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Providing Reasonable Accommodations

  • Testing Accommodations
  • Student Note Takers
  • Readers
  • Course Alternatives

    In order to provide equal learning opportunities for students with disabilities, a flexible classroom environment is important. Students with a bona fide disability will need classroom accommodations to allow them to demonstrate their knowledge of course material. In many cases, use of a word processor, calculator, or alternative test formats are all that is needed. The key to providing appropriate accommodations and avoiding misunderstandings is open communication between instructor and student.

    Remember, all communication initiated by a faculty member about a student's disability should be conducted in private. Immediately after class when several other students are waiting to ask questions, though convenient, is not the best environment.

    How Can I Get Students to Talk to Me (At the Right Time) About Their Accommodation Needs?
    One of the questions most frequently asked by faculty is "How do I get students with a disability to identify their need for accommodations at the beginning of the semester?" Many faculty would be more than willing to discuss the accommodations with students; but because the students do not come forward, faculty discover that these services are needed when it is too late. Often professors ask if SNAP Services could provide a list of students with a disability at the beginning of each new term so that the instructor could approach the student if the student did not initiate contact. We appreciate your willingness to take the initiative in such matters, but it is neither legal for SNAP Services to submit such a list nor necessarily in the best interest of the student with a disability. Legally students have a right not to be identified as disabled if they so choose. They will not receive accommodations unless they identify themselves, but that too is their choice. Moreover, while the faculty members are concerned with maximizing the learning experience in the class for the student, SNAP Services must also be concerned with helping students to develop the independence and self-advocacy that will help them outside of the classroom while in college and throughout their entire lives. Students with disabilities need to learn how to explain their disability, describe their needs, and negotiate appropriate accommodations. Their need for accommodation will always exist; therefore, the skills needed to obtain such accommodation should be developed on a permanent basis. For all of theses reasons, it is appropriate for students to take the responsibility to identify themselves and their need for accommodation to you, rather than vice versa.

    Disability Statement in Syllabus
    Though it is the student's responsibility to initiate the discussion regarding accommodations that may be needed, instructors can help to facilitate this process. Students will feel more comfortable about identifying themselves as having a disability if they are approaching someone they believe to be receptive to the discussion. Many instructors include a disability statement such as this one on their syllabi:

    If there is any student in this class who has a documented disability and has been approved to receive accommodations through SNAP Services, please feel free to come and discuss this with me during my office hours.

    Many instructors also make a similar announcement to each class at the beginning of each semester. By doing this, you will identify yourself as someone who understands that accommodations may be appropriate and perhaps has some knowledge about the accommodation process. You did not say, "I'll give you anything you want." You merely said, "Let's talk about it." Such an invitation can go a long way toward encouraging students with a disability to approach the professor early in the course.

    After a student has disclosed his or her disability to a faculty member, a dialogue regarding a student's disability could include the following:

    • How does the disability affect your performance in the classroom?
    • What accommodations have helped in the past?
    • How do you learn best? What are your academic strengths?
    • How does your disability relate to this course?
    • What had worked best for you when you take tests?

    Inquiries such as these show instructors as willing participants in the process of providing accommodations.*

    *The above information was adapted from AHEAD Faculty Inservice Education Kit.

    When talking to students with disabilities, it is important to remember that many students with disabilities often have problems with social skills. Students with auditory perception problems often misinterpret verbal messages. Tone of voice, sarcasm, or puns can be easily misunderstood. Many students with disabilities have not developed appropriate use of voice or nonverbal communication. Their body language, tone of voice, vocal inflection, and even physical proximity to a speaker may be inappropriate due to perceptual problems. Students with visual perception problems could misinterpret sincere smiles of encouragement as sneers of disgust. Many students with disabilities may appear pushy or arrogant or extremely shy or withdrawn.

