All students requesting services and accommodations are required to obtain signed Accommodation Letters from Disability Support Services (DSS) at the start of each semester and discuss it with professors of courses in which they want to use those accommodations.
- The letter lists the approved services and accommodations that DSS is responsible for providing (i.e., ASL interpreters, text-to-speech software) as well as a list of approved classroom accommodations (i.e., class notes, extended exam time) that are provided by their instructor.
- DSS will email the professor and student a DSS-signed copy of the accommodation letter.
- DSS asks that faculty and student each sign the letter, and then return to DSS. Even if this is not done, the accommodations may be used. If you have questions about an accommodation when you receive the student letter, please email DSS immediately for guidance.
- Please provide the classroom accommodations as agreed and contact DSS immediately if you experience any difficulties throughout the semester.
Below are answers to common questions from faculty regarding the Accommodation Letter. For more information on specific accommodations and their policies, go to the Support Services Policies page. For specific information on how to increase the access of students with disabilities in the classroom, go to Tips & Suggestions.
For instructors who HAVE an Accommodation Letter from a student:
How were the accommodations listed in the Accommodation Letter determined? Can someone contact me or review my syllabus before the letter is created next time?
The accommodations listed in the Accommodation Letter are developed and approved by Disability Support Services (DSS) after thoughtful review of the student’s disability documentation combined with information on universal design principles, legal statutes, empirical research on accommodations, best field practices, and the University’s academic standards.
While rare, it is possible that an accommodation listed on the letter appears to substantially alter your courses curriculum or pose an excessive administrative burden. DSS is unable to contact each instructor before the letters are created, so faculty should not hesitate to discuss these concerns with DSS as soon as possible.
What if an accommodation that does not apply to my course is listed on the Accommodation Letter?
Support services and accommodations that do not apply to your particular course may be listed on the letter because the letter is generalized to the student’s total course load that semester. For example, the student may be approved for extra time on exams but your course only requires writing assignments. The student would not receive this accommodation in your class.
What if I don’t agree with an accommodation listed in the Accommodation Letter? What if I assess that one or more of the accommodations may put other students at a disadvantage?
If an accommodation listed in the letter does apply to your course, but you have concern that it may alter essential elements or academic standards, it is critical that you contact DSS, as soon as possible for discussion and guidance.
With DSS involvement, accommodations listed on the Accommodation Letter can be reviewed and revised in some cases, but instructors cannot simply deny a student any of the accommodations listed in the letter. Please discuss any reluctant feelings with DSS early on so that your concerns can be resolved as soon as possible.
What if I know of an accommodation that could be added to the Accommodation Letter to increase the students access to the course material?
With a rapidly growing study body and the expansion of academic programs, we want to ensure that the disability accommodations we provide at Trinity are relevant and universally applicable. If you have a suggestion for how to improve the application of accommodations in your field of expertise or have a suggestion for a particular kind of accommodation, DSS welcomes your input. If it is feasible for the student and in-line with DSS policies, it can be added to the letter and implemented.
What if the student and I have discussed and signed the Accommodation Letter, but the student is not actually requesting or using the accommodations in the letter?
If a student has presented a letter, but never actually makes any requests or suddenly ceases to request accommodations from you, you are not obligated to continue providing them, but it is wise to ask the student about it to ensure that there have not been any misunderstandings. Many accommodation disputes can be resolved with proper communication before too many assumptions are made by the parties involved.
Some students may have decided to opt out of accommodations because they don’t actually need them for your course. Though the student is primarily responsible, after you have received/signed the letter, you are also acknowledging your awareness that the accommodations are supposed to be in place. If you are concerned about your liability in such a situation, please contact DSS, to document the student’s non-usage of the accommodations in your course.
If the student is not using the accommodations and they are having academic difficulties in your class, you may engage in pointed discussion about their use of DSS services and classroom accommodations. The focus of the conversation should be the course requirements, the student’s actual performance, and how you feel the accommodations will benefit them in your course. An important point to remember is that all students, including those with disabilities, must take responsibility for the educational process and meet the academic standards set by their institutions. We cannot force students to use accommodations, but we can encourage and support them, especially if we see that they are struggling.
What if the student has given me an Accommodation Letter in a previous course but not in this one? Should I resume providing the previous accommodations?
