Services for Students with Disabilities

Chemistry classroom full of students

The purpose of academic accommodations

The objective in giving a student with disabilities an academic accommodation is to provide equity and access. To this end SSD provides students with a Verified Individualized Services and Accommodations (VISA) letter stating the accommodation(s) assigned to compensate for a student’s disability. This letter is intended to level the academic playing field for students with disabilities and their peers, not to give them an unfair advantage.

SSD’s limitations on requesting accommodations

SSD is limited in two ways when asking professors to make accommodations for a student. One is that the academic accommodation cannot make fundamental alterations to a course. The professor sets the core components of a course: attendance, grades, homework/tests, etc. If a professor states in their syllabus that attendance is a fundamental requirement for course completion, SSD cannot provide an accommodation that excuses the student from attending class. In this case, the accommodation has nothing to do with the student’s access to course content and therefore is not related to their disability.

Secondly, SSD accommodation requests cannot alter the technical standards of a program. This is particularly true when a program has requirements that lead to certification or licensing. A student with disabilities has to abide by the requirements of the program as it was designed. SSD cannot ask that a program change their technical standards and/or requirements to fit the needs of a student with a disability.

As a professor, a good rule of thumb is to ask, “Is the student getting full and equal access?” If so, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is being carried out as it was intended. Accommodations that provide full and equal access for students such as video captioning, note-taking, time and a half on a test and scanned print materials to name just a few, is in accordance with the law and within the rights of the SSD office to request as an accommodation. Anything above and beyond that is at the discretion of the professor.