What is the note taker accommodation?

The note-taker accommodation is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and requires that Virginia Tech provide a set of class notes (or other note-taking support, depending on the student's needs) in a timely manner. The note-taker accommodation must be fulfilled for any student who asks for the accommodation and who provides the instructor with an accommodation letter from the SSD office listing the note-taker accommodation.

The note-taker accommodation at Virginia Tech relies on volunteers. Volunteer note takers uphold the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim, “That I May Serve,” on a daily basis. Currently 100-200 volunteer note takers per semester assist the SSD office and instructors in providing this accommodation.

Why do some students with a documented disability require note-taking support?

Disabilities such as hearing, visual, physical, attention, or print-related may require a student receive note-taking support. The student with a disability may be physically unable to take notes, may need to focus only on what the instructor is saying, or may be unable to decipher writing due to a reading disability. Often a student’s disability is invisible.

All students apply and are accepted into Virginia Tech in the same process. A student with a disability does not self-identify until after he/she has been accepted into Virginia Tech.

What are my responsibilities as the instructor or TA?

The note-taker accommodation must be provided to students who ask for note-taking support and who give instructors an accommodation letter from SSD listing the note taker accommodation. Instructors are responsible for providing this accommodation to their students and can select from several options when assisting their students.

What are my options for providing notes?

Below is a list of options instructors may use to provide their students with the note-taker accommodation. This is not a definitive list. Please meet with your student to determine the best options.

  • Provide instructor's personal notes (SSD students understand materials received through this accommodation are for their personal use only).
  • Post complete course materials (PowerPoint slide shows, notes, and math examples) for the entire class so that note taking is NOT required.
  • Identify a volunteer note taker by asking the class for volunteers. Instructors then provide SSD with their volunteers’ contact information using the online class volunteer note taker submission form. The SSD office can then assist with this accommodation by communicating with the volunteers and assisting with the distribution of notes. If no one volunteers contact the SSD office for assistance at ssdnotetaking@vt.edu or 540-231-3788.
  • Ask a teaching assistant or graduate assistant to provide notes to SSD.
  • Provide a hard copy of the math equations or formulas worked-out in class.
  • Ask a student in the class, who is doing well, to be the class note taker. Some professors select honor students.
  • Offer select students extra credit.
  • Allow students to record lectures with the professor's permission (this is not a replacement for notesbut can assist while a note taker is being located).
  • Offer a letter of appreciation or recognition to a volunteer. Professors are welcome to confirm with SSD that the volunteer provided helpful notes in a timely manner throughout the whole semester.

How do I locate a volunteer note taker?

The option most often selected by professors is to identify two or three volunteer note takers. If professors provide the volunteers’ contact information to the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office, using the class volunteer note taker submission form, then the SSD office will administer this accommodation. Professors will only be contacted if SSD is unable to contact the volunteers or if another note taker is needed. Professors then share the legal responsibility of this accommodation with SSD versus accepting the full legal responsibility.

If your student requires a note taker you are welcome to send a class email or make an announcement in class asking for volunteers to provide notes to the SSD office. Please see an example email/announcement below.

IMPORTANT: Please protect the SSD student’s confidentiality. Do not use the student’s name in emails or announcements to your class.

 A suggested announcement:

If you take good notes and would like to provide a community service, please consider being a volunteer note taker for this class. Volunteer note takers take a few minutes after each class to scan and upload their notes to a secure Scholar site. The student needing the notes understands the notes are for his/her personal use, to break down a barrier caused by a disability, and that class attendance is mandatory. Students interested in serving as note takers in this class should contact the professor. The Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office will communicate with volunteers throughout the semester.

If an instructor is unable to identify a volunteer note taker, Virginia Tech is still responsible for providing notes to the student therefore, the instructor must select another option to provide notes to the student in a timely manner.

How many note takers do I need?

SSD suggests instructors identify two or three volunteer note takers to provide notes for the SSD student or students in the class. If one class volunteer is no longer able to provide notes in a timely manner, SSD will contact the alternate note takers. If there are no alternate note takers, SSD will contact the instructor and the instructor will need to either identify another volunteer or use another option to provide notes to the student in a timely manner.

No one volunteered. What other options do I have?

If no one volunteers to be a note taker for your class, there are other options, depending on what is right for you and your class. The options include asking a TA to take notes and submit them to SSD, offering the SSD student instructor’s notes, asking a specific student in the class to be the volunteer note taker, and offering some type of extra credit to a good student for volunteering. See “What are my options?” above for a more complete list.

A student with a note taker is missing class. What do I do?

Students requesting a note taker understand that this accommodation does not take the place of attending class. Students should not receive notes for class lectures they do not attend, unless there are extenuating circumstances related to a disability. Virginia Tech is responsible for providing notes for the lectures students do attend; therefore, having a volunteer note taker available is important. Please contact the SSD office immediately, at ssdnotetaking@vt.edu or 540-231-3788, and provide the student’s name and some information about how often the student is missing class. The SSD office will rescind the student’s ability to acquire notes for this class until the student meets with a SSD disability coordinator.

I have been contacted by SSD that the arranged volunteer note taker has stopped sending notes to SSD? What should I do?

Volunteer note takers are sometimes unable to continue providing notes for an entire semester. SSD always suggests instructors recruit at least 2-3 volunteers at the beginning of each semester. If these volunteer note takers can no longer provide notes then another volunteer is needed. Options include asking the class for volunteers again, asking a TA to take notes, asking a specific student that is doing well in class to take notes, and offering some type of extra credit. An alternative method of providing notes must be put into place in a timely manner.  

I already provide my power points, my outline, a study guide, or post handouts on Scholar. What else should I expect to provide?

Many instructors post course materials for all students. If the material provided by an instructor is sufficient and students are not expected to take additional notes, then note taker support is not necessary. If students are still expected to take notes on the lecture information, note taking support should be provided. If a student believes he/she needs a note taker, then note taking arrangements must be made.

I teach the same class in different sections. Do I need a note taker for each section I receive a request for?

This is up to the instructor. Some instructors cover the same material in each section; therefore a note taker in one section would work for all sections. Some instructors want a note taker for each section with a SSD student requiring notes.

Do I need to provide note-taking support for online classes?

The note-taker accommodation is not provided for online classes when the SSD student can listen to lectures when they choose and as often as they choose.

What happens if the student doesn’t receive notes through this accommodation?

Students have a legal right to receive the accommodations they have been given. SSD students are told to notify SSD if they do not receive helpful notes in a timely manner. Students giving reasonable notice of missed notes can delay assignments, tests, and quizzes until notes are available for them. Virginia Tech can be held accountable for insufficient accommodations.

I have more questions, who should I contact?

For questions or concerns regarding the note taker accommodation, please contact the SSD Coordinator of Alternate Text & Note Takers at ssdnotetaking@vt.edu, to discuss this accommodation and how to best accommodate students.