Frequently Asked Questions (Faculty)
Do accommodations give students with disabilities and unfair advantage in the academic process?
Accommodations do not give the student with a disability an unfair advantage. Rather, reasonable accommodations give students with disabilities an equal opportunity to achieve the same results as students without disabilities. If the college environment were designed to meet the needs of students with and without disabilities, there would be no need for reasonable accommodations. But that is not the present reality: the college environment is designed to meet the needs of students who have no disability.
When a student with a disability and counters and environmental barrier, such as a timed test they are not able to finish or an assigned reading that is not accessible, they are placed at a disadvantage in relation to their nondisabled peers. The purpose of providing a reasonable accommodation is to remove the environmental barrier, thus giving the student with a disability an equal opportunity for success by leveling the playing field so they are no longer at a disadvantage. So while an accommodation could be an advantage to students without a disability, it is not an advantage for a student with a disability, but an equalizer.
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 has audio-recording lectures as an accommodation?
Many ARC students have the accommodation of audio-recording lectures. The purpose of this accommodation is to help the student generate class notes that are comprehensive and complete. Listening to parts of the recording after class helps the student accomplish this goal.
Because professors sometimes have questions about the accommodation, we have compiled this Q&A document as a resource.
What if student says their disability may limit regular attendance?
Attendance during scheduled class times is a necessary part of the learning process. ARC 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, and the necessity of interaction in the classroom. We have posted detailed information about the Attendance Adjustment accommodation.
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 is 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 academic freedom. Full and equitable access to academic programs is completely compatible with those principles.
- 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, both verbally during lectures and in writing within a course syllabus. 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 Signed Language Interpreters or note takers. Others may use smartpens, cell phones or tablets for audio-recording, computers, assistive listening devices, or other technologies.
- 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 can 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 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 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 ARC 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. ARC 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 have experiential elements that occur outside the traditional classroom or laboratory, and some programs require the completion of such courses as part of the standard curriculum. Examples of experiential elements are:
- Field trips
- Field experiences
- Student teaching
- Professional internships
- Study abroad
ARC 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 ARC 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 ARC only for services that would involve some cost, such as readers or scribes. ARC 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 deaf or hard of hearing 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 ARC. Their job is to provide access by translating lectures 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 ARC.
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 is observed cheating on an exam at ARC?
All students must leave textbooks, notes, backpacks, and electronic devices in ARC office before beginning an exam. They are permitted additional materials only when the instructor indicates in the test instructions that certain items are allowed during the test. If the student has a visual cue card as an accommodation, the card is copied by ARC 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, ARC 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 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 typically moves into the closest stairwell once the traffic flow allows and waits for assistance from appropriate personnel. The student will rely on your assistance to notify emergency personnel of their location.