FAQs for Faculty

Table of Contents

How do I approach a student who is having difficulty in my class, and I suspect they may have a disability?

You may not legally ask students if they have a disability, but you can make inquiries about the nature of their difficulties. You may ask if they had difficulty before and how they were able to succeed in their classes. The student may voluntarily disclose their disability if they would like, and if they do, a referral to the Academic Resource Center would be appropriate. If the student does not disclose a disability, you may simply tell the student that you notice they are having academic difficulty and encourage them to talk with you about gaining assistance, just as you would with any student.

May I ask a student to disclose their disability to me?

Absolutely not. We understand that this may be difficult for some individuals who teach; however, requiring that a student disclose a disability to you puts the institution at great legal risk. Although you may be open to listening if a student chooses to explain their disability to you—without your actual or implied solicitation of information—it is very important that you communicate respect for the student’s privacy regarding the specific nature of their disability. If you ever suspect that a request for accommodation is not legitimate, contact the Director of the Academic Resource Center, Amber Larson.

Their disability, as they understand it, will be discussed with an Academic Resource Center staff member as will their history of accommodation and possible reasonable accommodations relating to their stated disability. The student will be informed that to be granted accommodations, she or he will have to submit appropriate documentation of their disability from a licensed diagnostician to the Academic Resource Center. Once received, the documentation will be reviewed for appropriateness based on guidelines recommended by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). Upon review, the ARC staff member will discuss reasonable accommodations based on the documentation available. Students without viable, current documentation will be given an appropriate referral if they wish.

A student who wishes to receive disability–related accommodations must register with the Academic Resource Center before services will be rendered. If a student chooses to use their approved accommodations, they will request a letter be sent to their faculty member via the ClockWork portal. Once a student is registered and their faculty are notified, instructors must provide the academic accommodations that the Academic Resource Center office determines reasonable. 

The ARC recommends that you announce that you are available to discuss instructional methods and appropriate course modifications with students who have disabilities at the beginning of the course. In addition, you should include a note to this effect on your course syllabus.

What is a reasonable academic accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a modification that allows the student equal access to learning opportunity as any other student would have. Reasonable accommodations are determined after reviewing the student’s medical documentation as it relates to their disability. An ARC staff member determines which accommodations are reasonable based on the specific ways the student’s disability affects their ability to access buildings, information, or resources related to their academic experience. The student will provide you with a letter from the Academic Resource Center (via your ClockWork Portal), outlining appropriate accommodations. Academic accommodations include, but are not limited to, testing accommodations, adaptive technology services, and assistance in arranging other support services (e.g., interpreters, note–takers, scribes, and readers).

May I choose to accommodate a student who is not registered with the Academic Resource Center and/or for whom I have not received a ClockWork Notification letter for?

Any exceptions that a professor chooses to make in their instructional and/or testing procedures are not deemed an accommodation of a disability. It’s normal that most professors choose to make exceptions for particular students from time to time (e.g., allowing a student to take a make–up test in the event of a family member’s death); however, any exceptions made based on a student’s alleged but undocumented disability can put the university at legal risk. In these cases, always ask yourself the following question:

“Since accommodations for appropriately documented disabilities are made in the Academic Resource Center, do I have some other legitimate reason besides the alleged disability for making an exception for this student?”

“Is it an exception that I would be willing to make for any other non–disabled student?”

If a student is approved for extended time accommodations, can I accommodate them in the classroom myself?

Yes, if the faculty member can provide a separate space and extended time for the student, then faculty are welcome to administer the accommodation. It is not appropriate to ask Administrative Coordinators to proctor the exam or for students to take the exam in a hallway. Students should be provided a separate space that can support a reduced distraction environment.  Specifically for testing accommodations, students benefit greatly by having an instructor’s expertise readily available for questions and insight during exams.

As an instructor, you are the person most intimately familiar with your courses and you may provide valuable input toward the process of tailoring the specifics of several accommodations for a given student. Any prior experience that you have had with the student or in working with other students with disabilities may be very valuable, and we welcome your perspective. If an accommodation would fundamentally alter your course, please contact Amber Larson or Kaylynne Mahone immediately to discuss potential alternative accommodations.

Which accommodations are mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act?

