Faculty and staff frequently asked questions

A student says they need accommodations for a disability. What should I tell the student?

First, ask the student if they have registered with the Access Center and have been approved for accommodations. If they have not registered and been approved for accommodations, please provide students with the Access Center contact information, or direct them to the Access Center website where they can fill out an Access Center New Student Application for Access Services to get started.

Once this application has been received, the student will be contacted to set up an appointment with the Access Center Coordinator. The Access Center Coordinator will meet with the student and review documentation to determine reasonable accommodations for the purpose of reducing or removing environmental barriers impacting the student’s equitable access.

Students may also contact the Access Center even if they are unsure they will qualify for accommodations. They may request to meet with the Access Center Coordinator for a 30-minute informational appointment to learn more.

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I suspect a student in my class has a disability. What are my next steps?

Some disabilities are evident, such as with students who are deaf, blind or have mobility access needs. However, there may be times when you notice students exhibiting certain behaviors or reactions that may be substantially impacting their academic performance. These might include, but are not limited to: restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, asking excessive questions, poor memory, increased anxiety, irritability, panic, difficulty with social situations, lack of attendance or failing grades. These behaviors may be symptoms related to a hidden disability.

Make a referral

If you suspect a student may have a disability, you are encouraged to set up a one-on-one meeting with the student.
You might discretely say:

  • “Did you know that we have disability Access Services in our Access Center? You might want to contact them to see if you qualify for accommodations.”
  • “That is a concern that the staff in the Access Center would be happy to discuss with you. Do you know where that office is located and how to contact them?”

Please provide students with the Access Center contact information, or direct them to the Access Center website where they can apply for accommodations and fill out the Access Center New Student Application. You are also encouraged to give the student a list of campus resources to encourage their success. You can also provide the student with an Access Center brochure. Brochures are available from the Access Center upon request.

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What is my responsibility for maintaining confidentiality about a student’s disability?

Faculty are not to request documentation from the student to verify their disability. Nor should you ask students the specifics of their disability. Students are not obligated to share information about their disability or why they are receiving accommodations. However, if students choose to disclose the impact of their disability with you, this information should be treated confidentially.

You may discuss the student’s accommodations with the student. However, you are not to discuss a student’s accommodations with other faculty, staff or students or allow accommodation information, such as the faculty notification letter, to be in view of others (e.g., as on your desk or podium). If a student approaches you to discuss their accommodations in the presence of others, please invite them to meet privately with you, rather than continue the conversation in front of others. If you have questions about a student’s accommodations, you may discuss these with the Access Center Coordinator.

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How will I know if a student has accommodations?

After a student has applied, met with the Access Center Coordinator and has been approved for accommodations, instructors will receive an official email titled: “Notification of Accommodations.” This Faculty Notification Letter (FNL) is automatically sent on the first day of class, or 48 hours after the student has selected their approved accommodations from MyAccess. This official notification lets instructors know there is a student in their class requiring accommodations, what those accommodations are and how faculty are to proceed.

Students will also receive copies of the Faculty Notification Letter as well. For ease of communication, we ask that faculty forward the FNL to lab instructors or teaching assistants.

Some accommodations require interactive discussions between the faculty member, the student and the Access Center Coordinator. Students are encouraged to discuss their accommodations with their instructors. They are informed that failure to do so may result in delays or an inability to provide accommodations. As a reminder, Faculty may not ask students the specifics of their disability. However, if students choose to disclose the functional limitations of their disability with you, this information should be treated confidentially.

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Do I need to sign accommodation forms?

Faculty will no longer receive Letters of Accommodations (LOAs) to sign. These were previously brought to you by students for you to sign and return to the Access Center. Faculty now automatically receive an official Faculty Notification Letter (Notification of Accommodations) via email, once a student has selected their approved accommodations online through MyAccess.

There are a few forms (Alternative Testing Agreement (remote), Alternative Testing Agreement (on campus), Flexible Attendance and Flexible Assignment Deadlines forms) that require your prompt attention and completion in order for students to receive their accommodations. While students are not expected to negotiate their approved accommodations, some accommodations may require discussion between faculty and student such as alternatives to presentations or alternative print needs, to determine best fit for the student.

If a student has been approved for flexible attendance and/or flexible assignment deadlines, instructors are to meet privately with the student, discuss, complete and sign these forms, which will be given to you by the student. When done, please make a copy for yourself and return these forms to the student. It is then the student’s responsibility to bring a copy of these completed flexible agreement forms to the Access Center.

If you need assistance, have questions or concerns or believe that the accommodation granted presents a fundamental alteration to the academic integrity of the course, please speak directly to the Access Center Coordinator and not to the student in question. Please contact the Access Center Coordinator at 360-546-9138 for consultation.

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What should I do if I believe an accommodation fundamentally alters an essential element of my course?

