What should I do if a student tells me they need an accommodation?

Begin by asking the student if they have received an accommodation letter from Accessibility Services. If the student has not, he/she should be informed that all accommodation requests are to be made directly to the Office of Accessibility Services (accessibility@wheatoncollege.edu). These requests must be substantiated by appropriate documentation and reviewed by Accessibility Services. If a student does present a current accommodation letter, you should discuss with the student which accommodation they are requesting for your classroom and mutually decide how the requested accommodation will be implemented.

What is a “current” accommodation letter?

Accommodation letters only apply to the semester for which they are dated.

Do all students with a disability need to register with Accessibility Services?

No. It is likely that some students may choose not to disclose a disability.  If, however, they seek accommodations from you, they must register with Accessibility Services.  Some students may have an undiagnosed disability or they may have a disorder but do not meet the eligibility criterion of a disability.  In such instances, faculty should not assume that they need to provide these students with accommodations. Refer students to Accessibility Services if they have disclosed a disability or have other disability related concerns.

What if a student presents their accommodation letter and informs me that they will not need all the accommodations in my classroom? (Example:  The student is eligible for a note-sharer, but does not want to use this service.)

Although a student may be eligible for an accommodation, they do not necessarily have to make use of the accommodation.  Students have autonomy to decide in which class they wish to use each accommodation. If a student approaches you with an Accommodation Letter but states that they will not use the accommodations in your class, it would be a good idea to summarize their discussion in an email sent to the student.

What if a student brings an accommodation letter for extended test time after they have failed an exam?

Accommodations are not retroactive. It is the student’s responsibility to meet with faculty in a timely manner to provide faculty members with the accommodation letter.

What happens if a student brings me an accommodation letter six weeks into the course, do I still have to provide the accommodation?

Yes. From that point on the student is eligible to receive accommodation(s), which must be arranged within a reasonable amount of time in advance of their need. Sometimes students will attempt to get through a course without having to use an accommodation, or without disclosing to a particular professor that they are eligible for an accommodation due to a disability. If an eligible student decides they need an accommodation, and the student makes a request to receive the accommodation, the college must comply.

If a student brings me an accommodation letter for extended time on tests the day before or the day of the exam, am I required immediately to provide the accommodation?

Unless you have received sufficient notice of the accommodation to allow you an opportunity to implement the accommodation, you are not required to do so.  When students are provided an accommodation letter, the issue of timeliness in providing the accommodation is discussed with the student.

What if I plan an activity or assignment for my class, but a student in the class has a limitation due to his/her disability that prevents them from participating? For example, let’s say it is an outdoor field trip that includes climbing a mountain to obtain rock samples and I have a student in a wheelchair.

According to ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, we may not prohibit students with disabilities from having access to a course or program. However, students with disabilities must also be “otherwise qualified” to take the class if they are to have any right to accommodations in the course or program. Thus, keeping the student and the requirements of the course in mind, you should notify the student of the requirement and discuss any modification/accommodation that might help, or any options that may be available so that the student can meet the requirement. For example: Is the student being assessed on their ability to climb the mountain and extract rock samples? Or is the student being assessed on their knowledge in examining the rock samples? If the answer to the latter question is yes, then perhaps the student could attend the outdoor field trip, another student could gather the rock samples, and the student with a disability could examine the samples in the lab.

What if there is a problem with a classroom’s physical design that potentially prohibits access to an enrolled student with a disability?  For example, what if a student in a wheelchair cannot fit through a door or the lab tables are too high?  How should I respond if I am the faculty member instructing the course or an advisor for the student who is aware of potential problems the student may encounter?

If a student enrolled in a course notifies you that they have a disability which prevents them from accessing the classroom or building, or if the student informs you that certain physical limitations exist in the classroom that prevent them from participating, please contact Accessibility Services (accessibility@wheatoncollege.edu) immediately.

