Frequently Asked Questions for Faculty

(You may also wish to download a printable pdf of these Faculty FAQs.)

#01: What should I do if a student tells me he/she needs an accommodation?

First ask the student: “Do you have an Accommodation Letter from Disability Services?”

If No: Inform the student that all accommodation requests—whether due to a temporary or permanent physical impairment, learning disability, or medical condition--are to be made directly to Marni Jones, Director of Disability Services. These requests must be substantiated by appropriate documentation and reviewed by Director Marni Jones, who is trained to examine disability-related documentation and determine eligibility for appropriate accommodations/academic adjustments.

If Yes: Arrange a time when you can meet privately to read the letter and discuss with the student which accommodation he or she is requesting for your class and how the requested accommodation(s) will be implemented. (For example, will you be able to provide a qualifying student with a distraction-reduced environment in a nearby room, or will you need to request a proctor?) Note that students may be eligible for an accommodation but not feel it is necessary in your course.

Along with the Accommodation Letter, students will have been given an "Accommodations Implementation" form (called "the Blue Form") and shown how to access an online "Accommodations Plan." Following your discussion, indicate the accommodations that will and will not be implemented, along with any needs for a proctor or note-taker. After you have ensured that all fields are completely accurately, you and the student are to both sign the Blue Form. You may wish to make copies for each of you. Please remind the student to return the form with this important information to Disability Services as soon as possible.

#02: How “current” does an accommodation letter need to be?

Accommodation Letters are intended for the semester for which they are dated. Professors may honor a letter from a previous year while a student is waiting for his/her appointment for the current semester’s letter. The Director of Disability Services welcomes any questions regarding accommodations for students without a current Accommodation Letter.

#03: Do all students with a disability at Dickinson College need to register with Disability Services?

No; it is rather likely that you will have students in your courses who choose not to disclose or seek accommodations for a disability, and that is their prerogative (see FAQ #5 for reasons why this may be the case). If, however, students seek accommodations, they must register through Disability Services. You may also have students struggling with an undiagnosed disability. Please note that Marni’s title is the Director of Learning Skills and Disability Services, so if students express learning-related challenges to you, or you suspect a possible learning disability, DO NOT SAY SO. Rather, recommend that they meet with “Marni Jones, Dickinson’s Learning Specialist,” and then send an email to Marni informing her of the rationale for your referral.

#04: What if a student brings me an accommodation letter for extended test time after an exam?

Accommodations do not apply retroactively, and this is made clear to students with accommodations. Prior to the start of each semester, reminders are sent to schedule accommodation letter appointments with the Director of Disability Services, and students sign a form confirming their understanding of the process and implementation of accommodations. It is the student’s responsibility to meet with faculty in a timely manner to provide faculty members with his/her accommodation letter.

Given the high volume of students seeking accommodation appointments at the beginning of each semester, if an exam is given in the first month of classes, an announcement should be made that any students with testing accommodations should notify you immediately.

#05: What happens if a student brings me an accommodation letter six weeks into the course, do I still have to provide the accommodation?

Yes; there can be no deadline by which time students must inform professors of their eligibility for accommodations, other than making such requests in a “reasonable amount of time” (which, for testing accommodations, Dickinson has deemed 5 working days before a quiz or exam).

There could be any number of reasons why a student may either not disclose a disability or not seek accommodations until later in the school year. These might include:

  • Fear of being judged less competent by professors or classmates
  • Desire to start college with a “clean slate”
  • Lack of awareness about their rights to have accommodations
  • Misperception that recommended accommodations would be mandatory
  • Misperception that accommodations would be “automatic” (if they already had accommodations in high school)
  • Lack of organizational skills (to take care of necessary arrangements in a timely manner)
  • Belief that, with age, they have “overcome” their disability, and that it will no longer impact their cognitive functioning
  • A late psycho-educational evaluation and diagnosis

If a student qualified as having a disability under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), makes a request to receive reasonable academic accommodations in a timely fashion (regardless of the reasons why the request was not made at the beginning of the semester), the college must comply.

#06: What happens if a student brings me an accommodation letter for extended time on tests, the day before or the day of the exam— am I required to immediately provide the accommodation?

Unless you have received sufficient notice of the accommodation to allow you an opportunity to implement the accommodation, you are not required to do so.

In this particular situation, the ability to implement the accommodation is based on whether you and/or Disability Services has received sufficient notice to implement the accommodation. Such a determination is often dependent on individual class circumstances. During their accommodations meeting, students with accommodations are required to read and sign a form confirming their understanding of their accommodations rights called Guidelines for Receiving Academic Accommodations. The first item on this agreement states: “Upon receiving my accommodation letter from Disability Services, I am aware that it is my responsibility to schedule an appointment, in a timely manner, to meet with my professor(s) as early in the semester as possible in order to present my accommodation letter and to discuss implementation of the accommodations. I understand that if I wait, my professors may not be able to effectively implement my accommodations and that no accommodations are provided retroactively.”

#07: How should I implement an accommodation for extended time on tests and quizzes?

