What do I do if a student discloses a disability?
If a student discloses a disability and inquires about accommodations
there are a few ways in which to approach this conversation:
If the student discloses a disability and has met with a DSR Program
Advisor (and has been approved for accommodations in the classroom)
the student will share with you a “memo” which is short for memorandum
of accommodations. This is an interactive process between you and the
student in which the need for accommodations will help for success in
your classroom. The memo lists contact information of the
accommodations that have been found reasonable based on the
documentation for a disability presented and the ADA finds reasonable
for this course, the students’ assigned DSR Program Advisor, as well
as the dates of approved accommodations. You will then follow the
directions on their accommodation letter.
If the student discloses a disability and is asking for
accommodations in the classroom without benefit of presenting a memo,
then please direct the student to the DSR office and we will assist in
helping the student register for services, schedule an appointment
with a DSR staff member, and discuss the disability as it relates to
the requested accommodations. Through our interactive process, we are
responsible for following the ADA process for requested accommodations.
How should I handle a student's informal request for course accommodations?
Please refer the student to the DSR office first. Faculty should
refrain from providing any accommodations due to a disability without
a memo from DSR. Even though responding immediately may seem more
efficient (or friendlier), acting on a student’s self-report is
outside of established policy and problems may result (e.g..,
unwarranted or uneven treatment of students, unnecessary work for you,
and could establish an obligation for other faculty by setting
precedence until the end of the student’s academic career.)
What if I suspect a student has a learning disability and needs support?
If the student approaches you seeking assistance, or you notice the
student is struggling academically, you could use open-ended questions
to generate understanding of how the student learns:
Is there anything else that I need to know about you and what
you need to maximize your learning?
What type of resources do you need to be a successful student?
What type of strategies work for you?
What do you need to perform at your best in class, in a
testing situation, and outside of the classroom?
These types of questions may lead students to self-disclose a
disability and then you may use that opportunity to refer the student
to the DSR office if the student is seeking accommodations. Other
resources to suggest may include the Writing Center, Science Success
Center, Knowledge Market, Mathematics Lab, Statistics Lab, Tutoring
Center, Counseling Center, and the Student Academic Success Center.
How do I handle I issues of a temporary disability (athletic injury, car accident, traumatic experiences, head injuries, and pregnancy)?
Please refer the student to the DSR office. We will assist the
student with the appropriate accommodations for the temporary state of
need. Once the student receives a memo, you should follow the
directions on the student’s accommodation letter. Again, this is still
an interactive process with the faculty and student, however, some
options might include the student taking an Incomplete or asking for a
Do I have the right to see the student's documentation or ask a student to disclose to me?
Faculty cannot review the documentation or ask a student to bring
them documentation. We understand that this may be difficult for
some individuals who teach; however, requiring that a student disclose
the nature of their disability puts the university at risk. Although
you may be open to listening if a student chooses to explain a
disability to you (without your actual or implied solicitation of
information) it is very important that you communicate respect for the
student’s privacy regarding the specific nature of disability.
Comments such as, “What’s wrong with you?” or “You look normal to me.”
are clearly inappropriate and put the university at great risk, as
they can be interpreted as discriminatory. It is true that many
disabilities covered by the law are not easily detected, known as
invisible disabilities. Thus, it is important that verbal and
nonverbal responses be monitored. If you ever suspect that a request
for accommodation is not reasonable, contact DSR at 616-331-2490 or email@example.com.
How do I know if a student really has a disability?
DSR staff verifies all documentation related to student's
disabilities. If you receive a memo from our office it means we have
reviewed the documentation provided by an appropriately licensed
professional. If you have any questions, please reach out to our office.
What if a student with a disability is disruptive in class?
A student with a disability who is disruptive in class should be
treated as an instructor would treat any student who is disruptive in
class. If an instructor feels that there is a disability-related
reason for the student’s behavior, the instructor can discuss this
with the student’s DSR advisor listed on the memo to determine if
there is a solution to the problem, or strategies for addressing the
behavior. Refer to the Student Code: http://www.gvsu.edu/studentcode .
Students who are posing behavior issues in the classroom can be
referred to the Behavior Intervention Team through the Dean of
Student’s office. Steps will be taken to address the issue with the
student immediately. In some cases a student is asked to
comply with a behavioral checklist which outlines expected behaviors.
Students, who disrupt the class to such an extent that learning is
compromised, can be asked to leave the classroom. In some cases,
security can be called.
What if a student with a disability is failing?
It is important for instructors to remember that providing reasonable
accommodations for a student with a disability does not guarantee
success in a course. Students with disabilities might not master the
course material, just as any other student may not.