Section 504 and the ADA do not require schools to physically alter historical buildings to accommodate students with disabilities. However, schools do need to provide the same access to courses and programs equivalent to students without disabilities.  If necessary, the physical location of a particular class may need to be moved to an accessible classroom or location.  Physical adjustments may need to be made to classroom equipment in order to allow access for an enrolled student with a physical limitation.

In advising, methods that guide students with disabilities away from particular courses or majors for which they are “otherwise qualified” are deemed discriminatory. Keep in mind that general requirements for the degree and the various courses of study offered at the college allow students to choose from a wide range of courses in order to complete their degree or major. Students with disabilities should be advised about the academic requirements for each course they are considering enabling them to make the appropriate decision in their selection. Students should be provided with accurate, detailed information regarding course expectations before selecting a class or a major. Help students to match course selections with their strengths and interests.

How should I implement an accommodation for extended time on tests and quizzes?

The Wheaton College community abides by the Honor Code established in 1921 and still in practice today.  This practice dictates the rights and responsibilities that accompany academic freedom which are at the heart of the intellectual integrity of the college.  Examinations at Wheaton are not proctored.  All students are responsible for the integrity of their examination papers and for the integrity of the work of others taking examinations.  At the March 7, 2003 faculty meeting, Wheaton faculty approved the following resolution:
For all course work, students will write and sign the following: “I have abided by the Wheaton College Honor Code in this work.”

Keeping in mind the Honor Code, the student may take the quiz in the classroom during class time. If the student receives time-and-a-half (or double-time) you may give him/her the additional time by having the student come early to class to begin the quiz, or by collecting the quiz from the student during class when the appropriate time is complete. The same method can be used for tests. If, however, you are not able to accommodate the student with your time before or after class, or if the classroom is in use, you may want to utilize another site.

How should I implement an accommodation for testing in a distraction-reduced environment?

Begin by asking the student what they are comfortable with. Some students may actually feel more comfortable testing in the classroom; others may prefer an alternate setting. If you are able to provide the student with a distraction-reduced environment that is agreeable to you and the student, then feel free to do so. Students are also free to use the distraction reduced testing room in the Filene Center. Students should email [email protected] a week in advance of their exam to book a spot.

If a student needs to use a laptop computer for tests and quizzes, how can I be sure that it is secure so academic dishonesty does not take place?

The same principles of the Honor Code also apply in this situation.

Is it the responsibility of the faculty member to assist the student in locating a note-sharer?

No. However, when a member of the faculty meets individually with the student to discuss a request for accommodation in their particular class, some assistance from the professor may be required. Once the student is approved for a notesharer accommodation, Accessibility Services will attempt to identify a notesharer through whole class outreach. If one cannot be found, Accessibility Services may reach out to the professor for further assistance. This may be in the form of a recommendation for a student notesharer, or to make an announcement in class.

What if a student wants me to make an announcement for a volunteer note-sharer, how should I do this?

Note-taking is provided as a reasonable academic accommodation for students who have submitted appropriate documentation that shows evidence which interferes with the individual’s ability to take notes in class.

What if the student has an accommodation to use a calculator, but the course requires the student to know how to perform calculations?

Use of a calculator (or any accommodation/ modification) is appropriate only if its use does not lower the standards of a course. If the student is being tested or is required to know how to calculate a mathematical equation then the use of a calculator is not appropriate. The same applies to students who are eligible for an accommodation such as consideration of spelling errors or word-order errors on in-class assignments.
According to civil rights attorney Salome Heyward: “Faculty members are not required to make modifications that alter the nature and content of what they are teaching. They are also not required to provide accommodations that have an adverse impact on the integrity of the academic program. For example, the Office of Civil Rights recently ruled in a case that a student was not entitled to an accommodation that would alter the instructional format of a class from group instruction to individualized instruction. (See Mt. San Antonio (CA) College, 5 NDLR 387) However, modifications that essentially provide equal access to students with disabilities must be and should be made.”

Faculty members set the requirements and standards needed to complete courses and faculty members are able to make decisions that may prohibit the use of an eligible accommodation when such accommodation/modification will “have an adverse impact on the integrity” of a course.

