Who is a student with a disability?

At the postsecondary educational level, a qualified student with a disability is a student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.  The student must also meet the academic and technical standards requisite for admission or participation in the institution’s educational programs.  (U.S. Department of Education)

What ARE “Reasonable Accommodations?”

Reasonable accommodations are adaptations of a program, course or learning environment that eliminate, as much as possible, physical or instructional barriers encountered by the student with a disability that can’t be reduced in other ways (e.g. Universal Design). 

“Accommodations simply provide an alternative way to accomplish course requirements by eliminating or reducing disability-related barriers, not reducing the expectations or content of a course or a college’s technical standards.  They provide a level playing field, not an unfair advantage.” (Bento, 1996) 

A reasonable accommodation is also one that is effective for the student and mitigates the impact of the disability, even if the accommodation is not the student’s first preference.  Accommodations are determined via an interactive process between the student, Disability Services, faculty member and/or program. They may vary from student to student, and be different from what is provided at other institutions. 

Requests for accommodations require the student to complete the accommodation process with Disability Services, usually early in the semester or as soon as possible after a disability has been diagnosed.  Accommodation requests received late in the semester may be limited in scope. 

Common Examples of Auxiliary Aids or Services as Accommodations:

Additional time on exams
Limited distraction exam spaces
Notetaking
Books in alternative formats
Computer access
Additional (limited) time on assignments
Additional (limited) leniency for courses absences
Sign Language Interpreters
Technology support
One-on-one support meetings with staff

Unreasonable Accommodations

Unreasonable accommodations are adaptations that are generally not required if: 

  1. Providing the accommodation would significantly alter the nature of an academic program, lower the integrity or pose a fundamental alteration of the course, the school’s curriculum or provide an unfair advantage over other students.
  2. The accommodation is of a personal nature such as personal care attendants, private tutors/coaches, or personal devices (wheelchairs, computers, hearing aids, eyeglasses).
  3. The accommodation is asked to be retroactively applied (asking for consideration on assignments already passed).
  4. Providing the accommodation would have a financial and/or administrative burden.
  5. The accommodation poses a risk to the health or safety of others or impacts other’s ability to effectively access or participate in course or program.

Questions about what is reasonable or unreasonable should be directed to the Director of Disability Services.