6 Frequently asked questions

Q. Why do so many students need more time?

Some reasons are physical: The student might have reduced dexterity or require more frequent breaks to attend to physical needs. Others who might need more processing or “think time” include students with learning disabilities like dyslexia or dysgraphia, as well as autistic students or those with ADHD. Still others might need more time to manage the stress and anxiety that can come with depression and other mental health diagnoses. It helps to remember that taking timed tests and exams is a skill in itself, and one that not everyone excels at. Many students will be able to demonstrate their competency more effectively with more time – good is more important than fast.

Q. Why would a successful student even need accommodations?

Just because a student is “successful” doesn’t mean they don’t need accommodations. It might mean they are working so hard to keep their grades up that everything else in their life is falling apart, or that they are doing well academically but experiencing extreme anxiety or even trauma because they are masking a disability. You can’t tell whether or not a student has a disability or needs accommodations just by seeing what’s on the surface.

Q. How will I know when one of my students gets accommodations?

Accessibility services at your institution will let you know. Students must register with accessibility services to request and receive accommodations. Remember that you might not know what the student’s disability is or even who they are (for example, note taking services).

Q. How can I help my students with disabilities succeed?

Using a UDL approach to designing and delivering your course, and to evaluating student success, is the first step. Accommodations are designed to provide access, and student success is a collaborative approach. While students are responsible for their own success, they work with accessibility services, and faculty and staff. Communicate with the student, respect privacy and confidentiality, and treat students with disabilities as you would any other student.

Q. How can I learn more about making my classes and materials more accessible?

See the Learn More section for resources to make your classes and materials more accessible.

Q. How do I know if an accommodation is reasonable?

The accommodations provided by accessibility services are reasonable and appropriate, but some accommodation requests by students might not be. Accommodations in post-secondary education might also be quite different from those in high school. If you’re not sure, ask accessibility services!

Q. Will accommodations impact academic rigor and course outcomes?

Accommodations give students with disabilities equitable access to learning and academic achievement — that’s all. Students with disabilities are responsible for meeting course requirements and demonstrating competencies just as any other student would. Accommodations are NOT a “leg up”, an unfair advantage, or a weakening of academic standards. Like a pair of glasses makes it possible to see, academic accommodations make it possible to learn and demonstrate that learning.

Q. What if accommodations impact academic freedom?

You don’t have the academic freedom to deny a student’s accessibility needs.

Q. One of my students needs a note-taker. Can I announce this in class and ask for volunteers?

DO NOT disclose the identity of the student who needs a note-taker. Make a general announcement asking for volunteer note-takers, and refer any volunteers to accessibility services. You can also personally approach students you think would be suitable. Consider asking the class to post their notes on the course website – everyone can take turns – giving everyone access to the notes and allowing you to monitor how students are processing the course concepts. (UDL in action!)


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Accessible Teaching and Learning Copyright © by Nova Scotia Post-Secondary Accessibility Working Group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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