As a student with disabilities:
What accommodations are available?
The specific accommodations that are appropriate for you will depend on your disability limitations and what your documentation says you need. A Deaf student may need ASL interpreters, a student with dyslexia may need audio books, a student with ADHD may need test accommodations. Accommodations are individual and determined in conversation between you and your disability specialist.
How do I get disability accommodations?
To begin the process, you must submit a Request for Accommodations and make an appointment with a Disability Resources specialist. You will be asked to provide Documentation of your disability. In the following semesters, you must
meet with your disability specialist at the beginning of each new term to arrange accommodations for your new classes. Remember to bring
your course schedule and class syllabi to this meeting to make filling out those request forms easier.
What kind of documentation do I need?
Documentation of your disability must be on written on
letterhead, dated and signed by a licensed professional. A clear diagnostic statement and recommended accommodations must be included. The recommended accommodations must be supported by rationales for them.
Click for general documentation guidelines or for specific guidelines for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities.
If I use accommodations, will it go on my record?
In a word: No.
Disability Resources records are confidential, and except for special
"need-to-know" situations, no disability-related information leaves the
office without the student's signed consent.
Disability Resources Access Assistants (our DR student employees) and all note takers working for Disability Resources
sign oaths of confidentially.
Disability documentation submitted by students is kept in locked areas.
- Student files are destroyed seven years after the student's last contact
with Disability Resources.
How do I get:
I'm looking for help with:
As a faculty or staff member:
I think one of my students may have a disability. What do I do?
Do you have a student who is not able to complete tests in the allotted time? Someone who consistently appears inattentive during lectures? Behaviors that you suspect may be due a disability?
It's OK to talk to students about what you have observed. Information about Disability Resources and/or referrals can be made in a supportive manner. Statements such as "I notice
that you are having problems with ... Do you know that we have an
office on campus that can help you with that?" or comments like "That is a concern
people in the Disability Resources can help you with. Do you know where they are?" are good ways to begin the conversation.
If you suspect a potential crisis situation, let the student know your concern, and refer them either to Disability Resources or to Counseling. It is often helpful to offer to walk over with these students, if they are willing to go.
After you have informed the student of help available from Disability Resources, and the location of the office, the decision whether to follow-up belongs to the student. The student, as an adult, can decide whether to disclose
his/her disability and
avail themselves to disability accommodations.In all cases, the student's privacy must be considered.
Always discuss these matters in private, either in your office or discretely before/after
class only when other students are not present.
What is the difference between unlimited and extended
time as a test accommodation?
Sometimes a professor will tell the student he can have "all the time you need" to complete an exam. The DR staff realizes that the professor is thinking "maybe another 30 to 45 minutes", but often the student is thinking "2 or more additional hours". The potential difficulties created by unlimited time include:
- No incentive to maintain a steady pace
- "Stalling-out" on a question and not able to move on
- Over-analysis of questions leading to confusion
- Second guessing
- Inappropriately long essays
Eventually, the testing center staff needs to go home!
Many students with disabilities do require additional exam time, but within limits. The most common accommodation allows 50% additional time;
however, up to 200% may be appropriate depending on the student's disability limitations. DR specialists
will specify the optimun amount of time for each student in his/her Letter of Accommodation.
Is 'flexible attendance' ever a reasonable accommodation?
Flexible attendance may be a reasonable and appropriate accommodation for some students who provide clear documentation that indicates the need for attendance consideration. Class attendance policies are set by faculty at the college/departmental/course level, not Disability Resources. Thus the student and instructor must agree on attendance expectations before flexible attendance will be included in the Letter of Accommodation.
Here are some questions to help determine if flexible attendance can be a reasonable accommodation in your class:
Flexible attendance generally allows instructors to excuse an additional 1 – 3 class meetings beyond the established course attendance expectations, and should be established in advance. Accommodations never compromise course objectives or diminish academic standards.
- What do the course description and syllabus say about attendance?
- Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students?
- Do student contributions constitute a significant component to the learning process?
- Is the learning experience based on the acquisition of cumulative knowledge?
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method of learning?
- To what degree does a student’s failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
- To what extent is attendance used to calculate the final grade?
