- Flexibility with Attendance and Equal Access
- Introduction to the Attendance Policy Addendum Video
- Objectives of the Attendance Policy Addendum
- How to Complete the APA
- Instructor FAQs
- Student FAQs
- Other Items to Consider
How Flexibility with Attendance Provides Equal Access
An accommodation related to flexibility with attendance can seem complex. After all, attending class can be an important part of being a college student and engaging in the campus community. Students with disabilities are eager to learn the material that instructors present in class and are seeking opportunities to do so. Flexibility with attendance is intended to allow students some flexibility with how or when they learn course material without reducing their grade for missing class. Even with an accommodation for flexibility with attendance students are still expected to meet the same learning goals and essential requirements of the course.
Students with disabilities may be more prone to missing class due to medication concerns, chronic illness, mobility difficulties, medical appointments, increased symptoms, or other disability related circumstances. The instructor and the student will discuss the specific flexibility that can be provided within the course, using the Attendance Policy Addendum provided by D&A as a guide. The student’s D&A Access Coordinator can serve as an additional resource to discuss this form and/or options related to accommodation issues. It is important to note that flexibility does not mean that attendance policies do not apply.
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Introduction to the Attendance Policy Addendum Video
D&A worked with the Faculty Innovation, Students and Faculty to create a 4 minute video demonstrating how students and instructors should respond if a student is approved for an attendance accommodation.
Objectives of the Attendance Policy Addendum:
- Facilitate a collaborative discussion about the amount of flexibility available while maintaining essential course requirements.
- Allow the instructor to clarify requirements and set expectations for the semester while applying the student’s accommodations.
- Provide an opportunity for students to share possible attendance issues and develop a concrete, proactive plan for the semester.
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- The instructor should consider the objectives and essential requirements of their course. They can review the Attendance Policy Addendum in advance of meeting with the student by viewing the accommodation letter in the D&A Instructor Portal. Consider what information a student is supposed to learn in this class and what knowledge should they be able to demonstrate as a result and what are the different ways students can gain this information. In addition, are their specific elements of the course that require the student to be in class to learn the material. For example, safely mixing chemicals in a lab setting, participating in art critiques during studio, demonstrating ability to converse in a foreign language.
- The student should consider how much class they may miss and how much communication they would be able to provide to the instructor. Student may discuss their need for flexibility with attendance and any provisions that have worked well for them in the past.
- Student and instructor should read and review the entire Attendance Policy Addendum and be prepared to discuss it privately. It is recommended that they schedule a 15-20 minute private meeting to improve communication and maintain confidentiality. Collaborate to gain an understanding of the course structure, essential requirements, disability impact, and available flexibility.
- Student should submit the completed APA to their assigned D&A Access Coordinator so that the coordinator may assist in answering questions or facilitating conversation as needed.
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- Why do students receive flexibility with attendance accommodations?
- Students with some disabilities may be more likely to miss class than students without disabilities for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, doctor’s appointments, treatment, and symptom flare ups. D&A Access Coordinators determine if flexibility with attendance is a reasonable accommodation on a case by case basis under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other relevant laws by reviewing documentation from the student’s provider and engaging in conversation with the student.
- How much flexibility with attendance should I provide? Am I required to be flexible?
- The amount of flexibility should be determined based on the structure of the course and the essential requirements that a student must complete to fulfill course requirements. For example, the amount of flexibility that is appropriate in a lecture based course may be very different from the amount of flexibility that is appropriate in a lab setting. Refer to the Attendance Policy Addendum to thoughtfully consider the essential requirements of your course and how much flexibility you can provide. As a reminder, just like all accommodations, instructors are legally required to engage in a conversation with the student and to provide the approved accommodations.
- What do students say about missing class?
- Many students express concern and frustration about missing class. They express a desire to be in class learning the material and often report additional stress over missing important information. This is compounded by feeling like they need to provide health information to instructors who are inflexible and do not communicate.
- “The biggest barrier is that professors misunderstand the concept of flexible attendance. They think it means I have a license to miss class as much as I want with no consequences. The biggest thing I would want them to know is that we suffer the consequences of missing class All. The. Time.”
- “Not only are we missing their class, but if we are having a flare up of a chronic illness (or something), we are most likely falling behind in all of our other classes. The accommodations step in to help fill those gaps, but by no means does it guarantee success in any class. “
- “I fully understand that sometimes a class just isn’t going to be fully accessible to people with episodic disabilities, but professors have said some pretty hurtful things without ever having seen my work ethic. It makes me feel unwelcome in the class, and I’ve dropped classes before because I could tell the professor was not going to give me my accommodations, just from the first meeting.”
- Is there a limit to how much class a student can miss?
- The amount of class that a student can miss for disability related reasons should be determined through communication between the instructor, student, and, if necessary, the student’s assigned Access Coordinator, based on the structure of the course. This accommodation does not allow student’s to be absent from every class meeting.
- How do I know these absences are for disability related reasons?
- The student may contact you to let you know that they are missing class for a disability related reason and ask how to gain information that they missed. Since this accommodation has already been determined as reasonable for ongoing disability related symptoms, you should not require a doctor’s note. For example, a student with migraines who is missing class will already know what medications and treatment they need to employ and may not seek out consultation with a doctor.
