Information for Faculty

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What is the purpose of accommodations?
The Americans with Disability Act or ADA (as amended 1990), combined with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973), prohibits discrimination against an individual with a qualifying disability. In post-secondary education we are required to make sure our service, which is education, is accessible to all qualified students. Accommodations are intended to help reduce barriers to education. If a student’s disability makes something inaccessible, we must make reasonable accommodations to remove that barrier.
What is a disability?
According to the Americans with Disability Act, a person with a disability is one who
  • Has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity*
  • Has a record or history of an impairment
  • Is regarded as having an impairment

*Major life activities include, but are not limited to, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself and performing manual tasks. These impairments may exist in those with chronic health issues, learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, or physical disabilities.

Nota bene: Students often fail to recognize chronic physical or mental health conditions with ongoing or episodic symptoms as being disabilities and eligible for accommodations. Things such as migraines, diabetes, anxiety, lupus, or depression can have a significant effect on student academic performance.

When does an illness or temporary physical condition become a disability?
Each case is considered individually, but generally, a chronic or acute health condition that fits the above definition of “limiting a major life activity” can be considered a disability. If the condition lasts long enough to affect academic performance, the student may be eligible for accommodations. Some examples of common temporary disabilities are
  • Recovery from surgery, injury, or other self-limiting health event, especially if the ability to focus, attend class, complete homework on time, take notes, or write an exam is affected for more than a week or two:
    • Concussion
    • Surgery or injury to dominant hand, arm, or shoulder
  • Illness or other physical condition that requires hospitalization, frequent medical appointments, or extended bedrest:
    • Valley fever
    • Mononucleosis
    • Cancer
    • High-risk pregnancy

Typically, situations that will resolve within a week, such as the flu or wisdom teeth extraction surgery, should fit within class syllabus allowances for missed classes and make-up exams. Professors are free to make whatever allowances they wish for life circumstances.

Does bereavement count as a disability?
In cases of death in the immediate family (parents, siblings, grandparents who lived in the same household, children), students are encouraged to contact the Vice-President of Student Life for help communicating with professors and requesting leniency with attendance and due dates during this time. If a mental health care professional diagnoses a mental illness brought to light by grief or as a result of complicated grief, the student may be entitled to temporary or long-term accommodations.
Are pregnant and parenting students entitled to accommodations?

Cases of normal, healthy pregnancy and childbirth are not technically considered disabilities, but pregnant and parenting students are entitled to temporary accommodations under Title IX which is the law that prohibits discrimination based on sex or gender. Disability Access and Education works with FPU’s Title IX Coordinator to make sure both mother and father receive reasonable accommodations during the pregnancy and immediate recovery.

Cases of high-risk pregnancy, recovery from difficult childbirth, and things such as post-partum depression are considered temporary disabilities. In any case involving pregnancy and childbirth, students should follow the normal procedures to register for temporary accommodations. For more information on Title IX and pregnant/parenting students, please see the following websites: The Pregnant Scholar or Student Handbook Title IX information. As with all other accommodations, the director will engage in an interactive process with the student to determine individual needs, considering medical recommendations and demands of individual classes. No two cases will be the same.

How does a student request accommodations?
A student must contact the Disability Access and Education office and apply for services. All forms are available online at disability-forms. If you want to help a student, please print the Application for Services, Confidentiality Disclosure, and Verification of Disability Forms. A student may submit completed forms in person or via email or fax.
How are accommodations determined?

Once all forms have been submitted, the director engages the student in an interactive process to determine reasonable accommodations to remove barriers to education caused by the interaction of the disability with elements of the campus or curriculum. The student’s account is combined with information from the health care provider to ascertain each student’s functional limitations. The important question is “how does your disability affect you academically or your experience on campus?”

Below are some examples of how accommodations can help remove barriers. Keep in mind that not all accommodations are appropriate in every class or every program and that everyone is unique, requiring a different combination of accommodations to meet individual needs.

