Information for Faculty About Academic Accommodations


I. General information about policies and procedures for students with disabilities:

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Williams College is required to provide reasonable accommodations to insure equal access to our offerings for students with documented disabilities as long as the accommodations do not fundamentally alter the integrity of any course or program of study. The College recognizes and supports the standards set forth in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as amended and similar state laws, which are designed to eliminate discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities.  Disabilities may include physical or mental impairments which substantially limit one or more of a person’s major life activities, and which necessitate modifications to facilities, programs, or services to the College. Williams College is committed to making the campus and its facilities accessible as required by applicable laws.

Williams College’s Policies and Procedures Regarding Students with Disabilities states:  “The Williams College community includes students with documented disabilities who may require accommodations.  Although Williams operates no specifically structured academic programs for individuals with disabilities, the College is committed to providing support services and reasonable accommodations to any students who need them.  Williams endeavors to provide equal access to campus programs and activities for all members of the college community. The Director of Academic Resources coordinates the various accommodations required to make students’ educational experiences successful. The Disabilities and Accommodations Advisory Group (DAAG), which includes faculty and administrative staff, provides policy guidance to the Director, Deans, and other governing bodies.” 

The Academic Resources office has a number of programs and services that it provides to ALL students and shares responsibility for the provision of academic accommodations under ADA.  Students requesting academic accommodations submit a professional assessment of their disabilities to the office of Academic Resources for review. The Director of Academic Resources discusses the request with the student, the professional providing the assessment, our Health or Psychological Services Center professionals, and/or outside disabilities consultants as necessary in order to determine how to meet Williams College’s legal obligation appropriately.  The Director of Academic Resources is the current 504 Compliance officer for students and has oversight of the provision of all accommodations inclusive of housing, dining, emergency adaptive equipment, and physical access. The Director of Academic Resources who reports to the Dean of the College processes requests for academic accommodations under ADA.

Academic accommodations are adjustments that provide equal academic opportunity for students with disabilities.  Academic accommodations are designed to provide equal access to courses and programs, but they do not guarantee an outcome or level achievement.  Academic accommodations shall be reasonable.  They need not be provided when the accommodation would result in a fundamental alteration of the program or impose an undue financial or administrative burden on the institution.  Academic Accommodations are only considered upon a formal voluntary request to the Academic Resources office by the student.  No accommodations are forced on any student who is responsible for requesting academic accommodations each semester that they wish to receive such accommodations.

All academic accommodations are determined as part of an interactive and collaborative process. During such a process, Academic Resources’ staff will work collaboratively with students to determine how to reasonably accommodate students through possible academic adjustments and/or educational auxiliary aids.  This interactive and collaborative process requires that students self-advocate and meet with an Academic Resources staff to discuss their request for services prior to a decision being rendered by Academic Resources.  Students need to initiate contact with the Academic Resources Office for each semester they are requesting academic accommodations.  Academic Accommodations with the exception of Note Takers during any given semester cannot be granted retroactively.

II. Frequently Asked Questions for Faculty:

Q:          What accommodations are allowed in the postsecondary setting/at Williams College?

A:          According to federal law, accommodations in the post-secondary setting commonly refer to: a) modifications to the manner of instruction in order to provide equal access to educational materials and b) modification to the manner of testing or measuring competence in a particular course.

Depending on the nature of the disability and its impact on major life activities, a student may need instructional materials provided in an alternative format (enlargement of handouts, books on tape/CD/audio files, Braille) or may need an auxiliary aid (Lecture Microphone as part of a closed FM radio system, scanning text reader, text to voice software) or services (sign language interpreters).  Students with learning disabilities, for example may need extra time for exams or permission to use a lap-top/word-processor for writing essay exams or taking notes.

Students with disabilities are expected to meet the same standards of academic performance as other students but may be allowed an accommodation in the manner in which performance is measured, for example, allowing time and one half or double time for testing or allowing a Reader for exams.  Such accommodations are allowed so that it is academic competency which is measured rather than the effects of the disability.  The most common accommodation granted in postsecondary institutions is “extended time for quizzes and exams” since many types of disabilities affect the capability of retrieving and expressing information in time limits.

Each academic accommodation is evaluated and granted individually; accommodations are not granted as a package.  Accommodations are based on the functional limitations specified in the documentation submitted by each individual student to Academic Resources.  Confidential Diagnostic information is not included in any academic accommodation letters to faculty and each student is advised that s/he need not share that confidential information.

