Most Frequently Asked Questions
Educational Access for Students with Disabilities
Although enrollment rates of students with disabilities in higher education are increasing,
some faculty and teaching staff may not be aware of the many services and supports
available to students with disabilities. In particular, instructional staff members
may not always be aware of the types of accommodations available or what steps are
involved in the accommodations process. The following is a list of frequently asked
questions regarding the roles and responsibilities of faculty and teaching associates
in providing accessible learning for students with disabilities. Although these questions
address the most common of concerns, the issue of faculty and TA responsibility is
situation-specific and as such can be difficult to define. As you are confronted with
some of your concerns, keep in mind that the Abilities Office is the office on campus
that determines appropriate accommodations. We hope that you find the following questions
to be a quick and useful resource guide, but we encourage you to contact the Abilities
Office at (773) 995-4401, when you are in doubt about how best to meet the needs of
a student with a disability.
Q: Who is responsible for determining appropriate accommodations?
A: The Abilities Office is the office on campus that determines appropriate accommodations.
The office bases its decision upon documentation collected from a student with a
disability and the student’s functional limitations. Accordingly, students may not
select accommodations at will. Accommodations must be reasonable and must correspond
to the individual student’s functional limitation.
Q: Are all students with disabilities registered with the Abilities Office?
A: No, it is likely that many students with disabilities have chosen not to be registered
with the Abilities Office or they may not have met the eligibility criteria for services.
In either instance, faculty does not need to provide these students with accommodations.
Q: What would be the best way to inform students in the class that I would like to
help in facilitating exam accommodations or any classroom accommodations?
A: It is important that all faculty put a statement about accommodations in their syllabi.
Following is a sample syllabus statement which you may use: “Students with a disability
who require reasonable accommodations to fully participate in this course should notify
the instructor within the first two weeks of the semester. Such students must be registered
with the Abilities Office which is located in the Cordell Reed Student Union Building,
Room 190. The telephone number is 773.995.4401.”
Q: Am I required to provide exam accommodations to students with verified disabilities
who request it?
A: Yes, you are required to provide exam accommodations if it has been determined by
the Abilities Office coordinator to be a reasonable accommodation. Students with disabilities
are protected by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504. This law requires that
qualified students with disabilities get equal access to an education, and this includes
Q: A student has asked for accommodations. How do I know the student truly has a
disability and needs accommodations?
A: Students who have registered with the Abilities Office and are eligible to receive
accommodations will provide you with a letter verifying that she /he has a disability.
The Abilities Office has on file for every student who is registered with the office
and uses services, documentation of the disability.
Q: I have a student in class who told me that she /he has a disability, but since
that time has never requested any accommodations. Am I still responsible for accommodations?
A: No, you are only responsible for reasonable accommodations if requested. In these
types of situations, however, it would be appropriate to speak to the student privately
to let the student know that you welcome the opportunity to discuss reasonable accommodations
if the student is interested.
Q: What are some of the types of exam accommodations available to students with disabilities?
A: First of all, the exam accommodations are based upon the student’s functional limitations
and the documentation of disability that the student has provided the Abilities Office.
Some of these accommodations include but are not limited to: extra time for exams
(usually 50% extra time or as much as double time), a reader or scribe (a person
who writes answers verbatim), a computer, a Braille exam, an enlarged exam, an exam
scanned onto a disk and use of computer (student uses voice, enlargement options,
or spelling /grammar check), a distraction-reduced space, image enhancements (converting
graphs, charts, and other types of images converted into raised-line format), and
use of a closed circuit TV to enlarge print.
Q: When I have a deaf student in class, is it a requirement that an interpreter is
also present in the class?
My class is very crowded and also, the students sometimes watch the interpreter instead
A: Yes, you are required by law to have what is essential for the student to have equal
access to an education, and this may include a sign language interpreter. However,
the Abilities Office assumes responsibility for acquiring interpreter services.
Q: A student with a disability has asked me for a copy of my notes and overheads.
Do I have to give this to the student?
A: Some students with disabilities have difficulty taking notes. Sometimes faculty notes
are only a brief outline of the actual lecture given. These notes may not be too helpful.
Even though the Abilities Office assumes responsibility for providing note takers
to students who require them, it is extremely helpful when you assist the student
in getting access to class notes. You may want to help the student find a volunteer
note taker in class by making an announcement in class without revealing the student's
name. If you have a graduate student in class to assist you and if this person takes
notes, these notes may be another option. If you feel your notes are good, sharing
your notes would be a third option. Some faculty and departments have developed web
site guided notes. This can be extremely helpful to many students who lack the ability
to keep up the pace in taking thorough notes. It may also be appropriate for some
students to tape a class.
Q: I have a student who is having difficulty in my class. I think this student may
have a disability. What should I do to help the student?
A:Talk privately with the student to discuss your observations that the student is having
difficulties in the class. The student may reveal she /he has a disability. If this
is the case, suggest that the student talk to the Abilities Office coordinator. She
/he may contact the Abilities Office at 773.995.4401 for further information.
Q: Am I required to lower the standards of a required assignment because the student
has a disability?
A: No, the standards should be the same for all students; however, some students with
disabilities may exhibit their knowledge, production, and other course expectations
differently than their peers. For example, a student with a learning disability in
writing may produce an essay exam by using a computer or scribe rather than writing
out an answer without the use of accommodations. The quality of the work should be
Q: I have a student with a disability getting behind in his /her schoolwork. This
student is missing a number of classes and has not handed in several assignments.
Although she /he has taken a midterm and used accommodations, the student ' s grade
is about a D. At this point, the student is not passing the class. Do I have a right
to fail a student with a disability?
A: The student with a disability has the same right to fail as anyone else. Their work
should be equivalent to that of their peers. It may be a good idea to discuss your
observations with this student just as you would with anyone else in your class who
is experiencing difficulty.
Q:I have a student who is blind in my chemistry lab. How is she /he going to participate
and be graded in his /her lab work?
A: If possible, assist the student in getting a lab partner or assign a student assistant
to work with the student with a disability. In either situation, the student who is
blind should direct the assistant to carry out the functions of the lab assignment.
If a volunteer lab partner cannot be found, suggest to the student that she /he needs
to contact the Abilities Office as soon as possible for assistance in getting a lab
partner. The speed in making these arrangements is critical so that the student will
not get behind.
Q: Do I have any recourse if I disagree about requested accommodations?
A: To clarify any disagreement about a requested accommodation, you can first contact
the Abilities Office.
This Fact Sheet was adapted from content compiled by the Ohio State University Partnership
Grant, "Improving the Quality of Education for Students with Disabilities" , funded
by the U.S. Department of Education under grant #P333A990046.
This Fact Sheet is available in alternate format upon request. Please call the Abilities
Office of Disabled Student Services at (773) 995-4401.