  • A student with a reading disability needs a different way to access text.
    • Textbooks in electronic format can be read aloud by text-to-speech software such as Read & Write.
    • Additional time to take exams allows the student time to process the meaning of test questions instead of focusing solely on decoding individual words.
    • Recording class lectures provides a supplement to written notes in a medium that may convey more meaning.
    • Speech-to-text software (the computer types from the sound of a person’s voice) allows a student to speak whole words instead of typing letter by letter which may improve essay exam performance.
  • A student with anxiety needs opportunities to calm down.
    • Additional time on exams in a distraction-reduced setting allows time for self-calming strategies in a less stressful environment.
    • Permission to stand/move/leave the classroom allows the student to deal with uncomfortable emotions that may arise during class with less embarrassment or less disruption to the rest of the class.
    • Some students prefer a seat at the back of the classroom with a clear view of the exit so they don’t feel trapped or surprised.
    • A student living in on-campus housing may need a single room as a retreat from over-stimulation.
    • Modified attendance allows the student a few more absences on days when anxiety is overwhelming.
    • Extended due dates allow the student to complete homework disrupted by unexpected flare up of symptoms.
  • A student with a chronic health condition needs time to manage the condition.
    • Modified attendance allows the student a few more excused absences for self-care or frequent hard-to-schedule appointments with medical specialists.
    • Extended due dates allow the student to complete homework disrupted by unexpected recurrence of debilitating symptoms.
    • Extended time or breaks during testing allow the student to manage discomfort during a test.
What constitutes a reasonable accommodation?
  • A reasonable accommodation is one that provides the student with a different means of access and does not significantly alter the essential elements of an assignment, course, or program.
    • In a course in which the focus is on content, it might be reasonable to allow alternatives to public speaking as an accommodation. But to allow such alternatives in an Oral Communication class would substantially change the essential elements of the course.
    • Face-to-face classes in which students are expected to learn from the instructor and fellow students through frequent discussion cannot be turned into a self-paced class based on class sessions recorded by proxy.
    • A course in an accelerated program, such as Degree Completion, cannot be turned into a three-month-long directed-study course with assignments submitted whenever a student manages to get them done.
  • The requirements to use an accommodation must not be more stringent than requirements for all other students.
    • Alternative tests given to students with testing accommodations must cover the same content and be in the same format as the test given to the rest of the class. To make the alternative test a fill-in-blank test while the rest of the class did a multiple-choice version of the test would be unfair to the student with a disability.
    • If a video shown in class to promote class discussion is not closed captioned, it would be an unequal substitute to provide additional readings of professional journals for a deaf student to get similar information without the benefit of the class discussion.
  • Accommodations in college apply to the current academic setting only. We cannot say that a certain accommodation would never be allowed in the “real world” or employment setting because we cannot assume what a student is going to do with the degree.
    • While attendance at a job is usually expected, we cannot always dictate that standard in the classroom. Learning the material and demonstrating learning are often the essential elements. While attendance may facilitate learning, it is not an essential element in itself.
    • Attendance is essential in things like science labs, music performance groups, and physical activity classes since the learning is experiential and cannot easily be replicated at another time or in a different mode. The essential element is the experience of learning which can only happen with regular attendance.
  • In courses that are overtly professional training, the student must be informed in advance of the technical standards or essential elements required for the training and must be able to complete them, with or without accommodations.
    • A student intern hired to be a receptionist in an office must be present at work according to the standards of attendance for that office. Any accommodations regarding attendance applicable to the classroom may violate the essential element that a receptionist must be present in order to receive clients and answer the phone.
    • A student intern working as a writer for a periodical who occasionally works from home but turns in assigned written work on time to meet the publication deadline may be considered as meeting the essential elements of the internship despite not always being present in the office.
    • A student intern who is present everyday but cannot perform the job requirements adequately has not fulfilled the essential elements of the experience despite reliable attendance.
What if there are no reasonable accommodations for a student's disability?
The director will help students find ways to understand their disabilities and their needs and discuss resources to meet their needs in ways other than accommodations.
What responsibilities does an instructor have regarding accommodations for disabilities?
  • Grading and expectations are to be consistent for all students. The ADA ensures equal access to the educational experience. It does not ensure success.
  • Make sure that students with disabilities know they can request accommodations and how to begin the process. Include the disability statement (included in the template for syllabi provided by the Provost’s office) in your syllabus and inform any student who reveals the existence of a disability to contact Disability Access and Education to request accommodations.