  • Extended time to complete tests (typically time-and-a-half or double-time).
  • A quiet, distraction-reduced testing environment.
  • Audio textbooks and/or readers for tests, for students with visual processing issues.
  • Visual accommodations, such as sitting in the front of the room.
  • A designated note-taker in class to produce readable, well-organized notes of lectures.
  • Permission to audio tape class (must fill out audio recording agreement sheet).
  • Computer accommodation and/or the use of the word-processing function of a computer during tests for essays and short-answer questions.
  • Hearing accommodations, such as captioned videos and sound amplification systems.

What is “undue hardship” as it relates to the rights of faculty?

The Academic Resource Center recognizes that not all accommodations can be provided in all settings. Here, the law stipulates that colleges and universities are not required to provide an accommodation that will impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the class, where “undue hardship” means significant difficulty or expense in, or resulting from, the provision of the accommodation. The following are used to help make this determination:

  • Financial resources
  • Cost of accommodation
  • Alteration or change in the course requirements
  • Disruption of other students 

Note: Instructors should only invoke this “undue hardship” clause after having attempted reasonable accommodations in the classroom or in cases of extreme student behavior. For example, a student with epilepsy cannot be automatically excluded from a class because the instructor fears that a disruption (e.g., a grand mal seizure) may occur during class. However, if this student is enrolled in a class and does experience grand mal seizures in class on a regular basis, the instructor may have a case for claiming “undue hardship” on the basis of disruption.

How do I accommodate a student whose disability causes them to miss class?

It helps to begin by determining to what extent class absences may fundamentally interfere with the student completing your course objectives and learning outcomes. If you believe note–taking services, exam accommodations, and/or any other support services may be needed, please consult with the Academic Resource Center. It is important to note that you must not lower your academic expectations because ultimately, the student must be responsible for gaining the knowledge and skills required in your course. 

What do I do if a student requests an accommodation that is not in their ClockWork Notification letter or if students find they have different accommodation needs than previously established?

These students should be referred to the Academic Resource Center (Kaylynne Mahone or Amber Larson). Any new or changed academic accommodations within the office’s records should be communicated to instructors via an updated ClockWork letter that will be sent to you directly.

Students who have never worked with the Academic Resource Center should complete the ClockWork Registration Form

Please note: There is no time limit regarding accommodation requests. Students may request accommodations at any point during their education. This means that students who have never worked with the ARC in the past may do so at this time. Any new ClockWork notification letters issued must be acknowledged and honored.

Students who are already registered with the Academic Resource Center should not fill out a new request form. Instead, these students should request to schedule a meeting with an Academic Resource Center staff member.

If instructors are concerned about an accommodation or have questions, they are encouraged to reach out directly to Amber Larson, Director of the Academic Resource Center.

What are some of the most critical accessibility considerations for my course?

Accessible documents:

Ensure all documents and materials presented to students are accessible:

  • Use clear, consistent layouts and organization schemes for presenting content
  • Use large fonts, plain backgrounds, and high contrast color combinations
  • Avoid screen shots of written material
  • Make sure PDFs are accessible

Accessible audio and video content:

It is important to consider captioning in both synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (e.g. watching a YouTube video) contexts. All faculty members in all classes should endeavor to present pre-recorded video content.

Text equivalents for images:

  • All images must have alternate text (alt text) or a written description of the image embedded into the HTML tag
  • The Microsoft Accessibility Checker will catch images without alt text and provide instructions for adding a description
  • Moodle also has Accessibility tools


COVID-19 caused significant disruption to routine and the return to the classroom may cause stress and anxiety for some students. Instructors are encouraged to be flexible with students but should also communicate their expectations clearly.

Should I reach out to a student regarding their accessibility needs if I know that they are registered and have not contacted me?

Students are being advised and encouraged to self-advocate and to reach out to instructors to clarify their accessibility needs. It is a student’s responsibility notify and inform their instructor(s) of these needs. Direct communication in this regard is paramount because while a student may have accommodations, they may also choose not to use them in a specific course. 

If a student does wish to discuss their accessibility needs, please always remember to communicate about disability and accessibility privately, never in a public space or forum.

What are some of the most critical accessibility considerations for online learning for students with Autism?

