Frequently Asked Questions from Faculty/Instructors

Is the information regarding a student's disability and his/her need for academic accommodations confidential?
Privacy of student information, including that regarding students’ disabilities or accommodation needs, should generally be handled according to guidelines of FERPA.  Personal information of this nature should only be shared with those people within the institution who have an educational need-to-know.

How can I encourage students with disabilities to talk with me about their accommodations?
Announce at the beginning of the course that you are available to discuss instructional methods and appropriate course accommodations with students who have disabilities.  In addition, include a note on your course syllabus.

Is it acceptable to ask a student who is having obvious difficulties whether he/she has a disability, or to refer the student to the office that provides disability support services?
No.  It is not a good idea to ask directly about a possible disability for a couple of reasons.  First, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that a public entity may not make unnecessary inquiries into the existence of a disability.  These inquiries usually relate to hiring or pre-admission screening, but when talking with students such inquiries should also be avoided.  A direct inquiry such as this could also be considered intrusive or insensitive.  You may simply tell the student that you notice he/she is having academic difficulty and encourage him/her to talk with you about gaining assistance, just as you would any other student.

How do I know a student is qualified to receive disability-related accommodations?
At NDSU, a student who wishes to receive disability-related accommodations must register with the Disability Services office.  The student must provide documentation from an appropriate professional about his/her condition to determine eligibility for services. Once a student is determined eligible, reasonable accommodations are identified.  

The student meets with Disability Services staff to secure verification letter(s)/form(s) documenting the need for academic accommodations.  Accommodations are implemented by faculty/instructors or departmental designates to ensure equal access to the academic environment.  In some cases, instructors will partner with DS staff to implement reasonable accommodations.

How can I encourage students with disabilities to register with NDSU Disability Services?
You may make an announcement to your class and print a statement on your syllabus referring students with disabilities to the Disability Services office.  You may give students information about various campus resources including the Disability Services office.

Can a faculty member forbid a student with a disability to use a tape recorder in class?
An instructor is typically required to allow a student to audio record the course if audio access to the class is determined to be an appropriate accommodation for the student's disability.  Audio recording is specifically mentioned in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as a means of providing full participation in educational programs and activities.   Occasionally, classroom discussion reveals items of a personal nature about students.  During these times, it would be appropriate to ask the student with a disability to stop recording during these discussions.

How do I know whether or not an academic accommodation is reasonable?
Staff in the DS office carefully review the documentation and other resource information to determine reasonable accommodations.  The student will provide you with some form of verification from the DS office.  This verification will outline appropriate accommodations, indicating the student has followed procedures in obtaining accommodations.  The student may also share with you strategies/instructional techniques or accommodations that have proven effective for her/him in classes.  You can consult with DS staff if her/his requests do not seem reasonable.

What if I do not agree with a recommended accommodation?
The institution is required by federal regulation to establish formal grievance procedures for providing prompt and equitable resolution of disagreements.  When a dispute involves a specific course or academic program, these procedures provide for consultation between the faculty member responsible for the course, the student, and a representative from the Disability Services office.

Some students with disabilities are provided extended time on examinations.  Is this fair to other students?
The Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) state: “the results of an examination should accurately reflect an individual's aptitude or achievement level or whatever the test purports to measure, rather than reflecting an individual's impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills.”  The courts have held repeatedly that a lengthening of the standard examination period is a fitting accommodation for some students with disabilities.

How are instructors informed that a student needs an academic accommodation?
Students who wish to exercise their right to disability-related accommodations must open a file with the NDSU Disability Services office.  The student must provide documentation of their disability.  Students are encouraged to open a file and request accommodations prior to the beginning of the academic term.  However, a student may open a file and request accommodations at any time during the course.  The students are informed the accommodations are not retroactive. Disability Services staff collaborate with the student to notify their faculty/instructor about the specific accommodation needs. 

May I fail a student with a disability?
Yes.  It is possible to fail a student with a disability.  The laws mandate access to education, not guaranteed academic success.  A student with a disability is required to meet the same academic, performance, behavioral, or technical standards as a student without a disability.

The following is a compliance checklist that may be helpful.

  • Stand by academic standards and freedoms, which include full and equitable access to academic programs.
  • Provide verbal and written notice to your students of your willingness to accommodate.   For example:  “I encourage students with disabilities to discuss accommodations with me.”
  • Communicate clear and concise expectations for performance to your students.  Distinguish between essential and non-essential components of the course.  The student with a disability is required to meet the same academic, behavioral, performance and technical standards as a student without a disability. 
  • Respect  a student’s request for reasonable accommodations.
  • Permit students to use auxiliary aides and technologies that ensure access (examples:  notetakers, sign language interpreters, readers, scribes, tape recorders/players, assistive listening devices)
  • Assure that your course materials, whether printed or electronic, are accessible and available in alternative formats (examples: Braille, computer electronic text, large print, internet, CD/cassettes, videos).
  • Consult with the office of Disability Services if you have questions when a student requests accommodations.
  • Keep student disability-related information strictly confidential.
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