Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) provides accommodations to students on a case-by-case basis depending on the type of disability they may have.

What if one of my students has requested accommodations that I believe will alter the essential components of my course?

Accommodations based on a disability are intended to "level the playing field" (by removing barriers to learning and demonstration of knowledge) between students with disabilities and students without diagnosed disabilities. If a faculty member believes a specific accommodation will fundamentally alter the essential components of the course, the faculty member should contact Services for Students with Disabilities to discuss the specific nature of the accommodation's impact on the course.

Who determines the accommodations for a student with a disability?

Under Policy Memorandum 178, the university has granted the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office the authority to interpret disability documentation and determine appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.

When a student identifies himself or herself as having a disability, what should faculty and staff do?

The faculty member should refer the student directly to Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) by recommending the student call 540-231-3788 to make an appointment to discuss the academic accommodations process. Due to confidentiality laws, the faculty member should not accept or read the student's documentation, even if offered.

When is a student required to notify faculty of a need for accommodations?

A student can notify a faculty member of the need for accommodations by presenting the official accommodation letter from Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at any time during the semester. Accommodations should then be provided from that point forward in the semester. Accommodations are not expected to be applied retroactively. Reasonable notice should be provided to the professor by the student for accommodations such as extended time for tests, a quiet room for tests, or tests in an alternate format.

What is my responsibility if a student provides me with a current accommodation letter from Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), but chooses not to use any accommodations in my class? What if the student doesn't ask to use an accommodation until after failing several assignments or exams?

Your responsibility is to provide the accommodations beginning when they are requested by the student. It is the student's choice as to which accommodations to use in each of his or her classes. The student has been advised by the SSD office that accommodations do not have to be provided retroactively. So, if a student chooses to take a test without extended time and does poorly on the test, the professor does not have to allow the student to retake that test using extended time. The student should notify the professor in advance that he or she will be using extended time on the next test.

What is my responsibility with respect to providing testing accommodations, such as extended time for tests?

If a student has the accommodations of extended time and/or quiet room for tests/quizzes/exams, it is the professor’s responsibility to find the appropriate space. This space should be relatively distraction free (i.e. the professor’s office or conference room, BUT NOT a departmental front office or in-use lab) and should be available for the student for the full amount of allotted testing time. With these arrangements, the student has access to the professor if there is a question about the content of the test. The student may need to negotiate with the professor about the start time for the test, as the student may have back-to-back classes and must not miss another class in order to receive his or her full extended time allotment for the test.

Professors are encouraged to check with their departmental office to locate appropriate testing space. If a professor cannot locate space for the student to take the test with extended time, the student and the professor can reserve space in the SSD Testing Center. In order to reserve SSD testing seats, the faculty must make a Testing Reservation Request using the Online Testing Reservation System (OTRS). The SSD Testing Center page has detailed instructions on how to use the OTRS.

The student is responsible for meeting with the faculty member to arrange dates and times for the tests with plenty of time to meet testing-reservation deadlines. The faculty member is responsible for submitting the Reservation Request to the SSD Testing Center using the OTRS 72 hours before the time of the test. If the date o a test changes during the semester, the professor can change the date of the reservation by editing it in the OTRS, or by contacting the SSD testing coordinator at 540-231-3788 or ssdtestingcenter@vt.edu.

How do I provide the accommodation of "extended time (double time)" for pop quizzes?

The accommodation of "extended time (double time)" applies to all timed tests, exams, quizzes, and pop quizzes. Faculty members may find the "extended time" accommodation straightforward for tests and exams but may be stumped when considering this accommodation with in-class quizzes and pop-quizzes. The following article entitled “The ‘Pop Quiz’ Dilemma” provides faculty members with several options to consider. Faculty members can also contact the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office at 540-231-3788 to discuss specific quiz and pop quiz concerns.

The Pop-Quiz Dilemma

One of the most widely used accommodations across college campuses is "extended time for tests." This accommodation applies not only to major tests and final exams, but to classroom quizzes as well. Trying to accommodate a student for a "pop quiz" can be difficult if the faculty member chooses to give the quiz during the middle of class. The student with a disability will often have to leave the room in order to go take their quiz in a separate quiet room, thus drawing attention to the fact that he or she is leaving during quiz times. If quizzes are given at the beginning of the class, the student with the extended time accommodation may find that he/she will have to come into class late, and as a result, may have missed valuable classroom lecture material. Ruth Fink, university professor and former disability services provider asks, "Is it the accuracy of the information I want from students or is the response time the main element?" when taking pop-quizzes into account. Fink offers the following advice for classroom pop-quizzes:

  • Clarify the purpose of the pop quiz. Determine if there is some other way to get the information that you need from pop quizzes (which is presumably, "Did students read and comprehend the assignment? Is the student keeping up with daily readings and assignments and how well are students internalizing the readings? Can the student apply principles to practical application situations? etc.).
  • Put pop quiz-type questions on the course or department website or on a class email list at a certain time to be emailed back or turned in by the next class time.
  • Do these types of questions as a handout at the end of class to be turned in by the next class.
  • Put pop quiz-type questions on the syllabus reading list; have them due on specified dates (this also serves as a reminder to professors to review certain theories or principles).
  • Vary how you obtain this pop-quiz information from students:
    • One day, do a class quiz on the overhead, discussing the answers with the whole class; this is usually a good learning experience for all types of learners.
    • Do a quick take-home another time.
    • Do an in-class, small-group question and have students obtain the answers as a group and report to the class.
  • Give the pop quiz at the end of the class or have the student needing the extended time to come to your office after class or at an assigned time for an oral quiz.
  • Additional suggestions from other faculty members include giving the quiz at the beginning of class and permitting the student to begin the quiz earlier than the rest of the class. or making the quizzes harder, but take-home, for everyone.

Taken from the Disabled Student Services in Higher Education (DSSHE) listserv.