Can I penalize a student with a disability for always turning in assignments late and not showing up for exams?
Yes, a disability does not excuse late assignments and tardiness.
Be sure to speak with the student to find out why this is occurring
and contact the student’s DSR Advisor for help if needed.
What do I do if a student is habitually late? Must I accommodate?
No, unless there has been a prior arrangement based on the student’s
needs (those might be mentioned in the student's memo).
What do I do if a student asks for more time on exams? How much more time is given?
The amount of time given depends on the student’s disability and the
documentation. The specific amount of additional time allowed will be
detailed in the student’s “Memo” e.g.., 1.5x. If you are unable to
provide the extended time accommodation, please instruct the student
to submit an online test request to test with DSR.
Do you have any suggestions for what to include in my course syllabus regarding students with disabilities?
Grand Valley State University strives to provide an inclusive
environment across campus that is accessible to all individuals with a
diverse range of abilities. As your instructor, it is my objective to
facilitate opportunities within all class activities and programs
because your success is important to me. If you are encountering
difficulties that are interrupting your learning experience please
feel free to make those known to me as soon as possible, as early
planning is essential. If you feel that you need accommodations in
this course, you must present a memo to me from Disability Support
Resources (DSR), indicating the existence of a disability and the
approved accommodations. If the class meets in person, you should
schedule a meeting with me during office hours to discuss your
accommodations. If your class is online or hybrid, please forward your
memo to me in an email and schedule a virtual or
phoneappointment with me to discuss your
accommodations. Accommodations are not retroactive. If you have not
already done so, please contact the Disability Support Resources
office (215 CON) by calling (616) 331-2490 or by email to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that I cannot provide accommodations
based upon disability until I have received a copy of the DSR issued
memo. Furthermore, if you have a disability and think you will need
assistance evacuating this classroom and/or building in an emergency,
please make me aware so that the university and I can develop a plan
to assist you. All discussions will remain confidential.
What should I do if a student comes up to me right before, during or after class and hands me their "Memo" or they provide it to me through email that requires a password to view it?
Tell the student in order to respect their confidentiality, you would
like to meet during office hours in which the two of you can discuss
the request further. Let the student know that this will give you
both an opportunity to review the “memo” and discuss their needs for
academic success. Memos may be forwarded by the student through
email, and should not require a password to open. If you receive a
password-protected memo, please notify the student, and request a memo
that does not require a password.
If a student does not approach me with their information concerning accommodations do I approach them?
If you have concerns it’s best to speak to the student. However, you
can’t directly ask them if they have a disability. Listen for key
words such as if they mention a doctor, therapist, 504 or IEP in high
school. Then you can direct them to DSR.
Do I have to comply?
In order to meet the Americans with Disability Act, you must comply
with the accommodation letter. If you have questions or concerns,
please contact the DSR office.
What types of accommodations or services are available?
Listed below are some of the most commonly requested accommodations.
The list is not all-inclusive, as accommodations are always
individually determined and based on the individual needs.
- Extended test-taking time
- Readers/scribes for tests
- Electronic textbooks- Electronic books require additional time for
ordering and/or creation. For this reason, it is most important for
professors to adopt textbooks well in advance of the beginning of
the semester. Students are required to purchase or rent books before
they can receive electronic editions through DSR because of
copyright restrictions. Once they provide documentation of the
purchase or rental, DSR can order or create the electronic editions.
- Enlarged print materials
- Permission to record lectures
- Assistive technology
- Preferential seating
- Absence, tardiness flexibility and frequent breaks
- Use of a laptop in class to take notes
Whose responsibility is it to ensure the instructor knows about the accommodation plan?
It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the instructor has
received the memo and discuss the accommodations with the instructor,
so they both understand the accommodations. It is also an opportunity
to discuss the plan and decide which accommodations are truly relevant
to the class.
Do I have to give an accommodation not found on the memo?
No. If a student comes to you and asks for an accommodation not
found on the memo you should reach out to DSR.
Whose responsibility is it to find a notetaker for a student and what is the process of a volunteer notetaker?
“Please assist the student in finding a volunteer notetaker,
if requested. This can usually be accomplished by making an
announcement in class without disclosing their identity.”
This verbiage is found on the memo of a student making a note
taking request. If a student is unable to find a volunteer notetaker,
then the student will ask assistance from the instructor. Faculty will
make an announcement during class asking for a volunteer notetaker
when this accommodation is requested. This is not a paid position. If
the DSR participant wishes to remain anonymous, notes can be sent to
the professor or dropped off at DSR for the student to pick up.
