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Frequently Asked Questions

What are disability accomodations?

Disability accommodations are granted to persons who have a documented medical condition that qualifies as a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” This condition may be a long-term, chronic diagnosis, or a short-term event such as a broken limb. A disabling condition may be visible, in that it is physically noticeable to others. It can also be “invisible,” including learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, mental health or emotionally-based diagnoses, and other chronic health problems that are not as apparent to the layperson. Such accommodations are granted for students in order for them to be able to access the educational environment in a fair way, essentially “leveling the playing field.” These accommodations are to allow students with disabilities equal access, but are not intended to give advantage above and beyond access given to other students.

As far as specific accommodations, these vary according to student needs based on their condition(s). The Student Accessibility Services office tailors accommodations to meet the specific needs of a student. If a student has had a 504 Plan or Individualized Educational Program (IEP) in the past, college accommodations may be similar to those they have received, but there can be differences as well at this level of education. In addition to classroom accommodations, for students who live on campus, the Student Accessibility Services office helps to coordinate accommodations related to student needs while living in on-campus housing.

How are accommodations for students determined?

Students are required to register with Student Accessibility Services by providing official documentation of a disability. Recommended accommodations noted in evaluations or doctor’s letters assist the Student Accessibility Services staff with determining the right accommodation for the student. Ultimately, the Director of Student Accessibility Services is charged with deciding upon the appropriate accommodations for a student. An important part of the decision process, though, is the in-person contact with the student. This allows for a clearer picture and more information, such as how their condition affects them in the classroom or on campus, what has worked for them in the past and what has not, and what their current needs are at this point.

How will I know if a student with a disability is enrolled in one of my courses?

The Student Accessibility Services office sends out letters to each faculty member of a student who registers and is granted accommodations. This letter is delivered via email. We also encourage students to advocate for themselves. In order to “activate” any accommodations that are provided by a course instructor, the student needs to contact you himself about planning for these accommodations. (We emphasize this last statement with the students as well).

What should I do if a student approaches me about an accommodation that was not included in the letter or email from Student Accessibility Services/graduate school liaison?

We always welcome you to contact our office with any concerns regarding accommodations, stated or not stated officially in a letter. That said, the student should also be in touch with Student Accessibility Services if they need to discuss a revision of their accommodations when she is asking for something that is not currently documented in a letter to you.

What should I do if I am concerned that a recommended accommodation is not appropriate for my course?

Please contact the Student Accessibility Services office. We will work with the instructor and the student to make the appropriate adjustments if needed in each situation.

I have a student whom I suspect has a disability or disclosed that they have a disability but is not registered with Student Accessibility Services. What should I do?

We always want instructors to have the student contact the Student Accessibility Services office to discuss registering with us. To register does not mean a student will be afforded accommodations; however, it can help keep the student “in the loop” and make them aware of supports that he may need to activate in the future. 

Why do students with disabilities often need testing accommodations?

Testing situations are often unique based on their time constraints and performance expectations. A disabling condition may greatly interfere with the requirements imposed when taking an exam. The student may need a private testing environment for concentration, extended time for concentration and/or slow processing, a computer for written output, or an orally-administered exam due to a visual impairment. These are just a few of many possible situations that require testing accommodations.

Can I administer my exam with accommodations myself?

Often, the answer is “yes.” Unless the student needs an environment or accommodations that an instructor is unable to provide, you can arrange with the student how you carry out administering the exam with accommodations. Otherwise, the Watson Lab in Campus Center 110 is available and equipped with various technology and resources to accommodate student needs, including specific testing accommodations. 

My exam format includes a timed PowerPoint presentation, listening section, or a video clip.  Can Student Accessibility Services administer my exam? 

Yes, the Watson Lab is equipped to provide testing for all of these formats. 

How do I make arrangements for a student to take an exam with Student Accessibility Services

This is typically a combined effort of the instructor and the student. The student’s role is to speak with you and coordinate a date, time, and place (of your arrangement or in the Watson Lab) to take the exam at least four school days in advance of the exam. The instructor’s role is to make sure the exam is administered and received thereafter. Instructors can hand-deliver exams to the administrative staff in Campus Center 107 or 109. Additionally, the instructor can send a student’s exam to [[testing]], which is received by the Student Accessibility Services office staff. We ask that the professor inform the SAS staff as to how he/she wants the exam returned. We want to avoid using interoffice mail for these sensitive documents whenever possible.

Does Student Accessibility Services recommend a statement be put on my syllabus about students with disabilities? What should it say?


Example syllabus statement:

Student Accessibility Services:

William & Mary accommodates students with disabilities in accordance with federal laws and university policy. Any student who feels s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a learning, psychiatric, physical, or chronic health diagnosis should contact Student Accessibility Services staff at 757-221-2512 or at [[sas]] to determine if accommodations are warranted and to obtain an official letter of accommodation. For more information, please see www.wm.edu/sas.