  • When you receive an accommodation memo from DAE, think creatively about how to implement the accommodations listed.
    • If you are unsure how an accommodation should be implemented, contact DAE to discuss ways to meet the student’s need while ensuring the integrity of your course.
    • If you feel an accommodation would substantially alter the assignment, course, or program, contact the director of DAE for clarification and/or intervention.
  • Out of respect for a student’s right to privacy, do not ask for information about a student’s disability and do not discuss accommodations in front of other students.
  • Implement accommodations beginning with the date of the accommodation memo and not retroactively.
  • In general, do not make accommodation decisions on your own.
    • If a student asks for something specific and you don’t need confidential information to determine your answer, you may make that decision.
    • Respecting a student’s right to privacy also protects a faculty member from having information that could make you liable to accusations of discrimination.
    • The DAE does not have the power of grading a student’s work. Therefore, this office can ask for confidential information to determine what accommodations would be reasonable to eliminate barriers caused by a student’s specific disability.
  • Review accommodation implementation policies on the internet at Accommodation Policies. These policies are also linked on the accommodation memo. The policies outline the student’s responsibilities, the instructor’s responsibilities, and important notes about the type of accommodation.
  • Recognize that disability symptoms can be variable. A student may choose not to use an accommodation at any time. Since stress often exacerbates symptoms, students are more likely to use accommodations during midterms or finals.
  • If you have any concerns about a student’s use of accommodations, contact the director of DAE immediately. Remember that the director is an advocate for maintaining standards of education as much as for student rights.
  • Be a model for students how to tolerate differences caused by a disability or as a result of an accommodation. For example
    • Ignore a service dog, except to avoid stepping on it.
    • Make no comment when a student needs to leave the room as an accommodation.
    • Listen patiently to anyone with a speech impediment and politely ask for clarification if needed.
    • Don’t imply there is anything unusual, annoying, or inconvenient about students needing accommodations.
How can an instructor keep track of student accommodations?
Files kept by the DAE are organized by student name only. We cannot search by instructor name or by class to find a list of students with accommodations. Instructors may want to create a file each semester for accommodation memos. Or if you need to search your inbox, accommodation memos are usually sent from the address disability.services@fresno.edu.
How can a profressor address the needs of students with a variety of disabilities to elimnate or reduce the need for accommodations?
The concept of Universal Design in Education (sometimes called Universal Design in Learning) is based on the original concept of Universal Design in architecture. In order to provide access, Universal Design either eliminates the barrier or provides an alternative. Some simple ways you can help eliminate common barriers in education are listed here:
  • Submit your book requests to the bookshop early.
    • The process of procuring electronic texts for students with vision problems or language processing disabilities is lengthy and time-consuming. We need time to complete this process for approximately 30 – 40 students each semester.
  • If you have a choice of equally appropriate textbooks, choose one that has an option of fully accessible online versions in addition to print. Or choose open access texts, available as full pdfs.
    • Students with print disabilities don’t need to rely on the DAE to get their texts for them.
  • Make sure all video or audio course materials are closed captioned.
    • The Center for Online Learning (COL) will help with this process.
      • COL needs instructors to tell them specifically which course elements require captioning.
    • Captioning provides benefit for more than just students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Make sure all handouts or materials posted in Moodle are fully accessible pdf documents or Word documents.
    • Students who are blind or have a visual impairment rely on software called screen readers to access all material online. Screen readers cannot read pictures or image-only pdf documents.
    • This article explains accessibility of pdf documents: Electronic Accessibility
    • COL can also help convert documents to be fully accessible.
  • Allow students to use electronic devices in class.
    • To prohibit electronic devices poses an unfair burden on students with disabilities who require assistive technology to read or write during class.
    • Granting dispensation from an electronic device prohibition for students with disabilities creates unwarranted attention, causing embarrassment and loss of privacy.
  • Make presentation slide decks available on Moodle prior to class.
    • Students with processing difficulties, attention deficits, limited mobility, etc. rely on having access to lecture slides.
    • Many other students benefit from having access to slides during class to aid in notetaking.
  • Provide a verbal description of any image presented during a lecture and anything drawn or written on the board.
    • People with visual impairments need verbal information to describe what they cannot see.
  • Consider the needs of people with visual impairments and blindness taking an online or blended class. This article explains a variety of accessibility issues: Introduction to Web Accessibility.
    • Have sufficient color contrast.
    • Type font should be at least 16 points.
    • Type font should be easy-to-read, such as Arial, Calibri, or other non-decorative, sans-serif fonts.
    • Hyperlinks should be concise and clearly indicate destination.
    • Avoid providing meaning solely by color.
