Faculty FAQs

What is a reasonable accommodation?

"Accommodation" is a term coined from disability and employment legislation, and it refers to any modifications that need to be made for a person or within an environment to minimize the discriminatory effect of a person's physical, emotional, or learning disability. "Reasonable" means the provision of the adjustment should not cause undue burden on the setting or the institution. In academia, reasonable accommodations may be called academic adjustments, and they might include classroom adjustments, exam modifications, or administrative accommodations.

Individual academic accommodations are not specifically mandated by law; the idea is that the accommodations match the individual need of the student and does not change the essential requirements of the class or course. The student should be able to perform the role of a student with or without the accommodation; the accommodation should have the effect of reducing the impact of the disability in the academic environment. The goal of reasonable accommodations has been referred to as "leveling the playing field" for people with disabilities. For a person with a sensory neural or physical disability, this might mean having an ASL interpreter or moving a class to an accessible location. For a student with a psychiatric disability, it might mean taping lectures, having beverages in class, or having priority registration to optimize times when medication side effects are least intrusive.

How do I know if a student really has a disability?

UNH policy and procedure is that all students with disabilities who need academic and non-academic accommodations based on the impact of a disability must be registered with Disability Services for Students. This office requires documentation of the impact of the specific disability from the student's medical doctor, psychologist or certified evaluator. Unless the student discloses his or her specific disability to you, as an instructor you are not entitled to the specifics of this information. If a student is requesting an accommodation from you, s/he should present you with a current Accommodation Letter from Disability Services for Students stating that s/he indeed qualifies for academic accommodations.

How do I set limits or tell a student they are performing poorly in the class without upsetting the person or violating the law?

Students with disabilities should be treated as you would any other student without a disability. It is strongly advised that you follow your normal procedures and standards for any student who is performing poorly in class. It is helpful when specific performance expectations are clearly delineated and communicated, and then track the student's performance, documenting each step.

How do I know when I am providing "accommodations" or when I am over accommodating or going too far?

You do not have to change the curriculum of the course or modify assignments when it alters core requirements. A change in testing formats and giving extended test time is not altering the requirement of learning course material, and therefore are reasonable academic accommodations. If you feel uncomfortable with an accommodation request, please feel free to contact Disability Services for Students and speak to a staff member.

Do I need to modify my typical grading process for someone with a disability?

Reasonable academic accommodations do not affect the grading process. The accommodation might involve altering the format of evaluation; for example, you might be asked to give an exam verbally instead of on paper, or you might change the format from multiple choice to essay. Otherwise students are required to meet all academic standards regardless of disability.

If someone cannot perform or complete the required coursework, no matter what accommodations are provided, can I give the student a failing grade?

Students with disabilities are required to meet the same essential academic requirements and are held to the same standards that all UNH students are required to meet. If a student cannot meet the standards and requirements of your course, then they should be graded appropriately.

How do I know if an academic accommodation request is unreasonable?

If you believe an accommodation request is unreasonable, please call Disability Services for Students to discuss your concerns.

Who else can I tell about the student's disability and under what circumstances?

Students' rights to privacy and confidentiality regarding information about their disability is protected under the ADAA (2008), ADA (1990), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973). The very fact that a student has a disability is confidential information and therefore can only be shared if the student gives written permission (in the form of a signed release of information).

Can I tell the other professors / instructors about a student and look to them for suggestions?

Specific information about a student's disability is private, and cannot be shared without a student's written permission. General information about classroom strategies can be shared. Issues can be discussed provided the student's anonymity is absolutely protected. Feel free to contact Disability Services for Students for assistance and refer other instructors there as well.

Once a student discloses a disability, what kind of information do I need and how can I get it?

You will need to know what the present impact the particular disability will have on the student's performance in your course. Specific information regarding disability history, diagnosis and medications remains in the student's file in Disability Services for Students and is private.