The following are general guidelines for classroom reasonable accommodations (i.e., academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or services) for students with disabilities enrolled in your course and/or program. The links on this page will provide you with additional information. If you do not find what you are looking for, please contact the Student Disability Center 970-491-6385.
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
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.
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.
Fundamental Nature of Course/Program and Essential Learning Outcomes
Determining the fundamental nature of a course/program or the essential learning outcomes should be a deliberative departmental process and not done in isolation by one instructor. The fundamental nature of a course or program takes into account a multitude of factors, including available resources or external standards. Courses/programs are designed so that students meet specific learning outcomes, some more essential than others. Consideration must be made to see if there are alternative means to achieve those outcomes, including substitutions or different activities that would demonstrate an effective outcome.
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.
Federal mandates mean the role faculty play is not an optional one. In fact, it is an essential part of the process that involves:
- Participation in providing reasonable accommodation
- Providing access to classroom and materials
- Maintaining confidentiality of student
- Determining essential or fundamental learning outcomes for course/program
While the process of providing reasonable accommodations begins when the student requests them, it is an instructor’s responsibility to ensure that the learning environment is accessible and welcoming of that request. Instructors should include a statement on their syllabus which directs students with disabilities to the steps they need to take to receive classroom accommodations. The following is a sample statement:
“If you are a student who will need accommodations in this class due to a disability or chronic health condition, I will need an accommodation letter from the Student Disability Center (SDC) before they are implemented. Please meet with me during my office hours to give me the letter and/or to further discuss your needs.
If you do not already have these letters, please contact the SDC as soon as possible to initiate the accommodation process. The SDC is located in room 121 of the TILT building. Contact them at 970-491-6385 or visit www.disabilitycenter.colostate.edu”
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.
Confidentiality in the accommodation process must be maintained by all parties. Disclosure of the type of disability is a personal choice and may be freely shared with you by the student but asking for that personal information is not allowed. Nor is asking for any information from the student that would further disclose such personal data beyond what is shared in an SDC accommodation letter. Accommodation letters should be filed in a safe place, and faculty should refrain from discussing students’ disabilities and necessary accommodations in the hearing of fellow students or others who do not have an “educational need to know.”
SDC staff are always available to serve as a resource for faculty seeking assistance in providing reasonable accommodations to students and welcome your questions.
Faculty members have the right to:
- Maintain academic standards for courses/programs
- Determine course content and how it will be taught
- Contact the SDC if you have questions about the appropriateness of a given accommodation for a particular course
- Confirm a student’s request for accommodation and ask for clarification about a specific accommodation with SDC
- Deny a request for accommodation if a student has not been approved by the SDC for the accommodation
- Award grades appropriate to the level of the student’s demonstration of meeting the learning objectives of the course and/or mastery of the material.
- Fail a student who does not perform to passing standards
Faculty members do not have the right to:
- Refuse to provide an approved accommodation for a verified disability
- Determine what is and is not a reasonable accommodation for a given student
- Challenge the legitimacy of a student’s disability
- Review a student’s documentation, including diagnostic data
Faculty members have the responsibility to:
- Understand the laws and University’s guidelines regarding students with disabilities
- Refer students to the SDC when necessary
- Participate in an interactive process of accommodation with the student and the SDC.
- Provide requested accommodations and academic adjustments to students who have verified disabilities in a timely manner
- Maintain appropriate confidentiality of records concerning students with disabilities except when disclosure is required by law or authorized by the student (in writing)
- Provide handouts, videos and other course materials in accessible formats upon request and in a timely manner
- Evaluate students based on their abilities rather than the manifestations of their disabilities
Often faculty may feel that giving a student something extra is ‘unfair’ to other students. However, not all students have a disability/condition that puts them at a disadvantage in an educational environment designed for an ‘average’ student. Students with impairments and/or chronic illnesses/health conditions have the intellectual capability to succeed as demonstrated by meeting the qualifications for admission. But meeting the expectations of arbitrary practices created in this environment for the ‘average’ student may not be as easily attainable. Therefore, it is inherently unfair to judge a person’s capability on whether or not they are able to do certain things ‘the same way everyone else does’. The ‘how’ may not be as important as to ‘what’ is actually accomplished. For more information on the fairness of reasonable accommodations, go to Fairness and Consequences.