The College of Wooster serves many students on the Autism spectrum. Students with Autism may experience levels of stress and anxiety above and beyond their neurotypical peers. Laurie Ackles, Director of RIT’s Spectrum Support Program, offers the following recommendations specifically for students on the Autism spectrum, but many of the suggestions would also benefit other students in their course work:

  • Provide very clear, detailed, information (in writing) about navigating the online course shell, including where to locate lecture materials, where to submit assignments, etc.
  • Consider simplicity, clarity and consistency when re-creating course structure and requirements.
  • Provide clear expectations, in writing, about how to appropriately engage in live virtual lectures or chats.
  • Provide information and options for receiving support from faculty regarding content or course questions, or more general concerns.
  • Provide regular, detailed feedback about progress, including proactive use of Academic Alerts. Academic Alerts allow Academic Resource Center staff to understand clearly where students might need additional support to be successful.
  • Consider flexibility with group projects, which will be increasingly challenging in an online format for students with social communication challenges.If group work is expected, consider smaller groups and assigned group roles.
  • Check in with students frequently to provide them with an opportunity to share concerns.

Does the Academic Resource Center proctor online exams?

For students taking online assessments, faculty must manually adjust the allotted time for students’ timed tests in Moodle in accordance with their approved accommodations. It is important to remember that not all “extended time on exams” accommodations are configured the same (e.g. some are for 1.5x on exams, others are for 2.0x). Please refer to the individual student’s accommodation letter in ClockWork to see the specific amount of time students’ exams should be extended.

If faculty are giving a regular classroom exam but allowing four or more hours for students to complete the exam, you do not need to set extended time for the exam.

Instructors with questions about online proctoring of exams should contact Amber Larson.

How do I extend time on exams in Moodle?

In accordance with details in the previous question, faculty that choose to use Moodle as a platform for hosting online exams are responsible for ensuring students with approved accommodations are given the appropriate length of time for any timed tests, exams, and quizzes. To manually extend an individual student’s allotted exam time, please follow the instructions found on this page.

Again, not all accommodations for extended time on exams are configured the same (e.g. some are for 1.5x on exams, others are for 2.0x). The individual ClockWork notification you received via email from the Academic Resource Center specifies the amount of time students’ exams should be extended.

Note that this accommodation is distinct from “extended time on assignments” which implies due date flexibility and requires clear communication and negotiation of details between students and their faculty.

Does the “extended time on tests” accommodation apply to take-home exams?

A take-home or online exam taken at home that is not timed does not qualify for the “extended time on tests” accommodation. (As a distinction: If a take-home exam was open for 24 hours, but within that time-frame a student had a 2-hour time limit to work on the exam, then the exam would qualify for extended time.) If a take-home exam has a due date, but students are not timed while completing it, there is no need to offer extended time.

If you are giving an exam that should take the time of a regular class time (i.e. 50 minutes or 1 hour, 20 minutes) but you are giving students four hours or more to finish it, you do not need to give extended time for that either.

What if my student brings a service dog to class?

If a student brings a service dog to the classroom without warning, you are allowed to ask two questions:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Service dogs are working animals and as such should not be touched or interacted with unless the handler has given permission, so it is best to ask before trying to pet the animal.

Service dogs are working animals and as such should not be touched or interacted with unless the handler has given permission, so it is best to ask before trying to pet the animal.

If you have any concerns about whether the “work” described is truly service work, allow the dog to stay for the day and contact the Director of the Academic Resource Center after the class.

Dogs may be dismissed from the classroom if the dog is not potty-trained (has an accident) or if the dog is disruptive (barking, whining, growling, biting). If the dog is moving about the classroom or getting attention (petting or talking) from students, simply ask the handler to please put the dog in a down-stay or ask the students to concentrate on work. If that does not solve the problem, speak to the Director of the Academic Resource Center after class. If there are any concerns because a student or faculty member is afraid of or allergic to dogs, this is not considered a reason to not allow the accommodation. In this case, please consult with the Director of the Academic Resource Center. If there is another section of the same course being offered in the same block (Spanish 101 section A and B) either student may be asked to switch to the other section. If there is not another viable section, then the student may remain but the college will use its best options to separate the dog from allergic/fearful students.

What if my student brings an Emotional Support Animal to class?

In most cases, ESA’s are not allowed in the classroom. They are typically specifically for the student’s use in the student’s residence hall room. In some circumstances, however, the ARC may allow an Emotional Support Animal in the classroom. Faculty will be notified if an ESA will be in the classroom via the ClockWork Accommodations letter.

Who can I contact with additional questions?

Amber Larson
Director, The Academic Resource Center

Kaylynne Mahone

Assistant Director, The Academic Resource Center