Academic adjustments listed in the student’s Faculty Notification Letter are open for discussion. You can and should bring your concerns about specific accommodations to the Access Advisor working with your student. It may be that a different accommodation would be better suited to your particular course and the Access Advisor can help develop the alternative.

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Do I have to alter my attendance policy?

Federal law requires colleges and universities to consider reasonable modification of attendance policies if needed to accommodate a student’s disability. The U.S. Department of Education has identified several factors to consider to help evaluate whether or not Flexible Attendance is reasonable. The Access Center Coordinator/Advisor is also available to consult with faculty when determining if flexible attendance is reasonable.

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What if a student notifies me of a needed accommodation late in the semester?

Students can request accommodations from the Access Center or request accommodation adjustments at any time, not just before, or at the beginning of a semester. There are numerous reasons why students make a late request. Perhaps they could not get documentation of their disability any earlier and, therefore, could not initiate accommodations earlier. Some students try to take a class without accommodations but find that they aren't doing well and realize they may need accommodations. Some students may need accommodations adjustments after checking in with the Access Advisor.

On the other hand, there may be some situations where students make a request for accommodations so late that appropriate arrangements cannot practically or reasonably be set up. The University is obligated to provide accommodations only at the point when a student makes a request, and you and the Access Center are able to make appropriate arrangements.

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I've been debating about the textbook and materials I want to use. When do I have to provide this to the Access Center?

As soon as possible. Students need to be able to access their textbooks at the same time as others do in the class. By delaying the selection of textbooks, the Access Center may not be able to get material converted to an appropriate format in a timely fashion. This means students may have to start the semester without access to their textbooks.

Textbook publishers are often not able to provide books in digital formats that are usable or acquired in time for a course. Publishers do grant authorization to create digital copies of traditional texts for eligible students with disabilities. However, textbook conversion is a time-consuming, labor-intensive task. The sooner you can identify your textbooks and materials, the quicker we can work on conversions.

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Can I provide accommodations for a student without using the Access Center?

Please connect with the Access Center Coordinator before providing your own accommodations to a student. Over accommodation can be as problematic as under accommodation, especially when the student interprets the accommodation as university-sanctioned or expects other instructors to accommodate them in the same ways without formal approval.

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Can any student take exams in the Access Center testing room?

No, only students who are registered with the Access Center and approved for alternative testing services accommodations may take exam in the Alternative Testing Services classroom. Approved students must also use their MyAccess dashboard to schedule their exams with the Alternative Testing Services classroom at least 3 business days in advance (excluding evenings, weekends, and holidays) and 10 days in advance for finals.

COVID-19: Learn more about testing procedures during the time of remote learning.

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What is my responsibility if a student has testing accommodations?

COVID-19: By order of the governor and due to COVID-19, the Access Center on WSU Vancouver campus will be closed until further notice.

  • No tests proctored in person at this time. Access staff will be working remotely from home until we are able to safely return to campus.
  • Faculty are still to give Alternative Testing accommodations to students online (i.e. extended time added to Blackboard, Canvas, etc.)

Alternately, a student may take their exams at the Access Center when we can all safely return to campus. Faculty members may choose to proctor students within their department as long as they are able to provide the student with their accurate exam extensions and other testing accommodations that may be listed in Faculty Notification Letter.

Instructors are responsible for:

  • Completing an Alternative Testing Agreement (ATA) so that students can schedule their exams in the Access Center via MyAccess. The ATA provides the Access Center testing staff with instructions regarding any testing parameters (such as memory aids or notes), how you can be contacted if any questions arise, how the exam will be submitted and how it should be returned. A student cannot schedule their exams via MyAccess until the instructor completes the ATA.
  • Providing testing materials to the Access Center a minimum of 48 hours in advance of the exam so that our testing staff can prepare the exams for students in a timely manner.

If you have any testing questions, you may contact van.testing.access@wsu.edu.

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Do testing accommodations also apply to quizzes, pop quizzes and clicker tests?

Yes, testing accommodations apply to any graded evaluation whether they are given virtually or in person. For pop quizzes, please notify the Access Center testing staff at van.testing.access@wsu.edu beforehand and let the student know they may be directed to check-in with the Access Center testing staff so that alternative arrangements can be arranged with their accommodations. Note that students may opt out of using their accommodations for testing.

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Does a student’s testing accommodations apply for Global Campus courses?

Yes. For Global Campus courses, or courses with proctored on-line exams, students are required to use Global Campus Proctoring Services (GCPS). Unless informed to do otherwise by their instructor, students must contact GCPS directly to schedule exams and let them know what kind of proctoring they choose. The student will choose between a third-party online proctoring service or to be supervised by an on-site proctor.

