement the accommodations as soon as possible, but in no case, more than five academic days after the AL has been received and discussed. If the faculty member does not contact the student and/or the Director to discuss alternatives, accommodations are to be provided as delineated in the AL. Delays in implementation and/or unauthorized changes to accommodations can be construed as a form of discrimination.
If a faculty member is unable to reach an agreement on the accommodations with the student and the Director, he/she may pursue the Grievance Procedures described on the website.