Open the door for communication. Students who receive accommodations are asked to meet with their professors during the first week of each semester to discuss their individual needs and accommodations so you can take these into consideration. There are some ways in which faculty can help invite this important conversation.
- Include a statement on your course syllabus. In addition to providing information for students who have not yet disclosed a disability, a statement indicates a faculty member’s willingness to provide reasonable accommodations to students with documented disabilities. Here is an example of a disability statement that can be used or adapted for course syllabi:
- Bowdoin College is committed to ensuring access to learning opportunities for all students. Students seeking accommodations based on disabilities must register with the Student Accessibility Office. Please discuss any special needs or accommodations with me at the beginning of the semester or as soon as you become aware of your needs; I am eager to work with you to ensure that your approved accommodations are appropriately implemented. If you have questions about requesting accommodations or concerns about approved accommodations, please contact Lesley Levy (email@example.com), director of student accessibility. Learn more about requesting accommodations.
- Encourage students to meet with you. Anything you can do to encourage students who receive accommodations to schedule a private meeting with you to discuss their individual circumstances is greatly appreciated by the students and the Student Accessibility Office!
Maintain confidentiality. Discussions or meetings with students regarding a disability and/or accommodations should always occur in private. The nature of a student’s disability, the content of the supporting documentation, and other records on file with the Student Accessibility Office are confidential. Information will be released to others only as necessary to administer the College’s accommodation of the student’s disability. Students are encouraged to discuss their disability and learning styles with faculty along with how their approved accommodation(s) will be implemented. Students are free to disclose any information that they choose. However, students should not be compelled to disclose any information beyond what is written in the accommodation letter. Whatever information a student may choose to share, please ensure it is kept confidential.
Laptops are effective tools for students with disabilities. Some students are unable to take notes by hand and have accommodations which allow them to use a laptop in class. Please consider allowing the use of laptops with your permission. This will require any student who wishes to use a laptop in class (certainly those with an accommodation, but additionally other students without accommodations who may also have valid reasons) to discuss it with you and it protects the confidentiality of your students who have disability-related laptop accommodations.
Evaluate potential barriers to access. When designing a course and syllabus, consider how you can make it most inclusive and universally accessible to ALL students, not just those with disabilities.
Students are the best expert in understanding their disability and the barriers they face. The individual student with a disability can provide direct testimony about their accommodation needs and what barriers may impede their learning. Additionally, the student likely has insight into the strategies and practices that are effective for them
Accommodations are not intended to limit faculty’s flexibility and must be reasonable. Accommodations are necessary for a student to have equal access to all aspects of Bowdoin’s learning environment. They must be reasonable and effective, and are ultimately about equity. By having a formal process, students only need to request accommodations from the Student Accessibility Office once and faculty are not put in the position of determining disability status and whether an accommodation is necessary and reasonable. Flexibility of faculty is an important part of recognizing challenges that may come up for any individual student, with or without a disability. It is the right of each faculty member to consider requests for flexibility for deadlines and attendance, and accommodations are not intended to limit that flexibility.
Seek guidance if you have concerns about a student who may be disabled but is not currently receiving accommodations. Do not make assumptions about students’ abilities or comment on students’ “presumed” disabilities. Legally, you cannot ask a student if they have a disability. Contact the Student Accessibility Office to ask for guidance. It can be helpful to explore with the student the resources at Bowdoin that may help support them (as you would with any student who is struggling in your class, regardless of disability.) These resources include the Center for Learning and Teaching, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Office of Accommodations, the Health Center, and the Counseling Center, among others.
Contact the Office of Accommodations and use the Office as a resource. If you encounter any difficulties implementing accommodations or if you believe an accommodation fundamentally alters an essential element of the course, please don’t hesitate to contact Lesley Levy, the Director of Student Accessibility (firstname.lastname@example.org or 798-4187.)