Student Disabilities Services
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
UAAP

For Faculty

It is understandable that faculty members will have questions when dealing with issues concerning the provision of services to students with disabilities. Frequently, faculty members feel that they must provide an answer without hesitation to a student's request and as a consequence they respond by either summarily agreeing to whatever the student asks for or by summarily denying the request. Either response carries a significant risk of rendering the institution vulnerable to a charge of discrimination. Further, by categorically agreeing to whatever the student demands, a faculty member may inadvertently place legitimate academic requirements at risk. More importantly, such responses on the part of faculty members ignore the responsibilities that students have to establish entitlement to accommodations, as well as the substantial obligations that federal statutes and regulations (The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act) impose upon colleges and universities regarding the treatment of students with disabilities. Quick unilateral responses are the wrong way to handle what is, in fact, an extremely complicated situation.

The manner in which faculty members can achieve some measure of control over this situation is to understand the relative responsibilities of students and the institution with respect to the accommodation process. It is imperative that faculty members appreciate the important role that disability services administrators play in ensuring that only legitimate student requests are affirmatively addressed and only appropriate and reasonable accommodations are provided. Further, by performing these functions the disability services staff provides necessary and important support to faculty with respect to the protection of academic requirements and standards during the accommodation process.