Important Guidelines for Instructors

In collaboration with the Accessible Education Center, instructors play a key role in facilitating academic accommodations so that students with disabilities can engage with course material and equitably demonstrate knowledge.  

Syllabus Statement

Every University of Oregon syllabus should include a statement encouraging students with disabilities to make their needs known to the instructor early in the term and to inform students that AEC is a source of support. A statement on the syllabus along with a verbal announcement at the beginning of the term also helps the university to fulfill part of its obligation to make sure that students are aware of the available support and opportunity to request disability-related accommodations from the institution. This also provides an opportunity to foster a welcoming environment for all students and to acknowledge the range of diversity in the classroom.

The following sample serves as a guideline syllabus statement. Some faculty members choose to modify the statement to include additional resources for all students, and others prefer a more traditional approach (e.g., if you have a disability please notify me...). 

The University of Oregon is working to create inclusive learning environments. Please notify me if there are aspects of the instruction or design of this course that result in disability-related barriers to your participation. You are also encouraged to contact the Accessible Education Center in 360 Oregon Hall at 541-346-1155 or uoaec@uoregon.edu.

What is a reasonable accommodation?  

A range of accommodations may be appropriate for specific student situations. A reasonable accommodation should not result in the lowering of academic standards or an alteration of the fundamental nature of a course or program.  While instructors and academic departments play a key role in understanding and articulating the essential requirements of courses and programs, it is never appropriate to deny a requested accommodation without documented consultation with AEC. A denial should only be made after careful consideration by qualified professionals who are knowledgeable about disability and specific legal implications. If you have concerns regarding the appropriateness of an accommodation, make sure to consult with the Accessible Education Center.

Notification Letters

A notification letter outlines the appropriate accommodations that should be facilitated for a specific student and is the official document that activates your legal responsibility. Notification letters do not include information about the nature of the student’s disability but may contain general information applicable to most classroom environments or more individualized information for a specific class or situation. The information contained in notification letters is confidential and should not be shared with anyone except the course instructors or facilitators. 

It’s important to read each notification letter carefully, as there may be specific actions that need to be completed right away.  Students and instructors are encouraged to communicate with each other on how best to implement accommodations in each class. 

Notification letters are initiated by each student for selected classes through AEC’s online portal and emailed from AEC. While students may initiate their letters at any point in the term, we understand that receiving notification letters late in the term can present logistical challenges. We encourage instructors to reach out to AEC with any concerns or questions.  

Confidentiality

Any information related to a student’s connection to AEC and their accommodations is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and should not be shared. It’s important to be aware that students’ disability status and accommodations are not noted anywhere within their academic record. Information regarding students’ accommodations should only be shared with individuals who have an educational need-to-know, such as a Graduate Employee who is proctoring exams for your class.  

All conversations regarding accommodations should take place in a private setting, such as during office hours or via email. In some cases, students may feel comfortable approaching you before or after class regarding their accommodations, but make sure to follow their lead and never initiate conversations regarding accommodations or disability status in front of others. Remember to keep students with AEC accommodations confidential from each other; for example, by bcc'ing recipients if you are emailing a general reminder to all students with accommodations.  

While you shouldn’t ask students about the nature of their disability, you are encouraged to discuss how accommodations have been implemented effectively in the past and how you can best support them in accessing your course.

Instructor Responsibilities

Instructors have the responsibility to ensure full access for students with disabilities by responding to a student's need or request for accommodations as outlined below. The University of Oregon has a flexible and individualized approach to accommodations and strives to create an inclusive learning environment for not only students with disabilities, but for all students by incorporating principles of Universal Design for Instruction.It is useful to examine assumptions that you might have about disabilities, limitations, or perceived challenges, especially in advising or mentoring relationships. Sometimes students are unintentionally discouraged from specific fields of study based on assumptions and comments that are inaccurate and harmful. 

If a student presents you with a notification letter from the Accessible Education Center (AEC)

You have the responsibility to cooperate with the AEC in providing accommodations in a reasonable and timely manner. Any concerns or questions that you have should be addressed immediately with the student, or by consulting with an AEC Advisor.The letter will be emailed to you and may also be provided in hard copy by the student. It describes accommodations that are reasonable based on the student’s specific situation and legal mandates. During office hours or at another convenient time, discuss the letter and the accommodations with the student. This should be a confidential and private conversation.

