Guidelines for Requests for Academic Adjustments
Adjustments are modifications to courses or curricula. When students request academic adjustments based on a disability, certain procedures are required. This document describes the process students should use to initiate such requests and the mechanisms that Disability Support Services (DSS) and academic units may utilize to respond to them.
Section 504 Regulation at 104 C.F.R. 104.44 (a) regarding academic adjustments, requires post-secondary institutions to make such modifications to academic requirements as are necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate against qualified students with disabilities. The regulation also states that academic requirements that institutions can demonstrate are essential to programs of instruction being pursued by such students, or to any directly related licensing requirement, will not be regarded as discriminatory. Title II of the ADA at 28 C.F.R. 35.130(b)(7) requires reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disabilities, unless public entities can demonstrate that making modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the services, programs, or activities.
In order to request an academic adjustment based on a disability, students must have open cases at DSS. Opening a case means supplying appropriate disability documentation and entering into an Accommodations Agreement with a staff member. Students' documentation must contain specific and reasonably current information, provided by qualified experts, that supports the request. DSS staff will determine at this point whether the student’s disability limits the ability of the student to participate in a given class, assignment, or specific test format and makes recommendations for academic adjustments if needed. Students should understand that DSS provides consultation to faculty based on students’ needs and the impact of the disability.
Students make specific requests with a DSS staff member. If the situation justifies it, the academic adjustment requested will be added to their Accommodations Agreement.
Faculty/Academic Unit Responsibility
DSS and the academic unit determine whether the requested academic adjustment is a reasonable accommodation. The faculty member, with appropriate academic departmental support, provides input on which skills, assignments, courses, deadlines, etc. are fundamental to the degree in question. DSS will provide input based on the disability, functional limitations, academic accommodations, and assistive technology.
If a determination is made that a requested academic adjustment results in a fundamental alteration to an essential program requirement or is directly related to a licensing requirement, the consideration process shall include the following elements:
- The decision must be made by a group of people who are trained, knowledgeable and experienced in the areas relevant to the requested academic adjustment and program requirement, including the faculty member and the Chair of the Department or other appropriate administrator, in consultation with the DSS Office;
- The decision makers must consider a series of alternatives as essential requirements; and
- The decision must reflect a thoughtful, careful, and rational review of the academic program and its requirements.
At issue is the balance between providing academic adjustments to students with disabilities to ensure that the requirements of classes/programs do not discriminate and the University's obligation to ensure that all students meet essential requirements needed to successfully complete programs of study. Modifications can be required if the requested academic adjustment does not lower academic standards, fundamentally alter the nature of the program, or impose an undue burden and if the modification meets the underlying reason for the requirement.
If a determination is made that a requested academic adjustment results in a fundamental alteration to an essential program requirement or is directly related to a licensing requirement, the decision will be documented, including an explanation of the purposes or objectives of the academic program and how the essential requirement is necessary to achieve these objectives. Students will be notified of the outcome in writing. DSS will maintain documentation in students' files at DSS if it is made available to DSS.