It is mandatory that DSR students using notetakers attend all
class sessions for which they receive notes. A notetaker should not
be considered a substitute for obtaining lecture/lab material when a
DSR participant is absent. It is the DSR student’s responsibility to
speak with the notetaker if problems arise with the notes. Please note
that your DSR advisor is available to help resolve situations as well.
Do accommodations apply to an online course (or online portions of a course)?
Yes. You will learn of any specific accommodations that you need to
provide via the DSR memo. However, the time to consider the overall
accessibility of your course is before an accommodation
request is made on behalf of a particular student. Keep in mind that
someone who is deaf or blind or has a learning disability in reading
may enroll in your course at any time. Captioning video
content and verifying that posted files and linked-to sites are
compatible with screen readers is not necessarily something you’ll be
able to rapidly address in order to meet the legal obligation. If you
need assistance with ensuring your online course is accessible,
contact our Assistive Technology Coordinator at (616) 331-2490.
How do I accommodate a student on the Autism Spectrum in my classroom?
If the student’s behavior is disruptive, contact the student’s DSR
advisor for assistance with a behavior plan. Otherwise, follow the
directions on the student’s accommodation lette
What should I do if the student's memo specifies flexible attendance?
We encourage students to have this conversation with their
instructors as soon as possible. Here are some suggested questions you
may want to agree upon between you and the student.
- How many days are excusable without compromising the integrity of
- How should contact be made in the rare circumstance of
rescheduling an exam?
- How would you like communication when an absence may occur?
- What recommendations do you have for keeping up with course
content when this occurs?
- What options are available for accessing missed notes for this course?
- How many days later would you accept an assignment? (1-2 days)
According to Office of Civil Rights, you should consider these
questions as well:
- Is there regular classroom interaction between the instructor and
the students and among the students themselves?
- Do student contributions in class constitute a significant
component of the learning process?
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student
participation as an essential method of learning?
- To what degree does the student’s failure to attend class
constitute a significant loss of the educational experience of the
other students in the class?
- What do the course description and syllabus say regarding attendance?
- What is the method by which the final grade is calculated?
Do I have any recourse if I disagree with the accommodations that have been approved in one of my classes?
If you disagree with the accommodations that have been approved, you
are welcome to reach out to the advisor listed on your student's
memo. If you still feel the accommodations are inappropriate, please
review your objections with your department chair and forward any
additional concerns to DSR. The matter will be reviewed by the
director of disability support resources and our ADA Compliance
Officer.. Do not discontinue or refuse accommodations without formal
administration consultation and legal review.
What safeguards exist to prevent unauthorized release of materials such as supplemental notes or recordings of my class lectures? What if I am simply uncomfortable being recorded?
Accommodated students sign an agreement on file in the DSR office
stating that materials provided are for their use only, and may not be
shared or sold. If your class format includes the sharing of sensitive
information by other classmates or yourself that will not be included
on a test, you may privately arrange a signal to alert students to
stop recording during just those portions.
Will I be required to give my personal notes or PowerPoint presentation to a student with a disability?
Providing personal copies of professor’s notes or presentations are
not mandated as an academic accommodation.
Can I incorporate one or more technologies into my courses? Are there any special concerns about accessibility?
Yes and Yes, however verification of accessibility features should
occur prior to choosing technologies to use. There have been legal
consequences for institutions that have by-passed this important
phase. Consultation with DSR and eLearning will help ensure that all
your students will benefit from these tools in an “equally effective
and equally integrated manner”, and will keep the University in
compliance with federal regulation.
What are strategies that can be used by students with low vision to access printed materials?
- Printed material can be enlarged with a photocopier for a student
able to read large print. Blackboard now includes an add-in called
that can automatically create accessible formats from course
documents posted into Blackboard. DSR can obtain textbooks in
accessible format that can be used with speech and/or magnification
software. A closed-circuit television (CCTV) can enlarge the
printed material for a student. A reader may read material aloud to
the student during a test or quiz.
How can a student who is blind follow a video?
Ideally, professors should use videos with audio description, which
include extra spoken content. If the described video is not
available, and if all essential information contained in the video is
provided verbally, then the student who is blind can benefit from the video.
How can a person with a visual impairment participate in a class that is computer based?
A student who has some usable vision may be able to use a computer
with screen magnification software or a large monitor. A student with
little or no usable vision would benefit most from using a computer in
class equipped with screen reading software. The GVSU computer labs
and libraries are equipped with at least one accessible workstation.
In what format can a student who is blind turn in written assignments?
In most cases a student who is blind will type assignments using a
computer that is equipped with screen reader software. At times
students may also choose to dictate short answers using dictation software.
