Verifying Eligibility and Determining Accommodations | Creating an Accessible Classroom | Providing Accommodations to Students with Letter from SSD | Requests for Accommodations without Letter from SSD | Questions or Concerns | Suggested Dos and Don’ts
What is the Purpose of Accommodations?
Academic accommodations are designed to reduce or eliminate barriers in the learning environment in order to ensure students with disabilities have equal access and opportunity to learn and participate fully in all educational programs at The University of Texas at Austin. The University of Texas at Austin acts in accordance with two relevant laws: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As a starting point, here are a few things to know about accommodations:
- provide students with disabilities with equal access to course instruction, materials, and evaluation
- “level the playing field” by reducing/eliminating barriers caused by the interaction between a student’s disability and the learning environment.
- do not guarantee student success and do not provide an unfair advantage
- must be reasonable and cannot alter the essential requirements of a course or program
Instructors who have specific questions about accommodations can contact SSD at 512-471-6259 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the following topics is below.
Verifying Eligibility and Determining Accommodation | Creating an Accessible Classroom | Providing Accommodations to Students with Letter from SSD | Requests for Accommodations without Letter from SSD | Questions or Concerns | Suggested Dos and Don’ts
SSD: Verifying Eligibility and Determining Reasonable Academic Accommodations
Students are responsible for contacting Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) and following the process of registering for accommodations, which includes providing documentation of their disability and completing an intake appointment. Specific documentation guidelines exist for each disability category and require a current diagnosis, prognosis, and explanation of how the disability may impact the student’s academic performance. See our Documentation Guidelines for the criteria that must be met in order for students to be eligible to receive accommodations.
Once appropriate documentation has been received and reviewed, students will meet with a Disabilities Services Coordinator to discuss their academic history, barriers they may have encountered because of their disability and what type of accommodations may be necessary to provide the student with equal access to the academic experience at UT. There will always be a direct connection between the barrier a student experiences because of their disability and the accommodations that are approved.
Since most of the students who receive accommodations have invisible disabilities, their need for accommodations may not be readily apparent. Please do not ask a student to disclose the specific nature of their disability as this information is part of their confidential file within SSD. Below are some examples of why a single accommodation might be approved for students with a variety of disabilities:
Student may need to step out of class for 5-10 minutes:
- Students with Crohn’s Disease/Irritable Bowel Syndrome may need to use the restroom frequently
- Students with Diabetes may need to check blood sugar levels/administer medication
- Students with PTSD may need to leave class due to triggers within the classroom (such as content, noises, or images)
- Students with a Panic Disorder or Anxiety Disorder may need to step out in order to manage symptoms of a panic attack
Extended time for testing (either one and a half or double time) unless speed is the factor being tested:
- Students with ADHD may struggle to remain focused and have difficulty filtering distractions
- Students with a learning disability(ies) may need extra time to read questions or formulate a response
- Students taking certain medications for their disability may experience side effects, such as slow processing speed, drowsiness or memory impairment
- Students who have arthritis may physical difficulty with writing for extended periods
*There may be cases where an approved accommodation may not be reasonable given the structure of a specific course. SSD staff are available to help determine whether or not providing an accommodation would change the essential requirements of the course.*
For more information see Accommodations and Services, Working with Students with Disabilities, Invisible Disabilities and Postsecondary Education, or a video about Invisible Disabilities and Postsecondary Education.
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How to Begin: Creating an Accessible Classroom
The first step in providing an accessible learning environment for students with disabilities is proactively establishing an accessible classroom experience. See our suggestions for Creating an Accessible Classroom , which include a sample syllabus statements about the process for requesting accommodations, considerations for choosing accessible materials, and resources for building in universal design concepts.
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Now What? Providing Accommodations to Students with an Accommodation Letter
Ensuring accessibility in the classroom is a group effort between the student, the instructor, and the SSD office. Each member of the group has rights and responsibilities during the accommodation process and understanding the roles and responsibilities of each member can lead to a better working relationship and more clear communication. Instructors are encouraged to learn more about the Rights and Responsibilities of Students and Faculty.
Students registered with SSD must request Accommodation Letters for each class every semester they need to use their accommodations. SSD will send an email notification to both the student and the instructor(s) with links to the SSD Portal where Accommodation Letters can be viewed and/or downloaded. Students and instructors must discuss each accommodation and how they will be provided within the structure of the course. While it is the student’s responsibility to initiate this conversation with the instructor, instructors can also reach out to students after receiving the notification email.
Instructors are then responsible for providing the classroom and/or testing accommodations listed in the Accommodation Letter. Students are also responsible for ensuring that their accommodations are implemented appropriately. For example, students are expected to communicate with instructors proactively about their accommodations, discuss any necessary handouts associated with their accommodations, and inform the instructor if they experience any issues using accommodations in a course.
*Accommodations are not retroactive. Instructors are only required to accommodate students from the date that they discuss the Accommodation Letter.*
SSD and the Texas Center for Disability Studies have created an eight minute video to demonstrate how instructors and students should discuss the accommodation letter. The video also includes common mistakes made by students and instructors. We hope this video helps instructors feel prepared and confident about discussing accommodation letters with students.
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What if a Student Requests an Accommodation Without a Letter from SSD?
If a student requests accommodations for a disability but has not provided the instructor with a letter from SSD, the instructor should request an Accommodation Letter or refer the student to SSD if they are not already registered. If the disability is visible (use of a wheelchair, hearing aids, service dog, etc.) and the requested accommodation is obviously appropriate, the faculty member should provide the accommodation while the student is in the process of registering with SSD. See Making a Referral to SSD for tips on how to connect students with services.
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Questions or Concerns About How to Provide an Accommodation?
If an instructor has questions or concerns about how an accommodation may apply in their class, they should contact the student’s assigned Disabilities Services Coordinator, whose name and contact information will be listed in the Accommodation Letter.
SSD is here to support the academic efforts of students with disabilities and serves as a resource to instructors help meet this goal.
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Dos and Don’ts For Providing Accommodations
If questions or concerns arise when accommodating students, please contact SSD for assistance and consultation.
For more information about working with students with disabilities, click here.
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