Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we 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 an accommodation does not give the student with a disability an unfair advantage. It simply 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 the student without a disability.

How do I know if a student needs accommodations?  You will receive notification from Disability Services, but often students may report they are missing class/not turning in assignments, etc. due to “health issues” or “anxiety” or “depression”.  This is the time to refer a student to Health and Wellness and Disability Services if they are requesting an accommodation outside of what is provided to others in your course.

Am I being fair to other students by granting one student an accommodation? “Reasonable” accommodations do not compromise the essential elements of a course, nor do they 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. The goal of accommodations is to provide a level playing field, not an unfair advantage.

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 early in the semester. If a student discloses disability-related information to an instructor in the middle of the semester, the instructor should immediately refer the student the the Disability Services office. 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. Some students, especially those with hidden disabilities, may need time to feel comfortable discussing their disability. Some students may never choose or need to discuss their disability. 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 behind on the assignments. This student has not done well on the exams. May I fail the student for not earning the required points to pass the class? A student with a disability should be held to the same standards as any other student in the class. You may wish to contact the Office of Student Affairs, and particularly the Director of Disability Services, to discuss your concerns; however, we encourage you to discuss your concerns with the student just as you would with any other student.