    Also, by the time these students have reached the college level, many have experienced numerous negative encounters with authority figures, so speaking with an instructor may be especially intimidating. Please be aware of these potential circumstances as students approach you to discuss their disability and accommodation needs.

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    Testing Accomodations
    The most typical accommodation that SNAP students at the College receive is extended time for taking tests. Depending on the type or severity of the disorder(s), students can receive either time-and-a-half or double-time for all testing situations.

    What Should You Do if a Student Requests Extended Test Time?

    1) Ask the student if he or she has been approved to receive SNAP Services. If the student has been approved to receive SNAP Services, you can be assured that his or her disability is well documented. The student should have a letter from the Dean of Undergraduate Studies stating that he or she has been approved for these services, or you may ask to see his or her Professor Notification Letter from the Center for Disability Services confirming that the student is eligible for these services. This letter will not identify the disability (students have the right to keep the specific disorder confidential); however, this letter will state the accommodations the student is entitled to receive. If the student has not been approved for SNAP Services, you are not required to provide any accommodations.

    2) Once you are sure the student is entitled to extended test time, a decision needs to be made about the following:

    • Where will the test take place?
    • When will the test take place?
    • How will the student obtain the test?
    • How is the test to be returned to the professor?

    These details should be put in writing to avoid any miscommunication.

    Because of limited space in the CDS Alternative Testing Site, we recommend that students be allowed to take extended time tests in their instructor's office whenever possible. This procedure allows the students the opportunity to ask questions regarding the exam and clarify any points that may be misunderstood.

    If the student is to take his or her test at the CDS Alternative Testing Site, the student must adhere to the Testing Accommodation Policy described in the next section. Once students are approved for services, they are instructed to make an appointment with CDS personnel to review these testing procedures. Unfortunately, all students approved for SNAP Services do not take advantage of this orientation. If you talk with a student and he or she seems uncertain about procedures, please refer the student to SNAP Services.

    Final Exam Policy for SNAP Students
    Final examinations must be taken at the time scheduled except when:

    • The student has two or more exams scheduled simultaneously;
    • The student has two consecutive exams on the same day;
    • The student has three or more exams scheduled within a two day period, or;
    • Circumstances occur beyond the student's control. (Documentation has been submitted to the Office of Undergraduate Studies according to the section entitled "Absence from Final Examination," in the Undergraduate Bulletin.)

    Permission to reschedule exams may be obtained from a dean in the Office of Undergraduate Studies with written permission of the instructor. Change of exam forms may be picked up in the Office of Undergraduate Studies. This permission must be obtained prior to the first day of the exam period.

    Testing Dilemma
    Occasionally, despite our best intentions, the following situation occurs. A student will present the Professor Notification Letter to the instructor. The instructor tells the student to "Go on and take the test with the class, and we'll see how you do." Most students abhor asking for accommodations and want to be agreeable. (Most do not want to set up what could be perceived as an antagonistic relationship with someone who will ultimately be giving them a grade.) Some students are so intimidated by professors that they will agree to most suggestions a professor makes. The professor certainly has the right to make this suggestion; however, he or she must be prepared for the student to challenge the validity of the exam grade should the student feel that he or she was not able to demonstrate his or her knowledge due to lack of accommodation. What are you going to do? Will you allow the student to retake the test? Drop the grade? Create another test with the same format and level of difficulty? Issues such as these must be addressed before encouraging a student to take an exam without the accommodations granted by law.

    Pop Quiz Dilemma
    What do you do about pop quizzes and the student who has been granted extended test time as an accommodation? Here are some possibilities:

    • Allow the student additional time after class to complete the quiz.
    • Administer the pop quiz at the end of the class.
    • If the test has four questions and you allow the class ten minutes to take the quiz, grade the student on two questions or three questions, depending upon whether the student is entitled to time and a half or double time.
    • Allow the student to take the quiz in a previously agreed upon location near the classroom. The student would return to class after the extended test time.
    • If none of the above options are feasible, another possibility would be for the student to take the pop quiz without extended test time, but the instructor would not count the grade for or against the student.