If a student does not present you with a notification letter

If a student requests an accommodation based on disability, but does not provide you with a notification letter, or just mentions that they experience a disability, please refer them to the AEC. Depending on the nature of the request, you may wish to provide requested accommodations before receiving a notification letter from AEC. If you are unsure how to proceed, please contact AEC.

If you have a question about the appropriateness of an accommodation

Questions about the appropriateness of accommodations and student requests should be directed to an AEC advisor, or in complicated cases to the Director. Possibilities for a universal design strategy to address the request should also be explored.  

If a disability is suspected

If it seems that a student has a disability and is struggling in some way, please share your observations/concerns directly with the student. If for example a student is clearly having difficulty physically writing fast enough on quizzes, it would be appropriate to state, “it looks like you are having difficulty writing fast enough to meet our timing on this quiz.” If the student acknowledges this challenge it would be appropriate to refer them to AEC to explore accommodations, such as more time to write, or use of a computer. Depending on the context, it may be helpful to mention other important campus resources, as well, such as the Tutoring Academic Engagement Center or Counseling Services.It is the student's decision whether or not to self-identify to the AEC or to use accommodations. This cannot be required. However, to receive AEC coordinated accommodations, disclosure to the AEC with proper review and assessment is required.

Flexibility in Attendance and Assignment Deadlines

For accommodations related to flexibility in attendance and/or assignment deadlines, please refer to AEC's Guidance for Flexibility in Attendance and Assignment Deadlines.

Shared Responsibilities

Students requesting specific accommodations are expected to notify you early in the term or well in advance of when the accommodation is needed. You do not have an obligation to offer make up exams, or provide retroactive accommodations to students who have delayed notification to you. It is not possible to anticipate all individual needs, although designing instruction for the broadest range of students helps to eliminate potential barriers to access. It is important to encourage students who encounter barriers in your class to contact you as soon as possible so that you and the student can discuss options. When a student discloses a disability, it is important to ask what you can do to facilitate learning.

Examples of Shared Responsibilities

Initial Steps

Student establishes disability and need for accommodations with an AEC advisor.

Student provides their notification letter to the instructor (see Notification Letter). This will be emailed and may also be provided in hard copy by the student.

Testing Accommodations

Many instructors are able to provide testing accommodations by proctoring exams in a nearby office or meeting room. If the instructor can provide testing accommodations, AEC does not need to be informed.

If the instructor is unable to make alternative exam arrangements, they will need to complete a testing agreement (by following a link in the notification letter), which specifies the parameters by which AEC will proctor the student’s exams.

After the instructor has completed a testing agreement, the student may schedule exams with AEC using our online portal, AEC Connect. Students are expected to meet applicable deadlines (see Testing Accommodations). While students should try to schedule exams at the same time as their class, flexibility is often needed due to class conflicts and/or AEC hours of operation. During weeks 1-10, AEC proctors exams between 8am-5pm, Monday through Friday. During Monday through Thursday of finals week, AEC proctors exams from 8am-8pm (and 8am-5pm on Friday).

After the student has submitted an exam request, the AEC, in collaboration with the Testing Center, will reserve an exam location and schedule a proctor, reader, or scribe, and secure any needed equipment.

Student and instructor will receive an email confirming the exam reservation, and the instructor will be prompted to provide AEC with the exam file. 

Notetaking Accommodations

Student and instructor should communicate about how their particular notetaking accommodations can most effectively be facilitated in each class.

Instructor responsibilities vary depending on the type of notetaking accommodation.

If specified in the student's notification letter, instructors are required to:

  • Provide copies of notes/slides
  • Allow recording of lectures
  • Assist in securing a volunteer notetaker from the class
  • Allow a computer based notetaker or transcriptionist to attend the class

Students are required to follow all stated notetaking guidelines, including not sharing recordings or copies of notes/slides, and attending all classes in which notetaking services are provided.

View our online module, Supporting Access and Inclusion for Students with Disabilities in MyTrack for more information.