Accommodation requests reach faculty members from the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations following a multi-step process. Students receive diagnoses for accommodation-relevant disabilities from health professionals (SAA can refer students to appropriate professionals but does not carry out this work). SAA then determines that a student qualifies for accommodations after the Director of SAA meets with the student, reviews all submitted documentation, and in some cases, speaks with the medical professional who authored the documentation. The director, in a collaborative process with the student, identifies areas that pose a barrier to accessing academic programs and university life, and determines reasonable accommodations. For complicated course issues, the instructor is included in the process. Faculty feedback and ideas are always welcome.


Instructors are responsible for assuring program accessibility by implementing approved accommodations. After students receive accommodations from SAA, an Accommodation Letter is generated and sent to the faculty member. The letter is signed following a meeting between the faculty member and student to discuss how accommodations will apply to the course. Note that it is the student’s responsibility to communicate classroom and academic needs to the instructor. The Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodation encourages students to meet in person with the instructor in order to discuss how their accommodations will be applied in the class. While it is appropriate for a faculty member to invite the student to office hours to discuss accommodations, it is the responsibility of the student to meet and have the Accommodation Letter signed. Accommodations only take effect after the faculty member’s permission, and are not retroactive.

Whether or not they have disabilities, our students are all different, and so too will be the most suitable pedagogical and advising methods in working with them. However, there are some general practices that should be followed with students with disabilities:  

  • Generally speaking, good teaching for students with disabilities is good teaching period. Clear objectives, open and direct communication, high expectations, interactive pedagogy, and a genuine concern for the individual are best practices.
  • Information about a disability is confidential. Anytime there are questions or concerns, please talk with the student after class or in private. Never comment or initiate a discussion regarding a disability in front of other students or faculty.
  • Instructors should keep in mind that many disabilities are invisible, and sometimes the instructor and fellow students do not see the challenges that their students may be dealing with in their classes. Invisible disabilities can have an impact on a student’s academic life that is no less debilitating than a hearing, vision or mobility disability. Instructors who challenge the validity of a student’s diagnosis make the situation worse. Empathy and willingness to listen are essential.
  • During individual meetings with instructors regarding accommodations, students may choose not to disclose the specific nature of their disabilities. Nevertheless, instructors can discuss the specific issues students experience in the classroom and what strategies have worked for them in the past, as well as how the approved accommodations will help them perform in the course. Let the student know that your classroom is a safe space and that you are interested in working with the student to ensure a positive learning experience. Faculty should remember that students might find it intimidating and emotionally taxing to talk about disabilities and may or may not choose to self-disclose.
  • Instructors should keep in mind that students with accommodations can experience additional challenges in adapting to college life. In some cases, students with disabilities can have difficulty integrating socially on campus, as well. This makes it all the more important for instructors to practice inclusive pedagogy with regard to student disability as they do with regard to other forms of diversity.
  • The Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations is here to help both faculty and students, and should be contacted as questions arise. In addition, the Office of Student Accessibility and Accommodations needs to know if there are unresolved problems or difficulties.
  • Disabilities and accommodations are an important and ongoing area of professional development for faculty. The Student Accessibility and Accommodation Faculty Advisory Board works closely with SAA to respond to faculty concerns. Please refer to the Student Accessibility and Accommodation Faculty Advisory Board web page (accessible in password-protected format from the SAA website) to see its mission statement, to access materials with advice on working with students with specific disabilities (such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and visual disabilities), and also to access recordings of faculty development events it has sponsored.