Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES), a unit of the College of Applied Health Sciences, serves as the designated office of the University that coordinates campus-wide services for students with disabilities.
DRES obtains and files disability documentation, certifies eligibility for services, and coordinates the planning and provision of auxiliary aids as well as the implementation of modifications and adjustments in academic rules, policies and procedures.
Professional staff are available at DRES to provide University students with disability-related consultation and to assist them in obtaining both academic and nonacademic supports and services.
The University is required to make textual, verbal, video, and/or graphical information available to students with disabilities in a timely, accurate, and accessible fashion.
Generally, information must be accurately communicated to students with disabilities in an accessible format (e.g., Braille, enlarged print, electronic format, captioned video, tactile graphic) at the same time that it is made available to all other students.
To achieve this goal, it is essential that ALL printed course materials (e.g., textbooks, course packs, reserve readings) and videos be identified well in advance of the start of class so that they can be converted to accessible alternative formats prior to start of school.
The information technologies used in class must be accessible to students with disabilities whenever it is technically feasible to do so. The Disability Resources and Educational Services can assist departments in obtaining assistive technology which will allow students with disabilities to access computer technology, and in many cases, nothing more is needed.
All Illinois online course materials and resources should comply with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Content Accessibility Double-A Conformance Recommendation, as well as the Illinois Web Accessibility Standard or Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act Standards. Conformance with these standards can be achieved through the use of the Illinois Accessibility Best Practices (for more information, contact Jon Gunderson at 244-5870).
It is a good idea to invite students to privately self-disclose their need for disability-related adjustments and auxiliary aids. An accessibility statement should be made on the first day of class, and a similar written statement should be included in the course syllabus. Such a statement might simply say, “To insure that disability-related concerns are properly addressed from the beginning, students with disabilities who require assistance to participate in this class are asked to see me as soon as possible.” For other examples of disability statements and content statements for your syllabus, please click here.
Please note that students cannot be required to disclose that they have a disability, however, those with known disabilities who choose not to self-disclose accept responsibility for the consequences of that decision. The identity of students with disabilities which are not obvious should not be disclosed directly or indirectly in class, and the accommodation arrangements of individual students with disabilities should not be discussed in class.
In addition, instructors are not entitled to see an individual student’s diagnostic documentation. Instructors may, however, review the University’s disability documentation requirements for various disabilities.
A student’s registration with DRES and personal information about the nature of their disability is protected and confidential information covered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the IL Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act. Obviously, for a student to receive accommodations in your course, there must be 1) a disclosure from the student that he or she has a disability, 2) some details about how the disability may impact their educational performance, and 3) reasonable and appropriate accommodations that are designed to overcome those barriers. The Letter of Accommodations is designed in such a way to include all of that information while protecting the student’s privacy as much as possible (e.g., without identifying the nature of their disability).
When a student discloses that they are registered with DRES, it is important to keep that information confidential. It should not be included in their permanent academic record, for example. Letters of Accommodations should be shredded or deleted at the end of each academic semester. If an instructor is consulting with a colleague about how to implement a student’s accommodations, it is advisable to not refer to the student’s name.
Instructors are not advised to ask personal details about the nature of a student’s disability (“what’s your disability?” “how long have you had it?”). Sometimes student may choose to disclose that information themselves, and it is certainly permissible for an instructor to listen and engage the student in an empathic way. There are even some scenarios where an instructor and student may have a very close working relationship (e.g., as is often the case in graduate programs, for example), where the student discloses personal, disability-related information in a way that truly enhances the working relationship. The best advice is to let the student take the lead in disclosing or discussing disability-related information.
It is certainly acceptable to ask any student if they need accommodations in a course, or invite them to register with DRES if they have accommodation needs. Also, if a student gives you a Letter of Accommodation from DRES or discloses to you that they are registered with DRES, you can contact us with questions or concerns and that is not considered breaking confidentiality.
It is certainly NOT acceptable to “out” a student with a disability in your course. For example, making the volunteer note taker announcement and referring to the DRES student specifically by name or asking a student by name in front of the class about some aspect of their accommodation.
Students with disabilities often require non-standard examination conditions (e.g., extended time, alternative format, assistive computer technology, distraction-reduced environment) to compensate for the functional limitations of their respective impairments. Effective, compensatory test modifications and/or adjustments must be introduced unless they would substantially alter the academic program of study.
To schedule exams under non-standard conditions, students are required to meet with each of their instructors to discuss exam policies and procedures relative to their specific disability-related accommodation needs. Although arrangements may be made for students to take their exams under non-standard conditions at DRES, whenever possible, it is recommended that they be allowed to take their exams under the supervision of their instructors. This provides students with disabilities the same opportunity as that afforded all other students in the class to ask questions or seek clarification about the exam.
