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Faculty Guide: Classroom Accommodations

It is important that every student be given equal access to materials and information presented in class. This should not be reduced by personal limitations. Below are examples of common in-class accommodations.

Preferential seating

This accommodation is provided to students for many different reasons. A student with a visual impairment may request preferential seating at the front to better see the slides, overheads, or chalkboard. Students with hearing impairments may request this to better hear the instructor or to accommodate their Sign Language interpreter. A student with anxiety may request preferential seating at the back of the room for easy access to the door should they have an attack.  Students with limited mobility may need access to a specific row or wheelchair accessible table.

Notetaking, Copies of Overheads, Recording Lectures

Students may require assistance obtaining materials presented in class because of limitations resulting from their disability. These accommodations include requesting copies of the overheads presented in class, the ability to record lectures, taking pictures of the board, use of a computer, and a peer notetaker. For most students with disabilities these accommodations are meant to supplement the student's own notes.  Examples of students that may require these accommodations are students with learning disabilities or physical impairments. An exception would be Deaf students or students that are hard of hearing that completely rely on note takers since they are unable to watch their Sign Language interpreter and take notes at the same time. The student's accommodations letters describes these requests as follows:

  • Copies of Power Points - Copies of lecture materials provided to student. This includes materials such as instructor's overheads and PowerPoint presentations.
  • Pictures of board - Student may take photographs of the board, PowerPoints, and other overheads as needed. If there is a concern about the student taking photographs, please contact the student's Access Coordinator to discuss.
  • Recording lecture - Student may audio record lecture. If there is a concern about the student recording lecture, please contact the student's Access Coordinator to discuss.
  • Notetaking technology - Use of technology, such as a laptop or tablet to assist with notetaking.
  • Peer notetaker - Use of copies of notes from a peer notetaker. A peer notetaker from the course will be identified and managed by Disability Services.

More information about Auxiliary Aids and Services for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

Modified Attendance as an Accommodation

Federal law requires colleges and universities to consider reasonable modification of attendance policies if needed to accommodate a student’s disability. In making this determination, two questions must be answered:

  • Does the student have a documented disability that directly affects his/her ability to attend class on a regular basis? Disability Services will make this determination based on a review of documentation from the student’s physician or psychologist and provide verification in a letter the student presents to the instructor.
  • Is attendance an essential part of the class? Would modification of attendance policies result in a fundamental alteration of the curriculum? Instructors make this determination in consultation with Disability Services.

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has provided the following guidelines to assess if attendance is an essential part of a class:

  1. Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students and among students?
  2. Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
  3. Does the fundamental nature of the course rely on student participation as an essential method for learning?
  4. To what degree does a student’s failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class? 
  5. What do the course description and syllabus say?
  6. Which method is used to calculate the final grade?
  7. What are the classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?

Disability Services requires that students with a disability-related need for flexibility in attendance meet with their instructors to discuss the extent to which modification in attendance policies may be reasonable for a particular class. Following this meeting the student and instructor should have a clear understanding of what accommodations can be made for disability-related absences. To facilitate this discussion the Modified Attendance Agreement should be reviewed and completed to clearly set out expectations. Disability Services staff is available to consult with instructors and students on issues concerning disability and attendance and can facilitate the completion of this Agreement.

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