Why Provide Accommodations
The University is required through federal mandates to be non-discriminatory based on disability in all its programs and services. These obligations apply to all individuals employed by the university. The process of non-discrimination has as its goal to minimize the effects of a disability that results from an environment created without consideration for the vast diversity of human characteristics in physical and/or mental ability. Accommodations are provided to ensure that qualified students are able to participate in and benefit from any university program or service.
What is Section 504/ADA
No otherwise qualified student shall be excluded solely on the basis of disability from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under, any academic, research, occupational training, housing, counseling, financial aid, physical education, athletics, recreation, transportation, other extra-curricular, or other postsecondary education program or activity (from Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973).
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 established certain procedures and obligations for all higher education institutions that receive federal funds. The rules and regulations associated with this law are the guidelines by which the university is held accountable for non-discriminatory behavior towards individuals with disabilities. These rules and regulations went into effect in 1977 after several demonstrations by people with disabilities who took over federal buildings across the country. The protest was specifically over the publishing delay of these rules and regulations.
The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, and its amendments represent federal legislation that reinforces the requirements that ensure the University does not discriminate, based on disability, against qualified individuals who have disabilities. It was signed into law in 1990. The non-discrimination obligations of the ADA are patterned after the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504. Both acts stress providing equally effective access to all university programs.
Students who meet the basic requirements (otherwise qualified) of a program or activity cannot be denied access to any program or activity offered or sponsored by the University solely on the basis of disability. Eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out individuals with disabilities are also not allowed UNLESS such criteria are necessary for successful participation in the program or activity.
The regulations of both acts also outline the types of auxiliary aids and/or reasonable accommodations the university is to make for qualified students with disabilities. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Moving classes/activities to accessible locations
- Providing alternatives to print material
- Allowing the digital recording of lectures
- Providing sign language or oral interpreters
- Changing the length of time for completion of assignments and other academic activities
- Providing adaptive computer equipment
- Adapting or modifying testing situations
However, accommodations are not meant to change the fundamental or essential elements of a program or activity and they are not designed to guarantee a student’s success.
As defined by Section 504 and the ADA, a person with a disability is someone who currently has, has a history or record of, or is considered to have, a physical or mental impairment or condition that significantly limits a major life activity. These activities include, but are not limited to: walking, seeing, hearing, learning, breathing, etc. While some disabilities are apparent, others may not be. Verification of the presence of a disability is supported by appropriate documentation when necessary.
Although the majority of students with disabilities have permanent conditions, students with temporary disabilities may be eligible for support services depending upon the availability of resources (although not required by law). Accommodating a student with a temporary disability can aid in the retention of the student since many temporary disabilities can disrupt a student’s normal functional abilities for academic activities (e.g. taking notes or writing exams due to hand surgery).
An otherwise qualified person is anyone who meets the basic requirements of a program or activity. Students with disabilities at Colorado State University have all met the basic requirements for admission to the University. Eligibility for accommodations or auxiliary aids is determined by information supplied by the student including appropriate diagnostic documentation by qualified professionals.
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).
How do I know the request for an accommodation is a legitimate one?
When the SDC verifies that an accommodation is recommended for a student, letters are generated for each instructor who may be asked for the accommodation. The student is to present this letter and discuss with the instructor how best to ensure the provision of the accommodation.
A student must be verified to be eligible for an accommodation prior to providing one. The SDC is given the authority to make that verification. The process of determining if a student is eligible for an accommodation is based on substantiating whether or not a student has a disability. An accommodation is determined based on whether or not it is appropriate for a particular limitation presented by the disability.
Instructors have an obligation to provide the accommodation, listed on the accommodation letter, or otherwise communicated by the SDC, to ensure compliance with the university’s federal obligations. If a student has not identified themselves with the office, please refer them to the office so that the SDC staff can help in the process of determining the most appropriate and reasonable accommodation concerning your class. If you have questions on whether an accommodation is applicable to your class, please contact the SDC staff.
