Faculty Roles

Letter of Accommodation

Support and efforts made by faculty are essential to a student’s academic performance. The student requesting accommodations and SAS identify what accommodations are required for each course every semester. This information is transmitted to the principal faculty member responsible for the course in a Letter of Accommodation. The decisions made and recommended are determined by what is known of the course requirements, either electronically published and/or transmitted by the student with the printed course syllabus. The student is usually responsible for delivering this letter directly to the principal faculty member. A copy of the letter is delivered to the student’s Dean, via the student.

Within this confidential Letter, applicants must indicate the professor and student names, date, semester for which they are requesting disability-related accommodations, department or school, course title, course number, liaison, an indication of whether SAS will mail the letter to the professor or if the student will deliver it, and a signature and date. A faculty member should not accept a Letter for a different semester or course.

Faculty members are responsible to provide the accommodation(s) indicated but are not required to alter the essential elements of the course requirements. Excessive absence, tardiness and unexcused delays in assignments should be reported to the student’s Dean and can be reported to SAS. Such behavior is not always related to disability. The Dean, made aware of the student’s accommodation as approved by SAS, is in the best position to investigate the circumstance. Deans have regular contact with SAS and will initiate a query with us if disability reasons are suspected. Of course, if there are questions, SAS will be available to advise on the best point of contact for concerns.

Letters of Accommodation are most commonly issued within the first three weeks after course registration but can be completed and issued sooner. Because special testing arrangements are required by some students, course instructors who plan to conduct regular in-class quizzes weekly or bi-weekly or a test within the first five weeks of the semester are encouraged to announce this information to students several times before and after add/drop period. Presenting quiz and test dates in a written syllabus is also advised. This can help us all to avoid the “I didn’t know” statement that can lead to a flurry of frustration and last minute arrangements no one welcomes.

Department or School Liaison

Many Schools and Departments have identified a liaison to SAS. The liaison is listed as a resource and point of contact for the instructors to assist with special testing arrangements. The name of a Department/School liaison is requested annually by the Provost’s Office. The name will appear on the Letter of Accommodation; however, the liaison will not receive a copy.

For those Schools and Departments that have no designated liaison, direct contact can be made with SAS for resource assistance.

While Letters of Accommodation are usually delivered in the beginning of the semester after course registration, a Letter may be delivered later in the semester and will not require any changes to course activity already completed.

Any communication with the student or on behalf of the student submitting a Letter of Accommodation must be confidential. The student’s disability should not be revealed unless the student chooses to discuss his or her disability with an instructor or provides written permission to SAS to do so. The student’s name must not be presented when supports, such as notetakers, need to be recruited from the class. Surmising or “guessing” the reason for the recommended accommodations should be avoided, as should the comparison with other students submitting Letters of Accommodation. Students with a physical disability, chronic medical condition, learning disability and mental health diagnosis may not present a visible or noticeable difference, yet accommodations can be similar or the same.

When faculty members receive any Letter of Accommodation, it should be stored in a safe location protecting the privacy of the student. Discussions about the individual student’s needs should only be held with other persons formally associated with the course who have a “need to know” because of their involvement with special arrangements that may be required. These discussions should take place in a private environment so others may not overhear the information. Faculty and teaching fellows should remain alert to e-mail transmitted to several students regarding accommodations. This should be done without revealing one student to another when e-mailing. Faculty should advise teaching fellows/assistants to send singular mail and to carefully avoid a group e-mail that identifies several names. Likewise, to protect confidentiality, no faculty or teaching fellows/assistants should forward e-mail that identifies other student names in any portion of what is sent.

Note Taking Accommodations

The most common types of accommodations indicated in a Letter of Accommodation are notetaking support and special testing arrangements. If the Letter requests assistance in the recruitment of a student notetaker, the instructor is asked to make an announcement to the class, “Student Accessibility Services seeks to employ a notetaker for this class.” With the Letter, several informational flyers should be available for distribution to interested students. As follow-up statement may suggest: “If there are any interested students, please come up after class for an informational flyer.”

Prospective notetakers who come to SAS must show a copy of their notes taken to date to judge readability of handwriting. SAS is not in a position to judge quality of content for each class. The quality is determined quickly by the recipient and the position is kept open until acceptable materials from a notetaker have been found.

SAS will occasionally hear questions from faculty members about his or her role to help with the selection of a notetaker. This is especially common for small classes when faculty members have a good knowledge of each student. SAS will welcome a discussion with faculty members to help advise.

There can be more than one student in a class requiring notetaking services. SAS will discontinue the request for an announcement in the Letter of Accommodation when (a) student notetaker(s) is/are secured for each class. In classes where there are several students requiring notetaking services, SAS may employ two notetakers to ensure continuity. We consider more than one notetaker to protect recipients from a delay or absence of this service.

Instructors do not need to facilitate or coordinate the student notetaking services during the semester. Once SAS hires a student notetaker, it coordinates the transfer of notes. Notetakers commonly copy and deliver notes at the SAS office or, if typed, transfer the notes to SAS electronically. It is not expected that the notetaker will know who the student recipient is. SAS either distributes notes to recipients or makes arrangements with a Professional School to assist with distribution.

