Faculty Guide to Accommodating Absences
A limited adjustment to the stated attendance policy accommodation does not mean that unlimited absences can be permitted. The number of additional absences a student may be allowed as a reasonable accommodation will be determined on a case-by-case basis for each course in consultation with the instructor, depending on the student’s individual disability limitations, the nature of the course, and the degree to which class attendance is an essential requirement of the specific course. Attendance accommodations are not retroactive, unless an exception has been made. Exception to the attendance policy does not mean exception to any of the other academic requirements of the course. Students are required to fulfill all course requirements and will be held to the same evaluation standards as specified in the course syllabus. It is the student’s responsibility to obtain the material and notes from missed classes, to remain engaged in the course, and to make up the work missed. Absences for non-disability related reasons will not be excused by the accommodation. Students who are approved for an exception to the attendance policy are expected to contact instructors in advance of an anticipated absence, if possible. This expectation is particularly important if the anticipated absence will result in the student missing a quiz or exam or a deadline for submitting an assignment. For emergencies or unexpected disability-related absences, students should inform instructors as soon as possible to explain their absence and to discuss make-up work, if applicable. Students should be aware that exception to the attendance policy may not be possible in every course because class attendance is an essential and integral part of some courses. In the event that an exception is not granted by the DSO, students should consult with their Access Consultant and academic advisor to discuss alternate course options.
Is Attendance Essential?
In every course, the instructor identifies and defines the essential course outcomes and measures whether they have been met. In addition, the instructor determines the acceptable number of excused absences in light of these requirements. Instructors are neither expected to compromise the essential course requirements nor to fundamentally alter the course regardless of the student’s medical condition; however, instructors must consider the following questions to determine if attendance is truly essential:
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method of learning?
- Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students and among the students themselves?
- Do student contributions in class constitute a significant component of the learning process?
- To what degree does a student’s failure to attend class constitute a significant loss of the educational experience of other students in the class?
- What does the course description and syllabus say regarding attendance?
- What is the method by which the final course grade is calculated?
If an instructor determines that flexibility is not possible they should contact the Access Consultant listed in the DSO Letter of Accommodation to discuss the decision. The Access Consultant will notify the student that the modification is not granted.
Reasonable Attendance Adjustment Plan
If limited adjustment to the attendance policy is granted, the DSO strongly recommends instructors and students create a Reasonable Attendance Adjustment Plan. The plan allows both student and instructor understand the expectations when a student may need to miss a class due to disability reasons. The DSO has examples of previous plans available for convenience. In addition, DSO Access Consultants are available to consult with instructors and students about possible adjustments in the creation of the Reasonable Attendance Adjustment Plan.
Although instructors should not compromise academic standards, they are asked whenever possible to design courses that include multiple, flexible options to allow all students to participate. See Universal Design.
DELTA offers assistance to instructors seeking ways to minimize course disruption when students miss classes. Instructors can contact DELTA’s LearnTech service (firstname.lastname@example.org; 919.513.7094) to obtain information and assistance with technology solutions such as learning management systems, online conferencing tools, discussion boards, blogs, etc.
Making Up Work
In most cases, when disability absence occurs, instructors have agreed to reasonably alternative but equivalent ways for students to successfully complete essential course requirements without compromising course standards. This is usually best accomplished by the student, instructor and DSO Access Consultant working together as a team. Some methods that may be used and considered include:
- Assigning comparable make-up work.
- Altering timelines for coursework and tests.
- Allowing students to attend essential lectures or make up missed in-class activities given during other course sections.
- Giving students permission, when possible, to enroll in alternate sections of the course, such as an online section.
- Giving students an incomplete grade to allow an opportunity to fulfill course requirements through independent study or by attending class lectures the following semester.
- Allowing students to withdraw from the class so they can repeat the class during another semester when their medical condition has stabilized.
- If the student is enrolled in the course and no reasonable adjustment can be found, withdrawal may be the only option to avoid academic penalty.