Instructors responsibilities:

Instructors with Global Campus/Distance Learning courses, or whose course exams are proctored through the third-party virtual proctoring service must:

  • Respond to the Alternative Testing Agreement by checking the box that says “I will be proctoring my own exams” if given this link. This will prevent instructors from receiving multiple emails which do not pertain to testing accommodations in the online/distance environment.
  • Many accommodations involve extra time (e.g., double time) to take online exams. Instructors need to set up those extended time accommodations for each exam in their course.
  • GCPS will reach out regarding any special circumstances regarding proctoring that will need to be put in place for a student’s accommodations.
  • More information regarding Faculty Responsibilities for Global Campus proctored exams can be found at https://gcps.wsu.edu/for-faculty/faculty-responsibilities/.

Additional Accommodation Support: For assistance with other types of accommodation support (e.g. Captioning for Zoom meetings or Panopto video recordings) in Global Campus courses, please contact Academic Outreach and Innovation at accommodationsupport.aoi@wsu.edu.

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Can I post materials and links to Blackboard/Canvas if they are not accessible?

No. A person with a disability should be able to obtain and have access to information as fully, equally and independently as a person without a disability. Materials should not be made available if all students will not have a fair and equal opportunity to view them at the same time. For example, if a video is not closed captioned, do not post it on Blackboard/Canvas until it has been captioned. Please remove inaccessible materials and submit a Closed Captioning Request Form.

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How can I acquire closed captioning for videos for a course?

You may submit a request for closed captioning to IT. Typically, IT requires receiving the request two weeks before the video is posted/made available to the class. Especially long videos may require more than a two-week notice.

For short online videos faculty are always encouraged to close caption videos on their own using a system called Amara. Learn how Amara works (video).

You may also consider an alternate course material that meets your learning objectives and is accessible. Consult with the Reference Librarian, for assistance in locating accessible materials.

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A non-native speaking student has asked to get a copy of the notes that are provided to a fellow student as coordinated by the Access Center. What should I do?

Notetaking through the Access Center is provided exclusively to students who have a documented disability and who have been approved for notetaking as an accommodation. Notes or transcripts from a student’s notetaker or real-time captioner are not to be provided to other students who are not registered with the Access Center. If the non-native speaking student needs assistance with notetaking, please refer them to the Access Center to apply for accommodations.

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What should I do if a student arrives in my class with a service animal?

Under the ADA law, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The ADA does not require that animals be certified as service animals.

There are two questions you can ask the student with a service animal:

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

If the answer to the first question is yes and the student is able to describe a task(s) in response to the second question, the animal is a Service Animal and must be allowed to accompany the student unless an exception discussed below applies.

Faculty/Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the service animal, ask that the animal demonstrate its task or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability. Service animals do not have to wear a vest or patch or specific harness identifying them as service animals.

Service animals must be under the care and control of their owner at all times. This includes feeding, toileting and cleaning up after their animal. The student owners are responsible for harnessing, leashing or tethering the service animal, unless an individual’s disability precludes the use of a restraint or if the restraint would interfere with the service animal's safe, effective performance of work or tasks.

If a service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, staff may request that the animal be removed from the premises. A service animal can also be removed if it is not housebroken, if it fundamentally changes the nature of the classroom, course or activity, or if its presence poses a direct threat to another’s health, safety or property.

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What are the procedures in the event of a medical emergency during class?

Due to the nature of a given disability, there may be some students that provide faculty with a safety plan or emergency evacuation assistance.

In the event of an emergency, use the classroom phone or a cell phone to call 911. The 911 operators will notify a Campus Security office. Be prepared to give your location and the nature of the emergency. Afterwards, you may be required to submit an Incident Report.

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What are some general modifications I might consider to make my courses more accessible for all students?

The Access Center encourages instructors to always consider accessibility and inclusion, regardless of whether or not there is a student in your course with a disability. One way to do so is to shift to a more inclusive universal design.

Universal design is the process of creating a course or environment that can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.

Examples of universal design include:

  • Providing multiple formats of instruction and assessment of knowledge
  • Consider alternatives to online discussions or small group presentations
  • Be flexible with time and due dates
  • Record your lectures and make them available to all students
  • Closed captioning for all recorded lectures and assigned videos
  • Assign readings that are easily accessible as audio texts
  • Electronic Word docs and PDFs that are compatible with screen readers (rather that scans, photocopies, or images of text).
  • Composing math assignments and exams in MathML in order to be accessible with screen readers
  • Making syllabi available to students prior to the start of the semester

Additional Help and Resources

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If I have questions or concerns, with whom can I discuss a student’s disability accommodations?

The Access Center Coordinator is available for consultations via email, phone or Zoom. You may refer students to contact the Access Center at van.access.center@wsu.edu or call 360-546-9128 to set up an informational appointment. Please remember that any information the student shares with you should treated confidentially. Do not discuss disability accommodations with the student in front of the class or allow Faculty Notification Letters or other student accommodation information to be in places where others may see them.

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