Even though you may be able to provide a specific accommodation independently from the assistance of the SDC, please discuss the accommodation with SDC staff if the accommodation is because the student has a disability. A student may explain that a specific accommodation has been provided by other instructors in the department. However, faculty are not given the authority to determine what accommodations should be provided. Not all requests for accommodations by a student may be appropriate or necessary for a given situation. SDC staff are available to assist both the student and faculty member in negotiating what may be most effective as an accommodation.
What if I have questions about a request?
Please contact the SDC if you feel the need for an accommodation is valid but the accommodation does not appear reasonable or workable for the requirements of your class. It may seem that the accommodation would substantially alter the fundamental nature of your course. Often other accommodations can be determined that will not alter the fundamental nature of your course without affecting the mandates against discrimination based on disability.
If a student requests an accommodation you feel is unreasonable, or for other reasons question its validity, please contact the SDC (970-491-6385). Please know that the accommodation must be made until the matter is resolved.
Most students who identify as having a disability will have had contact with this office and their needs verified by SDC staff. If a student does not present a verifying accommodation letter to an instructor as part of the request for accommodation, the instructor is not obligated to provide the accommodation. If a verifying letter does not have the correct name of the instructor, the accommodation request may be refused. However, not providing an accommodation in a timely manner for a student once they have made the need known may be in violation of the law. Therefore, please call SDC for 1) verification to determine if the student is recognized as a student with a disability and 2) advice on what to do next.
Fairness and Consequences
Are accommodations fair?
No two students are alike. Therefore, the need to treat them as if they were all the same, or equal, is an inequitable and unjust expectation. A disability inherently can put a student at a disadvantage in comparison to the other students in your class. An accommodation for the particular limitations of a disability is meant to minimize this disadvantage and to “even out the playing ground” – or to provide an equitable environment for the student with the disability. Therefore, it can be considered unfair to the disabled student to not provide an accommodation.
An accommodation is related to the presence of a hearing, visual, mobility, learning, psychiatric or other disability. Since the majority of your students will not have such conditions, it is unnecessary to accommodate them in the same way because their needs as individual students will be different than those of a student with a disability. In addition, research indicates that accommodations such as extra time on exams does not benefit the student without a disability while it significantly improves test scores of students with disabilities (time constraints may actually test students’ limitations rather than their knowledge).
It is important, however, to remember that all students should have the same expectation to learn the material of a particular class. Some students will do well and some others will not; sometimes due to individual student effort and motivation and sometimes due to the method you choose in teaching and/or measuring their learning. The latter can present artificial barriers to students with disabilities regardless of their effort and motivation. Accommodations are means by which disabled students have the opportunity to transcend these barriers as they participate in the educational process. Another way to minimize barriers to learning is to consider the principles of Universal Design for Learning when developing your courses. These principles, when incorporated, facilitate learning for all students who may not learn exactly the same way effectively.
Accommodations are by no means fool-proof and even with a reasonable accommodation, a student may still fail to learn the material. Nevertheless, what is important is that the student is given the opportunity to learn, and a fair chance to show how much they have learned, through methods that facilitate both those processes.
What are the consequences of failing to accommodate students?
Both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are civil rights laws. A student who feels discriminated against based on their disability have the right to file an informal or formal complaint internally with the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and or an external formal complaint with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights for further investigation. In addition, the ADA allows an individual direct access to the courts as a means to address the claim of discrimination and you can be held personally responsible for your actions. For more information concerning your individual responsibility, please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity, 970-491-5836.
Resources for Faculty
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 contest tested to assess its accessibility.
The ACCESS Project was a three-year initiative designed to promote Universal Design for Learning and student Self-Advocacy created by the Department of Occupational Therapy. The ACCESS Project provides resources for incorporating the principles of Universal Design for Learning into courses, as well as information about different disabilities and accommodations.
This webpage contains information about service dogs and emotional support animals (ESAs) including the differences between them, a protocol for handling situations that may arise, campus policies, and other useful information about the two types of support animals.
