An approved adjustment or accommodation can only be denied if it can be shown that it will either:
1. Fundamentally alter the class, requirement(s), or program
2. Gives the student an unfair advantage over other students (exceeding equal access)
3. Results in undue financial or administrative burden (this is from the lens of the University as a whole and requires administrative consultation.)
It is imperative to understand that a denial of an academic adjustment/accommodation could mean a denial of a students civil rights.
Instructors Legal Responsibility
As a civil rights issue, you, as instructors must be fully prepared to justify decisions to the student, the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and/or the student’s lawyer. You, as the instructor must take the active role of denial rather than a passive one of simply disagreeing with the accessibility resources professional or the student. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) requires that any concerns about the application of accommodations within a course happen between instructors and the disability resources professional, not the student, due to the inherent power dynamic that exists. An accommodation is an exception to a rule, policy, or system. Therefore because something was always done a certain way, is not reason enough to deny an accommodation. Once you receive a copy of the Course Access Letter, this is simply a notification of the obligation that has already been approved. If you have concerns about this obligation and it's application to your course, you need to immediately involve the Student Accessibility Services team so that together we can go through the proper processes and procedures as outlined in "Guiding Questions for Assessing Accommodation & Accommodation Denial."
The role of the accessibility resource professional, is to problem solve, to remove barriers to access, which may mean changing the traditional way of performing a function. When making decisions about equal access, consider the guiding question: Is the denial defendable?
Guiding Questions for Assessing Accommodation & Accommodation Denial
1. What are the instructor’s general class policies and process and how do they affect equal access determinations? Do these policies include how each individual disabled student’s access needs are determined and met?
2. Does the granted accommodation directly correlate with the student’s disability or barrier?
3. How has the college’s accommodation(s) or modification(s) been taken into consideration? What is the disability resource office recommending and why?
4. What the class is designed to do and measure should be carefully examined. What knowledge is the professor or instructor teaching and what activities are being used to determine or measure the student’s understanding, implementation, and expression of gained knowledge? For example, what is the test truly measuring and how does the requested accommodation affect or not affect this measurement?
5. Does the requested accommodation lower the learning standards? If so, exactly how?
6. Does the requested accommodation fundamentally alter the class requirement(s)? If so, be very detailed in describing how this is the case.
7. Does the request give the student an unfair advantage over other students? If so, exactly how? Please note that giving the student equal access to remove barriers does not provide an unfair advantage. The accommodation must actually exceed equal access by giving the student an unfair edge.
8. Would the accommodation result in undue financial or administrative burden? If so, be very specific in describing how. Please note that burden determination must involve the head of the college or his or her designee after considering all resources available for use in the funding and operation of the service, program, or activity, and must be accompanied by a written statement of the reasons for reaching that conclusion.
9. What other equally effective accommodation can be considered and provided that will offer equal access for the student if the instructor denies the requested accommodation?
10. Does the appeal process afford immediate opportunity for the student to have their petition addressed in a timely manner in order to prevent irreparable harm to the student if their appeal prevails.
Essential requirements should be carefully reviewed according to these procedural guidelines. This process should include debate about the nature and fundamental requirements of the particular class or program, subjecting it to a substantive review.