Occasionally, SAS may request a copy of the instructor’s lecture notes and visual materials used in class. Some students find reviewing lecture notes ahead of class valuable. Other students may require repeated review after the class presentation. We will make the request and welcome conversations with instructors when these arrangements are not logistically possible.

Testing Accommodations

When special testing arrangements are indicated as an accommodation, faculty members are expected to provide the arrangements. A student requiring extra time may complete the exam before the expected time allotment. This can happen for a number of reasons and assumptions should be avoided. Unless it is the protocol to ask questions of any students finishing an exam early, questions asked to any individual student about extended time should not be posed.

SAS may be contacted for assistance when the School or Department lacks the resources to make the arrangements. During final examination period, SAS is prepared to assist, especially for classes where several students require special arrangements. SAS tracks the published final examination schedule of students who are approved for accommodations.

If a faculty member changes the final examination date or offers an alternative date and needs the assistance of SAS, two weeks advance notice is requested. Students presenting a Letter of Accommodation who request a date change in the exam must receive approval from their Deans. SAS does not have the authority to approve a date change for the student.

When the start time of a test or final exam is scheduled in the evening and a student requires additional time, arrangements to start the exam at an earlier time are common. The start time of the exam for the individual student proctored by SAS usually overlaps the start time for the class exam, protecting the integrity of the exam.

When SAS assists with the administration of an exam for a student with approved accommodations, SAS requests that the exam is delivered to its office at 35 Broadway in person or electronically and later, picked up. Unless pre-arranged by the faculty member several weeks in advance, exam administration and proctoring by SAS will be in the Cross Campus area or, in special arrangements for finals, in Old Campus area locations.

SAS is comprised of two staff members and it hires additional proctors for final examination period to cover daytime slots. Two staff persons officially cover evening slots throughout the final examination period so that completed examinations can be placed in a locked and secure location. Our official personnel resources are limited in time of high demand and we ask for a joint effort in delivery and pick up of exam materials.

During the examination, contact with an instructor or teaching fellow/assistant may be necessary if students have questions. Plans to provide this can be discussed prior to the exam.

Some students require unique and singular arrangements for exams, such as the need for a scribe, enlarged print, a reader, and the student’s requirement to use special equipment to complete examination questions. Advance planning is initiated to coordinate these arrangements between the faculty member, student and Resource Office. Unexpected injuries or medical conditions can necessitate late and immediate arrangements. In this occasion, the student’s Dean is involved to aid in the coordination of last minute arrangements that include a discussion with the faculty member and SAS to facilitate an acceptable testing arrangement.

The use of a computer is required by some students to complete essay portions of an exam. This need will be noted on the Letter of Accommodation. SAS can loan laptop computers that do not contain any stored information for students with approved accommodations. Reservation is required. Students using laptops will need a hard surface to work on in proximity to an electrical outlet. This indicates the consideration of the classroom facility and resources where the exams will be taken. We have found it necessary to arrange for a separate exam location for singular students to provide for a reasonable setting.

There is some special testing at the University, e.g. foreign language placement exams, when planning for special testing arrangements may not be arranged more than a few days in advance. SAS will make every attempt to directly communicate with the lead exam administrator as soon as a need is known.

Website Accommodations

Computers and the World Wide Web are being used increasingly to transmit course-related information. Posting course information and notes should consider the special access requirements of students with disabilities. Simple text based format is advised. Graphics should have text descriptors. Video presentations should have audio descriptors of visual material. Extensive requirements for navigation can present a problem for some students. Lengthy course materials reviewed by constant use of a mouse or trackball should also be made available on request in a print format to be copied by the student.

SAS can provide several web site resources on key elements to create accessible web pages (see Additional Resources – Web Page Accessibility in this guidebook) and welcomes inquiries. We also welcome conversations with web page designers and masters of Department and School pages.

Advance Planning

Add/drop period presents some special considerations for Yale students with disabilities and can affect faculty directly or indirectly. Students with special mobility requirements and students who require alternative reading media are asked by SAS prior to the beginning of the semester to submit a “proposed” add/drop list of courses.

For students with special mobility requirements, room assignments for classes are closely coordinated with the Registrar. It is the University’s legal responsibility to locate classes in accessible rooms for these students. Classroom size, locations and AV resources required by the instructor are all considered in the assignments. The final choices made at the end of add/drop period may require class moves that are inconvenient and disruptive. The decisions made are thoughtful to all considerations of faculty and students.

Deans and SAS may initiate advance course planning for a specific student when early identification of services is advised. The most common advance planning involves the identification of required course reading for students who require different medium or personal supports. Lead-time is essential for SAS in arranging for books on tape, enlarged print, reader services and visual interpreters. Students are asked to identify the classes they may choose well in advance of the beginning of the semester. A Dean or SAS may contact faculty members to determine the required reading before the beginning of the semester.

Indications of a Disability Not Yet Identified

Faculty members and Deans can contact SAS about a student if there are indications of a disability. Academic performance and or attendance concerns noted by faculty should be initially discussed with the student’s Dean.

SAS is available to listen to the facts or descriptors that profile a student’s behavior or academic performance that suggest the possibility of a disability. It is requested that the student’s name is not presented in these preliminary discussions to respect the right of confidentiality. A plan of action can be discussed. In these discussions, it is critical to consider the student’s right to choose whether to (1) consider and pursue a disability determination and/or (2) seek and accept support services.