Frequently Asked Questions about Students Needing Accommodations


What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is one that gives a student with a documented disability equal access to the educational experience. It involves an assessment of both the student’s disability documentation and the institution’s ability to provide the accommodation. The “reasonableness” of an accommodation rests on both the College’s and the student’s responsibilities to address the need. The Office of Disability Support Services will inform faculty if a student should receive accommodations and describe what those accommodations should be.  [A sample accommodation letter is below.]

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

Direct that student to the Office of Disability Support Services.

Do accommodations give students with disabilities an unfair advantage?

They should not. They should be used to give the qualified student with a disability equal access to the educational experience.

Do all students seeking an accommodation need to work through the Office of Disability Support Services in order to get those accommodations?


What do I do when a student tells me he/she used to get accommodations in high school, had an Individualized Educational Plan or 504 Plan, or “gets extra time” but has not been to the Office of Disability Support Services?

Do not make the accommodation; but do direct the student to the Office of Disability Support Services.

Should I ask to see my students’ disability documentation?

No. Disability documentation is personal/confidential, to be treated like someone’s medical records. Please allow the staff in the Office of Disability Support Services to read and evaluate these materials.

Should my course syllabi include a statement regarding accommodations for students with disabilities?

Yes, and we are happy to give you one should you so desire.  

Who specifically has the responsibility to make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities?

Technically, you, the faculty, are responsible for granting students equal access to your classes and course materials. Even so, the Office of Disability Support Services does endeavor to help out when and wherever it can, as when we communicate with you, hire and train note takers, digitize texts, and teach literacy, social, and other success skills.

If a student has the accommodation of using a laptop to take notes and/or to take tests and quizzes, am I required to permit this?

Yes, but the faculty member has the right to impose conditions of that use, i.e., that the wireless connection be turned off. Normally, a student seeking to use a laptop in class needs it for the purposes of taking notes or communicating in a legible form what he/she knows. That does not mean that the laptop can be used for other, non-accommodations purposes.

If I have made reasonable accommodations for a student, can that student still fail my course if he or she still cannot or does not complete it?

Yes. Once an accommodation has been made, unless there is new and powerful information, no additional allowances should be made or expected. Our goal is to ensure access, but we cannot ensure success.  

What if the pedagogy and assignments in my course seem inconsistent with the accommodations determined by the Office of Disability Support Services?  

Knox courses involve a broad range of teaching and learning methods, different ways to use classroom time, and a wide variety of assignments. Your teaching methods and assignments may not be known by the Office of Disability Support Services staff.  If you anticipate or see a problem, call Stephanie Grimes to explain the situation and ask for guidance.

Do the accommodation needs of an applicant play a role in admission?

Generally, the Admission Office cannot seek information regarding disability status. If it did, and if a student were not admitted to the College, then that student could claim that disability was an admission criterion and that the College was guilty of discriminating on the basis of disability.  Most students applying to Knox do not disclose disability information until after they have been admitted.  

Do advisors receive information regarding their advisees with documented disabilities and academic accommodations?

Usually.  Because disability documentation records are medical records, we have to treat them as such.  This means that we cannot choose to share information without the expressed permission of the student. While some students are comfortable sharing their information, others are not and fear being “spotlighted” in some way. These latter students tend to control carefully what faculty and advisers can know about them and are additionally concerned that what we might tell one person will be told without consent to another. Wherever possible (i.e., with student permission), the Office of Disability Support Services does communicate useful information to appropriate parties. The office provides faculty members with accommodation letters, which outline the accommodations afforded students in their courses; these letters are usually copied to the student advisors as a matter of routine.

Do academic accommodations affect academic standards?

The academic program is many things: it involves meeting the requirements for a major or minor, and satisfying other graduation requirements. But it also refers to the means by which we deliver or teach a course, including our expectations for how students learn in our classes. Ready examples would be expectations for attendance, learning certain course materials, or completing labs or other experiential components of a course. Academic accommodations ensure access or allow a student to show what he/she knows; they do not water down or otherwise lessen course expectations. Some accommodations may involve a request for a waiver/substitution for an existing requirement (including math or foreign language requirements). In such cases, a student petition must be made to the Curriculum Committee.

Is working with students needing accommodations pedagogically or otherwise difficult or challenging?

It can be, but generally no more than work we would do in support of any other student with a challenge. When it is, there are no easy guidelines. Students needing accommodations run the full range of intellectual potential. Often, they have extraordinary coping and/or compensatory skills that have allowed them to succeed. No two persons with even the same disability are alike and our understanding of disability and its implications is constantly changing. In difficult cases, we need to work closely with the student and with one another to do the best job that we can.

Is the provision of accommodations in any way optional?

No. The obligation to provide accommodations has been integrated with our College’s mission through our anti-discrimination statement and is also federally mandated; thus, accommodations negotiated by the Office of Disability Support Services are not optional. Generally, accommodations generated by the Office of Disability Support Services are mundane and require very little of you. In more complicated cases, the office and faculty must work closely together to negotiate and establish reasonable academic accommodations.

What do I do if I have questions or concerns about any accommodations related matters?

Do not hesitate to call Stephanie Grimes (7478).


Appendix 1: Sample Accommodation Letter from Office of Disability Support Services

January 7, 2015

TO:  Course Instructors, Academic Advisor

This email comes to confirm that STUDENT has provided the Office of Disability Support Services with disability documentation that supports the request for an academic accommodation. Based upon this information, STUDENT may ask for the following reasonable accommodations:

STUDENT will be meeting with me throughout this term to address issues and to monitor his academic progress. STUDENT will be talking with you about the above identified accommodations and their appropriate implementation.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Thank you.


Stephanie K. Grimes, M.Ed.
Learning Specialist, Office of Disability Support Services
(309) 341-7478

Appendix 2: Sample Syllabus Statements

Knox College will make reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. If you need support or assistance because of a disability, you may be eligible for academic accommodations. Students should identify themselves to the Office of Disability Support Services (Stephanie Grimes or Christopher Lee) as soon as possible to initiate the accommodations process.

Knox College abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 which stipulate that no student shall be denied the benefits of an education "by reason of a handicap." Disabilities covered by law include, but are not limited to, learning disabilities, psychological disabilities, health impairments, hearing, and sight or mobility impairments. If you have a disability that may have some impact on your work in this class and for which you may require accommodations, please see the Office of Disability Support Services (located in the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Building, Office 115 - E Wing) so that such accommodations may be arranged.

If you have either a hidden or visible disability which may require classroom or test accommodations, please make an appointment to see as soon as possible. If you have not already done so, please register with the Office of Disability Support Services (located in the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Building, Office 115 - E Wing). This office is responsible for coordinating both accommodations and learning support services for students with disabilities.

Anyone who feels he/she may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability should go to the Office of Disability Support Services for assistance. If you have not previously contacted this office, I encourage you to do so as soon as possible.

I am available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations that you may require as a student with a disability. However, note that requests for academic accommodations need to be made during the first week of the term or as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made. All accommodations are determined and initiated by the Office of Disability Support Services, which is located in the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Building, E115.