Reasonable Flexibility with Regard to Attendance
Students are expected to follow the attendance policy established by the professor in each class. However, some students with disabilities may be approved for an accommodation of consideration of "reasonable flexibility with regard to attendance due to a disability." Reasonable flexibility, in this case, means an exception to the attendance policy when educationally feasible.
This accommodation is generally approved for students who have impairments which are chronic or episodic in nature and may cause difficulties with regular class attendance. These disabilities might include, but are not limited to, students with diabetes, epilepsy, cancer, migraines, and conditions requiring on-going or specialized medical treatment. Students with psychological disabilities who experience an exacerbation of symptoms may also be approved for this accommodation.
Federal law requires universities to consider reasonable modification of attendance policies, if needed, to accommodate a student's disability. In making this determination, two questions must be answered:
Does the student have a documented disability that directly affects his/her ability to attend class on a regular basis? The DSO will make this determination based on a review of documentation from the student's physician, psychologist, or other medical specialist and through an interactive process with the student.
Is attendance an essential part of the class? Specifically, would modification of the attendance policy result in a fundamental alteration of the curriculum? The Professor will determine the degree to which in-class participation impacts the learning outcomes of the course and specifically how many absences are reasonable for each course. The Office of Civil Rights offers some guidance on this decision (see below).
Accommodating Disability-Related Absences
Requests for accommodations for flexibility with regard to attendance should be considered on an individual and course-by-course basis. To help set parameters and clarify expectations, a discussion should occur between the professor and the student early in the semester before absences become an issue. This will allow the student to make informed decisions about alternatives. The discussion should include:
If in-class participation is essential to the learning outcomes of the course, how many classes (beyond what any student is allowed) can be missed before the integrity of the course is impacted? It is helpful to provide a specific number of absences. This number should not be simply a restatement of the number of absences allowed for all students. See the reverse side for OCR guidelines. Please contact the DSO immediately if you need assistance in implementing this accommodation or have concerns about excessive absences.
How and when should the student notify you of a disability-related absence? It is reasonable for the student to notify you of an absence either before or after the missed class, depending on the nature of the disability. Please note: At no time is the student required to present you with medical documentation/medical excuse for disability-related absences.
What is the procedure for turning in homework/assignments/projects due the day of the absence? A general rule for determining a reasonable timeframe for a makeup or postponement of an assignment (such as a paper, exam, or quiz) is the time equivalent to that which was missed. In certain courses, it may be appropriate to consider an alternative assignment, reading, or project to make up for missed class discussions or projects.
Evaluating the Role of Class Participation and Attendance
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) provided the following guidelines to be used in considering whether attendance is an essential element of the course:
Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students and among students?
Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
Does the fundamental nature of the course rely on student participation as an essential method for learning?
To what degree does a student's failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
What do the course description and syllabus say?
Which method is used to calculate the final grade?
What are the classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?
This accommodation should be provided unless the accommodation threatens the integrity of the course as offered. If you need assistance in implementing this accommodation in your course or believe a modification of the attendance policy constitutes a fundamental alteration of the curriculum, please contact the DSO to discuss your concerns.
Flexibility with Regard to Assignment Deadlines
All students are expected to comply with assignment deadlines stated in the syllabus and/or established by the professor. However, some students with disabilities may be approved for an accommodation of consideration of “reasonable flexibility” in regard to assignment deadlines. Reasonable Flexibility, in this case, means an exception to the assignment deadline/late policy. Please note: students are not required to present medical documentation verifying the need for this flexibility.
This accommodation is generally approved for students who have impairments which are chronic or episodic in nature and may cause difficulties meeting assignment deadlines. These disabilities might include, but are not limited to, students with diabetes, epilepsy, cancer, migraines, and conditions requiring on-going or specialized medical treatment. Students with psychological disabilities who experience an exacerbation of symptoms and students who have reduced or limited stamina and have difficulty sitting, reading, writing/typing, and/or using the computer for extended periods due to illness or injury, may also be approved for this accommodation.
Determining Reasonable Flexibility
There is no set formula for determining the length assignment deadline extensions. However, there are several factors that can be considered when providing reasonable flexibility with assignment deadlines:
- What are the expectations for the assignment and the course?
- How do the assignments impact the student’s learning process and the learning experience for others in the class?
- Do the assignments (and associated learning outcomes) build on one another sequentially or are they independent of one another?
For example, in courses where lab assignments are due every Wednesday, it might be reasonable to upon request, to extend the deadline until Friday. This short extension considers the expectations associated with the original deadline and allows the student time to make up for time lost due to impairments arising from their disability. At the same time, this short extension ensures that the student stays on track with the content and receives feedback in order to progress in the course. For larger assignments and projects, an additional week or two might be reasonable depending on the factors listed above.
Accommodating Extended Assignment Deadlines
To help set parameters and clarify expectations, a discussion about extended deadlines should occur between the professor and the student as early as possible in the semester. The discussion should include:
- What is the late assignment protocol established in the syllabus?
- What is a reasonable assignment extension if a disability-related flare-up causes a deadline to be missed?
- How and when should the student notify the professor regarding the need for a disability-related deadline extension?
If you need assistance in implementing this accommodation in your course or you believe an extension of an assignment deadline substantially alters the outcomes, integrity or nature of the course, please contact the DSO at 610-683-4108 to discuss your concerns.