When such exams must be administered at DRES, flexibility in scheduling is essential. The DRES procedure for requesting and scheduling exams under non-standard conditions may be found under Testing Accommodations.
Consult DRES first before denying an accommodation request. The University cannot respond to an accommodation request by saying, “We never make exceptions,” nor can the University deny an accommodation request solely on the basis of departmental tradition, consensus, or individual instructor preference. Every academic adjustment/modification or auxiliary aid and service must be individually determined on a case by case basis. Although the institution is not required to provide a service which would constitute an undue financial burden, cost is not an acceptable reason to deny an accommodation request in most situations. The reason for this is that the cost of accommodations are judged in relation to the total institutional budget. There are very few circumstances in which an accommodation cost would be deemed excessive within the context of the entire University of Illinois budget. The University, however, is not required to substantially or fundamentally alter the content or methodology of a course or degree program.
Disability-Related Extensions of Time and Disability-Related Absence Guidelines
Students may have disabilities that are episodic in nature (ex. Chronic health, anxiety, depression, etc.) and these conditions may cause unpredictable exacerbations of symptoms. An unpredictable exacerbation of a disability-related condition may occasionally impact the student’s ability to attend class and complete exams or assignments at the scheduled time, flexibility in attendance/assignments may be considered an appropriate accommodation.
Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) has created guidelines for DRES-registered students & faculty to help navigate these accommodations.
Disability-Related Extensions of Time and Disability-Related Absence Guidelines
Attendance and assignments deadlines:
Students are expected and encouraged to attend classes on a regular basis. Faculty have the right to establish attendance policies. The number of allowable absences depends on the interactive or participatory nature of a course, or is based on department, college or accrediting agency rules. Therefore, attendance policies are set by faculty at the college or departmental level.
Students are expected and encouraged to meet all deadlines for assignments, quizzes, and exams. Faculty have the right to establish late work policies.
What does flexibility in attendance/Assignments mean?
Students who may occasionally miss an assignment deadline or exam due to an unpredictable or cyclical acute episodes caused by a disability may seek an accommodation. Flexibility in attendance/assignments is not applied to every week, every assignment, or every exam. The DRES approved agreement between the student and faculty should help clarify expectations should an unexpected flare up occur during the term.
The process for requesting this accommodation occurs through DRES. All requests are considered on an individual, case-by-case basis.
The DRES Access Specialist may contact faculty regarding Disability-related extensions of time and /or Disability-related absence accommodations if there are questions or concerns, to gain an understanding in the role attendance plays in the design of the course, as well as a basic understanding of the impact or role timing of assignments and exams play in the interactive or participatory nature of the course.
Specifically, DRES may explore:
- What is the course attendance policy? What does the course description and syllabus say?
- What method is used to calculate the final grade? (attendance, assignments, exams, etc.)
- Are the attendance policy and late work or missed exams policy applied consistently? Are there exceptions to the policy made for extenuating circumstances, such as athletic travel or religious observation?
- How much interaction is there between the instructor and students and among students’ peers?
- Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
- Does the design of the course rely on student participation as a significant method for learning (either in attendance and/or their assignment (project) contributions?
- Is there content only offered in class?
- To what degree does a student’s failure to attend class or complete an assignment on time compromise the educational experience of other students in the class?
What is the process?
- If DRES determines that the accommodation is reasonable, we explain to students that this does not mean that they can miss as many classes as they want and that attendance is a requirement for courses here on the University of Illinois campus. Also, the student is responsible for completing all coursework.
- After the interactive process with the student of determining reasonable accommodations, the DRES Access Specialist writes a Letter of Accommodations detailing the reasonable accommodations that the student is granted under the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA). If the student wants to utilize accommodations in a course, it is the student’s responsibility to provide their letter to their instructor and engage with the DRES Access Specialist in a discussion with their instructor regarding the following:
- How and when the student should inform faculty that they will miss a class.
- How the student will make up missed assignments and/or exams.
- The number of absences (beyond what any student is allowed) that would be reasonable.
- If it is reasonable for online discussion expectations to be modified due to disability-related reasons and under what conditions.
- If it is reasonable to extend the window for completing online exams or assignments.
It is recommended that arrangements regarding absence and extension accommodations be made in consultation with the instructor, student, and DRES Access Specialist and be placed in writing.
- This accommodation is not a blanket reason to miss class, miss a quiz/exam, or miss assignment due dates.
- Some students register late in the term or wait to request this accommodation until late in the term. In these cases, faculty are not expected to provide retroactive accommodations. However, it may still be helpful to have this information, even at a late point in the term.
- At no time is the student required to present the faculty member with medical documentation verifying his/her disability related absence for this accommodation.