What can I do to make sure a student who is hard of hearing can access spoken information in a large lecture?
- It is important to face the class when speaking, as many students
with hearing impairments read lips. Don’t turn your back to the
class while speaking. Avoid lecturing against a window, since the
light through the window may throw a shadow over your mouth, making
lip-reading difficult. Avoid obscuring your mouth with books,
hands, or other materials. If possible and agreeable, recommend
that the student sit near the front of the class.
- Some students use CART captioners or ASL interpreters, which are
arranged by DSR.
- If your class is online, consider using Zoom as the delivery
platform. Zoom includes automatic captioning, which may be
beneficial to hard of hearing students. IT provides this
information on configuring
How do I grade written essays when syntax and grammatical errors are evident for students who have a hearing loss and use American Sign Language (ASL)?
English is a second language for many people who are deaf, and
therefore presents unique challenges for the student and professor
when written assignments are evaluated. For students who use ASL,
transferring thoughts to a written form is difficult because ASL has a
different syntax than English. You must provide reasonable
accommodation for a disability, while not lowering academic standards.
Correct the student’s grammar and syntax, and assist the student in
developing their English skills. You may wish to refer the student to
the Tutoring Center and the Writing Center.
How do individuals with hearing impairments communicate by telephone?
Modern cell phones pair with hearing aids or cochlear implants via
Bluetooth for voice communications. Individuals who are deaf or hard
of hearing often prefer email communication and text messaging over
What are Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)?
ALDs can provide clear sound over distances, eliminating echoes and
reducing the distraction of surrounding noises, and allow the student
to more easily hear the instructor. These devices typically consist
of a microphone and transmitter worn by the instructor, and a receiver
used by the student. The receiver may connect to a small speaker,
headphones, or a student’s hearing aid.
Do I need to make any special adjustments in a laboratory for a student who is deaf?
Yes. Provide written instructions, captioned video instructions,
and/or demonstrations prior to the lab. Safety procedures should also
be reviewed with the students and visual lab warning signals (e.g.
flashlights) need to be in place. Provide any required safety
briefing/training to an interpreter or a captioner who attends with
the student. It may also be helpful to provide preferential seating
so the student can easily view demonstrations and watch the
instructor. It is important to remember that students who use a sign
language interpreter, a captioner, or read lips may have difficulty
simultaneously observing a demonstration while watching the
interpreter/captioner or reading lips. Discuss lab activities with the
student, as they are the best source of information about their needs.
How can I improve the accessibility of my lab for a student who uses a wheelchair?
Talk to the student what accommodations they need. You may also
contact the student’s DSR advisor for assistance
Are there any training/classes currently concerning DSR services?
We offer “DSR 101” for faculty and staff.
What do I do if a student brings a dog/miniature horse to class without a service animal badge?
Faculty and staff are able to ask two questions to determine if an
animal is a service animal.
1) is the animal a service animal required because of disability?
(2) What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
Faculty and staff should not ask about a person’s disability, require
medical documentation, require a special identification card or
training documentation for the animal, or ask that the animals
demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
Under what circumstances can a service animal be asked to leave or not allowed on campus?
- If a service animal is found to be disruptive in the classroom
- If a service animal shows aggression towards their handler or
other members of campus or the community
- If a service animal is physically ill
- If the service animal is unreasonably dirty
- Any place on campus where the presence of a service animal cause
danger to the safety of the of the handler or other students/member
- Any place on campus where a service animal’s safety is compromised
What needs to happen if a service animal is behaving aggressively towards their handler or others, or if a handler or other students are behaving aggressively towards a service animal?
Call campus police at 616 331-3255.
What if another student (in housing or in class) or a faculty member has severe allergies around animal dander?
The final determination regarding how to manage the situation will be
made on a case-by-case basis. Please contact DSR for further
information if a situation of this nature occurs.
In an emergency evacuation, what is my responsibility for a student who uses a wheelchair or who has another mobility impairment?
Inform all students about emergency procedures. For students with a
disability, work with the student and the DSR office to develop a
clear evacuation plan. You may refer to GVSU Emergency Evacuation
procedures at the following website www.gvsu.edu/emergency
You should assist the student to the Area of Rescue
Assistance, which is the enclosed stairwell with firewalls,
doors and sirens. Emergency personal checks this area first in an
event of an emergency. You may also notify emergency personal upon
your exit from the building.
An ADA table and chair are in my classroom, do I have any responsibilities?
Yes, the student may self-disclose or it may be obvious due to their
disability. Please ensure that the table and chair are used
appropriately and for the assigned student.