Q. How will I know which of my students are eligible for accommodations, and which accommodations to grant them?

Students who are granted accommodations are provided with letters from the Director of Academic Resources explaining their accommodations, and are instructed to give those letters to their professors.  The receipt of the letter, which is hand-delivered by the student to the respective faculty from the director, indicates that the appropriate protocols under the law have been met for determining a student’s eligibility under ADA.   Letters to faculty do not describe the student’s disability, illness or condition.  That information is protected by law.  Some students choose to disclose additional information to faculty, but they are not required or advised to do so.

Q. What should I do if I’m concerned that an accommodation described in the letter is not appropriate for my class?

Faculty should consult with Academic Resources as soon as possible if there is any question or concern about an accommodation or whether it should be provided.  If a faculty member has a concern that a specific academic accommodation may fundamentally alter the academic integrity or nature of the course, the instructor should contact Academic Resources as soon as possible so that the concern may be addressed.

The Director of Academic Resources is always willing to brainstorm with faculty possible ways for the College to meet its obligations under ADA.

Q. My exam is tonight and three students just gave me their letters documenting accommodations!  What should I do?

Academic accommodations are ideally requested by the student in a timely manner which will allow the Director to review documentation, determine eligibility, and establish the accommodations.  Since it is the student’s responsibility to request academic accommodations each semester that s/he feels it is necessary occasionally there are some students who do not make the semester request early in the semester.   Some students (especially first year students or students with new conditions or injuries) do not become aware of their need for accommodations until after the start of the term.

On any occasion that a faculty member has not been given reasonable notification (within ten business days of an exam) for example of extended time on quizzes or exams and/or the use of a separate room for quizzes and exam it is within the faculty member’s discretion to not grant said accommodation for an immediately upcoming exam, but the faculty member is expected to grant the accommodation on any subsequent exams.


More Detailed Information on Implementing Particular Academic Accommodations

  • Extended time for exams, quizzes, and in-class written assignments is the most commonly recommended academic accommodation because of its relevance to a range of disabilities.  Extended time does not mean “unlimited time” or “untimed test.” Academic Resources allows extended time in increments of time and one-half or double time.  Increments are based on functional limitations described in the documentation and/or specific recommendation by the qualified diagnostician.  Most students who are allowed extra time receive time and one-half.  Extra time may be allotted for in class assignments, essays, or quizzes, but does not include 24 hour take home exams. Twenty four hour take home exams comply with Universal Design meaning extended time is built in and afforded every student taking the exam..  Extra time on quizzes and exams affords a corrective for specific disabilities and thus permits a more accurate measure of acquired knowledge. Multiple students who are eligible for extended time in a given course at the professor’s discretion may be tested in the same exam space unless a student specifically is entitled to a separate exam space.  Extended time can be accommodated in several ways. If both the professor and the student and the room are available the student may come early and continue through the exam period with others in the class. The student can come at the regular time beginning the exam during the scheduled time with others in the class and staying longer or a third time is scheduled that is convenient for both the instructor and the student or the instructor decides to allow the student to take the exam under the Honor Code without a proctor or the instructor can make arrangements for someone to proctor the student in their absence during the exam. 

Academic Resources cannot proctor exams, as we do not have staff to do so

  • Separate Room for quizzes and exams affords a distraction-reduced/minimized testing location as an effective accommodation for students with certain neurological, psychological, or attention deficit disorders.  It is necessary in identified situations to minimize distractions to the student or to other exam takers and/or to afford the approved student opportunities to stretch, take breaks, talk out loud, move around, etc.  A distraction-reduced location should be free of ringing telephones, conversations, rustling of chairs, coughing, excessive movement, and traffic.  Increasingly locations have become a challenge.  Often the professor cannot nor is s/he expected to be present to answer any questions.  Students in many cases are permitted at the professor’s discretion to take the exams under the College’s Honor Code.  Academic Resources has made prior arrangements with the Library for students to access the locked study rooms when available as exam spaces by requesting access at the Circulation Desks.   Most times faculty members have been able to locate spaces themselves where possible near the testing room. The Registrar’s Office is willing to offer any assistance possible to locate and identify available rooms.  In the case of 24 hour, self-scheduled exams the Registrar’s Office is notified in writing by the office of Academic Resources of each student who has been approved for extended time, separate room, use of assistive technology or other accommodations.  The Director informs each student that if they elect to use the academic accommodation of Separate room for quizzes and exams it may mean that the professor is not present to answer any questions or clarify any instructions during the examination. 

Academic Resources cannot proctor exams, as we do not have staff to do so.

