Faculty Rights and Responsibilities

Faculty rights:

  • To set academic standards
  • To evaluate the student based on the standards of the class and to grade accordingly
  • To advise the student to contact DSPS if the student requests an accommodation and the instructor has not received written notification from the DSPS office

Faculty responsibilities:

  • To work with DSPS to provide for accommodations in a fair and timely way
  • To adjust instruction without fundamentally altering the program
  • To provide handouts in a timely way for alternate media provision
  • To select textbooks in a timely way so that e-text can be ordered from the publisher
  • To respect and maintain a student's right to confidentiality about his/her disability by not announcing or discussing the student's disability in the presence of other students or staff
  • To contact the DSPS office if there is disagreement about the accommodation
  • To work with DSPS to ensure that instructional web pages are accessible to students who use assistive technology
  • To work with DSPS to ensure that instructional videos/DVDs are captioned
  • To post materials on school websites in an accessible format for students
  • To ensure that test accommodations do not impact lecture time or other course meeting requirements



What is the Instructor’s Role in Providing Accommodations? 

The accommodation process will vary depending upon the following factors: the type of accommodation provided, the setting for the accommodation, the student’s disability, and the instructor’s comfort level in working with students with disabilities.

The following examples demonstrate varying levels of instructor involvement in the accommodation process. The examples are not designed to guide the selection of accommodations for a particular student.

Accommodations which require little or no involvement by the instructor

Recording devices

Recording class lectures and discussions might be a necessary accommodation for some students. If DSPS approves use of a recording device for a student, faculty must allow it. Recording devices are specifically mentioned in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as a means of providing full participation in educational programs and activities. As a general rule, any classroom material on which a student typically would take notes might be recorded. Occasionally, classroom discussion reveals items of a personal nature about students. If open discussions tend to reveal personal information, it would be appropriate to ask the student with a disability to turn off the recording device during these discussions.


A student with a physical disability who cannot use the standard classroom desks might need to use a chair designated for that individual. The instructor’s role might be simply to assist the student in reserving the chair for his/her use.

Accommodations which require the instructor to be minimally involved

Note taking devices

A blind student might use a braille note taking device which stores information electronically. The instructor would need to remember to verbalize what s/he writes on the board or to describe verbally other items used in instruction.

Note takers

A note taker, who might or might not be a student enrolled in your course, attends each class session in order to take notes for a student with a disability.  You can assist by helping DSPS identify students who could act as note takers, some notetakers may qualify for priority course registration as an incentive (see DSPS).

Assistive Listening Devices

Some students with hearing impairments use assistive listening devices which amplify and transmit sound. Usually the person speaking wears some type of microphone, which transmits sound directly to a receiver being worn by the student. The instructor might be asked to wear a transmitter or microphone during class. Faculty might also need to restate questions or comments that are made by other students so that this information is transmitted to the student with the hearing impairment.

Interpreters or Real-Time Captioning

Students who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing might use an American Sign Language interpreter or a Real-Time Captioner who transcribes the lecture so that the student can access instruction and participate in classroom discussion. The instructor should speak directly to the person who is deaf or hard of hearing rather than to the interpreter.

Extended Time on Tests

When a recommended accommodation is additional time on tests, instructors might choose to proctor the exam themselves or arrangements can be made to have DSPS proctor the exams at a distraction-reduced site.

Accommodations which require more significant involvement by the instructor

Testing in Different Format or Alternative Methods of Recording Answers

In some circumstances, an alternative testing method will be an approved accommodation for a student. Some disabilities make it very difficult to accurately fill out a Scantron or other computer-scored answer sheet. On a multiple-choice exam an instructor might need to permit a student to circle his or her answers on the test document. The instructor will then need to hand-score the exam. Other examples include permitting a student to speak answers into a recording device or to a scribe or to type answers on a word processor.

Alternative testing formats

Permitting students to show their knowledge or mastery of the subject matter by using an alternative testing method might be a necessary accommodation, provided that the change in method doesn’t fundamentally alter the education program. For example, permitting an oral exam in lieu of a written exam might be permissible unless the purpose of the exam is also to test the writing ability of the student. Likewise, permitting an essay exam in lieu of a multiple-choice exam or vice versa might be acceptable in some situations.

Adaptations such as these ensure evaluation of the student’s achievement in the course, rather than reflecting the student’s impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills.

Providing Technical Vocabulary

Technical vocabulary might be unfamiliar to students and an interpreter. Preparing a list of such terms will help students and interpreters keep up with the lecture.

Accommodations and Academic Standards

Academic accommodations should not be used to lower academic standards. They are, rather, changes to a classroom environment or task that are necessary to provide equal opportunity to eligible students with disabilities. Accommodations are designed to assist students in overcoming functional limitations resulting from their disability. Students with disabilities will still be responsible for meeting course and conduct requirements.


What Constitutes a Fundamental Alteration?

The law states that “fundamental alteration” of a program is not required to accommodate students with disabilities. What are some examples and non-examples of fundamental alteration?

There are some situations where adjustments in teaching method or testing might not be required because they could be considered fundamental alterations.

Situation: A student taking a class in small engine repair who has limited use of his/her hands asks to take a written test instead of actually repairing an engine.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? The student’s request would not be accommodated if the essence of the course is to actually repair the engine, not talk or write about it.

Situation: A student tells you that s/he cannot complete writing assignments, with or without accommodations. The student requests that writing assignments not be included in his/her grade.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? If submitting writing assignments is an essential requirement of the class (for example, in English Composition!) there would be no legal mandate to comply with the student’s request to exclude those assignments from the grade.

