Instructor Guide to DSP Accommodations

10-Point Guide

Compiled by Jonah Levy and Justin Davidson, DSP Faculty Liaisons, Steve Johnston, Disability Access and Compliance, and Carolyn Swalina, Disabled Students' Program

This guide is intended to assist instructors around some of the most common issues confronted in handling DSP accommodations. In collaboration with Disabled Students' Program (DSP) and Disability Access & Compliance (DAC), most of the information in this guide is sourced from the DSP website, DSP staff, and a few other sources. More detailed information about providing accommodations is available on the DSP Faculty FAQ page. If you are having difficulty providing an accommodation or you need help in order to provide an accommodation, please reach out to the student’s assigned Disability Specialist directly for assistance. If you require assistance outside of DSP, please reach out to Steve Johnston at DAC. 

1. Legal status of DSP accommodations

● Disability rights are civil rights backed by the law. They are not optional.

● Colleges and universities are required by Section 504 and Title II to provide students with disabilities with appropriate academic adjustments and auxiliary aids that are necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in the school’s program.

● In disability discrimination cases heard by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), there does not have to be intent in order to find that discrimination has occurred. What matters is the result, not the intent. Even if there is no deliberate intention to discriminate, there can still be a finding of discrimination. In fact, most cases of discrimination result from a misunderstanding or lack of communication, as opposed to deliberate actions.

● Discrimination protections do not mean that instructors have no role in the accommodation process. Accommodation letters may contain provisions such as the need to allow assignment extensions or disability-related absences without specific information about what that means for the student in your class. If you do not understand how to implement these accommodations or believe that some are incompatible with the requirements of your class, you have the right to contact the DSP Disability Specialist listed on the letter of accommodation and seek a clarification or modification of an accommodation. Always speak to the DSP Disability Specialist about your concerns, not the student, and be sure to reach out to the Disability Specialist before taking any action to modify an accommodation. If you do not receive a timely response from a Disability Specialist, you can reach out to the Lead Disability Specialists.

2. The DSP population

● About one-third of the University population identifies as having a disability. Approximately 10% of the student population are served by the Disabled Students’ Program, so it would not be unusual for between 8-15% of your students to need some sort of disability accommodation.

● Students from historically marginalized groups are overrepresented among the DSP population:

○ 30% are historically underrepresented students

○ 12% were foster youth

○ 20% are LGBTQI+

○ 54% are EOP eligible

○ 21% are from families earning less than $40,000 annually

3. DSP Disability Specialists

● About one-third of the University population identifies as having a disability. Approximately 10% of the student population are served by the Disabled Students’ Program, so it would not be unusual for between 8-15% of your students to need some sort of disability accommodation.

● DSP Disability Specialists are your closest allies when it comes to implementing academic accommodations.

● As educators, instructors are responsible under the Americans with Disabilities Act for providing accessible instruction and accommodations to students with disabilities. These responsibilities stem from the law, not from the decisions of DSP Disability Specialists. DSP Disability Specialists collaborate with instructors to meet the campus’s legal obligations toward students with disabilities. As faculty, it is legally required and part of the job description to provide accommodations to students who are entitled to them.

4. Recording lectures

● Students who do not attend lectures are not entitled to receive a recording of those lectures, unless a remote learning accommodation has been verified by DSP.

● Classes can be moved to facilitate course capture recording for students with remote learning accommodations. DSP will assist in finding a classroom with course capture technology.

● If lecture audio recordings are part of a student’s accommodation, technology may be available on loan to the student from DSP to assist with lecture recording.

5. Occasional absences

● All students are expected to attend classes. Absences for students with disabilities are excused only if the disability is the reason for the absence.

● If a student is absent for a disability-related reason, they should contact course staff to let them know that the absence was due to their disability as soon as possible.

● Course staff should understand that in the event of a disability-related absence, it may not always be possible for the student to inform the staff ahead of time.

● If instructors have questions about how to determine the number of absences to which a student with an accommodation is entitled, they should contact the Disability Specialist listed on the student’s letter of accommodation directly for assistance.

6. Extensions on assignments

● There is no presumption that students get extensions on all assignments. Extensions are usually for individual assignments when a student experiences an exacerbation of their disability or their disability prevents them from completing the assignment. In the event of an exacerbation, students should contact course staff to inform them of the need for an extension as soon as possible. Nonetheless, instructors should understand that in the event of an exacerbation, it may not always be possible to make such requests before the original deadline. The DSP website offers the following advice:

Students with an assignment extension accommodation must communicate the need for an extension on each assignment unless otherwise agreed with the instructor. It is the student’s responsibility to contact the instructor and request an extension. Extensions are not automatic and failure to communicate with the instructor can result in loss of points for the assignment unless there is a disability related emergency. Extensions are generally for a short period of time (1-5 days) unless agreed otherwise with the instructor.

If a faculty member disagrees with a requested extension, they should immediately contact the Disability Specialist who sent the letter of accommodation, and they can help resolve your concern. The Disability Specialist can also assist with determining a reasonable length of time for an extension or with reviewing medical documentation and verifying the disability-related need for an extension.

