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Attendance and Students with Disabilities

What faculty need to know about attendance and students with disabilities

In some cases, a student registered with ODS may qualify for consideration for class absences. When this is the case, you will receive a letter from our office signed by the student. This accommodation is most frequently granted for a student who has a documented chronic health problem which occasionally causes them to be absent from class. Faculty set their own attendance policies; the accommodation is simply a request for some flexibility in the policy. The amount of flexibility will depend on the nature of the class and whether class participation is a factor in the final grade. Students who are eligible for this accommodation are responsible for completing all coursework. This accommodation is not a “blank check” which allows students to miss a large number of classes for any given course. A student with excessive absences in a class should consult with the instructor about dropping the course with a passing grade or receiving an incomplete grade when appropriate.

Office of Civil Rights Cases

1994: Determined that requests for accommodations for absences due to a disability should be considered on an individual basis. The accommodation should be provided unless the accommodation threatens the integrity of the course as offered. If a course grade is dependent on attendance it is important that the student and faculty member discuss the issue so that the student can them make an informed decision about alternatives.

1996: The following six factors should be used in considering if attendance is an essential element of a course:
1) Are there classroom interactions between the instructor and the students and among students?
2) Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
3) Does the functional nature of the course rely on student participation as an essential method for learning?
4) To what degree does a student’s failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the education experience of the other students in the course?
5) What do the course description and syllabus say?
6) What are the classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:
• The need for this modification has been documented through Disability Services; no additional medical documentation is needed. If your syllabus requires medication documentation for an excused absence, make-up exam, etc., this letter serves as sufficient documentation. The student is still expected to maintain prompt and regular communication with you as flare-ups occur throughout the semester.
• Make-up quizzes/exams of equivalent difficulty must be offered to students who experience medical flare-ups. If you have concerns about academic integrity, fairness to other students, or prep-work required, ODS staff are happy to consult with you on how to best set up this accommodation while addressing these issues.
• In the event that the student is unable to meet the terms of the agreement, and if no reasonable revisions to the agreement can be made, the student should then be held to the relevant course syllabus policies.


Generic Examples:
• If the course is mostly lecture based, the in-class content reviews content available in the text or from instructor/peer notes, and involves little student interaction during class, then more flexibility with excused absences/participation points is reasonable.
• If the course is mostly experiential or discussion based, the in-class content is not recreated elsewhere, and/or involves significant student interaction, then less flexibility with excused absences/participation points is reasonable.
If modifying exam dates and deadlines would not substantially impact the flow or design of the course, then more flexibility with exam dates and deadlines is reasonable. For example, it may be reasonable to allow a research paper to be turned in a few days late if it would not impact the overall progression of the course. On the other hand, it may be unreasonable to modify an assignment due date that is based on an inflexible factor.

If you believe it is not reasonable to make any modifications to your course, please contact ODS for consultation.