Situation: A student wants to take all tests at home, although tests are usually administered at the college, or insists on taking tests only as open-book, although other students are not given that choice.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? Although a student’s disability might require extended time or administration of tests at a distraction-reduced site, it would not be appropriate for a student to request that all tests be administered as take-home or open book tests.

There are many other situations where adjustments in teaching method or materials might be required because they would not fundamentally alter instruction.

Situation: A blind student enrolls in a math class and requests that the instructor verbalize what s/he is writing on the board or overhead.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? The faculty member would be legally required (as well as ethically obliged) to make an adjustment in presentation of course material by verbalizing what is written on the board or overhead. Pointing and referring to “this” and “that” as written on the

board would not give the student with a visual disability equal access to the instruction. An added benefit is that verbalizing material rather than just writing it can assist all students because the information presented is more explicit.

Situation: A blind student who reads braille requests to have handouts a few days in advance of the class session so that they can be prepared in alternate format.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? The law says that “communication must be as effective as that provided to others.” DSPS will take class handouts and braille them. But to do that, we need at least 2 days lead time. Thus, the instructor would be expected to provide the handouts to the student in a timely way so that DSPS can braille the material and the student can have equal access to the class material at the same time as his/her peers. It would not be sufficient merely to distribute the handouts in class that day and tell the student, “This is the way I teach.”

Situation: A student with a visual or reading disability requests that the instructor provide information about the textbook that will be used in an upcoming semester.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? Faculty are expected to meet the bookstore deadlines for textbook adoption. Timely textbook adoption is critically important for students with visual or reading disabilities.

California law AB 422 became effective in January 2001. It requires that textbooks be provided in electronic text on disk or CD (e-text) to students with visual or reading disabilities so that the student can access the material using assistive technology.

If a student registers with our office and if e-text is considered an appropriate accommodation, DSPS works with the student to procure the e-text. However, that process might take 1-2 months or more. Timely textbook adoption (i.e. meeting the deadlines established by the bookstore) gives DSPS time to contact the publisher and arrange for e-text, or if that isn’t available, to scan the book. Delayed textbook adoption impedes that process, thus depriving the student of access to the textbook material.

Many situations involving accommodations are not so cut-and-dried. That is why DSPS specialists are available to discuss accommodation issues with you. If you are not comfortable with an accommodation request, please call us so that we can discuss it with you.

Alternative Testing, DSPS Proctored Exams

If a student is eligible for testing accommodations, the student will bring the Authorization to Administer Test form to you. The form will indicate accommodations which have been DSPS approved. Please take the time to read it, fill out any requested information, sign it, keep your copy, and then return it to the student. The student will return it to the DSPS office.

Because the DSPS office needs to arrange for many other testing accommodations, the student needs to return the testing form to the DSPS office at least 2 days in advance of their test (one week for finals). DSPS has limited amounts of space, so we need the advance notice to plan accordingly.

Alternative Media Services

Alternative Media Services allows students to obtain classroom materials in alternate form such as braille, tactile graphics, enlarged print and electronic text. Material converted to electronic text can be utilized in a variety of programs that allow for student accommodations (i.e., Dragon Naturally Speaking). For questions regarding alternative media, please contact the DSPS Alternative-Media Facilitator.

Cuesta College, room 3330

(805) 546-3100 ext 2825

(Thursdays - NCC ext 4228)

Guidelines for communicating with students with disabilities

Here are ten suggestions for how to effectively communicating with students with disabilities.

1. When talking with a person with a disability, speak directly to that person rather than through a companion or sign language interpreter.

2. When introduced to a person with a disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake hands. People with limited hand use or who wear an artificial limb can usually shake hands. (Shaking hands with the left hand is an acceptable greeting.)

3. When meeting a person who is visually impaired, always identify yourself and others who might be with you. When conversing in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking.

4. If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen to or ask for instructions.

5. Treat adults as adults. Address people who have disabilities by their first names only when extending the same familiarity to all others.

6. Leaning on or hanging on to a person’s wheelchair is similar to leaning or hanging on to a person and is generally considered annoying. The chair is part of the personal body space of the person who uses it. Never patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.

7. Listen attentively when you’re talking with a person who has difficulty speaking. Be patient and wait for the person to finish, rather than correcting or speaking for the person. If necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, a nod or shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Instead, repeat what you have understood and allow the person to respond. The response will clue you and guide your understanding.

8. When speaking with a person who uses a wheelchair or a person who uses crutches, place yourself at eye level in front of the person to facilitate the conversation.

9. To get the attention of a person who is deaf, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly, and expressively to determine if the person can read your lips. Not all people who are deaf can read lips. For those who do lip read, place yourself so that you face the light source and keep hands, cigarettes and food away from your mouth when speaking.

10. Above all, relax! It’s okay to use accepted common expressions, for example to invite a person in a wheelchair to “go for a walk” or to ask a blind person if he “sees what you mean.” Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re unsure of what to do. DSPS is committed to helping you and the student succeed together.

Examples of positive wording when referring to disability: Words with Dignity
Person with a disability
Person who has multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy
Person with epilepsy or seizure disorder
Person who has muscular dystrophy
Person who uses a wheelchair
Person who is blind
Person who is deaf or hard of hearing
Person who is unable to speak or uses synthetic speech
Person with psychological

Words to Avoid
Handicapped/crippled/the disabled; physically/mentally challenged
Afflicted by MS, victim of CP
Epileptic fits
Stricken by MD
Restricted/confined to a wheelchair; wheelchair bound. (The chair enables mobility. Without the chair, the person might be confined to bed.)
The blind
Suffers a hearing loss, the deaf
Dumb, mute. (Inability to speak does not indicate lowered intelligence.)
Crazy, insane, nuts


 Further Reading