Why should I refer a student to Disability Resources if I
can provide the disability accommodation myself?
Most student accommodation requests are
legitimate and reasonable. Many of them could fairly easily be provided by faculty. However, DR recommends against doing this; refer the students to DR. Below are some points to ponder:
- Disability in the K-12 system and disability under ADA/Sec.504 are treated quite differently. Many accommodations provided in the K-12 system lower academic standards and thus not appropriate in the University.
- Many students (and their parents) are not aware of these differences and expect the same accommodations as the student had in high school.
- Disability Resources (by law) requires students to provide
disability documentation that specifically verifies the need for the accommodations listed on their Letter of Accommodation (LOA).
- Providing accommodation to students outside of the LOA process may set a precedent for accommodations that are not
warranted. When these unwarranted accommodations are denied in another class, both faculty and the University may be open to lawsuits.
Disability Resources welcomes your involvement in the accommodation process. You are the expert
on what is essential in your classes. We are your
partners in education. Please call us with your questions and concerns.
May I flunk a student with a disability?
Yes, it is possible to flunk a student with a disability.
Unlike the K-12 disability legislation that guarantees academic success,
Sec. 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandate only academic access. They are civil rights
laws that consider lack of access to be discriminatory against individuals with disabilities.
When a faculty member has done all
that is required to provide access to the course, giving the student the grade
earned is proper and lawful.
Here's an access compliance checklist:
- Determine the academic standards for your course and stand by them.
What do your students need to know and do to be successful in your course?
To expect less from students with disabilities is discriminatory.
- Communicate expectations for performance clearly and concisely to your students. Take care to distinguish between essential and non-essentials
components of the course.
- Let your students know you are willing to accommodate. This can be done
verbally during lectures and in writing within a course syllabus. Disability
Resources recommends both. You might say "Students with disabilities are
welcome to discuss accommodations with me."
- Allow reasonable accommodations. Accommodations are changes in the way
things are done and affect only non-essential aspects of the course. They
are reasonable so long as course standards are not fundamentally altered.
- Permit students to use the auxiliary aides and technologies they need for access.
(note takers, sign language
interpreters, readers, scribes, assistive listening devices, and/or research assistants.)
- If Internet
resources and other technologies are used, then they must also be accessible
to students with disabilities as they are for other students, i.e., videos must be captioned..
- Make adjustments in instruction if asked. Some students need lecturers to
face the audience while speaking. Others may need written or graphic information
spoken aloud or described.
- Consult with the student and Disability Resources specialists when you
have questions. Refer to the student's LOA for names and phone numbers.
- Treat disability-related discussions and information with the strictest
confidentiality. No professor has the right to destroy program access by
If compliance checks out, flunk the student who doesn't make the grade. Although
it is possible for any student to complain, it is another matter entirely to
show discrimination when faculty have complied with the law. For more information,
give the folks at Disability Resources a call at 726-6130.
Adapted from The University of Montana's "How to Flunk a Student with a
Disability" web page.
As a parent or family member of a student with disabilities:
What are the differences between high school and college?
Students with disabilities at UMD are treated as adults. As adults they will
be expected to take charge of their education, seek appropriate accommodations,
and be responsible for their own success. It is everyone's right to have
equal access to the University's resources; this is where Disability Resources
comes in. Read more.
Why aren't students automatically registered with
In K-12 special education, the school is responsible for ensuring the
student's success in meeting his/her goals. This changes at the post-secondary
level. Instead of ensuring a student's success, post-secondary disability
legislation focuses on making sure the student has access to education, and only indirectly mandates accommodations.
College students are legally adults and are expected to take charge of their education and be responsible for their own success. It is the student's responsibility to let us know they are here and need accommodations. Colleges have no liability to provide accommodations until the student self-identifies and requests them.
Disability support offices do not provide accommodation without student involvement, nor do they require students to request accommodations. If a student doesn't request an accommodation, or fails to follow through on the requested accommodations, the consequences belong to the student. Accommodations cannot be made retroactively, i.e., retaking an exam with accommodations after failing it without accommodations.
New students are encouraged to make an appointment with a Disability Resources specialist, whether or not they plan to use accommodations. Often students who didn't need accommodations in high school will need them in college. Knowing what accommodations are available and how to request them can be invaluable later in the semester.