  • Announce that audio recording is allowed.
    • Many students benefit from supplementing handwritten notes with audio recordings.
      • Processing disabilities
      • Mobility impairments
      • Attention deficits
    • If there are occasions when student discussion needs privacy, announce times when recorders should be turned off and when they can be resumed. Any material presented during recording shut-off cannot be included in an exam.
    • If desired, your syllabus can contain copyright information of course material.
  • Give students options to meet with the instructor and to submit portions of a larger assignment prior to a final due date in order to receive feedback.
    • Students with learning disabilities or executive function disorders need frequent, incremental feedback to understand or stay on track.
  • Demonstrate a variety of ways a student can break a large project into smaller components to be completed incrementally.
    • Students with learning disabilities, executive function disorder, and young or inexperienced students struggle with
      • Managing their time
      • Getting started on a project which can look overwhelmingly complex
  • Break a single class session into various components with a balance of passive and active activities.
    • Students with attention deficits need variety to hold their attention.
  • Demonstrate low-tech and high-tech alternatives to accomplishing academic tasks.
    • Technology can solve a variety of problems.
    • Or technology can be intimidating.
Just to give you idea of what is possible, here is a list of commonly used accommodations:
  • Permission to record lectures
  • Distraction-reduced setting for exams
  • Electronic text (to be read aloud by text-to-speech software)
  • Emotional support animal (housing only)
  • Extended time on exams (1.5X or 2X)
  • Extended due dates
  • Modified attendance
  • Closed captioning
  • Permission to stand/move/leave during class
  • Quiet room (housing only)
  • Single room (housing only)
  • Sign language interpreter
  • Use of text-to-speech software for exams
  • Use of speech-to-text software for exams
What other resources does Fresno Pacific Univserity have to support students with disabilites?
Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • 3Play Media
  • Ai Media
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Center (DHHSC)
    • A private, non-profit social service agency that serves individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and late-deafened, their families, friends, and community service providers.
    • https://www.dhhsc.org/ Voice: 559-225-3323
    • Interpreting Services of Central California (ISCC)
  • Hi 5 Access Interpreting and Communication Services
  • National Deaf Center
    • Mission: close the substantial gaps in education and employment that exist for deaf people in the United States and its territories
    • Technical assistance and dissemination center federally funded by the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to provide evidence-based strategies at the local, state, and national levels.
    • https://www.nationaldeafcenter.org/ (512) 471-8283
  • VidGrid
    • Video capture and captioning service contracted by FPU
    • Training videos: training video tutorials
    • Contact COL for assistance
Document Accessibility for Visually Impaired
  • Alternative Text.
    • Information on why and how to add alternative text for images
  • Cheatsheets. http://www.ncdae.org/resources/cheatsheets/
    • National Center on Disability and Access to Education
    • These one-page accessibility resources, or “cheatsheets,” have been developed to assist anyone who is creating accessible content. These free resources are catered to less-technical individuals, such as faculty and staff.
  • Improve accessibility with heading styles. Microsoft Support: Heading Styles
    • Instruction on how to use Styles menu commands.
  • Microsoft Word Creating Accessible Documents
  • Information and instructions on how to create accessible documents.
  • Types of PDFs. ABBYY FineReader PDF.
    • PDF documents can be categorized in three different types, depending on the way the file originated. How it was originally created also defines whether the content of the PDF (text, images, tables) can be accessed or whether it is “locked” in an image of the page.
  • Screen Reader Demo for Digital Accessibility. (2016).
    • University of California San Francisco
    • Video demonstrating how a person uses screen reader technology.
  • Using a Screen Reader. (2017). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Rs3YpsnfoI
  • University of Washington DOIT Center
  • Demonstration of screen reader technology and explanation of accessibility issues.
Neurodivergent / Mental Health Conditions
  • ADDitude. https://www.additudemag.com/
    • A magazine-style website on ADHD and other related conditions, providing professional research and practical advice for supporting students and living with a condition as an adult.
  • ADHD Myth or Reality.” (2017, 27 March). UC Davis MIND Institute.
    • Two ADHD experts dispel some of the popular myths associated with ADHD.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) https://add.org/
    • “ADDA brings together scientific perspectives and the human experience to generate hope, awareness, empowerment and connections worldwide in the field of ADHD.”
  • Autism Speaks. https://www.autismspeaks.org/
    • Advocacy, support, and research on autism spectrum disorder and related conditions
  • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
    • A clearinghouse of evidence-based information, a support community, and an advocacy group.
  • Den Houting, J. (2019, September) “Why everything you know about autism is wrong.”  TEDxMacquarieUniversity.
    • Not only does Den Houting discuss research done about Autism by people with Autism, she also makes it clear why a paradigm shift about disabilities is necessary.
  • Hallowell, E. M., & Ratey, J. J. (2011). Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder. Random House Inc.
    • “Groundbreaking and comprehensive, Driven to Distraction has been a lifeline to the approximately eighteen million Americans who are thought to have ADHD. Now the bestselling book is revised and updated with current medical information for a new generation searching for answers” (Amazon).