- If the absences meet or exceed those agreed upon by the instructor and student, the DRES Access Specialist should be informed. This will allow the DRES Access Specialist to be of assistance in answering questions about the accommodations from both the student and the faculty member.
- Absences that are not related to the effects of a disability are not included in this accommodation (i.e. absences due to a common illness, busy schedule, work schedule, childcare issues, car trouble, etc.) and should be addressed according to the stated syllabus attendance/absence policy. The student is responsible for following the faculty member’s syllabus regarding absences due to non-disability related issues.
- Faculty are not obligated to re-teach material missed due to a student not attending class. Students are responsible for material missed in class due to a disability-related absence.
- It cannot be assumed that an extension can be provided for each and every course component. If there are questions about whether an extension is possible for an assignment, the student should notify the DRES Access Specialist so they can work collaboratively with the course instructor as needed to best accommodate the student.
- DRES registered students have the responsibility for completing all course work and should be held to the same standard as all other students.
- Instructors should contact the DRES Access Specialist who has signed the student’s Letter of Accommodations. That information is on the bottom of each Letter of Accommodations.
- If a student is requesting an academic accommodation but is not registered with DRES, the instructor is not required to provide it and can refer the student to the DRES website to apply.
When assessing the impact of an accommodation request on a program of study, teaching faculty are advised that academic modifications, adjustments and/or substitutions must be considered for any element of a course which serves to discriminate against a student with a disability, and is not deemed to be an essential, immutable component of the program.
When students who are registered with DRES require extensive or complex academic adjustments and/or auxiliary services (e.g., text and graphics converted to an alternative accessible format, captioned videos, sign language interpreter, real-time captioning), DRES consultants will contact the course instructors to facilitate preparation. It should be noted, however, that often neither the student nor DRES staff know whether the student will need academic adjustments or auxiliary aids/services in a particular class. In those instances, students may not identify themselves nor present the instructor with a Letter of Accommodations from DRES, until after they have attended the class and determined that the need for the prescribed accommodations exists within that specific class. This process allows students with disabilities to retain their anonymity when accommodations are deemed unnecessary, however, students accept responsibility for the consequences experienced prior to disclosing their disability status and requesting effective accommodations.
Inaccessible or partly accessible classrooms can be problematic for students with disabilities. In addition, labs and computer centers may be crowded and difficult to navigate, workstation heights may require adjustments, or assistive technologies may be needed. If you need to switch to a more accessible room, call Facility Management and Scheduling at 333-1230 or Disability Resources and Educational Services at 333-4603. Classroom tables or desks must have enough clearance for students using wheelchairs to get their legs underneath. Lab tables and computer consoles should be set up so that wheelchair users can comfortably reach the equipment. The University maintains a substantial inventory of adjustable height classroom tables to accommodate students with such needs. Students in need of adjustable height tables or other auxiliary aids should be directed to contact DRES to request that one be installed in the class. Additionally, instructors can be of assistance by informing classes that these adjustable desks are provided for students with disabilities and should be reserved for that purpose. For more information on adjustable desks, please contact the DRES Coordinator of Accessibility and Transportation at 244-4104.
According to a recent Dear Colleague Letter sent by the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights to College and University Presidents, it is impermissible under federal law for colleges and universities to use electronic book readers in classroom settings that are not accessible to students who are blind or have low vision, unless those students are provided an equally effective accommodation or reasonable modification that allows those students to receive all the educational benefits of the technology. An “equally effective” accommodation for an inaccessible ebook reader would have to ensure that the information being accessed via the ebook reader was made available to students with disabilities in an accessible format and with comparable timeliness and accuracy to that afforded students without disabilities. More information regarding OCR’s ebook reader guidance is available as a Frequently Asked Questions document.
Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services: 333-4603
Staff members at DRES are available to meet with faculty members, graduate student instructors, and students to:
- Act as consultants to verify (with the students’ permission) disabilities and needs for accommodations, and recommend appropriate and effective academic adjustments;
- Coordinate the provision of effective auxiliary aids and services including sign-language interpreters, captioning, notetakers, readers, tutors, assistive technology training, adapted transportation for academic reasons, and library assistance;
- Conduct seminars and informal meetings, or speak with instructors about accommodating students’ disabilities in classrooms;
- Act as a resource to facilitate improvement of physical access; and
- Assist in the planning and execution of effective test-taking accommodations.
DRES has compiled a wide range of disability-related resources for faculty and students on its homepage.
Office for Access and Equity: 333-0885
This office provides faculty and staff members with information about campus policies, procedures, and compliance related to the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state nondiscrimination laws.
Office of Facility Management and Scheduling: 333-1230
Contact this office to obtain classrooms with suitable access.