What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation modifies the environment (including policies and/or procedures) or a task in order to provide access to a program or activity in the most equitable and feasible manner available. In Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, these accommodations are also referred to as auxiliary aids and academic adjustments.
An accommodation is designed to minimize the effects of a disability so a qualified student can benefit or participate in an activity to the fullest extent possible. Accommodations are determined individually for each student and are to be appropriate to the specific limitation manifested by a disability.
A reasonable accommodation is not required if such accommodation would significantly alter the essential or fundamental objective of an academic program or class. Students are responsible for requesting accommodations in a timely manner and must first be recognized as eligible for the accommodation through the Student Disability Center (SDC).
The underlying purpose of reasonable accommodations is to enable students to participate and be evaluated on the basis of their abilities, not their disabilities, as well as providing equal access to information in the classroom. Reasonable accommodations are mandatory based on federal regulations. As faculty and staff, we share the obligation to participate in the process of providing them.
Students with physical/learning impairments or chronic physical/mental illnesses or conditions are categorized as ‘disabled’ according to federal non-discrimination laws. As such, they are eligible for reasonable accommodations based on the limitations that are manifested. Needs vary among individuals with the same disability and a student may have multiple disabilities that have to be taken into consideration. Some students may have disabilities that are not readily apparent. Therefore, please do not assume that a student is not disabled. If a student presents you with a letter of accommodation from the SDC, the student has submitted sufficient information to verify the disability (impairment/illness/condition) and is officially identified as having a disability. For more information on why reasonable accommodations are necessary, go to Why Provide Accommodations
Reasonable accommodations may require adjustments to how courses are conducted and/or how program requirements can be met. However, reasonable accommodations are not meant to alter the fundamental nature of the course or program or the essential learning outcomes of the course or program.
Students are encouraged to meet with SDC staff at the beginning of the semester; however, they may choose to identify as having a disability at any time throughout the semester. Although you may encourage students to identify themselves at the start of the semester, you cannot require students to identify by a specific point.
Reasonable accommodations can range from a need to change the presentation of materials to provide different ways for the student to demonstrate meeting the learning outcomes of a course/program. Reasonable accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis and not all students with disabilities need them. While the primary driving force in the process is the student, faculty also have a stake in the process and the SDC exists to be partners to both you and the student in achieving the end goal – a reasonable accommodation.
In certain situations, reasonable accommodations may require modifications of standard classroom practices. The following are examples of accommodations that may be necessary to ensure equal access to education:
- Provide necessary accommodations for exam taking, e.g., provide a copy of the exam to the SDC where the student can receive the accommodations needed.
- Provide alternative ways to fulfill course requirements.
- Allow assistive technology such as audio recorders, electronic note-takers, and laptop computers to be used in the classroom.
- Modify attendance requirements and/or assignment deadlines unless these are fundamental components of the structure of the course.
- Share copies of PowerPoints and/or other lecture notes.
- Consider alternative ways of assessing students that allow for the student’s academic abilities to be measured and not their disabilities.
- If you are located in a classroom that is not accessible you may be asked to move classrooms if a student with a mobility impairment is enrolled in your course.
- You are encouraged to implement Universal Design for Learning principals when designing your course.
Sample Accommodation Letter
This is a sample accommodation letter for Mary Test, our fictional test student. The main components of an accommodation letter include:
- Student name and CSU ID
- Course name and Professor Name
- Exam Accommodations
- Classroom Accommodations
- Confidentiality Statement
- Fundamental Alteration Statement
- Accommodation Specialist contact information
When reading an accommodation letter, it is helpful to check:
- Is this student in my class?
- Am I prepared to provide these exam accommodations?
- Am I able to provide these classroom accommodations?
- Are there any accommodations that fundamentally alter an essential objective of my course?
- Are there any barriers preventing me from providing me these accommodations?
If you are not able to provide any accommodations, believe that an accommodation may fundamentally alter an essential course objective, or experience barriers preventing you from providing the accommodations, please reach out to the Accommodation Specialist listed on the Accommodation Letter immediately for assistance.
The below spreadsheet has been created to help faculty with keeping track of students and their accommodations. If you are an instructor with multiple students who have accommodations in your class, this tool can be helpful to organizing and knowing what accommodations each student needs.
Resources for Faculty
Accessibility by Design
The CSU Accessibility by Design website provides information and resources or creating accessible documents, presentations, websites, and other electronic information. It also provides information about how to have your content tested to assess its accessibility.
Accessible and Inclusive Electronic Content
This free online course is offered in conjunction with CSU’s Assistive Technology Resource Center (ATRC), this course provides a detailed introduction to creating inclusive content for those with disabilities through accessibility best practices. Through discussions on the importance of inclusive online content and practice using accessibility tools and strategies, you’ll learn how easy it can be to create materials that are usable for everyone. For the final project, you’ll put it all together into a plan of action – how will you start using what you’ve learned in your day-to-day work and teaching?
The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT)
TILT offers a variety of resources for faculty including professional development opportunities and instructional design support,
Universal Design for Learning
This page contains information about Universal Design for Learning and how to incorporate it into instruction.