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Frequently Asked Questions

What are disability accommodations?

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, ADHD, mental or emotional health diagnoses, and other chronic health problems that are not as apparent to the layperson. We grant accommodations for students so they can access the educational environment in a fair way, essentially to “level the playing field.” Accommodations allow students with disabilities equal access, but not to the point of unfair advantage.

Specific accommodations vary according to student needs based on their condition(s). SAS 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, university accommodations may be similar to those they have received, but there can be differences reflective of differences in the college environment. For students who live on campus, SAS provides accommodations related to living in on-campus housing.

How does SAS determine appropriate accommodations?

Students must register with SAS by providing official documentation of a disability. Recommended accommodations noted in evaluations or health provider’s letters assist the SAS staff to determine the appropriate accommodations for the studentIn-person contact with the student is an important part of the decision process. This engagement provides us more information, such as how a student’s condition affects them in the classroom or on campus, what has, and has not, worked for them in the past, and the student’s current needs.

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

SAS sends letters via email to each faculty member who has a student who has received accommodations. We also encourage students to advocate for themselves. In order to “activate” any accommodations that are provided by a course instructor, the student must contact you to discuss implementing these accommodations.

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

We welcome you to contact our office with any concerns regarding accommodations, stated or not stated officially in a letter. We also encourage the student to contact us if they need to discuss a revision of their accommodations if they are 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 us. We will work with the instructor and the student to make the appropriate adjustments if needed in each situation.

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

In order to ensure equitable and appropriate accommodation, students must contact us so we can formally evaluate their requests. Doing so also ensures that we can keep the student “in the loop” and make them aware of supports they may need 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. Students with certain disabilities can suffer academic disadvantages under such conditions. The student may need a private testing environment for concentration, extended time for concentration, a computer for written output, or an orally-administered exam due to a visual impairment, for example. Providing these supports allows the student to demonstrate their mastery of the content under conditions that compensate for the impact of their disability.

Can I administer my exam with accommodations myself?

Unless the student needs an environment or accommodations that an instructor is unable to provide, the answer is “yes.” You can arrange with the student how to administer the exam with appropriate accommodations. Otherwise, the Watson Testing Center in Campus Center 110 is available and equipped with various technology and resources to accommodate student needs, including specific testing accommodations. Note that our center is open 8-5 on weekdays only.

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

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

How do I make arrangements for a student to take an exam with SAS?

Scheduling is typically a combined effort of the instructor and the student. The student’s role is to communicate with you in advance to coordinate a date, time, and place (of your arrangement or in the Watson Center) to take the exam at least four working days in advance of the exam. Your role is to make sure the exam is received by SAS in advance of the scheduled time for administration of the exam. You can upload exams to Accommodate, hand-deliver to the staff in Campus Center  109, or, email the student’s exam to testing@wm.edu. We ask that you inform our staff as to how you want the exam returned. Typically we do not use interoffice mail for these sensitive documents.

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

Yes!

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@wm.edu to determine if accommodations are warranted and to obtain an official letter of accommodation. For more information, please see www.wm.edu/sas.

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