TILT offers a variety of resources for faculty including professional development opportunities and instructional design support,
This page contains information about Universal Design for Learning and how to incorporate it into instruction.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I encourage students with disabilities to talk to me about accommodations?
Let all students, whether they have a disability or not, know that you are willing and open to discussing any potential concerns they may have. You are encouraged to use a statement on your syllabus and to include it during the first class session announcements. Including a link or URL address to the SDC website (www.disabilitycenter.colostate.edu) is also helpful.
What is an example statement I should include in my syllabus?
It is a best practice to include on your syllabus a statement that invites students to talk to you if they have a need for an accommodation due to a disability or other situation. Students are sometimes intimidated with the act of speaking to instructors because of negative experiences they have encountered in the past concerning their needs. Your demonstrated willingness to work with a student can often make it easier for a student to approach you early in the semester rather than in the middle of a crisis. Again, if a student has not yet had contact with the SDC, this may be a good time to inform them of university procedures for obtaining accommodations.
“If you are a student who will need accommodations in this class due to a disability or chronic health condition, please provide me the SDC accommodation letter. If you do not already have these accommodation letters please contact the SDC as soon as possible to initiate the process of setting up accommodations. The SDC is located on the room 121 of the TILT building. You can reach them by phone at 970-491-6385 or visit www.disabilitycenter.colostate.edu”
Is the student's disability information and need for accommodation confidential?
Yes! Instructors and teaching assistants must maintain a policy of confidentiality about the identity of a student, the nature of the disability and the accommodations required.
What should I do if a student comes up to me right before, during, or after class and hands me an accommodation letter?
Tell the student with respect for their confidentiality you would like to meet during office hours during which the two of you can discuss the request further. Tell the student this will give you both an opportunity to review the letter. During the visit, if needed, you can call the SDC at 970-491-6385 for clarification.
What do I do if a student requests an accommodation that is not on the accommodation letter?
Do not provide additional accommodations for which you have not received documentation from the SDC without talking with an accommodations specialist, the director or assistant director first. You could be setting a dangerous precedent.
What if a student's behavior is disruptive to the class?
While some students with disabilities may need to occasionally leave the room or stand instead of sit, they are expected to be as unobtrusive as possible. Any behavior that is unacceptable for students in general, is unacceptable for students with disabilities as well. All students are held to the same code of conduct and are subject to the same disciplinary procedures. However, some students may exhibit behaviors that are not typical, e.g., asking many questions, that may appear problematic. This behavior may be a manifestation of a particular type of disability. It is suggested that you meet with the student privately first to discuss the behavior and suggest alternative action before taking the case to student conduct.
What do I do if a student brings an animal with them to class?
In accordance with university policy animals are not allowed in academic buildings except for service animals. A service animal is a dog (or occasionally a miniature horse) that is trained to perform an active task for someone with a disability.
Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are animals that provide comfort or emotional support to a student. ESA’s are not allowed in university buildings other than university-owned residence halls and apartments. They are not allowed to accompany students to class.
If a student brings a dog to class two questions can be asked of the student:
- Is the dog required because of a disability?
- What work or task has it been trained to do?
If the above inquiries are made and as a result, it becomes clear that the dog is not a service dog, the dog may be excluded from the building or area.
If a student brings an animal other than a dog to class, the animal is not allowed to be there.
What do I do if a dog is disruptive or aggressive in class?
Some student may be accompanied by a service dog. These dogs are legally permitted to accompany the person on campus, including classrooms. Service dogs are not required to have any outward signs of their purpose so the best indicator is based on the dog’s behavior. Service dogs should be trained to be inconspicuous in the class and quiet. If the behavior of the dog is disruptive to the class (e.g. the dog is not quiet and inconspicuous), you have the same options to respond to the behavior as you would the student’s behavior. The student is responsible for the behavior of the service dog.
