Flexibility as an Accomodation?

Accommodations can be tricky to implement, none more so than flexibility with attendance and/or assignment deadlines.  Disability Services (DS) always requires that students submit appropriate documentation of a disability.  Generally, Disability Services grants flexibility to students with a chronic illness or those with acute episodic disorders.  To implement this accommodation correctly, students and their faculty need to decide the number of classes that the student may miss due to his/her disability. 

Faculty should clearly communicate this number to the student and whether the student must provide a doctor’s note confirming the absence was disability related.  Ideally, this discussion should occur at the beginning of the semester and not after the student has missed numerous classes.  In the student’s notification letter to faculty, DS lists several questions to discuss including:  

  1. Is this class primarily based on class discussion or group work among students?
  2. Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
  3. Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method for learning?
  4. Does a student’s failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the education experience of other students?
  5. What is the method by which the final grade is calculated?
  6. What are the classroom practices and polices about attendance?

The answers to these questions set the parameters of the accommodation.  The number of allowed absences may be more than that of a student without a disability, but should still reflect the nature and structure of the class. Also, faculty should allow that student to make up any missed work due to those absences, but it is the student’s responsibility to clarify when those assignments are due.  Students should not be allowed to abuse this accommodation. If a student violates the agreement with the professor then DS should be notified immediately and that student should be treated as any other student who has exceeded the allowed number of absences.

Similarly, when a student receives flexibility with assignment deadlines as an accommodation, students should always inform his/her faculty about the need to turn in a late assignment prior to the deadline and together they should reach an agreement about how many days late is permissible.  In determining the parameters of this accommodation, professors should consider his or her practices and policies about late assignments and whether the assignment deadlines are given at the beginning of the semester.