What if a student has an accommodation to audio-record class lectures and I feel this is a copyright infringement?

Generally, students with permission to record classroom audio as an accommodation should be allowed to record any class content that the student would be responsible for retaining. Students can record your lectures for their personal academic use as an accommodation as established by law.  However, a Confidentiality Agreement acknowledging copyright can be created between the professor and the student upon request by the professor to Accessibility Services such as discussing the particulars of an internship experience.

What is an assistive hearing device or FM system and what is my role in providing the accommodation?

A student with a hearing impairment may request your assistance in the use of an assistive hearing device such as an FM system to amplify sound that a hearing aid cannot pick up.  This system also allows the student to amplify your voice, which may be farther in proximity, without amplifying everything within close proximity.  The instructor will wear a transmitter, which attaches to a pocket or can be worn around the neck.  Receivers will be attached to the student’s hearing aid.  The student will have a device to control volume, and which links the two wireless components, transmitter and receiver, together. Students who use FM systems are well versed in the operation of these devices and they will be able to orient you to their use.  Students also keep the equipment with them, and they carry the equipment from one class to another.   If you have any questions, please contact Accessibility Services (accessibility@wheatoncollege.edu) for assistance.

If a student has an accommodation for “tests and quizzes in either an ‘accessible’ word document format or in Braille,” how do I implement this accommodation?

In accommodating students who have low vision or blindness, time is of the essence in providing accommodations because valuable information in the class can be lost quickly with delays in implementing the accommodations.  Tests, quizzes, and all class handouts should be provided by the faculty to the student in a Microsoft Word document format or other format that is deemed compatible with the student’s reader or speech recognition software program. The student’s accommodation letter will address any specialized needs and provide the appropriate format for all documents.

How do I implement the accommodation for a scribe?

Scribes are utilized for students who are unable to write, and generally used during test-taking or in-class assignments. If the student is eligible for a scribe, check with the student to see if they will need to use a scribe in your particular classroom. If so, contact Accessibility Services in advance to arrange for a scribe.

When I am advising a student who is struggling in a foreign language course, what should I recommend?

Post secondary institutions are not required to lower the standards of any course or program for students with disabilities. This includes not being required to offer course waivers.  Students with documented learning disabilities that specifically impact their ability to learn a foreign language can take American Sign Language which is acceptable as a language course and does not require petitioning OR petition for a modification of the college’s foreign language requirement by contacting Accessibility Services.

Accessibility Services will review the documentation and meet with the student to determine if the course substitution is warranted. If it is determined that the student’s request for a substitution is warranted the student must choose courses for substitution in consultation with the appropriate Student Success Advisor and/or with their advisor.

Please note that students whose foreign language requirement was waived in high school should not assume that the requirement will be waived at Wheaton College. They will need to follow the procedures outlined above to determine if a course substitution in foreign language is warranted.

What if a student has a medical condition or disability hindering their ability to attend class? Is permission to miss classes given as an accommodation and if not, how should these issues be addressed?

Students may have an accommodation for flexibility with attendance in classes. However, students should have a discussion with the faculty member to determine what is appropriate in each class. Accommodations cannot alter the fundamental standards of a class. We encourage instructors to make it clear to students with this accommodation how much class they can reasonably miss, as well as how they can make up the work that they miss in class.

L. Scott Lissner, ADA Coordinator for The Ohio State University, suggests consideration of the following questions:

  • Is attendance essential?
  • What is the ‘time in seat’ policy for the course?
  • What does the course description and syllabus say about attendance?
  • Is attendance factored in as part of the final course grade?
  • What are classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?
  • Is the attendance policy consistently applied?
  • Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students, among students?
  • Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
  • Does the course rely on student participation as a method of learning?
  • What is the impact on the educational experience of other students in the class?

Requests for modification should be decided on a case-by-case basis and include related issues, such as pop quizzes, tests, assignments and other graded work for the course.  When encountering requests for modification to your attendance policy due to a student’s medical condition or disability, please contact Accessibility Services to assist you and the student to address these concerns.