Not all dogs, however, may be classified as service dogs. If a student brings a dog to class, to determine whether it is a service dog or not, you may ask the student “What service has the dog been trained to do for you?” If the student is not able to tell you the specific task(s) or if the student says it is an emotional support dog, the dog is not legally allowed in the class. You have the right to ask the student to remove the dog even if the dog is inconspicuous. Emotional support animals are not specifically trained to be in all public places and are not protected under the ADA. Refusal to remove an ESA from class can be considered a violation of student conduct.
If a dog (either service or emotional support) is aggressive to another person or animal you also have the right to ask the handler to remove their dog from the class. if a dog bites someone call 911 immediately.
What do I do if a dog is disruptive in class?
Some student may be accompanied by a service dog. These dogs are legally permitted to accompany the person on campus, including classrooms. Service dogs are not required to have any outward signs of their purpose so the best indicator is based on the dog’s behavior. Service dogs should be trained to be inconspicuous in the class and quiet. If the behavior of the dog is disruptive to the class (e.g., dog is not quiet and inconspicuous), you have the same options to respond to the behavior as you would the student’s behavior. The student is responsible for the behavior of the service dog.
Not all dogs, however, may be classified as service dogs. If a student brings a dog to class, to determine whether it is a service dog or not, you may ask the student “What service has the dog been trained to do for you?” If the student is not able to tell you the specific task(s) or if the student says it is an emotional support dog, the dog is not legally allowed in the class. You have the right to ask the student to remove the dog even if the dog is inconspicuous. Emotional support animals are not specifically trained to be in all public places and are not protected under the ADA. Refusal to remove an ESA from class can be consider a violation of student conduct.
What if a student in my class is missing sessions or needs extension on assignments?
We urge all instructors to be clear in their attendance policy. Students with disabilities are held to the same standards as other students in the class. However, due to the nature of the student’s disability/illness, an accommodation may be recommended for flexibility in attendance requirements. Students are encouraged to discuss possible means and/or opportunities to make-up missed work with instructors with an understanding that the accommodation is an exception to a stated attendance policy and may or may not be compatible with the course learning objectives. You are encouraged to discuss this accommodation with SDC staff to determine if the absence of a student appears to be excessive and/or would otherwise impact the student’s ability to achieve the stated learning outcomes of the class.
There are some students who cannot predict with the effects of their disability/condition will impact them. This could cause a delay in their ability to complete assignments as well as attend class. Flexibility may be required in holding students to a strict deadline of completion of assignments. When flexibility is recommended as an accommodation, extensions on completion of assignments are not to be with penalties. Again, if completion of assignments within a specific timeline is essential to a student’s ability to master material, you are encouraged to discuss this accommodation with SDC staff to determine if the extension would otherwise impact the student’s ability to achieve the stated learning outcomes of the class.
Do I have to give make-up exams to a student who misses the test?
If the course syllabus mandates that students who miss a test cannot receive a make-up then that is the policy to which all students can be held but consideration may be needed to determine whether the missed exam was due to the manifestations of the student’s disability/illness. If it is, then it may require consideration of a make-up exam or another method to demonstrate the student is achieving the learning outcomes of the course. Discussion with an SDC specialist may be helpful in determining whether or not a make-up exam is warranted.
In addition, if a student requires testing accommodations that prevent them from testing at the same time and place as the rest of the class, they cannot be penalized for this alone. Changes in test date or time must be approved by you. However, if they miss the alternate date and time that has been established, then they are liable for the same repercussions as a student who missed the in-class exam.
How do I approach a student who is having difficulty in the class and I suspect they may have a disability?
You may not legally ask students if they have a disability but you can make inquiries about the nature of their difficulties. You may ask if they had difficulty before and how they were able to succeed in their classes. The student may voluntarily disclose the disability. At this point, a referral to the SDC might be in order. If they do not disclose, you may simply tell the student that you notice they are having academic difficulty and encourage them to talk with you about gaining assistance, just as you would with any student.
What if a student with a disability is failing my class?
It is important for instructors to remember that providing reasonable accommodations to a student with a disability does not guarantee success in the course. Students with disabilities may not master the course material, just like any other student. Students with disabilities have the same right as other students to fail as part of their educational experience.
What if I have a question that is not listed here?
If you have further questions that are not addressed here, please contact the SDC directly.