Frequently Asked Questions

A student with a disability may register with the Office of Educational Accessibility by presenting documentation of his/her disability. This documentation must meet the Guidelines for Documentation that have been prepared by the Office of Educational Accessibility. These guidelines indicate that the report must be provided by a professionally qualified third party, must include evidence of "the nature of the disability and its impact on the student's ability to learn in the academic setting", must provide a specific diagnosis and any relevant testing reports to support the diagnosis, and must include "recommendations about accommodations for the academic setting which the University will consider."

Once the student has obtained the appropriate documentation, the student makes an appointment with the Office of Educational Accessibility to complete the Intake Process. The student's documentation is reviewed to determine if it meets the Guidelines for Documentation. If the guidelines are met, the student and the Office of Educational Accessibility professional discuss which reasonable accommodations are appropriate. The student is then informed regarding the process of letter distribution, use of accommodations, test procedures, and other services available to them.

Accommodations are based upon the documentation that the student presents and the discussion that the student has with the Office of Educational Accessibility professionals. Accommodations are established which will support the student with a disability in the academic setting. Since some students are not familiar with using accommodations, and the types of classes change from one semester to another, the accommodations may have to be adjusted during the course of their academic career.

For the students who provide verification of a disability from the Office of Educational Accessibility, instructors should:

  • provide accommodations as enumerated in the Accommodation Letter in a reasonable and timely manner
  • confer with students to establish the best means of providing accommodations
  • evaluate students based on their abilities, not their disabilities

You are not obligated to provide accommodations until the student presents a letter from the Office of Educational Accessibility that verifies whether they are currently registered with our office. However, if the disability is evident, and the accommodation appears reasonable, you may provide the accommodation while awaiting official notification from the Office of Educational Accessibility. You are not expected to change grades earned without accommodations prior to self-identification.

Most instructors handle the provision of accommodations by making arrangements directly with the student once a letter requesting accommodations has been provided.

The Office of Educational Accessibility is here to support instructors in the implementation of special accommodations. For students who need a distraction-reduced setting or access to a computer or accessible software for testing, a test request may be made through our online request form. This should be done by the student in advance of any upcoming assessment.

Please contact the professional staff of the Office of Educational Accessibility if a particular accommodation interferes with the process or methodology of a class. The Office of Educational Accessibility will work with the instructor and student to try to find a reasonable accommodation to meet a particular situation.

Instructors should continue to provide the recommended accommodation until a resolution is reached. Withholding an accommodation puts both the instructor and the University at risk for legal liability.

Since most instructors do not have training or extensive experience in the area of disabilities and the legal issues related to accommodation, they are advised to discuss any concerns with the Office of Educational Accessibility. If satisfactory answers are not determined, the instructor may appeal to the Office of Institutional Equity & Diversity for assistance.

While some students' disabilities may be apparent, many students have invisible disabilities which include medical conditions, psychological conditions, attention deficit disorder, and specific learning disabilities. Since the Office of Educational Accessibility is legally bound by the confidentiality of all records, it may release only the information that is necessary for the student's academic needs. Thus, the Office of Educational Accessibility does not identify the nature of the student's disability and only lists the accommodations that have been determined as necessary for the student's academic support. Individual students may choose to discuss their particular situation with an instructor but are not required to so. The instructor must be careful not to ask questions about the nature of the disability.

Due to the confidentiality of all documents related to students with disabilities, the Office of Educational Accessibility cannot provide notice to instructors until the student authorizes this release of information. Students are encouraged to request letters for instructors early each semester. Most of the students do so in a timely manner during the first weeks of classes once their schedule is firm.

A student may elect to attempt a class without accommodations and to self-identify later in the process. However, if the student opts for this approach, any grades that have been earned without the use of accommodations remain as given.

In addition, registration with the Office of Educational Accessibility may take place at any point during the semester. Thus, a student may not have documentation until later in a semester. Once the student has provided the appropriate documentation, accommodations can be instituted. The Office of Educational Accessibility does not accept new documentation for accommodation for a current semester during the week prior to final exams or during final exam week.

Students with disabilities are as broad a cross-section of the student body as any other sub-group. They will vary in their intellectual ability, learning styles, emotional health, and moral integrity. Recognition of the diverse population of students, in general, can be helpful when dealing with students with specific behaviors. When concerned about whether a student is being pushy, an instructor needs to identify the basis for that concern by asking if a student without a disability with the same behaviors would be viewed in the same manner. If the answer is "yes", the instructor should deal with the student in the same manner as though no disability were present. If the answer is "no," the instructor may consult with the Office of Educational Accessibility regarding how to proceed.

If any particular accommodation is cause for concern, please contact the Office of Educational Accessibility to make sure that the accommodation is valid. The Office of Educational Accessibility determines accommodations on a case-by-case basis with the documentation as the objective criteria upon which the decisions are supported.

Students using accommodations should never be graded on a different basis from their peers, nor have their accommodations suspended, even if an instructor believes that the student does not need support for a disability.

Instructors should maintain a copy of each student's accommodation letter in their records for each class. If the student raises a specific concern that you want to document, please feel free to do so as you would for any other student who raised a particular concern with you.

If, during the course of a semester, a student displays one or more of the following characteristics, you may suggest that the student discuss these difficulties with someone in the Office of Educational Accessibility:

effort exceeds returns poor reading/listening comprehension
poor written expression extreme distractibility/frustration
severe math errors severe test anxiety
good class participation; poor test performance and vice versa

The student may be entitled to accommodations if they can document this situation as a disability. Referrals can be made to the Office of Educational Accessibility, 1021 Student Success Center, (757) 683-4655.

If a problem arises with respect to any unreturned examination, please contact the Office of Educational Accessibility at x4655 or The staff should be able to inform you whether the student has completed the test, on which day it was taken, the time, and how the test was returned.

This question usually does not arise in relation to students with visible disabilities as most instructors expect that the student will need to have accommodations. However, if the disability is not visible and the student is being successful in the class, the question of fairness may arise. In a research study by K. Runyon in 1989, two groups of students with and without learning disabilities were compared with respect to extended time on tests. The results indicated that the students with learning disabilities did have significantly better results on tests when they were provided with extended time for testing. This was not a surprising result. However, the students without learning disabilities did not do significantly better on their test scores when they were given extended time. This result suggests that the accommodation of extended time helps to provide a level playing field but does not provide an advantage for the student with a learning disability.

Understanding Disabilities

ADA definition of disability and individual types of disabilities.

Some students without disabilities may object to the provision of accommodations to students with disabilities. Since instructors are bound by the confidential nature of the student disability issue, this information cannot be shared with the other students. It is best to make some statement to the effect that you are not at liberty to discuss the confidential nature of another student's affairs, and that you hope that they understand as you would afford them the same courtesy if someone inquired about them.

No, this is not considered a disability under the ADA. You can offer adjustments within your class as you see fit. In addition, the ODU English Language Center may have resources that would be helpful.