No. An Accommodation Letter is only valid for the semester in which it was created. The semester and year is in bold at the top center of each letter. Students are required to work with Disability Student Services (DSS) at the start of each semester to obtain a new letter. Even if you have had the student previously, you will need to review the new semester letter to ensure that there have not been changes and that you and the student are still “on the same page,” in terms of accommodations. Please review and sign the letter with them for each course every semester. Please let the student know that you need to sign a new letter each semester in order to continue providing the accommodations.
Can the student and/or I change the contents of the Accommodation Letter? Can DSS change the contents of the letter after I’ve already signed it?
Any alterations to the Accommodation Letter after it has been signed by DSS must be made through DSS. DSS will then send an updated version of the letter for all parties to review and for you and the student to discuss/sign. This is a requirement that will help to avoid misunderstandings. At any time in the semester, circumstances may warrant a revisitation of the letter between faculty, DSS, and the student regarding alterations of the letter.
For instructors who have NOT received an Accommodation Letter from a student:
Can DSS contact me ahead of time to let me know that I will have a student with disability in my class?
The timeline of the letter being sent out depends on whether the student is registering for the first time or if they are renewing their letter (meaning they have previously registered with DSS).
For renewals: DSS does not send letters to professors until a student makes a request for the letter. This may occur earlier or later in the semester, depending of when the student requests their letter, though we encourage students to submit these requests prior to the beginning of a new semester. DSS work diligently to ensure that letter requests are reviewed and letters sent to students and professors within 1-3 business of receiving the letter request.
For new registration: Students who are registering with DSS for the first time must engage in the complete DSS accommodation process. The length of time this takes depends on many factors, but DSS will ensure that you are provided with a letter as soon as the student completes the accommodation registration process. Because accommodations are not retroactive, you are not required to provide students additional time or other accommodations while they are completing the accommodation process; however, you may provide leniency on work that may be impacted by accommodations while the student finishes the process.
What should I do if a student requests accommodations from me but has not presented an Accommodation Letter?
This depends on if the student is indicating their request to use DSS accommodations or if they are asking for general consideration and leniency. Please remember that any professor can grant any student an extension in their courses. For instance, if a student without DSS accommodations requests an extension on a paper, the professor can work with them on an extended deadline and plan for submission. If this becomes a habitual situation, then suggesting that the student contact DSS to discuss long-term options is recommended.
If the student is requesting to use formal DSS accommodations, that is different. Please gently inform the student that you would like to assist them but that you cannot begin providing any accommodations without a letter from Disability Student Services (DSS). Please give them the contact information listed at the bottom on this page and ask them if they would prefer to call, e-mail or stop by DSS. If possible, contact DSS with the student present to initiate contact. You may contact DSS to discuss creative ways to get the student connected with support services, but DSS cannot initiate contact the student unless they have disclosed DSS.
If the student is especially apprehensive, they can complete and mail in a Self-Identification Form and DSS will contact them. It is preferable for them to make contact via phone, e-mail or in-person.
What if the student has not actually disclosed a disability or presented an Accommodation Letter to me, but I suspect they have a disability and might benefit from services?
The best course of action, for an instructor, is to proceed as they would with any other student having academic difficulties in their course, which should include encouraging the student to seek assistance from Academic Services. Academic Services works with DSS and houses the Writing Center, Career Services, Tutoring, and Study Skills assistance. The student will be able to benefit from these other services and their participation may lead to disclosure to DSS. Another step you can take would be to express your concern to the student’s advisor who will encourage the student to seek assistance from Academic Services.
It is important that you do not suggest the presence of a disability to a student who has not disclosed this to you, even if you feel strongly that they have a disability. Some students with disabilities do not want to disclose and do not want accommodations. They retain this legal right regardless of how much we may want them to take advantage of the support services available.
There are many possible reasons as to why a student you suspect to have a disability may not be requesting accommodations besides personal choice. The student may not actually have a diagnosed disability or perhaps their diagnosis does not meet with legal criteria for “disability.” Such determinations must be left to those designated to make them.
What else can I do in the classroom to assist students with disabilities aside from honoring the Accommodation Letter?
Instructors can be the greatest resource for creating an equitable learning environment for all students. From your attitudes toward disability to the built-in accessibility of your curriculum, there many ways in which you can contribute to the success of all students, but especially to the success of those with disabilities. See Tips & Suggestions for specific recommendations on classroom etiquette and accessible curriculum design.