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Faculty Guide to Access / Disability Services

Last updated on Oct 31, 2023

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What are your responsibilities as educators?

At a minimum, instructors are responsible for ensuring full access for disabled students by responding to a student's need or request for accommodations.

Syllabi are extremely helpful for students to prepare and advocate for themselves in a timely manner. Here are some general recommendations for syllabi: Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, required readings, and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.

All instructors are encouraged to include in their syllabus a statement inviting disabled students to meet with them in a confidential environment to discuss making arrangements for accommodations. Several reasons exist why this syllabus statement is critical.

This statement both normalizes the accommodation process and helps to create a positive and welcoming environment for disabled students.

Also, the statement creates a collaborative vehicle for making legally mandated accommodations. It serves as a reminder to students who require the accommodations that these arrangements must be made as early as possible.

Here’s an example of a syllabus disability statement that can be used or adapted for your course syllabus:

Access / Disability Services (Office of the Dean of Students)

Disability Services provides services to eligible students with a documented permanent or temporary physical, psychological, or sensory disability (including pregnancy-related disabilities) that qualifies them for academic accommodations under the law. Students are encouraged to notify their instructor after class or during office hours if they need academic accommodations. To request accommodations and services through Disability Services, students must review the Access/Disability services portal page (

Students who feel they may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a documented disability may contact Disability Services privately to schedule an intake appointment to discuss their specific needs. Please contact

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If a student presents you with an accommodation letter from Disability Services. . .

You are responsible for cooperating with Disability Services in providing authorized accommodations in a reasonable and timely manner. The specific accommodation determines the amount of involvement required.

These letters serve as the student's entry point into a dialogue with you. Disability Services, when needed, act as a mediator.

However, a student is expected to advocate for individual needs directly with the faculty. Please note that, generally, without communication from Disability Services, faculty members are not obligated to provide accommodations.

Students are responsible for approaching instructors in a timely manner to arrange the specifics of their requested accommodations.

However, some students might wait until just before an exam; others may recently discover a disability or obtain documentation to support accommodation requests after the course has begun.

To reduce the instances of requests for last-minute accommodations, you are encouraged to note on your syllabus that concerned students should consult with the Disability Services staff within the first few weeks of the semester.

Faculty Responsibilities When Facilitating Accommodations

  • Once instructors have been notified of eligibility for accommodations, instructors should determine the extent to which they can reasonably grant assignment extensions (for example) without fundamentally altering the learning objectives. is always available for consultations when questions come up.

If you believe the accommodation is not reasonable in light of your class objectives or pedagogical methods, contact immediately, as instructors should never deny an accommodation. Instructors must clearly articulate why this is not reasonable for their course.

  • The instructor should engage in dialogue with the student or regarding accommodation expectations:
    • For example, for assignment extensions, delineate the preferred communication process for when the student needs to notify you of a disability-related extension, the typical grace period for an extension, and any critical assignments that cannot be extended.

It is highly recommended that any limitations to reasonability for accommodations be summarized in writing through email. The email summary helps ensure everyone is operating from the same point of view and that any confusion about the agreement can be clarified. Students and instructors are welcome to include in these email exchanges for documentation purposes.

  • When a student needs to utilize their accommodation, they are responsible for notifying their instructor in a timely manner. ”Timely” is defined as “as soon as possible.”
    • The instructor must reply to the student’s request for an extension to negotiate if a deadline extension is workable for that assignment.
    • If extensions are pedagogically possible, the instructor will work with the student in good faith to determine a reasonable amount of time and set a new deadline for each eligible assignment.
    • The instructor will verify the specific plan for the new assignment due date in writing (by email) with the student.
  • is always available to mediate any concerns about accommodations, including academic integrity and logistics of this accommodation.

Why does the accommodation letter omit the student’s disability?

All information regarding a student’s disability is highly confidential, and only the student may decide whether to disclose a diagnosis to anyone at the college.

You are free to discuss accommodations with students but should not ask any student for information about a disability other than what is listed in the accommodation letter.

Should you share information about the student’s disability status with anyone else?

