Why does Macalester offer accommodations?

Educational environments are most often set up to privilege a particular kind of learner (i.e., one who can process information quickly, can write notes and listen simultaneously, can maintain concentration and focus for long periods of time without interruption). Providing appropriate accommodations does not give students with a disability an unfair advantage. It alters the learning environment in such a manner that the student with a disability has the same opportunity to learn and demonstrate their learning as a student without a disability. 

Faculty should be prepared for: testing accommodations (for courses with timed exams and requests for flexibility with time or attendance.

How do I know if a student needs accommodations? 

You will receive a Faculty Notification Letter from Disability Services. Sometimes, students may indicate there are concerns through behavior first: missing class/not turning in assignments, etc. or report “health issues” or “anxiety” or “depression”.  If a student is requesting an accommodation outside of what is provided to others in your course, you can refer them to Disability Services.  If a student has missed class for over a week, please connect with the Office of Student Affairs. 

Am I being fair to other students by granting one student an accommodation?

“Reasonable” accommodations should not compromise the essential elements of a course, nor weaken the academic standards or integrity of the course. Accommodations simply provide an alternative way of accomplishing the course by limiting or reducing disability-related barriers.  If you are concerned the accommodation compromises a course, please contact us! 

When do I have to comply with a student’s request for accommodations?

The law provides a student with a disability the right to request  accommodations from the college once the student has provided the college with appropriate documentation. In some cases, Macalester College allows for temporary services while a student is in the process of obtaining documentation of a disability.  Disability Services determines what is a reasonable accommodation as part of an interactive process–once that determination is made and you are notified, the requirement starts.

A student came to me in the middle of the semester to disclose a disability. I did not know about it before; what do I do now?

In the college setting, the student with a disability is responsible for requesting and initiating all disability-related services and accommodations. If a student discloses disability-related information to an instructor in the middle of the semester, the instructor should immediately refer the student to Disability Services. Accommodations can be implemented as soon as a student has been approved by the Disability Services office; however, accommodations are not retroactive.

How can I encourage the student to talk with me about the disability?

Each student has the right to determine when and if they choose to disclose the nature of a disability to faculty. We know that communication is important and we encourage students to discuss their learning needs as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing a student’s particular diagnosis is less important than understanding how it interferes with the student’s learning. Asking these questions may help facilitate a conversation:

  • What would you like me to know about how you learn best?
  • How might I assist you in being successful in this course?
  • What has helped you be academically successful in prior courses?
  • I want to respect your confidentiality, but perhaps you would be willing to share with me how your disability interferes with your learning so that we can develop some effective strategies for your academic success.
I have a student with a disability who is falling behind on assignments or exams.  Can they receive a poor grade for not completing work even though I’ve provided accommodations?

A student with a disability should be held to the same standards as any other student in the class.  If you need assistance, you are welcome to contact Disability Services; however, we encourage you to discuss your concerns about course expectations just as you would with any other student.