Ten Steps to Accommodating Students with Disabilities

1. On your syllabus, clearly detail course requirements and academic standards including your grading rubric and attendance policy. Make a verbal statement inviting students with a disability to request accommodations. Put a statement, such as the following, on your syllabi, “If you have a disability and would like to request accommodations, please contact AccessAbility Services, located in Wilder Hall B4, at 413-538-2646 or accessability-services@mtholyoke.edu. If you are eligible, they will give you an accommodation letter which you should bring to me as soon as possible.”

2. Encourage students with accommodation letters to meet with you privately to discuss their needs. Appreciate that for many students, this can be intimidating. Help to make this process a positive experience by treating your student with compassion and respect.

3. Read the accommodation letter carefully and discuss the logistics of each accommodation. Here are some things to consider: If extra time on exams is needed, should the student arrive early or stay late? If reduced-distraction test location is needed, will you use a nearby empty classroom, a quiet office, or send the student to AccessAbility Services? How and where will the student get the exam? Once you and the student have agreed to logistics, write them down on the enclosed receipt. Keep the accommodation letter and receipt in a secure location for your own records. Before planning each test, check your accommodation letters and make appropriate plans to ensure that each accommodation is met. The student is not responsible for reminding faculty or renegotiating accommodations throughout the semester.

4. Some accommodation letters may also include other information, such as suggestions of teaching strategies that would help the particular student, information about the particular disability, or how to respond in case of a seizure or other medical emergency. Call AccessAbility Services with any questions about information provided in the Accommodation Letter.

5. If you believe the specified accommodations will fundamentally alter an essential requirement of your course, pose a health or safety risk or an undue hardship, please contact the AccessAbility Services Director and explain your concern. Other appropriate methods of accommodation may be considered; but it is ultimately the decision of the AccessAbility Services Director to determine accommodations. Professors do not have the authority to deny an accommodation.

6. Accommodations are not meant to give a student with a disability an advantage over other students, make the course easier, or in any way change essential requirements or standards of the course or major. Students with disabilities should neither be graded differently than other students nor given additional requirements in order to receive accommodations. Rather, accommodations are intended level the playing field for students with disabilities by removing barriers to learning or to demonstrating what a student has learned.

7. Please respect confidentiality. Do not talk about a student’s accommodations or disability in front of others. It is prohibited for faculty to ask what the student’s disability is. Likewise, faculty may not ask students to provide a copy of their disability documentation. An accommodation letter from AccessAbility Services is the only document a student needs to present to faculty and staff in order to receive accommodations. When a student brings you an accommodation letter, you may ask her how she learns best and what activities she finds difficult. If a student reveals areas of difficulty, discuss possible solutions.

8. Remind your students the importance of seeking assistance. Consider posting names and locations of campus support services such as Library, Information, and Technology Services (LITS), Speaking, Arguing and Writing (SAW), AccessAbility Services, and the Counseling Center. Post your office hours and contact information for tutors in your department.

9. If a student requires course material in alternate accessible format, remember that you are required to provide this at the same time that you provide your course material to students without disabilities. Please carefully read Guidelines for Creating Accessible Course Material. Contact your RIS liaison for assistance in locating accessible materials or AccessAbility Services with any questions about accessible course materials.

10. Contact AccessAbility Services at 413-538-2634 or dlcohen@mtholyoke.edu for suggestions, support, assistance with accommodations, and strategies for making your course accessible. Our office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.