Most students sign releases allowing Disability Services to talk to course instructors about accommodation situations. Beyond Disability Services, the student's situation should not be shared with anyone else unless deemed necessary and considered appropriate under FERPA.

Faculty members are advised to be careful with what they share with others within the department. While some information sharing can benefit other instructors who may work with a student in the future, additional information may generate perceptions and attitudes that could work against the student if future instructors have predetermined ideas about a student before ever having the student in the class.

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What are reasonable accommodations?

Accommodations are modifications to standard ways of doing things. The purpose of effective accommodations is to provide students with disabilities an equal and equitable opportunity to participate and benefit from college. The emphasis is on access, not the outcome. This is done by providing the student with a disability equal access to the content and activities of a course but not necessarily ensuring their success.

The following are examples of the most common accommodations that permit a student with a disability to participate effectively in the educational process:

  • Changes to a classroom environment or task (e.g., extended time for an exam, the use of a dictionary or spell checker, use of tape recorder, reading materials in alternative format)
  • Removal of architectural barriers (e.g., adapting a classroom to meet the needs of a student who uses a wheelchair)
  • Provision of auxiliary aids and services (e.g., providing a sign language interpreter or providing a student notetaker or scribe)

In accordance with the law, there are some modifications that the college does not provide.


  • personal devices such as wheelchairs
  • personal services such as private tutoring or personal attendants
  • accommodations that would jeopardize the student’s or others’ health or safety
  • modifications that make a substantial change in an essential element of the curriculum.
  • modifications that require a substantial alteration in how educational opportunities are provided, such as the course objectives being altered.
  • services that are unduly burdensome -- administratively or financially.

Common Scenarios:

If a student fails to present you with an accommodation letter . . .

If a student requests an accommodation without presenting you with an accommodation letter, please refer the student to Disability Services by emailing

The student should simply opt-in to their approved accommodations each semester. The student may request to have the letter sent directly from Disability Services.

If the student is new to Disability Services, reviewing documentation and meeting with the student may take some time.

If the disability is discernible and the accommodation appears appropriate, you may need to provide the accommodation while awaiting official notification from Disability Services.

If you are unsure, please get in touch with Disability Services at

If a student discloses a disability to you . . .

Ask to see the notification letter from Disability Services. This letter describes the accommodations that the institution is legally mandated to provide.

Discuss the letter and accommodations with the student during an office hour or at another convenient time in a private setting.

Students must present a letter from Disability Services to receive accommodations. If the student does not have a letter, please refer the student to Disability Services.

Appropriate accommodations will be determined after reviewing documentation of the disability, and the student will be issued the accommodation letter.

If you have a question about the appropriateness of an accommodation . . .

Questions about the appropriateness of specific accommodations should be directed to Disability Services via email at

If a disability is suspected . . .

You should be aware that a student not diagnosed with a disability may not be receptive to being perceived as having one.

It is also possible that the student has been diagnosed already but has chosen not to disclose the disability, to register with Disability Services, or both because the student does not feel academic modifications are necessary.

If you feel strongly about broaching the subject with this student, arrange to discuss it privately.

You may inform the student that CCA offers supportive resources such as academic coaching through the Learning Resource Center for academic coaching, academic advising, counseling, etc.

In this context, it would be appropriate to mention access / disability services.

Should expectations of someone with a disability be reduced? Should you grade the student differently?

All students have met the admissions standards CCA sets and deserve the opportunity to do their best. Like other students on this campus, some will succeed, and others will not.

The accommodations and academic modifications recommended in each student’s accommodation letter have been determined by Disability Services and are based on documented limitations of disability.

They are designed to counter the effects of disabilities that may pose a barrier to the education process; as such, they will not give any student an advantage over others.

Responding to a medical incident in the classroom/studio...

All instructors are required to follow CCA protocol when there is a medical incident. Please report all medical incidents immediately to Public Safety. Public safety staff serves as first responders and will determine if additional medical attention is warranted. For assistance on campus, please call 415.703.9510. [For situations that rise to the level of imminent danger, please refer to the Academic Affairs Imminent Danger Protocol]