FAQ's for Faculty

Do students’ Disability Services Agreements still apply in the online environment?

Students with disabilities always have the right to reasonable accommodations, regardless of whether classes are hosted in-person or online. Students accommodations remain applicable no matter if they are in the classroom or studying remotely. You may review their accommodations via your Clockwork portal.

How do I approach a student who is having difficulty in my class and I suspect they may have a disability?

You may not legally ask students if they have a disability, but you can make inquiries about the nature of their difficulties. You may ask if they had difficulty before and how they were able to succeed in their classes. The student may voluntarily disclose the disability. At this point a referral to the Learning Center is in order. If the student does not disclose, you may simply tell the student that you notice they are having academic difficulty and encourage them to talk with you about gaining assistance, just as you would with any student.

May I ask a student to disclose their disability to me?

Absolutely not. We understand that this may be difficult for some individuals who teach; however, requiring that a student disclose her or his disability to you puts the institution at great legal risk. Although you may be open to listening if a student chooses to explain her or his disability to you—without your actual or implied solicitation of information—it is very important that you communicate respect for the student’s privacy regarding the specific nature of her or his disability. If you ever suspect that a request for accommodation is not legitimate, contact the Director of the Learning Center.

Their disability, as they understand it, will be discussed with a Learning Center staff member, as well as their history of accommodation, and possible reasonable accommodations given their stated disability. The student will be informed that to be granted accommodations, she or he will have to submit appropriate documentation of disability from a licensed diagnostician. Once received, the documentation will be reviewed for appropriateness based on guidelines recommended by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). Upon review, the LC staff member will discuss reasonable accommodations based on the documentation available. Students without appropriate or current documentation will be given appropriate referral, if the student so desires.

A student who wishes to receive disability–related accommodations must register with the Learning Center before services are rendered. Once a student is registered, faculty must provide the academic accommodations that the Learning Center office determines reasonable. If a student chooses to use their approved accommodations, they will request a letter be sent to their faculty member via the Clockwork Portal.

Announce at the beginning of the course that you are available to discuss instructional methods and appropriate course modifications with students who have disabilities. In addition, you should include a note to this effect on your course syllabus.

What is a reasonable academic accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a modification that allows the student equal access to the learning opportunity. Reasonable accommodations are determined after reviewing the student’s medical documentation related to her or his disability. An LC staff member determines which accommodations are reasonable based on the specific ways the student’s disability affects their ability to access buildings, information, or resources related to their academic experience. The student will provide you with a letter from the Learning Center (via your Clockwork Portal), outlining appropriate accommodations. Academic accommodations include, but are not limited to, testing accommodations, adaptive technology services, and assistance in arranging other support services (e.g., interpreters, note–takers, scribes, and readers).

May I choose to accommodate a student who is not registered with the Learning Center and/or for whom I have not received a Clockwork Notification letter for?

Any exceptions that a professor chooses to make in her or his instructional and/or testing procedures is not deemed an accommodation of a disability. We all know that most professors choose to make exceptions for particular students from time to time (e.g., allowing a student to take a make–up test in the event of a family member’s death). However, any exceptions made based on a student’s alleged, but undocumented, disability can put the university at legal risk. In these cases, always ask yourself:

“Since accommodations for appropriately documented disabilities are made in the Learning Center, do I have some other legitimate reason besides the alleged disability for making an exception for this student?”

“Is it an exception that I would be willing to make for any other non–disabled student?”

What if I do not agree with the recommended accommodation and/or it fundamentally alters the course objectives?

You are the person most intimately familiar with your own courses, you may provide very valuable input in the process of tailoring the specifics of several accommodations for a given student. Also, any prior experience that you have had with the student or in working with other students with disabilities may be very valuable. If an accommodation would fundamentally alter your course, please contact Amber Larson or Kaylynne Mahone immediately to discuss potential alternative accommodations.

Which accommodations are mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act?

  • Extended time to complete tests (typically time and a half to double time).
  • A quiet, distraction-reduced testing environment.
  • Audio textbooks and/or readers for tests, for students with visual processing issues.
  • Visual accommodations, such as sitting upfront.
  • Note-taker in class to produce readable, well-organized notes of lectures.
  • Permission to audio tape class (must fill out audio recording agreement sheet).
  • Computer accommodation and/or the use of the word-processing function of a computer during tests for essays and short-answer questions.
  • Hearing accommodations, such as captioned videos and sound amplification systems.