  • How to ADHD
    • A collection of well-researched, short, appealing, applicable videos geared for people who have ADHD on how to live with the condition
  • HealthyPlace: Mental Health Support, Resources & Information
    • Information on psychological disorders
  • McCabe, J. (2017, January). “Failing at Normal: An ADHD Success Story.” TEDxBratislava.
    • McCabe’s engaging personal story exemplifies the struggles of a person living and thriving with ADHD.  The combination of research and personal experience provides valuable insights into the condition.
  • Totally ADD
    • Contains blogs by recognized ADHD experts and people living with ADHD.  Includes a variety of resources. Videos are insightful and often funny (the originator is a professional comedian).
  • Tudisco, R. (2014, 4 April).  “Coping with Adult ADHD: A View from the Inside.” 
    • Tudisco, a successful and influential lawyer, shares his experiences as a person with ADHD with a group of educators.  In this hour-long video he shares his personal experience learning to understand his own diagnosis and how he has used his professional life to help others understand and live with the condition successfully.
Specific Learning Disabilities
Thinking about Disability Issues
  • Den Houting, J. (2019, September) “Why everything you know about autism is wrong.”  TEDxMacquarieUniversity.
    • Not only does Den Houting discuss research done about Autism by people with Autism, she also makes it clear why a paradigm shift about disabilities is necessary.
  • Disabled World. (2020, April 4). Disability Communication: Etiquette and Communication Methods. Disabled World.
  • Disabled World. (2020, May 11). Service Dogs and Guide Dog Etiquette. Disabled World.
  • Dolmage, J. (2017). Academic ableism disability and higher education. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
    • “Brings together disability studies and institutional critique to recognize the ways that disability is composed in and by higher education, and rewrites the spaces, times, and economies of disability in higher education to place disability front and center” (Amazon).
  • Dunlap, T. (2015, Jan 10).  “Isn't it a pity? The real problem with special needs.” TEDxAmerican’sFinestCity.
    • Dunlap challenges our use of the word “special” for children with disabilities.  She gives examples of various models of disability paradigms and discusses how they influence our behavior and attitudes, resulting in inclusion or exclusion.
  • Evans, N. J., Broido, E. M., Brown, K. R., & Wilke, A. K. (2017). Disability in higher education: a social justice approach.
    • “Examines how disability is conceptualized in higher education and ways in which students, faculty, and staff with disabilities are viewed and served on college campuses. Drawing on multiple theoretical frameworks, research, and experience creating inclusive campuses, this text offers a new framework for understanding disability using a social justice lens” (Amazon).
  • Heumann, J. (2018, March). “Our fight for disability rights and why we’re not done yet.” TEDxMidAtlantic.
    • Heumann tells the story of her experience with discrimination and pioneering efforts in the fight for civil rights for people with disabilities, resulting in the history-making Disability Rights Movement.
  • Kim, E., & Aquino, K. C. (2017). Disability as diversity in higher education: policies and practices to enhance student success. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa Business.
    • “Addressing disability not as a form of student impairment . . . but rather as an important dimension of student diversity and identity, this book explores how disability can be more effectively incorporated into college environments” (Amazon).
  • Lightner, L. (2020, June 19). Special Needs vs Disabled? The "new" term to say instead of Special Needs. A Day In Our Shoes.
  • Mullins, A. (2010, 19 Feb). “The opportunity of adversity.” TED MED.
    • As a highly acclaimed Paralympic athlete, model, and actor, Mullins ponders the connotations of the words used to define disability.  Her talk highlights the importance of the paradigms about disabilities.
  • Social model of disability. (2017, November 28). YouTube.
    • This brief, animated video from a group in the UK provides a clear definition of the Social Model of disability.
  • Things People with Disabilities Wish You Knew. (2018, May 30). YouTube.
    • In this brief, positive video, individuals with disabilities discuss common societal attitudes revealed through actions and words and how those attitudes affect them. 
  • Young, S. (2014, June).  “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much.” TEDxSidney.
    • This highly entertaining talk by Australian comedian/activist Stella Young is an absolute must watch for anyone wanting to learn more about attitudes about disabilities.  Young challenges the assumptions that objectify disabled people, creating what she calls “inspiration porn.”  She also explains how her true disabilities are created by the limitations imposed on her by society.
Universal Design in Education/Learning
  • Burgstahler, S. (2015). Universal design in higher education: from principles to practice. Harvard Education Press.
    • “As larger numbers of people with disabilities attend postsecondary educational institutions, there have been comparable greater efforts to make the full array of classes, services, and programs accessible to all students. This revised edition provides both a full survey of those measures and practical guidance for schools as they work to turn the goal of universal accessibility into a reality” (Amazon).
  • Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST).
    • “Universal design for learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.” This website prioritizes K – 12 education but with applicability to post-secondary education.
  • Center for Universal Design in Education (CUDE).
    • “Develops and collects resources to help educators apply universal design (UD) in order to make all aspects of the educational experience welcoming to, usable by, and inclusive of everyone, including people with disabilities.”