Student Disabilities Services
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
UAAP

For Faculty: Procedures for Providing Academic Accommodations

The following procedures are guidelines for responding to student requests for academic accommodations on the basis of a disability. Faculty has a responsibility to respond to reasonable requests for academic accommodations from students with disabilities at the Institute. Reasonable requests are determined by Disabilities Services on the basis of legitimate documentation of a student's disability by an appropriate professional; communications with the faculty and students; accepted practices of disability service providers in higher education; and legal precedent. Response to requests for academic and other types of accommodations by the Institute ensures student's "meaningful access" to essential programs and activities. The question of classroom academic standards is one that Disabilities Services staff works carefully with faculty to ascertain.

Faculty Notification of Requested Academic Accommodations

Students have been advised to make an appointment to see faculty during faculty office hours to present them with the Accommodation Letter prepared by Disabilities Services. The student and faculty should then discuss the requested academic accommodations and exam accommodations outlined in the Accommodation Letter, to ensure a mutual understanding. The Disabilities Services has identified an individual within each academic department who serves as a logistical coordinator/Disabilities Services liaison, assisting faculty and students with the implementation of accommodations. The student must work closely with this individual, as well as with the faculty member, in implementing accommodation logistics.

If a student requesting accommodation does not provide an Accommodation Letter (prepared by Disabilities Services), the faculty member and/or logistical coordinator should refer the student to Disabilities Services to obtain such a letter to verify and ensure the reasonableness, accuracy and legitimacy of the request.

If the faculty member has any concerns about the recommended accommodations, s/he should convey these concerns to Disabilities Services immediately.

Student Request for Exam Accommodations

Faculty play an important role by helping to determine whether exam accommodation requests compromise classroom academic standards and by assisting with implementing such requests.

It is the student's responsibility to address the issue of exam accommodations with his/her faculty members/department coordinators two weeks before each exam date. The established procedure for exam accommodations is for the faculty member/department coordinator to arrange exams within the department in order to monitor the quality and fairness of the test accommodations. This may include arranging for a private room or the coordination of a proctor, reader, or scribe. (See section on Exam Accommodations and Procedures). If the student encounters any problem in arranging for accommodations, he/she must contact Disabilities Services immediately.

The Disabilities Services is here to assist with logistical difficulties which faculty or their departments may encounter in providing student accommodations. The established and preferred procedure is for the first attempts to be made within the teaching staff/department. If these attempts are unsuccessful, Disabilities Services can advertise and select a scribe or proctor for an exam, or provide a location in the event that faculty/departments cannot do so. Disabilities Services will pay for a proctor, scribe, etc. if the department can find one, but cannot fund it. We strongly encourage that the location be provided within the academic department.

If the department or faculty cannot provide all or any of the accommodations, the student and Disabilities Services must be informed as soon as the faculty member/department makes the determination. It is then the responsibility of the student to notify Disabilities Services within a reasonable amount of time (ASAP).

Exam Accommodations and Procedures

Some examples of test accommodations include: having someone write down a student's dictated answers (using a "scribe"), accessing a written test through auditory means (using a reader or a taped version of the exam), or completing the exam with an additional time allotment. There may also be a request for faculty members (or designated representative of faculty) to judiciously respond to any genuine misunderstanding of exam questions.

To avoid misunderstanding, it is important for the faculty member/department to determine with the student whether the faculty member, the department, or Disabilities Services will be taking responsibility for such arrangements. If the faculty member or department cannot fulfill the student's requested accommodation needs, the faculty member/department must notify the student and Disabilities Services immediately so that Disabilities Services may have a reasonable amount of time to make arrangements for the accommodation.

If the faculty member or the department cannot provide the location for the exam, Disabilities Services will arrange for a location, out of department exam instructions must be followed: The student is to pick up the exam from the professor or another designated party in the department. The exam should be in a taped envelope with either the professor's or relevant department personnel's signature across the tape. All exam instructions should be written on a separate piece of paper inside the envelope such as open book, calculator allowed, original duration, etc. Return instructions should also be included. The Disabilities Services will then return the exam in the manner indicated by the faculty member/department.

Disabilities Services can advertise and pay for scribes and readers, provide alternate locations (if department attempts are unsuccessful), or have the exam prepared in alternative formats (i.e. Braille or taped reading) if notified within a reasonable amount of time by the student and/or department.