If you have questions or concerns about how this accommodation works, contact the Disability Specialist listed on the student’s letter of accommodation.

7. Specific extended time for timed assignments (including timed exams and quizzes)

● If a student has an accommodation providing for extended time on timed exams, quizzes, or assignments, that extra time is required only when the exam, quiz, or assignment is to be completed in 24 hours or less. If over 24 hours is provided for an exam, quiz, or assignment, this accommodation does not apply (although an extension could be possible under the “Extension of assignment” accommodation above).

● For example, if an instructor provides 24 hours for students to complete a 2-hour exam, the DSP student with a time and a half accommodation would be allowed to take 3 hours within that 24-hour window to complete the exam, but the instructor does not have to provide 36 hours.

8. Proctoring

● Most, but not all, letters of accommodation provide for additional time on exams. Another common exam accommodation is testing in a reduced-distraction environment. In general, instructors are responsible for providing accommodations for students who receive 150% extended time and/or a reduced distraction environment. DSP reserves its proctoring services for more complex accommodations, such as 200% (or more) time, a room alone, a scribe, or use of a computer.

● Providing proctoring services to a number of students, each with different disabilities and accommodation requirements, can be challenging. You may wish to consider if there are other ways of assessing student learning besides in-person exams, e.g. projects, papers, in-class presentations. Such alternative modes of assessment can potentially reduce the need for accommodations and, in some cases, allow you to evaluate student learning at a deeper level than in-person exams.

● Some instructors are turning to remote exams as an alternative way to meet accommodation requirements. Instead of seeking distraction-free classrooms on campus, instructors can allow students to take the exams at home, in the library, or anywhere else that is convenient. Remote exams can also help with the provision of extra time. Instead of locating additional classrooms for students receiving 150% time, instructors can provide the extra time to students wherever they take the exam. Of course, remote exams can raise concerns about academic integrity. For ideas about how to prevent cheating along with information about remote exams more generally, see the Academic Senate website here.

● If you are having any issues or concerns with regards to proctoring for students with DSP accommodations, you can reach out to the DSP Proctoring Office (, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), or the DSP Faculty Liaisons, Jonah Levy ( and Justin Davidson (

9. Use of technology

● Some students have specific DSP accommodations to either type their own notes or receive typewritten notes from a student notetaker in their class. If this is the case, the student or notetaker should be allowed to use their laptop in the classroom as long as they have identified themselves to you. You can also reach out to DSP to confirm the accommodation if you have questions about technology use that are not addressed in a student’s letter of accommodation.

● Realtime Captioning provides a live translation of speech into written text that is displayed on a laptop, tablet, or cell phone.

● If a student has a DSP accommodation for the use of a laptop, tablet, or cell phone for disability-related reasons, please allow the student to use their device and to sit where they choose in the classroom.

● If you have a policy limiting the use of technology in your class, please state in your syllabus that students who need to use an electronic device should contact the instructor to request an exception to this policy. You might want to broaden the exemption to include students who strongly believe that they need access to their electronic device in order to learn effectively. That way, you avoid specifically singling out students with disabilities.

10. Inclusive/Universal design

● Consider designing an inclusive course - that is, taking into account accessibility from the start of course creation - as opposed to first designing a course and only subsequently looking back to try and make it accessible. (Assistance is available - see below).

● Inclusive design benefits all students, not just students with disabilities. For example, some students with anxiety find multiple low-stakes assignments and quizzes easier to navigate and prepare for than one big high-stakes exam. This kind of course design has also been shown to improve learning outcomes for all students. Reluctance to cooperate with other students and incentives to cheat are both reduced by having a number of low-stakes assignments, rather than a single high-stakes assignment. Thus, structuring course assessments with students with anxiety in mind could benefit all students in the class, not solely students with disabilities.

● The more accessible your class is for students with disabilities, the fewer accommodations students will require to participate in your class. As an additional benefit, when your class is more accessible for students with disabilities, it will be more accessible for students without disabilities too! The paradigm of Universal Design recognizes that disability is just one facet of an individual’s identity and that disability is neither negative nor an inherent barrier to access. Universal Design asks us to consider for whom an environment, task, item, or program has been designed, and to whom the current or proposed design creates a barrier to access. We are then asked to consider the modifications to the environment, task, item, or program that could be implemented to remove the identified barriers so that all who would like to participate can do so.

Resources for Universal Design:

1. Shaw, Scott, and McGuire’s 2001 article, “Principles of Universal Design for Instruction” is a good introduction to the nine principles of Universal Design and how they can be applied to increase the accessibility of your classes and assignments.

2. Acting Associate Director for Accommodation Services and Lead Disability Specialist and Supervisor, Carolyn Swalina, is available to consult with faculty who would like to discuss increasing the accessibility of their courses and assignments. Faculty can contact Carolyn to request an individual consultation at

3. Additional information on teaching and inclusive design can be found here: Teaching and Inclusive Design