  • Alternative Testing affords a student who permanently or temporarily has very restricted or no use of their dominant hand/wrist/arm/shoulder that impedes writing/drawing and/or typing.  In most instances voice to text software can be provided by the Academic Resources office allowing the student the ability to speak into a computer that will type what they say.  This technology is limited when it comes to drawing graphs and/or using chemical and other notations.  In some situations faculty have determined that an oral exam might substitute to assessing the student’s mastery of the course material.
  • Keyboard-Class/Exam is an effective accommodation for some students with certain neurological, physical, psychological and/or attention deficit disorders.  An exception needs to be granted if there is a course policy restricting or banning lap top use.  Students if eligible for this accommodations are advised by the Director that the use of a laptop is restricted to note taking and/or responding to exam questions. That use beyond this for social media or inappropriate searches can result in loss of use of this as an academic accommodation and in some cases possible violation of the Academic Honor Code.
  • Enlarge Print Text required for some students with visual disabilities. The Academic Resources office can upon request from any eligible student provide assistance with text books, course packets, and any large amount of written material required and/or recommended for the course. Generally the Professor and/or department will enlarge print for printed quizzes and exams.
  • Note Taker in Class required for some students with neurological, physical, psychological, and/or attention deficit disorders.  When assessed by the appropriate diagnostic professionals as a necessary accommodation and requested by the student for a specific course or courses the office of Academic Resources makes arrangements to secure the paid services of another student enrolled in the same course at the same time to copy their legible notes for the course on a regular basis. The student hired does not know the confidential identity of the student receive notes, unless the recipient elects to identify themselves to the note taker.  Notes are copied in the Academic Resources Office and placed in the appropriate in-office slot for each recipient.  Copies of the notes are not kept by the Academic Resources office.  In some situations notes may be provided to several eligible students in the same course. It is the responsibility of the recipient to alert the Academic Resources staff about any Concerns about the quality of the notes or missing notes.  Once such notification is received Office staff will work to resolve the matter as soon as possible and in some cases will attempt to hire a new note taker.  Although it is neither expected nor necessary, if a faculty member wishes to be involved in the process by recommending a note taker and/or assessing the quality of the notes that are being received, the office appreciates any such assistance.  Again, it is imperative under the law that the identity of the individual receiving notes be kept in confidence and not shared with other students in the course include the note taker.

Lecture Microphone is required for some students with specific hearing disabilities.  The course professor is asked to wear a microphone which is provided by the student with assistance from the Academic Resources office for the professor to wear throughout the time period that the student is present in the class.  The microphone amplifies speech that goes directly to a hearing device worn by the student.  In some instances it may be helpful if any questions or comments that come from other members in the course are repeated by the professor so that the student with the hearing disability is able to more fully participate in the class. The student would provide the microphone at the beginning of class and collect it at the end of the class to use in the next class.

  • Reader for Exam some students with permanent or temporary visual,

neurological and/or other physical disabilities may require someone to read the exam aloud to them as they respond in writing.

  • Reduced Course load is the most infrequently granted academic accommodations and held to the strictest institutional review process, because it requires a waiver of the college rule that student must pass four courses each semester to remain in good academic standing.    These requests must be approved by the Disability Accommodation Advisory Group and then voted by the Committee on Academic Standing.  As of 8/25/14 approximately 25 current Williams students have been approved for this accommodation.  The students may have a physical, psychological, neurological and/or learning disability.
  • Scribe for Class or Exam – occasionally as a result of a permanent condition and/or a temporary injury student is unable to use their dominate hand to write or type.  Upon request after the vetting process Academic Resources can make adaptive software available to eligible students affording them voice to text recognition.  This may mean if a student is required to take an exam they will require a separate room so as not to distract/disturb while they are talking other students taking the exam.  Note takers may be identified and provided by the our office and in some cases a use of a lap top computer during class maximizing the student ability to take his or her own notes may also be found necessary by the Academic Resources office.
  • Preferential Seating is occasionally necessary to accommodate a student with a hearing, visual or distraction challenge.  The student in question is thought to benefit from seating that will maximize their access.
  • Tape Record Class – Massachusetts law requires permission from anyone being recorded. As Note takers are available in most cases and student are present In the course the need to record the class has not often arisen except in cases where the student due to medical treatment, etc. will be away from the course for a minimal amount of time and even with notes would benefit from hearing the missed class in its entirety to supplement the notes that will be provided.
  • Interpreter Services – This accommodation is provided for students who have limited hearing.
  • Books on Tape – Students with visual or reading disabilities may benefit from recordings of the class readings.  When this accommodation is approved, the Academic Resources office will request copies of the readings and will make recordings available for the student.
  • Copy of Projected Material – Students who are granted this accommodation should receive copies of the materials projected by the faculty member in class.  These can be photocopied and given to the student, or sent to them electronically, whichever is more convenient for the faculty member.

 Prepared by: Joyce P. Foster, Ph.D., Williams College  October, 2014