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Teaching Resources on Disability

Shared Responsibility

We each play a role in sharing the responsibility, including the student, of providing accommodations to all individuals with a disability. The purpose of providing a reasonable accommodation to a student must be to give that student the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the course content and the information being tested while minimizing or eliminating the impact of the disability. Accommodations should not give the students an unfair advantage over their classmates. The University has an obligation to make a good-faith effort to provide reasonable accommodations to all students with a disability, no matter when the request is made.

  • Students disclose the need for accommodations, provide documentation to ADS and comply with reasonable policies and practices
  • Accessibility and Disability Service (ADS) provides direct services to students with disabilities, collaborates with faculty and other campus entities to implement accommodations
  • Faculty collaborate with ADS and students to provide equivalent access in the educational environment

Student Responsibilities

  • Meet the essential qualifications and institutional standards
  • Disclose the disability and need for accommodations in a timely manner to ADS
  • Meet with ADS to determine in an interactive process the appropriate accommodations
  • Students must notify faculty members regarding any excused absence in a timely manner
  • Provide appropriate documentation to support their need for accommodations
  • Talk with professors about their approved accommodations
  • Request accommodations each semester
  • Confirm and coordinate the need for the accommodations before each test or quiz
  • Follow up with ADS if there are any issues with the accommodations

ADS Responsibilities

  • Serve as a central point of access for student disability accommodations
  • Receive and evaluate student requests for accommodations
  • Review and maintain confidential files of students’ documentation of disability
  • Determine student qualifications and eligibility for disability related accommodations and services
  • Develop individualized written accommodations letters in conjunction with the student
  • Determine a reasonable timeline in which accommodations can be put in place
  • Serve as an advocate for students with disabilities while also ensuring that they are abiding by university policies and procedures
  • Work with faculty when accommodations issues around their classes arise

Faculty Responsibilities

  • Make sure that each course, viewed in its entirety, is accessible. The IT Accessibility HUB (see below) has many resources available for making your course content accessible
  • Support and implement reasonable accommodations as identified in a letter of accommodation from ADS
  • Consult with ADS in a timely manner with any accommodation-based questions or concerns, including requests that may conflict with course objectives or requirements
  • Maintain confidentiality regarding accommodations and diagnosis. Students are not required to disclose their diagnoses. If a student discloses a diagnosis, this information is to be treated as confidential under the protections of FERPA
  • Include a disability announcement on the course syllabus. Sample syllabus language is below
  • Support and implement the reasonable accommodations as identified by ADS without it being a burden on them
  • Faculty are asked to make a good faith effort to accommodate students throughout the semester
  • Faculty are responsible for educating their teaching assistants on confidentiality and best practices when working with students with disabilities so that they can implement the accommodations as well

Reasonable Requests

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.
  • Resource: When Faculty are too Accommodating by Jane Jarrow [external link to PDF]

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.

Universal Design

When designing your course, it is strongly recommended that faculty consider incorporating Universal Design principles. In UD the focus is on the learning environment and the creation of the learning environment instead of adapting the individual student or student functions to fit within that environment. Anticipating the needs of all students and building in features to meet those needs from the very beginning increases usability for everyone.

Things faculty can do to help with accommodations

Testing Accommodations

  • Verify that the student is registered with ADS and has testing accommodations on the current accommodation letter.

  • Communicate with the student where they would like to take their test.

  • Students who only need extra time may be able to take their test with the class and either start it early or finish it after the class so long as there is no conflict with the student’s schedule, the instructor’s schedule, or the classroom availability.

  • Students may also be able to work out arrangements with the instructor directly to take it privately with them.

  • Students can arrange for a proctored test through the ADS testing office. This option is most appropriate for students who may need assistive technology to assist them.

  • Makeup exam policies may need to be adjusted as an accommodation and clear expectations about what is reasonable for each course should be established

  • The makeup test must be timely and it must take place at a time and place agreed on by both the instructor and the student, as outlined in the memo from the Provost’s office.

  • Extra time on an untimed take home exam is not required. In rare cases, it may be reasonable to provide additional time on a take-home exam. Faculty should contact ADS for assistance in establishing appropriate accommodation logistics.

  • If ADS reports to faculty any test irregularities, it is the responsibility of the faculty member, along with the department, to investigate allegations and take any punitive measures.

Notetaking Accommodations

  • Notetakers are fellow classmates that provide a copy of their notes to a student with a disability who needs a supplemental copy of notes. A recruitment template is available on the link below. Faculty are asked to make an announcement or send out an email to their class to assist with finding a notetaker for the student with a disability. Faculty may be required to assist in providing supplemental notes to a student if a notetaker is not identified in a timely manner.
  • Sonocent/Glean is a software that allows students to record audio and type their notes simultaneously, with many other features such as the ability to color-code audio that allow for a more efficient note-taking experience. Sonocent/Glean is most often best utilized by students who prefer to type notes and/or whose classes involve PowerPoints and other electronic forms. It is not recommended for students whose workload is pen and paper heavy, such as math, chemistry or physics concentrations.
  • Zoom has the option of a transcription feature. It can be used to prepare a transcript of your Zoom video. Unfortunately, proper names and discipline specific terms may not be accurate. Faculty can edit the transcript and then share the video, or the Zoom vtt file can be opened in word and shared as a document
  • Notes need to be provided in a timely way

Recorded Lecture Accommodations

  • Lectures can be recorded in Zoom and shared
  • Some students may ask to record the lecture through their phone or computer or third party software
  • Students who are approved to record as an accommodation sign an agreement with ADS ensure that the recording is used for their purposes only
  • Recordings should be posted within 48 hours of class

Alternative Format Accommodations

  • Some students with disabilities may need materials in a large print or electronic format. It is recommended that faculty send an electronic version in advance to the student.
  • It is critical to ensure that all materials posted to ELMS are in an accessible format
  • Equations, diagrams and tables will need more specialized conversions; seek assistance from ADS’s Alternate Text Unit with as much notice as possible as these adaptations may require additional time

Communication Accommodations

  • Students with a hearing loss may require an ASL interpreter or real-time transcription services (TypeWell) for classes
  • Students who are hard of hearing may require the use of an Assistive Listening Device (ALD)
  • Students must be able to see you, the board and the interpreter/captions
  • All communication to the student should be directly to them, not the interpreter
  • Face forward when speaking and always use a microphone in larger settings
  • Videos should all be captioned before being shown
  • Recorded classes should be captioned before posting to ensure equal access
  • Video captioning information is listed in the resource section below.

Attendance and Deadline Accommodations

  • Coursework deadline flexibility (i.e. Additional time on assignments/Ability to move or delay an exam)
  • Flexibility with attendance, tardiness or the need to leave class when symptoms arise
  • Incompletes are not approved as an accommodation and are at faculty discretion


IT Accessibility Hub

IT Accessibility Services UMD Web-Based Course Content Accessibility Checklist Formatting an Accessible Syllabus video playlist from Accessible U Quiz Extensions ELMS tool UMD Video Captioning Standard Implementing Accommodations Online [PowerPoint] DI IT Accessibility for Instructors

Syllabus Guidance

Syllabus Guidelines Syllabus Guidance & Template

Working with students who are Deaf or hard of hearing

Sign Language Interpreters: An Introduction Speech to Text Services: An Introduction Assistive Listening Devices: An Introduction Why Captions Provide Equal Access

Resources for instructors and departments from ADS

Resources for Instructors and Departments from ADS Notetaking Resources Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services