Providing Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: A Quick Reference for Faculty
The purpose of academic accommodations is to assure that there is equal access to and the opportunity to benefit from all educational programs of The University of Texas at Austin.
Determining Appropriate Academic Accommodations
It is the student's responsibility to identify himself/herself to Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) and to provide documentation of a disability. Strict documentation guidelines exist for different types of disabilities. See Documentation Guidelines.
The student meets with a Student Affairs Administrator in SSD, who determines appropriate accommodations after reviewing documentation prepared by a licensed professional.
Notification of Faculty
Students registered with SSD should provide their faculty members with an official letter from SSD outlining the academic accommodations for which they have been approved. It is the student's responsibility to deliver the letter to each faculty member and to discuss the accommodations. The student should remind the instructor of any testing accommodations five business days before each exam.
Statement on Syllabus
The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost recommends that faculty include a statement on their syllabi informing students of available services. SSD recommends a statement such as the following:
Any student with a documented disability who requires academic accommodations should contact Services for Students with Disabilities at 471-6259 (voice) or 1-866-329-3986 (Video Phone) as soon as possible to request an official letter outlining authorized accommodations.
What if a Student Requests an Accommodation Without a Letter from SSD?
If a student requests accommodations for a disability but has not provided the faculty member with a letter from SSD, the instructor should refer the student to SSD immediately. If the disability is visible (use of a wheelchair, hearing aids, service dog, etc.) and the requested accommodation is obviously appropriate, the faculty member should provide the accommodation while the student is in the process of registering with SSD.
- For exams administered by SSD, the student should schedule the exam with SSD and remind the faculty member five business days prior to the exam.
- It is the faculty member's responsibility to deliver the exam to SSD.
- If the student needs an exam brailled, the faculty member should provide SSD with a copy of the exam in electronic format (e-mail or disk) at least two business days in advance. If the exam is available in print only, SSD requires five business days.
- For exams requiring extended test-taking time and/or a reduced-distraction location, the faculty member will make arrangements directly with the student. (See "What Accommodations are Faculty Responsible for Providing?" below)
What Accommodations are Faculty Responsible for Providing?
- Reduced-distraction testing environment and/or extended test-taking time: It is the faculty member's responsibility to find an exam proctor and an appropriate testing location. In some cases, the faculty member will delegate this responsibility to a teaching assistant or department staff member. If the faculty member is unable to find a proctor for the exam, SSD can assist by providing a volunteer proctor. It is the student's responsibility to remind the faculty member five business days before each exam that arrangements need to be made.
- Notetaking assistance: Students approved for notetaking assistance often ask a classmate to take notes for them. However, a student may also request assistance from the instructor in finding supplemental class notes. There are different ways in which this can be done, including finding student volunteers to take notes on carbonless paper provided by SSD. For more information regarding notetaking assistance and additional options, please see Ways to Secure a Copy of Class Notes.
- Enlarged class materials: It is the faculty member's responsibility to enlarge such materials as overheads, handouts and exams. If a student needs a textbook enlarged, SSD will coordinate this process through University Duplicating Services.
- Preferential seating: If the instructor has assigned seating in the classroom, adjustments may need to be made based on the approved accommodation (seating near the front of the room, near the door, etc.)
- Determining if videos are closed-captioned: If a student with a hearing impairment requires closed captioning, it is the faculty member's responsibility to determine if a video he or she plans to show is captioned and to arrange for a closed-captioned decoder. Contact Communications Equipment Rental at 471-7000 to arrange for a decoder. If necessary, contact SSD for assistance.
Unsure of How to Provide an Accommodation? Please call SSD in a timely manner to ask for assistance or clarification. SSD is here to support the academic efforts of students with disabilities. In order to accomplish our goal, SSD is available as a resource to faculty members.
Accommodations Coordinated by SSD Staff
- Arranging for sign language interpreters or real-time captionists
- Coordinating such test-taking assistance as a scribe, reader or adaptive equipment
- Coordinating taped textbook orders from Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D)
- Reading books onto audiotape
- Brailling classroom materials
- Enlarging textbooks
- Coordinating priority registration
- Providing carbonless paper for volunteer notetakers
- Making the classroom accessible: If a classroom location is physically inaccessible to a student with a mobility impairment, SSD will work with the faculty member and department to change the class location. When the furniture in the classroom is inappropriate for a student's situation, SSD will work with the student and Physical Plant to correct the problem.
Common Mistakes Made by Faculty
- Refusing to provide approved accommodations
- Requiring the student to turn in accommodation letters by a specific date
- Questioning whether the student has a disability
- Inadvertently disclosing to classmates that a student has a disability
- Asking a student about his/her specific diagnosis
- Asking to review the student's documentation: In the past, some faculty members told the student they would provide the accommodations if the student shared his/her disability documentation with the instructor. This documentation is confidential and is considered a part of the student's educational records. Therefore, the information is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
- Relying on teaching assistants who may not be prepared: Teaching assistants are often asked to coordinate aspects of the accommodation process such as proctoring exams or locating testing space. If this situation arises, it is important for the faculty member to share the accommodation letter with the teaching assistant and explain the importance of providing appropriate accommodations.
- Providing an inappropriate reduced-distraction environment: Reduced-distraction space for test taking should be in a quiet room such as a conference room, empty classroom, etc. rather than a hallway, stairwell or an office full of people.
Tips for Providing Accommodations
If a student is approved for extended time, the extension should be given for tests and in-class work only. This does not apply to work that is done outside of class, except in rare cases that will be stated clearly in the accommodation letter from SSD.
With the exception of accommodations, students with disabilities should be treated like other students in the classroom. It is not necessary to develop separate grading criteria or requirements.
Many instructors do a good job of ensuring that information presented in the classroom is accessible to all students. However, they may forget to ensure that field trip sites and transportation, web sites, in-class videos, etc. are accessible. SSD staff can answer questions that the faculty member may have regarding such matters.
See Instructional Tips for more information.