Since quizzes are generally short in duration, the student should ideally take the quiz in the classroom during class time. If the student receives time-and-a-half (or double-time) you may give him/her the additional time by: (1) having the student come early to class to begin the quiz, (2) by giving the quiz at the end of class, and allowing him/her to stay later (or designing the quiz to take less time than is remaining), or (3) by collecting the quiz from the student during class when the time allotted for all students is complete, and then allowing the student the extended time to complete the quiz after class.

When possible, professors should try to provide students with the accommodation of extended time themselves. If, for quizzes or exams, you are not able to accommodate the student with your time before or after class, you may want to ask someone in your department such as a teaching assistant or staff associate to help. If this is not an option, and you need assistance from Disability Services, please indicate this on the student's online Accommodation Plan and hard copy Accommodations Implementation Confirmation form. If this need arises later in the semester, please contact Disability Services at least one week in advance to make arrangements for proctoring. Please send all test-related correspondences to

#08: How should I implement an accommodation for testing in a distraction-reduced environment?

Begin by asking the student what he/she is comfortable with. Some students may actually feel more comfortable testing in the classroom for your class, others may prefer an isolated setting near you, and others might prefer to arrange proctoring through Disability Services. If you are able to provide the student with a distraction-reduced environment that is agreeable to you and the student, then please do so. If you need assistance from Disability Services, please ensure that this is indicated on the online Accommodations Plan. If this need should arise mid-semester, please contact Disability Services at least one week in advance to make arrangements for a distraction-reduced testing site.

#09: If a student needs to use a laptop computer for tests and quizzes, how can I be sure that it is secure so academic dishonesty does not take place?

If you are not able to monitor the student’s use of a laptop during test time please contact Disability Services so that a proctor, test site, and a computer can be reserved for the student in another location. Please note that the computers provided by Disability Services for testing do not have Internet access, and students taking an exam on a computer will be closely monitored. Again, as in the above FAQs, please make this request to Disability Services at least one week in advance.

#10: If a student has the accommodation of using a laptop to take notes, am I required to permit this?

Yes. Such accommodations are typically granted to students whose ability to take notes by hand are significantly impaired, such as a student with dysgraphia (a disorder that impairs the ability to form letters efficiently and legibly). Students with such an accommodation are to disengage their connectivity to the Internet during class, and may have this accommodation revoked if they are not compliant, or are not using their computer strictly for note-taking. Professors may also ask such students to sit off to the side of the room where they will less distracting to those behind them.

#11: How do I accommodate a student who has the accommodation of a “note-taker or use of assistive technology (such as a smart pen) for note-taking”?

First, ask the student which (if any) aspect of the above accommodation he/she will be using.

Smart Pen: (View example) This pen is also a recording device that works with a specific type of notebook. When a student who is taking notes with a smart pen misses noting key information from a lecture, he or she can later simply tap on that section of notes with the pen and it will play back the audio that was recorded when those notes were written. Students with this accommodation have signed an agreement that these recording are for their personal use only. Typically, a student using a smart pen will not need a note-taker as well, but if both have been approved, he/she will also bring you a memo requesting a note-taker.

Note-taker: Students requesting a note-taker should be giving you a Faculty Memo on Procuring Student Note-takers with all the instructions you’ll need, including a script for announcing the need for a volunteer note-taker (who will receive a gift certificate to the Bookstore for his/her services). This should be accompanied by a Note-taker Application Form, which you should copy for potential volunteers.

Be sure to look over each applicant’s notes and choose a note-taker based on the quality of those notes.

After you select a note-taker, send his or her name, the name of the class, the name of the recipient, and how the note-taker is taking notes to A representative from Disability Services will contact and train the note-taker on how to scan and send notes to us, which we will then send to the recipient. You can send us the application wither by interoffice mail, by scanning and sending it, or by having the chosen note-taker bring it to us.

It is important to note that when a student is provided with a note-taker as an accommodation for a disability, the student receiving the accommodation must be present in class in order to receive the notes for that day. Note-taking as an accommodation does not replace attendance.

Please send us an email if a student eligible for receiving supplemental notes is inexcusably absent from class.

#12: What if the student has an accommodation to use a calculator, but the course requires the student to know how to perform calculations?

Use of a calculator (or any accommodation/ modification) is appropriate only if its use does not lower the standards of a course. If the student is being tested for calculations or is required to know how to calculate a mathematical equation, then use of a calculator is not appropriate. If you believe an identified accommodation is not appropriate for your course, please contact Disability Services immediately, so other arrangements can be made.

#13: How should I advise a student with a disability who has severe physical or physiological impairments that I foresee would be pose a challenge to success in certain courses?

In advising, methods that guide students with disabilities away from particular courses or majors for which they are “otherwise qualified” are deemed discriminatory and are not a recommended practice. Keep in mind, however, that general requirements for the degree and the various courses of study offered at the college allow students to choose from a wide range of courses in order to complete their degree or major. Students with disabilities should be advised about the academic requirements for each course they are considering, so as to enable them to make the appropriate decision in their selection.Students should be provided with accurate, detailed information regarding course expectations before selecting a class or a major. Help students to match course selections with their strengths and interests.

