FAQs for Modifications

Civil rights laws require reasonable modifications of non-essential elements of academic programs in order to ensure access. These modifications only change in the learning environment that permit students with disabilities to compete on an equal footing with their peers at the University.

Students with disabilities must meet or exceed academic standards with or without reasonable modifications. Under no circumstances should any modification result in a fundamental alteration to a class.

Disability Services encourages students to request modifications early in the semester. Students are also advised by Disability Services to make an appointment with the instructor in advance. However, be aware that this is not always the case. Retroactive modification requests do not have to be honored.

Contact a Disability Services Coordinator for clarification.

Class attendance and assignment policies are set by faculty or departments. When the functional limitations of the disability affect a student’s participation in his/her classes, the student’s Disability Services coordinator may recommend flexibility with attendance and deadline policies as a possible reasonable modification.

However, flexibility with attendance and deadline policies may not be reasonable if class participation is determined as an essential component of the class.

Instructors do not have to grant retroactive modification requests from students.

When requesting extended deadlines, students must to notify the instructors before the due date and make arrangements with the instructor to determine the new due date. The extended deadlines should not compromise the integrity of the course.

Instructors determine policies about make-up work, missed quizzes and exams. The instructors have the right to hold to their academic standards and are not required to lower or modify essential course elements to provide modifications to students with disabilities.

Discussion between the instructor and the student is essential. Disability Services coordinators are available to participate in such discussions.

Students with disabilities, who qualify for notetaking services, will ask classmates to share notes with them. However, if the search is not successful, the students may ask you for your assistance by making an announcement in the class.

An example of the announcement is:  “A student with a disability is looking for a volunteer notetaker in this class. The notetaker will receive a stipend of $30 in UMoney per semester from Disability Services. Please see me after class for more information.”

Contact Denise May, Disability Services Lead Sign Language Interpreter at 406.243.2243. For more information, go to Interpreting/captioning services for university events.
Classrooms may be moved if the room is inaccessible to a student registered for the course. Whenever possible, a student may be moved to another section of the same course at the same time if that section is scheduled in an accessible location. However, not all students with severe mobility limitations, who may require room changes, have visible disabilities. A hostile learning environment could be created when questions are posed regarding a room change for a student with a disability. Instructors will be notified by the Office of the Registrar before any classroom changes are finalized.
Elevator breakdowns constitute temporary access barriers for students with mobility limitations. Students may miss critical course information, be unable to take scheduled exams or pop quizzes, or be unable to give required presentations. This is a no-fault situation in many respects, but the University still assumes the responsibility of equal access. In such circumstances, the student should contact the instructor as soon as possible and request some assistance in obtaining course notes or rescheduling an exam or presentation. The student’s attendance record should not be adversely affected. Most elevator breakdowns last only a few hours, but some have lasted several weeks. For this reason, Disability Services and the Office of the Registrar should be notified as soon as possible so that we can make arrangements to have the course moved.

Civil rights laws for people with disabilities are founded on the assumption: the same treatment does not always fairly measure. The laws protect students with disabilities from being subjected to the arbitrary measure of what is best for others, except in cases of safety to others. The assumption of the law is that modifying non-essential tasks should give students with disabilities an equal, or fair, chance to demonstrate their ability by minimizing their functional limitations to the greatest extent possible.

Examples:

A student, with writing or typing limitations, may be an excellent writer even though he/she cannot print or type the letters and words. Thus, the physical act of writing is a non-essential task. The student's mastery of language and course material must not, under the law, be judged by his/her ability to manipulate a pencil or pen, or use a keyboard. Providing a scribe to record the student's essay responses permits the student to show whether he/she can write effectively, and if the student has acquired the information and critical skills the instructor wished to convey in the course.

No unfair advantage over nondisabled peers is gained by the use of a scribe. In using this auxiliary aid, the student must communicate clearly to the scribe the words and structure of his/her answer -- including punctuation and spelling. Even with extended time on an essay exam to compensate for the additional time of dictating to the scribe, the student can only hope for equality of access.

If you are uncertain about a request for a modification, you can challenge the student's request in a number of ways. First, ask the student to provide a verification letter from Disability Services to ensure that the modification is recommended by Disability Services. If the letter does not mention a requested modification, please contact Disability Services. The modification is considered unreasonable if it reduces the academic standards or requirements for a given course. It is also unreasonable if it is impossible to administer. If a modification does not appear to be appropriate given the student's functional limitation, Disability Services will not support it.

Students may request modifications that have not been discussed with Disability Services. This does not always mean that the request is unreasonable under the law. Contact Disability Services if a request seems to be unreasonable. We will work with instructors to suggest other alternatives to the student.

If you decide to deny a request as unreasonable, consult your colleagues in your department and inform the student clearly of your reasons for the denial of the request. If you have discussed this with Disability Services already, refer the student to his/her coordinator for further clarification.

The University is responsible for providing modifications unless they fall under one of the following three categories:

Disability Services recommends that denials of modification requests based on a fundamental alteration be decided at least at the departmental level and not by an individual instructor. Instructors and their departments should feel free to negotiate modifications that best fit course expectations. Contact Disability Services for further information.

It is not possible to accommodate disruptive behavior on the part of a student with a disability. Students with disabilities are expected to adhere to the Student Conduct Codes like any other student. If disruptive behavior occurs, the instructor should give the student a fair warning. Contact the Dean of StudentsBehavioral Intervention Team (BIT), or Disability Services for questions or concerns.
Disability Services is a resource for faculty members, staff, departments, and schools. We are available for consultations on accessibility in the curriculum and on teaching and interacting with students with disabilities. We can meet individually, or provide a presentation to a class, departmental meeting, or a larger group. To request a consultation, contact our office via email or call at 406.243.2243.