Procedure for Faculty Review of Accommodation Decision

Academic programs and departments identify essential academic requirements and components for coursework and degree completion. Those requirements must be met either with or without accommodation, and accommodations may not fundamentally alter the essential requirement or lower the academic standards of a class. 

Therefore, Accessibility Resources may refuse a requested adjustment/accommodation that imposes a fundamental alteration or lowers the academic standards of a class but may do so only after engaging in a deliberative, case by case process, and must offer a reasonable alternative or alternatives to the student in response to their request. 

The goal of such a process is to separate general expectations and what has “always been done” from the truly essential objectives and components of a course or program to ensure that the university is providing reasonable accommodations to ensure full and equal access. 

Faculty should not deny accommodation requests to students. If an instructor believes that an approved accommodation might be a fundamental alteration, lowers the academic standard, or is otherwise not appropriate for their course (or generally has any question about the provision of accommodations) the steps in the review procedure are as follows:  

Step one: Accessibility Resources Point of Contact Review. 

The faculty should contact the Accessibility Resources director on their campus for further discussion. The Accessibility Resources director, in conjunction with the Access Coordinator, will consider the faculty member’s concern and

  •  communicate with the student and, if needed, review disability documentation to clarify the specific disability related barriers in the course

  • review the course syllabus and consult with the instructor

  • determine whether the accommodation or a reasonable alternative poses a fundamental alteration or a lowering of the academic standards. 

If the accommodation does result in one of those, then the Accessibility Resources staff and faculty member will identify alternatives to the accommodation request to offer the student.  

Step two: Executive Director/ADA Coordinator review. 

If the faculty member and AR Director do not agree on the outcome of step one, the Executive Director for Accessibility/ADA Coordinator will coordinate with the Director of Accessibility Resources to initiate a second review process. The ED and Director will together review the appeal to: 

  • Review the student file and communicate with student to clarify disability related barriers specific to the course that the given accommodations  

  • Determine if the instructor, department, and/or program have articulated the essential requirements for the course and/or program and provided notice of them to students. Essential requirements may include: 

  • Academic standards of the course that embody the very nature of the subject matter or that are of the utmost importance in achieving the course/program objective

  • Specific requirements that individual instructors believe are fundamental to teaching the course/program, taking academic freedom into consideration. 

  • Essential skills that must be met with or without reasonable accommodations. 

  • Determine if there are any other accommodations that may be provided to reduce barriers and not create a perceived fundamental alteration and offer those to the student and faculty member

Step three: Panel review: 

If the Accessibility Resources office and faculty member cannot identify an appropriate, reasonable accommodation or alternative based off of a student’s request, the university must engage in a deliberative process with a panel of persons who are collectively knowledgeable about the academic area, any related licensing requirements, any applicable accreditation for the course of study, the student’s disability, and accommodation methods. The Executive Director/ADA Coordinator will assemble this panel. 

This level of review should only happen in cases where an accommodation denial may be denied outright and when no reasonable, equivalent alternatives may be offered to the student. Commonly requested accommodations/adjustments (e.g. extended test time, reduced distraction environment, note taker, etc.) will not require this level of review and will instead be determined by the Executive Director in collaboration with the VP of Student Affairs and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access as appropriate. 

With the support of the Executive Director of Accessibility, or their designee, a panel of academic and disability professionals will collaborate and determine if the essential academic requirements of a course/program can be met with or without the use of accommodations. 

Minimally, the panel will consist of membership of the following people:  

  • The Program/Department chair and the instructors who teach the course and bring knowledge of the subject’s content, methods, and essential requirements.  

  •  Accessibility Resources staff who understand what accommodations are possible.  

  • The student who has requested an adjustment/accommodation and who understands their own limitations and how their disability impacts the ability to learn in a classroom.  

The panel may also seek assistance and consultation from other subject matter experts in the field (i.e., members of accrediting bodies or those with expertise in providing access in specialized fields, etc.) 

This process ensures that such determinations are made by a group of people, including Accessibility personnel and pertinent faculty or other relevant personnel, after a careful, thoughtful deliberation that includes a review of program/course requirements and available options and alternatives. The decisions made during the deliberations and the reasons supporting them will be fully documented. 

When determining if a requested adjustment/accommodation fundamentally alters the essential requirements for a course or program, the panel will endeavor to: 

  • Identify the essential academic requirements and components of the course that embody the very nature of the subject matter or that are of the utmost importance in achieving the course/program objective

  • Articulate specific requirements that individual instructors believe are fundamental to teaching the course/program, taking academic freedom into consideration. 

  • Engage in "reasoned deliberation" as to whether modification of the course/program would change the fundamental academic standards. 

  • Determine if this requested accommodation has ever been granted before for another student with or without a disability

  • Determine if a different method or requirement that will not be altered by the accommodation will achieve the required academic or pedagogical result and if not, why not

  • Determine if the suggested option will lower the academic standards of the course/program, including why lowering of that standard is important to the course or program  

  • Determine if the standard is the better way (or the only way) to achieve the desired academic objective. 

Accessibility Resources will document in the student’s case file any of the outlined interactive processes that take place between the University and the student. The documentation will include the dates of any academic adjustment/accommodation requests, the nature of each request, any supporting documentation, and any reason(s) for the denial of a request.