- Are there times when flexibility with attendance is not a reasonable accommodation?
- An approved accommodation of flexibility with attendance should always be considered and discussed with the student. If your course requires extensive, hands on, experiential learning, then the amount of flexibility that is appropriate may be less. However, reasonable flexibility should still be granted.
- What do I do if the student uses all of the agreed upon flexibility and is continuing to miss class?
- If you have provided flexibility with your attendance policy, then, technically you have provided the accommodation. However, if the student has been adhering to the guidelines agreed upon in the APA, submitting assignments, and is meeting the learning objectives of the course, additional flexibility may be appropriate. Have a conversation with the student to discuss where they stand in the course and any additional flexibility that may be provided during the remainder of the semester. There are times when a student has missed so much class, that they will no longer be able to meet all of the course objectives and essential requirements. In these instances, a student has the option to drop the course (deadlines permitting) or request the possibility of taking an incomplete (if reasonable). If they decide to remain in the course, it may be appropriate to grade remaining items based on your grading policy.
- What if I have not heard from the student and am concerned about them?
- You can always reach out to the student to express that you have noticed their absence and are concerned. Students indicate that it is helpful if instructors reach out in a supportive manner. If you are concerned about the student’s well-being or safety, you may contact the Behavior Concerns Advice Line in the Dean of Students office to discuss the situation and appropriate response.
- Do I need to complete D&A’s Attendance Policy Addendum? What if attendance isn’t required in my class?
- The APA is not a required document however, it can be extremely beneficial to have a written document of the agreement made between you and the student. It also serves as a helpful guide in considering course requirements and specific situations that may come up (ex. Missed exams). In addition, it serves as a tool that the Access Coordinator can use to assist in conversations related to flexibility with attendance accommodations. If there is not attendance requirement for the course, then you do not necessarily need to complete the APA. However, it may cover topics that are important to discuss that are not strictly related to attendance (ex. How student will obtain information missed during class period). If you discuss flexibility with attendance with the student and you both agree that the form is not necessary, then an email summarizing the decision while copying the student’s assigned coordinator is a good practice.
- At what point in the semester should the APA be completed?
- Preferably, the APA would be completed at the start of the semester before the student misses any class. However, there are many reasons why a student may not deliver their accommodation letter, and accompanying APA, until later in the semester. See FAQ about why this might be: https://diversity.utexas.edu/disability/ssd-web-portal-faqs/. You are not required to apply the accommodations retroactively though it would be appropriate to discuss the situation with the accommodation and offer reasonable flexibility.
- Do I need to turn in the APA into D&A or does the student?
- Either party may submit the APA but, in general, the student should submit this document to their assigned AC in D&A. Both the student and instructor should keep copies of the completed form to reference throughout the semester if needed.
- How do I determine what is reasonable without knowing the student’s disability?
- As the instructor, your role is to determine what alternate methods and resources are available for the student to learn or make up the information they may miss. Rest assured that if a student is approved for an accommodation related to attendance, D&A has received and reviewed documentation from the student’s medical provider indicating that attendance may be impacted as a result of the disability. Students are not required to share private medical information with their instructors once they have been approved for reasonable accommodations. The amount of flexibility should be determined on how the student is able to meet the essential requirements of the course, not why the accommodation is approved.
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- How do I talk to my instructor about my need to miss class for disability related reasons?
- When you deliver your accommodation letter, you should discuss each of your accommodation needs in that specific course. If you are requesting flexibility with attendance, you should let your instructor know. Complete the Attendance Policy Addendum with the instructor so that you know the course requirements, expectations, and reasonable flexibility. Remember, you have the right to maintain the confidentiality of your disability. It may be helpful to explain to your instructor what has worked well related to attendance in previous courses.
- Do I have to communicate with my instructor every time I am absent?
- Communication with your instructor is very important and expectations should be discussed when completing the APA. In some instances, instructors may ask that you communicate with them on an ongoing basis. Part of this communication is so that your instructor can be made aware that this absence was disability related but so that you can also obtain any important information that may have been discussed when you missed class. Discuss the best format of communication (email, Canvas, next class meeting etc.) and any concerns you may have related to your ability to communicate.
- Do I need to provide a doctor’s note if my absence is disability related?
- No, you should not be required to provide a doctor’s note when your absence is disability related. However, if you are missing class for a non disability related reason, then your instructor may have a policy in place to request proof of absences.
- My professor said the Attendance Policy Addendum is not necessary. What do I do now?
- There are multiple reasons why an instructor may not want to complete the APA. You may ask your instructor for clarification and express how this document is intended to be used. If the instructor indicates that it is not necessary because they do not have an attendance requirement in their course, ask to discuss the main items since it may include topics that the instructor did not consider related to missing class (Ex. How you will obtain missed information from class). After your meeting, send an email to your instructor while copying your assigned D&A AC to outline what you understand related to flexibility with attendance. This helps to allow for any clarity to be provided, any remaining questions answered, and include your AC in the communication about expectations and flexibility.
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- The plan set forth in this addendum begins on the date the Accommodation Letter and the Attendance Policy Addendum are delivered and discussed.
- If you have any questions, contact the student’s Access Coordinator (AC) to aid in facilitation of this accommodation.
- Instructors who want to learn more about creating flexibility within the structure of their course can contact the Center for Teaching and Learning.
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