Frequently Asked Questions (Faculty)
Below are some "frequently asked questions" that faculty may need addressed.
What if a student with a disability is failing your course?
Equal access and reasonable accommodations for a student with a disability does not guarantee academic success. If a student with a disability failing a course, the question to ask in this situation is, “Were the requested accommodations provided in a satisfactory manner?” If so, then the failing grade is an accurate measure of the student’s performance. When a faculty member has done all that is required, then failing a student with disabilities is proper and lawful.
- Stand by academic standards and freedoms. Full and equitable access to academic programs serve as the foundation for standards and freedoms.
- Communicate clear and concise expectations of performance to your students. It is important to distinguish between essential and nonessential components of the course.
- Allow for reasonable accommodations. Accommodations are adjustments that affect only nonessential aspects of a course. They are reasonable so long as course standards are not fundamentally altered.
- Inform your students that you are willing to provide accommodations, either verbally during lectures or in writing within a course syllabus. The Accessibility Resource Center recommends both. For example, an instructor might say, “Students with disabilities are welcome to discuss accommodations with me.”
- Permit students to use auxiliary aides and technologies that ensure access. Depending on the disability, some students may use note takers, Signed Language Interpreters, readers, scribes, or educational assistants. Others may use tape recorder/players, computers, assistive listening devices, or other technologies.
- When requested, provide alternatives to printed information, including: Braille, electronic text, large print, and tape cassettes. If internet resources or other technologies are used, then they must be accessible to students with disabilities. The Accessibility Resource Center produces these alternative formats.
- Make academic adjustments in instruction. Some students need lecturers to face the audience while speaking. Others may need written or graphic information spoken aloud or described. Adjustments such as these may be made after the student requests them.
- Grant testing accommodations. Depending on the particular needs of the student, it may be necessary to extend testing times, change testing formats, or test in a quiet environment.
- Regard disability-related discussions and information with the strictest confidentiality.
What if faculty suspects a student has a disability?
- Do not ask if he or she has a disability. Approach the student as you would any other student having difficulty.
- Ask the student to explain what might be affecting their performance.
- If a disability is disclosed, refer the student to the Accessibility Resource Center.
- If the student suspects they might have a disability, refer them to the Accessibility Resource Center.
What if a student with a disability requests a letter of recommendation?
If the letter cannot be written without mentioning the student’s disability, it is better to decline the request. The letter should be written to report what the student has achieved, not how it was achieved. The letter should pertain to how well the student performed in relation to his or her peers.
What if a student says their disability may limit regular attendance?
Attendance during scheduled class times is a necessary part of the learning process. The Accessibility Resource Center staff may recommend flexibility in attendance requirements for some students. Generally, this accommodation is requested when the nature of the disability results in varying functioning levels, i.e., “good and bad days.” Flexibility is contingent upon the student and the circumstance. Some variables include; the course, the course material, the necessity of interaction in the classroom.
Discussion between the student and the instructor is essential. The Accessibility Resource Center staff is willing to participate in these discussions. Students should understand that there is no substitution for attendance and participation. Exam grades may reflect this and would not be altered as a result of missed material due to absence leniency.
What if a classroom is moved?
Classrooms may be moved if the room is inaccessible to a student registered in the course. Whenever possible, the least intrusive method of intervention is used. A student may be moved to another section of the same course at the same time if that section is scheduled, but in an accessible location. Faculty should be advised that not all students who may require room changes have visible disabilities. Instructors will be notified by the Accessibility Resource Center before any classroom changes are finalized.
What if a student misses class because of an elevator breakdown?
Elevator breakdowns or other short-term barriers may present access barriers for students with mobility disabilities. Students may miss critical course information, be unable to take scheduled exams, pop quizzes, or be unable to give presentations. This is a no-fault situation in many respects, but the University still assumes the responsibility of equal access. In such instances, the student should contact the instructor as soon as possible. He or she should request assistance in obtaining course notes or rescheduling an exam or presentation. The student should not be adversely affected in terms of attendance. While most elevator breakdowns last only a few hours, some breakdowns have lasted as long as several weeks. The Accessibility Resource Center will make alternative arrangements if a student’s attendance is affected for more than one day. When this occurs, it may be necessary to temporarily relocate a class to ensure full participation for all students.
What if a required field trip is planned?
Many courses at The University of New Mexico convene outside the traditional classroom or laboratory, and some programs require the completion of such courses as part of the standard curriculum. Examples of such courses are:
- field trips
- field experiences
- student teaching
- professional internships
- studying abroad
The Accessibility Resource Center adheres to its over-arching policies regarding program access, reasonable accommodation, and the prohibition of discrimination with respect to these educational experiences. At no time does a student pay fees for reasonable accommodations. However, personal services such as personal care attendants, drivers, etc. are the responsibility of the student.