      If you plan to use pop quizzes, the best way to avoid awkward situations is to communicate early in the semester with the student who needs extended time. Together you can develop a workable solution for everyone involved.

      Remember, accommodations are always negotiable, but if an accommodation is not provided, we must be prepared to document and justify our actions and be ready to explain why an accommodation was not provided. As we have learned from experience, we may be held accountable.

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    Student Note Takers
    Another accommodation instructors may encounter involves using students in the class as note takers for a student with a disability. Providing copies of notes may be accomplished in several ways.

    If a student requests a note taker and documentation supports the request, SNAP Services will do the following until a note taker is identified:

    If SNAP is not able to identify a note taker, you will receive a letter asking the following:
    • Do you know of a student in your class who takes good notes? If so, would you ask the student if he or she would be willing to be a note taker for the SNAP student?
    • If you do not know of a student in your class, would you please announce the need for a volunteer note taker in your class and give the volunteer the guidelines for taking notes and NCR paper (carbonless copy paper)? Additional NCR paper can be Provided through SNAP Services. SNAP Services can provide priority registration for the upcoming semester for the note taker as incentive.
    • If a volunteer note taker is not identified, an option would be for the professor to provide the student with copies of his or her notes.

    If you have any questions regarding the use of note takers in your class, if you are not able to identify a note taker, or if you are not able to provide copies of your notes, please contact SNAP Services. Whatever method is chosen, NCR paper is available through SNAP Services for note takers. Students may also photocopy the note taker's class notes. Photocopying for class notes is available through SNAP Services. Until note taking services can begin, students granted note-taking accommodations should be allowed to tape record class discussions.

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    Readers are most often used for students with severe visual processing deficits or reading disorders and are used almost exclusively for testing situations. The procedure for scheduling a reader is similar to the procedure for scheduling an appointment for extended test time through the Alternative Testing Site. Students approved for this accommodation should discuss the use of a reader with the instructor at least one week before an exam will be given. Instructors can serve as readers for tests if they would like to administer the test in their office. If the instructor cannot act as a reader for the exam, the student should arrange for a reader through SNAP Services.

    The reader will read the text of the exam. Since the function of a reader is to provide an auditory copy of the test for the student, readers may not interpret or comment on any aspect of the test. Readers may read aloud the student's answer if the student requests, but the reader cannot evaluate or comment on the written response.

    When the students request a reader, instructors also have the option to tape record the test. The student then listens to the tape of the test starting and stopping the recording as needed.

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    Course Alternatives
    When a student's learning disability is severe in math or a language-based area, the examining psychologist may recommend alternative coursework for the math/logic or foreign language requirements. Students with extreme auditory processing deficits or writing or reading disorders that prevent them from learning a foreign language in a traditional classroom setting may require alternatives to the College's foreign language requirement. Students with dyscalculia or math calculation/math reasoning disorder may need alternatives to the math/logic requirement.

    Course alternatives exist in order to give students who cannot learn in certain ways the opportunity to meet the philosophical goals of these course requirements through alternative avenues. As a liberal arts institution, we must keep in mind the reasons these requirements exist in the first place. If the desired outcome for our foreign language requirement is increased global awareness and a broader world perspective, this goal can also be accomplished through the study of foreign cultures, history, political systems, geography, and anthropology.

    These alternatives do not exist to allow unfair advantages to students with disabilities; they exist as an attempt to level the academic playing field. Remember, to be approved for foreign language alternatives or math/logic alternatives, students must meet stringent criteria. These applications are documented by psychological testing by licensed psychologists, reviewed by SNAP Services and Special Education personnel. Ultimately, applications are approved by the Dean of Undergraduate Studies. Alternatives to course requirements are granted only when the disability is so severe that other accommodations would be ineffective.

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  • Contact CDS Updated 03/11/02