The correspondences that the ADS office sends out to students receiving accommodations are intended to assist the faculty as well as the student. Determinations of appropriate accommodations are based on careful examination of the documentation and individual consultation with each student.
The determination that an accommodation is unreasonable is an institutional decision that must meet legal and educational requirements. Though the academic judgments involved in such decisions are typically the prerogative of the academic unit involved, those judgments must be made within legal parameters. Therefore, such determinations require collaboration between administration and academic units. Faculty members should not unilaterally render and attempt to implement a judgment that an accommodation is unreasonable.
Should you have a concern about an accommodation, if you feel any of the academic adjustments that ADS has suggested results in a fundamental alteration of the course, if at any point you feel as though students requests are unreasonable or if you would like to take a different action other than what is stated in the letter, please contact ADS. ADS will work with faculty to ensure that the accommodations are appropriate for everyone. You may also reach out to the ADA/504 Coordinator if you feel the requested accommodation meets the criteria for an undue burden.
There are generally three different situations when an accommodation may be unreasonable. If an approved accommodation:
- Fundamentally or substantially alters something that is essential to the course
- Would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others
- It poses and undue administrative or financial burden (which is rare as university’s entire resources are taken into account)
Faculty should not offer modifications or adjustments above and beyond what is approved unless they are prepared to provide the same to all students.
Requests for accommodations must be timely (cannot be retroactive and must be requested in a time frame to allow time for them to be implemented, but should be provided to the greatest extent possible).
We must make sure that the accommodation is really in the best interest of the student, while protecting faculty rights and maintaining the integrity of the institution.
- When faculty choose to make accommodation decisions directly with a student without going through ADS, it potentially sets students up for problems with other faculty members and could conceivably invite litigation.
- Providing accommodations outside the ADS office can set the student up for difficulty in other settings like graduate school or employment. ADS needs to maintain a record of accommodations for verification purposes in order to be considered a student with a disability.
- When a faculty member chooses to directly decide on and provide accommodations for one student but does not for another student with either the same or different disability, it could open the door for a grievance complaint.
What to do if a student has not identified their disability and/or their need for accommodations
The best advice for what to do in this situation is to handle it with caution. Don’t assume that any student who is having difficulty has a disability and even if it is obvious, they may have chosen not to identify with ADS because they felt that they did not need assistance. We recommend that you ask leading questions. For example, “have you ever had these types of difficulties before?” “What have you done in the past?” “Do you have any thoughts as to what the issue might be?” “Are you familiar with some of the resources on campus like the Counseling Center or Accessibility and Disability Service?” Once they open the door, then you might suggest that they talk with ADS or at least look at the ADS website.
All disability-related information including documentation, accommodation letters, correspondence, and consultations are considered confidential and will be managed in accordance with The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations.
ADS offers the following guidelines for faculty, staff, and administrators to ensure that confidential student information is kept secure:
- All information that a student shares with a faculty member is to be used specifically for arranging reasonable accommodations for the course of study.
- Do not leave student disability information visible on your computer or in any printed format that others can see, and dispose of it securely at the end of the quarter.
- Refrain from discussing a student’s disability status and necessary accommodations within hearing range of fellow students, faculty, staff, or others who do not have an “educational need to know.”
- Do not assume that students registered with ADS are aware of other students’ disability status. Please do not send a group email to students with accommodations.
- At no time should the class be informed that a student has a disability.
- Discuss accommodation letters and logistics of implementing accommodations with students in private. Make yourself available by email, during office hours, or by appointment to discuss.
- Requesting specific information about a student’s disability is inappropriate. Requesting a letter from the student’s physician is inappropriate. The accommodation letter is all that is needed to justify the accommodation.
- If a student voluntarily discloses the nature of their disability to you, even if it is obvious, do not disclose it to others.
- If a student tries to provide you with their primary disability documentation, refuse to read or accept it and refer the student to ADS. UMD has designated ADS as the repository of all disability documentation for students with disabilities.