Thanks for Accommodating Your Students!

by Nathan Loewen, Department of Religious Studies

Experiences with faculty are pivotal to everyone’s learning experience at our University. You, too, might remember more than a few teachers whose words and actions played a vital role in your education. In order to learn more about how we affect our students today at UA, a poll was sent out to 1,945 students by Brittany Gregg at the Office of Disability Services. Many responses illustrate how faculty across UA are doing their part to ensure that UA delivers our vision for “exceptional educational opportunities” to all. Here are some examples of how faculty already realize Goal # 3 of our plan to advance the flagship by ensuring that students may access the accommodations they need each term:

Verbal and non-verbal cues from professors

“A warm greeting lets me know it will be a positive experience.”

“When I give them my accommodation letter and they accept it without seeming to die a little on the inside, I know they are comfortable with having me in their class.”

“Just be willing to be flexible and accommodating, and don’t be hesitant to think outside the box to establish different ways for said student to adapt and participate.”

“Professors could say their office is a safe space and welcome their students to come to office hours.”

“The more understanding a professor is and willing to work with me, the more comfortable I feel in the class and it usually helps me overall do better in the course.”

Professors’ willingness to communicate and provide accommodations

“I feel a whole lot better if a professor already has experience working with ODS. Also I feel better if the professor read through and understands my accommodations as well as making it clear to me exactly what they will do on their end for the accommodations.”

“Be willing to sit down and talk with me about what I need for my accommodations.”

“That if you are registered with ODS to feel free to make an appointment and that they’d be happy to help.”

 Utilizing the syllabus to help students feel supported

“If their syllabus is well-organized and the schedule is thorough, that generally bodes well for my relationship with the professor.”

“Another thing that makes me feel supported is when the professor has office hours, a telephone number, and office location listed.”

“Knowing all the dates of exams really helps me as a student receiving accommodations because I know I can put them into ODS’ system in the beginning of the year.”

Include an ODS Syllabus Statement:

“Mention the ODS office when they go over the syllabus. Sometimes teachers skip over it like it’s the weather protocol.”

“Professors that remind ODS students to bring them letters in the syllabus help me feel supported.”

“The disability act and rights of students placed in the syllabus is a nice recognition of professors being aware of what is the law.”

The importance of respectful and equitable treatment

“Be understanding and open to being flexible in accordance of what is required of the class.”

“If the student mentions their disability, try to be empathetic. We do not want special treatment, we just want understanding.”

“If they act like they understand that we’re not trying to be difficult and are just trying to learn, I think it would be easier to discuss my disability and how to work around it.”

These responses exemplify the best way to fulfill our contractual obligations to ensure that accommodations are arranged and delivered during our courses. Each semester, students should be invited to present you with their accommodation notices (It is possible that if you don’t ask, then they won’t tell you…). Here are the basic steps of that process:

  1. Meet with students privately during office hours or by appointment to discuss how each accommodation will be provided in the course.
  2. If indicated on the accommodation notice and requested by the student:
    • Arrange note takers on behalf of the student and/or allow audio recording of lectures or use of technology for note-taking (use of Tegrity is also recommended)
    • Develop a plan for providing testing accommodations.
    • If you instruct students to schedule their tests at the ODS Testing Center, a plan should be in place for providing testing accommodations in the event that the ODS Testing Center is booked to capacity.
    • Complete the Attendance Modification Agreement with the student, thinking through how attendance modifications and make-up work can be offered.
  3. Document your meetings with students, or ask students to send you a follow-up email regarding the accommodations discussed.
    • If a student verbalizes that an accommodation is not needed in the course, instructors may want to make a note of this when returning the Receipt of Accommodation Notice form to ODS.
      Contact ODS with any questions or concerns regarding accommodations.
    • Maintain the student’s confidentiality.  Only share information about a student’s use of accommodations on a need-to-know basis.

Nathan Loewen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Faculty Technology Liaison for the College of Arts & Sciences.