What is “undue hardship” as it relates to the rights of faculty?

The Learning Center recognizes that not all accommodations can be provided in all settings. Here, the law stipulates that colleges/universities are not required to provide an accommodation that will impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the class, where "undue hardship" means significant difficulty or expense in, or resulting from, the provision of the accommodation. The following are used to help make this determination:

  • Financial resources
  • Cost of accommodation
  • Alteration or change in the course requirements

Disruption of other students: Note: instructors should only invoke this "undue hardship" clause after having attempted reasonable accommodations in the classroom, or in cases of extreme student behavior. For example, a student with epilepsy cannot be automatically excluded from a class because the instructor fears that a disruption (e.g., a grand mal seizure) may occur during class. However, if this student is enrolled in a class and does experience grand mal seizures in class on a regular basis, the instructor may have a case for claiming "undue hardship" on the basis of disruption.

How do I accommodate a student whose disability causes them to miss class?

Determine to what extent class absences may fundamentally interfere with the student completing your course objectives and learning outcomes. Consult with the Learning Center about note–taking services, exam accommodations, and any other support services that may be needed. It is important to note that you must not lower your academic expectations; ultimately, the student is responsible for gaining the knowledge and skills required in the class.

What do I do if a student requests an accommodation that is not in their Clockwork Notification letter or if students find they have different accommodation needs in the context of virtual course delivery?

These students should be referred to the Learning Center (Kaylynne or Amber). Any new or changed academic accommodations will be communicated to instructors via an updated Clockwork letter that will be sent to you directly.

Students who have never worked with the Learning Center should complete the Clockwork Registration Form

Please note: There is no time limit regarding accommodation requests. Students may request accommodations at any point during their education. This means that students who have never worked with the LC in the past may do so at this time. Any new Clockwork notification letters issued must be acknowledged and honored.

Students who are already registered with the Learning Center should not fill out a new request form. Instead, these students should request to schedule a meeting with a Learning Center staff member.

If instructors are concerned about an accommodation or have questions, they are encouraged to reach out directly to Amber Larson, Director of the Learning Center, at alarson@wooster.edu.

What are some of the most critical accessibility considerations for my course?

Accessible documents:

Ensure all documents and materials presented to students are accessible:

  • Use clear, consistent layouts and organization schemes for presenting content
  • Use large fonts, plain backgrounds, and high contrast color combinations
  • Avoid screen shots of written material
  • Make sure PDFs are accessible

Accessible audio and video content:

It is important to consider captioning in both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (e.g. watching a YouTube video) contexts. All faculty members in all classes should endeavor to present pre-recorded video content.

Text equivalents for images:

  • All images must have alternate text (alt text) or a written description of the image embedded into the HTML tag
  • The Microsoft Accessibility Checker will catch images without alt text and provide instructions for adding a description
  • Moodle also has Accessibility tools

Flexibility:

Covid -19 has caused significant disruption to routine and new formats for class or assessment delivery may cause great stress and anxiety for some students. Instructors are encouraged to be flexible with students and to communicate their expectations clearly.

Should I reach out to a student regarding their accessibility needs if I know that they are registered and have not contacted me?

Students are being advised and encouraged to self-advocate and reach out to instructors to clarify their accessibility needs. It is the student’s responsibility to reach out to the instructor to let them know of these needs. While a student may have accommodations, they may be choosing not to use them in a specific course.

If a student does wish to discuss their accessibility needs, please always remember to communicate about disability and accessibility privately, never in a public space or forum.

What are some of the most critical accessibility considerations for online learning for students with Autism?