Both new and returning students should make their appointments with their Disability Resources specialist during the first week of school even though the appointment might not happen until the following week(s).
Who will manage my son or daughter's education?
All college students are responsible for managing their own education.
All college students, including those with disabilities, must meet all
qualifications and maintain the essential academic and conduct standards
of the University.
They are not completely on their own, however. UMD offers
an array of resources to help students understand and comply with University
expectations. In addition to Disability Resources, students with disabilities
have access to academic advisors, faculty, teaching assistants, the Tutoring
Center, the Writing Center, Health Services and Counseling, the First Year
Experience office, and faculty mentors to name a few.
Students must meet University qualifications and maintain University standards,
with or without accommodations. College students are legal adults, and only
they can decide whether or not to use accommodations.
Unlike special education, post-secondary disability legislation is focused
on the student's right to participate in University classes, programs, events,
etc. Less that full access is it is considered to be discrimination. This
means that post secondary disability law only indirectly mandates the
accommodations necessary for full participation in the University. It is the
student's responsibility to understand his/her disability and to request their
What is meant by "self-advocacy"? How will my son or daughter
learn to self-advocate?
Successful students must have the skills, knowledge, and beliefs for goal-directed,
self-regulated behavior. These skills and knowledge are critical, because it
is the student, not Disability Resources, who will approach instructors, other
staff, and sometimes other students to request the accommodations that are
reasonable and appropriate for them. Students will need these same skills
when they leave the University and move successfully into their chosen careers.
Disability Resources promotes this self-knowledge and skill development. As
students meet with Disability Resources staff, they learn to accept and explain
their disability in a way that is normal and comfortable. Meeting with faculty
to discuss their Letters of Accommodation provides another opportunity to
explain how their disability affects them and how these limitations can be
Understanding that their accommodations do not give them an advantage, but
create a level playing field for them in school, is an important beginning.
As they learn to make thoughtful choices, students also learn they are capable
of conceiving and shaping their own futures.
My son or daughter wants nothing to do with Disability Resources!
Every year we meet a number of new students and their parents during Registration
and Advisement days. We discuss the disability accommodations the student needs
and how to get them. Sometimes the student even fills out the request form.
Sometimes this is the last we see of them until they are in academic probation
or are in danger of being dismissed. Other students, who choose to "do it
on my own" do graduate, but with a much lower GPA then they are capable of.
If describes your son or daughter, perhaps sharing some of these ideas with
them may help.
In many respects, disability is devalued in our culture. Even the good intentions
of professionals and other adults can reinforce this devaluation. Students
with disabilities may internalize their perceived devaluation as embarrassment
or shame in having a disability. To feel better about themselves, they shun
everything that reminds them of their disability. They just want to like
everyone else: no more "help", "lowered expectations", or "advantages". College
is their new beginning!
The "good intentions" of many professionals have been based on the 'medical
model'. (See "A new perspective of disability".) In contrast, Disability
Resources is structured on the Interactional Model. This model sees disability
as a normal part of life and diversity. We neither try to "fix" students,
nor 'help' them in ways that provide an 'advantage' over their peers. We
expect no less of students with disabilities than we do of all other students.
Our goal is to work with the student and the University to accommodate the
student's academic interactions - to modify how certain academic tasks get
accomplished. All we are want to "fix" are negative attitudes.
Ideas to share with reluctant students...
- We would like students to accept that disability is a normal part of life,
that there is no shame in having a disability, and if admitted to UMD,
they have every right to be here.
- All disability-related information about students is confidential.
Disability Resources records are separate from other University records. Using accommodations does not go on the student's academic record.
- Academic accommodations are merely a way of leveling the playing field.
They are not "help" or "unfair advantages", and never, ever reduce academic
standards or expectations.
- Students must believe that they are in charge of their own educations.
Disability Resources will never "make" them do anything. Checking out
Disability Resources does not commit them to using accommodations - but
it's smart for them to know what they are refusing.
- Each year a few students come to Disability Resources when it's too late
to selvage a failed class, or worse, a failed term. When this happens, we
will do what we can to help the student turn things around; however,
accommodations cannot be made retroactively.