The student arranges a practicum, internship, field trip, field experience, or overseas study program through their instructor, advisor, professional school and/or any other appropriate division of the University. If accommodations are likely to be required, the student must make the request. The purpose, activities, and time necessary for the accommodations will be discussed by the Accessibility Resource Center and the student, along with the practicum supervisor. Staff at a practicum site may need to be included as well. In other cases, the student makes the requests directly to the practicum site personnel, and comes to the Accessibility Resource Center only for services that would involve some cost, such as readers or scribes. The Accessibility Resource Center and the student agree on which accommodations are necessary and reasonable. Supervising faculty should discuss the potential need for accommodations with students when appropriate.
What if a student needs a Signed Language Interpreter?
Students who are hearing impaired may request a Signed Language Interpreter in order to have access to course lectures and other University activities. Signed Language Interpreters are professionals employed by the Accessibility Resource Center. Their job is to provide access by translating lecture and other spoken communication into signed communication, usually American Sign Language (ASL). Interpreters maintain a professional level of distance in the classroom when interpreting. Students handle requests for Signed Language Interpreters directly with the Accessibility Resource Center.
Signed Language Interpreters in the Classroom
If a student is addressed by the instructor, the instructor should look directly at the student and speak in the first (not the second) person. Likewise, if a student wishes to ask a question, the Interpreter will voice the student’s question or comment. It is not ethical for the Interpreter to carry the student’s part of the conversation with the instructor or other students. The Interpreter’s job is to translate spoken language into sign, and to voice signed language. The Signed Language Interpreter is not responsible for the student’s grasp of material, homework, testing arrangements, or attendance. These are the student’s responsibility.
What if a student needs to take a exam at the Accessibility Resource Center?
The student must first get the instructor’s approval to test at the Accessibility Resource Center. As exams are scheduled, it is the student’s responsibility to inform the Accessibility Resource Center at least 72 hours before of the test. The student must include; the test time, date, hour, course, and instructor’s name. Then the Accessibility Resource Center will contact the instructor via telephone or email and request a directive for acquiring the exam. A staff member from the Accessibility Resource Center will pick up the exam from the department office. The instructor may also hand deliver, email, or fax the exam. The completed exam is sealed and hand-delivered to the respective department office for placement in the professor’s mailbox.
What if a student is observed cheating on an exam at the Accessibility Resource Center?
All students must leave textbooks, notes, backpacks, and electronic devices in the Accessibility Resource Center office before beginning an exam. They are permitted additional materials only when the instructor provides a note explaining the exceptions. Study aids for exams are copied by the Accessibility Resource Center and returned to faculty with the completed exam. Students are monitored by security cameras during the exam. In the rare instance when a student is caught cheating on an exam, the Accessibility Resource Center stops the test and returns the incomplete exam to the instructor with a note explaining the situation. Any action taken against the student is determined by the professor and based on established policy. Further testing accommodations cannot be withheld from a student, but additional safeguards will be put in place to maintain the integrity of the exam.
What if a student with a disability is enrolled in a program that requires specific certification?
No student can be denied access to any program based solely on his or her disability. The necessary accommodations will be made according to his or her disability provided that the accommodations do not fundamentally alter the objectives of the program. All students must adhere to the standards of the program. When the standards are not met and the student has been afforded reasonable accommodations, the student may be denied certification in the program.
What if I am an adjunct faculty member and have a student with a disability enrolled in my course?
The Academic Adjustment Policy (UNM 2310) applies to all students enrolled in courses at the University of New Mexico’s Main Campus, North Campus, and Branches. Adjunct faculty have the added burden of limited time on campus and access to departmental offices during business hours. The Accessibility Resource Center will assist adjunct faculty in the implementation of accommodations.
What if a student with a disability registered with the Accessibility Resource Center is absent from class? Should I require a letter from a physician before excusing the absence?
An accommodation letter that verifies a reoccurring illnesses is adequate notification. A request for additional verification is appropriate for extended absences and hospitalizations.
What if a student in a wheelchair cannot evacuate using regular evacuation procedures?
Students with orthopedic disabilities may not be able to evacuate the building during an emergency when elevators cannot be used. The student is to move into the closest stairwell once the traffic flow allows and wait for assistance from appropriate personnel. The student will rely on your assistance to notify emergency personnel of their location.