The College of Wooster serves many students on the Autism spectrum. Students with Autism may experience levels of stress and anxiety above and beyond their neurotypical peers. Laurie Ackles, Director of RIT’s Spectrum Support Program, offers the following recommendations specifically for students on the Autism spectrum, but many of the suggestions would benefit many students in their course work:

  • Provide very clear, detailed, information (in writing) about navigating the online course shell, including where to locate lecture materials, where to submit assignments, etc.
  • Consider simplicity, clarity and consistency when re-creating course structure and requirements.
  • Provide clear expectations, in writing, about how to appropriately engage in live virtual lectures or chats.
  • Provide information and options for receiving support from faculty regarding content or course questions, or more general concerns.
  • Provide regular, detailed feedback about progress, including proactive use of Academic Alerts. Academic Alerts allow Learning Center staff to understand clearly where students might need additional support to be successful.
  • Consider flexibility with group projects, which will be increasingly challenging in an online format for students with social communication challenges.If group work is expected, consider smaller groups and assigned group roles.
  • Check in with students frequently to provide them with an opportunity to share concerns.(

How will testing accommodations work? Is the Learning Center proctoring online exams?

Students’ testing accommodations are applicable and must be honored in both in-person and online environments. Typically, the LC is the office that provides extended test time for students in the Learning Center. During Covid-19, the Learning Center is working to de-densify our small testing rooms and will only be involved in administering in-person exams for students with extended test time accommodations.

For students doing online assessments, faculty must manually adjust the allotted time for students’ timedtests in Moodle in accordance with their approved accommodations.It is important to remember that not all "extended time on exams" accommodations are configured the same (e.g. some are for 1.5x on exams, others are for 2.0x). Please refer to the individual student’s accommodation letter in Clockwork to see the specific amount of time students’ exams should be extended.

If faculty are giving a regular classroom exam but allowing four or more hours for students to complete the exam, you do not need to set extended time for the exam.

Instructors with questions about online proctoring of exams should contact Amber Larson.

How do I extend time on exams in Moodle?

The Learning Center will have limited space to provide in-person extended test time for students in the fall of 2020. Many faculty are choosing to offer take-home exams or to use different assessment measures. If faculty choose to use Moodle as a platform for hosting their exams, they are responsible for ensuring students with approved accommodations are given the appropriate length of time for any timed tests, exams, and quizzes. To manually extend an individual student’s allotted exam time, please follow the instructions found on this page.

Again, not all accommodations for extended time on exams are configured the same (e.g. some are for 1.5x on exams, others are for 2.0x). The individual Clockwork notification you received via email from the Learning Center specifies the amount of time students’ exams should be extended.

Note that this accommodation is distinct from “extended time on assignments” which implies due date flexibility and requires clear communication and negotiation of details between students and their faculty.

Does the "extended time on tests" accommodation apply to take-home exams?

A take-home exam that is not timed does not qualify for the "extended time on tests" accommodation. (As a distinction: If a take-home exam was open for 24 hours, but within that time frame a student had a 2-hour time limit to work on the exam, then the exam would qualify for extended time.) If a take-home exam has a due date, but students are not timed while completing it, there is no need to offer extended time.

If you are giving an exam that should take the time of a regular class time (i.e. 50 minutes or 1 hour 20 minutes) but you are giving students four hours or more to finish it, you do not need to give extended time for that either.

What if my student brings a service dog to class?

If a student brings a service dog to the classroom without warning, you are allowed to ask two questions:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Service dogs are working animals and as such should not be touched or interacted with unless the handler has given permission, so it is best to ask before trying to pet the animal.

If you have any concerns about whether the "work" described is truly service work, allow the dog to stay for the day and contact the Director of the Learning Center after the class.

Dogs may be dismissed from the classroom if the dog is not potty-trained (has an accident) or if the dog is disruptive (barking, whining, growling, biting). If the dog is moving about the classroom or getting attention (petting or talking) from students, simply ask the handler to please put the dog in a down-stay or ask the students to concentrate on work. If that does not solve the problem, speak to the Director of the Learning Center after class. If there are any concerns because a student or faculty member is scared of dogs or allergic to dogs, this is not considered a reason to not allow the accommodation. In this case, please consult with the Director of the Learning Center. If there is another section of the same course being offered in the same block (Spanish 101 section A and B) either student may be asked to switch to the other section. If there is not another section, then the student may remain but the college will use its best options to separate the dog from allergic/fearful student.

What if my student brings an Emotional Support Animal to class?

In most cases, ESA’s are not allowed in the classroom. They are specifically for the student’s use in the student’s residence hall room. In some cases, the LC may allow an Emotional Support Animal in the classroom. Faculty will be notified if an ESA will be in the classroom via the Clockwork Accommodations letter.

Who can I contact with additional questions?

Amber Larson
Director, The Learning Center