#14: What if there is a problem with a classroom’s physical design that potentially prohibits access to an enrolled student with a physical disability?

For example, what if a student in a wheelchair cannot fit through a door, navigate a building, or the lab tables are too high?

If a student enrolled in your course notifies you that he/she is disabled and cannot get physical access to the classroom or building, or, if the student informs you that certain physical limitations exist in the classroom that prevent him/her from participating, please contact the Director of Disability Services immediately. Section 504 and ADA do not require schools to physically alter historical buildings to accommodate students with disabilities; however, schools do need to provide access to courses and programs. If necessary, the physical location of a particular course may need to be moved to an accessible site. Also, if necessary, physical adjustments may need to be made to classroom equipment in order to allow access for an enrolled student with a physical limitation.

#15: What if I plan an activity or assignment for my class, but a student in the class has a limitation due to his/her disability and the student may not be able to do the activity or assignment?

For example, let’s say it is an outdoor geology field trip, that includes climbing a mountain to obtain rock samples to examine in a lab, and I have a student in a wheelchair or who has a heart condition?

According to ADA AA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, we may not prohibit students with disabilities from having access to a course or program. However, students with disabilities must also be “otherwise qualified” to take the class if he/she is to have any right to accommodations in the course or program. Thus, you should notify the student of any known course requirements and discuss any modification/accommodation that might be assistive, or any options that may be available so the student can meet the requirement.

For this example, consider such questions as these: Is the student being assessed on his/her ability to climb the mountain and extract rock samples? Or is the student being assessed on his/her knowledge in examining the rock samples? If the answer to the latter question is yes, then perhaps the student could attend the outdoor field trip without having to go up the mountain; meanwhile another student could gather the rock samples, and the student with a disability could examine the samples in the lab. If you are not sure of what to do in these situations, please call the Director of Disability Services to assist you in the matter.

#16: What if a student has a medical condition or disability issue hindering his/her ability to attend class?

Some students may have an accommodation that indicates that the student “may miss, be late for, or need to leave early from class if necessitated by a medical condition.” Students with such an accommodation have medical conditions for which they cannot predict when flare-ups will occur, but such flare-ups would render the student unable to participate in class.

Students with severe medical conditions should discuss with their professor how this may impact class expectations with regards to attendance. Modifications of an attendance policy is not automatically provided as an accommodation at Dickinson College, instead such issues are deferred to the specific faculty member involved since he/she is the one who sets the requirements and standards needed to complete the course. Professionals in the field of disabilities in postsecondary education suggest that attendance policies be established and clarified in advance, instead of retroactively. Requests for modification should be decided on a case-by-case basis and include how to address potentially missed critical lectures or discussions, as well as pop quizzes, tests, assignments and other graded work for the course.

When encountering requests for modification to your attendance policy due to a student’s medical condition or disability please feel free to contact Marni Jones if you have any uncertainty about how to implement this.

#17: If I am advising a student who is struggling in a foreign language course, what should I recommend?

Some students may ask if there is an alternative to the foreign language requirement at Dickinson. For your reference, postsecondary institutions are not required to lower the standards of any course or program for students with disabilities, nor provide course substitutions. Although some colleges and universities offer alternatives for students whose ability to learn foreign languages is impaired, Dickinson College considers intermediate level mastery of a foreign language to be an essential component to a Dickinson education and a fundamental part of its commitment to prepare students for active roles in the global community after graduation. Consequently, no waiver of the foreign language requirement is available at Dickinson, nor the use of course substitutions to meet the language requirement. This point is publicized for the benefit of all prospective students and students of Dickinson College in the Academic Bulletin. A copy of the current version can be found on the *Requirements for the Degree* page of the Bulletin.

While Dickinson College will provide appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities to support their ability to succeed in the foreign language curriculum, including increased hours for tutoring, if a student is unable to master a foreign language with accommodations at Dickinson College, they will not be able to earn a Dickinson degree. What we have found, however, is that many students with disabilities who make an appropriate effort in our foreign language curriculum, and who are supported by appropriate accommodations, do succeed in those courses and go on to earn Dickinson diplomas.

Students struggling with mastery of a foreign language should be advised that an alternative for them is to enroll in courses in American Sign Language. Such courses are not currently taught at Dickinson, but can be transferred in to fulfill the foreign language requirement. Students wishing to pursue this option should be directed to speak with Marni Jones to learn more about studying American Sign Language.

#18: Is it possible for me to seek guidance regarding particular concerns or challenges with students with disabilities?

Yes! I encourage you to do so. Students are not required to inform you of their particular disabilities, so you may not know whether a student’s difficulty with organization may be due to an executive functioning deficit, AD/HD, a traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, or perhaps a co-morbidity with Asperger’s syndrome. Marni Jones, who is in possession of the students’ documentation, will have insights as to how a student’s disability may impact his/her cognitive and social functionality. It may be helpful to receive guidance on strategies that may optimize an individual student’s participation and academic potential in your class.

When in doubt, contact Marni!
First Floor of Biddle House Office Ext. 1734;