Whether proctors, readers, or scribes are selected by faculty, departments, or by Disabilities Services, payment for such services can be arranged through Disabilities Services (3-1674).

It is important to know that faculty has rights when an accommodation is requested. One situation which may arise is that a student may ask Disabilities Services or the faculty member for certain exam accommodations in an untimely manner, i.e. the day before an exam. Students are advised that accommodations must be requested in a timely fashion; if not, they may be denied. Please contact Disabilities Services (3-1674 or dso-www@mit.edu) for any concerns regarding exam accommodations.

Note takers

Disabilities Services employs a peer note taking system. The Disabilities Services accommodation letter, delivered by the student, through written notification, will inform the instructor that a student may need assistance in selecting a note taker.

The student with a disability will attempt to find someone in the class to take notes for him or her. If s/he does not succeed, the student may ask the faculty member to announce in class that there is a need for a note taker. Faculty members should protect the student's right to privacy by not offering her/his name to the class.
Faculty can direct interested student note takers to contact Disabilities Services (3-1674 or dso-www@mit.edu). Disabilities Services will provide a list of prospective note takers to the student with a disability, who can then contact these individuals and assume responsibility for engaging one as a note taker. Students choosing to become note takers are paid by Disabilities Services at an hourly rate.

The Disabilities Services can assist the student by providing tips on selecting an appropriate note taker. However, it is the student's responsibility to monitor note takers for accuracy and timely delivery of notes. Any discrepancies should be reported to Disabilities Services immediately. If a student needs assistance in this process, s/he should feel free to contact Disabilities Services.

If the student cannot find or maintain a note taker and the faculty member has made "a good faith effort" to facilitate the finding of one, it need not be the role of faculty to then assume this responsibility for making sure that the student has a note taker. Some faculty do assume this responsibility, but doing so is their choice.

Student note takers are paid by Disabilities Services for their services. Once a note taker is obtained, s/he should e-mail Disabilities Services office for payment procedures.

It is mandatory that students using note takers attend class. Note takers are not a substitution for the student's attendance. If a student is unable to attend class for an extended period of time, the note taker as well as Disabilities Services must be notified. Failure to do so may result in losing notetaking privileges as a person with a disability who can't attend classes (even occasionally) may not be otherwise qualified to take the class.

Other Student Accommodation Requests

Students may also be approved for other accommodations, such as: taped recordings of lectures, preferential seating, enlarged or Brailled material, or assistance in obtaining books on tape.

Prior to the start of each semester, faculty may be contacted by Disabilities Services, or the student, to obtain a syllabus and a list of required textbooks so that Disabilities Services may obtain or begin taped recordings as soon as possible.

There are many means by which faculty may (and do) teach material effectively to students with various learning needs. Faculty are not, however, required to tailor their teaching methods to address an individual student's special needs. However, practices such as asking students which other aids might be useful, or observing a student's style in recitation or the laboratory, are common ways to facilitate students' access to classroom learning.

If the student's documentation specifies and supports the need for taping classes, it will be stated so in the Accommodation Letter that is presented to faculty. If faculty have concerns about disclosure of privileged information beyond the classroom, the student may be required to sign a confidentiality statement at the discretion of the faculty member.

The Disabilities Services offers assistance with clarifying the various roles and responsibilities for faculty and students. Informational handouts for faculty regarding specific disabilities are available at Disabilities Services. Please contact Disabilities Services staff with any other concerns at 3-1674 or at dso-www@mit.edu.

Confidentiality

The information a student shares with faculty about his/her disability is confidential information and must be treated as such, according to Institute policy. Avoid discussing disability issues in front of the class or in the presence of other students. Information about a student's disability should not be shared with other faculty members or staff unless they have a specific "need to know." Whether or not a student with a disability prefers to discuss the nature of his/her particular disability, challenges, or personal history with the faculty member/s is entirely up to the student. Students are not required to relate specifics about their disability when they self-disclose a need for accommodations, having already done this with the Disabilities Services staff. Contact Disabilities Services if you have concerns regarding the student's disability or accommodation requests.

Questions About Accommodations Requests

The Disabilities Services is the resource designated by the Institute for assistance in determining and implementing accommodations in and out of the classroom. If you are uncertain about how to respond to a request, whether a request is reasonable, or if there is disagreement about any phase of an accommodation's provision, it is the faculty member's responsibility to contact Disabilities Services immediately. Faculty/department should not raise the issues with students.