What are exam accommodations for students with disabilities?
Exam accommodations for students with disabilities minimize the impact of the disability by giving students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and ability. Eligibility for exam accommodations is determined by the Disability Resource Center (DRC) staff on the basis of the student's disability documentation. Some of the most typical accommodations include an alternate format such as an audiotape, large print, or braille version of the exam; a low distraction room; extended time; and scribe assistance.
Why are college instructors required to either allow or provide exam accommodations to students with disabilities?
Federal law (Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) mandates that both the university and individual faculty members must provide appropriate exam accommodations to students with disabilities.
Who is responsible for actually making exam accommodations, faculty or the DRC?
Both! NIU has given the DRC the responsibility of determining appropriate exam accommodations based on documentation and individual situations. Both the DRC and faculty jointly provide the accommodations. Faculty can verify student requests through the DRC. Faculty must comply with the law by either using the DRC Exam Service or by providing the appropriate accommodations themselves.
What is the student's responsibility?
Students requesting exam accommodations through the DRC must comply with Section 504 by providing the DRC with current and appropriate documentation of their disability and recommendations. They must meet with a DRC coordinator to initiate services and receive instructions on how to use services from the DRC. It is the student's responsibility to inform instructors of their exam accommodation requests. Students are strongly encouraged to discuss their exam accommodation requests with faculty at the beginning of each semester.
How do I know if the student qualifies for exam accommodations and if the exam accommodation is appropriate? What if I disagree with the recommended accommodation?
University faculty are not expected to be experts on disability issues. The DRC has a staff of disability specialists. If you have concerns, discuss them with the student and the DRC coordinator. Faculty input in this process is important, as the accommodations should not compromise the essential elements of your exam and/or course objectives. Denying a reasonable and appropriate exam accommodation to a qualified student with a disability is considered noncompliance with federal law.
How does the DRC exam service work?
DRC staff pick up exams from faculty, administer exams with accommodations, and then return completed exams to faculty. Students and faculty are responsible for complying with the DRC exam service procedures on the back of the Exam Accommodation Form. Contact DRC with any questions or concerns regarding these procedures.
What if I prefer to administer the exam myself, rather than use the DRC Exam Service?
Faculty who prefer to administer the exam themselves, or who are unable to make the exam available in accordance with DRC procedures, must still provide the necessary accommodations on their own.
How do I complete the DRC Exam Accommodation Form?
It is the student's responsibility to have the faculty member complete and sign the DRC Exam Accommodation Form, which specifies details regarding the accommodations and administration of the exam well in advance of each exam. A separate form must be completed for each exam administered by the DRC. The students are instructed to ask faculty to complete the form during office hours or before or after class. The form takes only a minute to complete.
When must exams be made available to the DRC?
Faculty must make exams available to the DRC a minimum of two full working days (four working days prior to evening exams) before the exam date if it needs to be put in adapted format (i.e., braille, large print, tape recorded) and a minimum of one full working day in advance if not. Please call the DRC office if other arrangements must be made.
How and when are exams picked up and completed exams delivered by the DRC?
DRC staff will pick up exams and deliver completed exams directly to instructors and/or departmental offices. Completed exams are returned during the first delivery time after the exam has been completed, unless the instructor indicates otherwise.
Why do I have to make exams available to the DRC in advance of the exam date?
If an exam must be adapted into large print, braille, or a tape recording, the DRC staff need sufficient time to make these adaptations. If faculty prefer to make these adaptations themselves rather than use the DRC service they are free to do so. If the DRC does not receive an exam in time to make the necessary adaptation by the scheduled exam time, faculty must allow the student to take the exam at a later date with no penalty.
Due to the number of exams scheduled per day, exams that are not adapted need to be picked up a day before the exam date. If an instructor prefers, an exam may be delivered to the DRC office on the day of the exam prior to the student's scheduled exam time. (Remember, some students, because of extended time, begin an exam prior to the scheduled class time.)
When does the student actually take the exam?
All students are expected to take exams in the time frame of the class. With extended time accommodations, students often begin exams before the regular class time, but are required to remain at the DRC until the regular exam starting time. Students are not allowed to leave early unless instructor permission was indicated on the exam accommodation form. Exceptions are only allowed by the DRC with either written or verbal permission from faculty.
Does the DRC Exam Service administer weekend and evening exams?
Weekend and evening exams should be rescheduled to take place during DRC's regular office hours (M-F, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) if possible. During the summer, office hours may vary. Please contact the DRC office at 815-753-1303 to verify available times. When necessary, the DRC may be able to proctor evening exams, but exams must be completed no later than 7:00 p.m. If these arrangements are not possible, it becomes the instructor's responsibility to administer the exam with the necessary accommodations.
How does the DRC handle exam security?
Exams are kept in a locked file cabinet in the DRC office. Completed exams are returned directly to the faculty member or his/her designee (usually department secretarial staff) as soon as possible. Completed exams must be signed by the receiver (exams are never left on a desk, under a door, etc.). Faculty who prefer to pick up their own exams may do so during the DRC office hours (Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.)
The DRC staff enforce the exam guidelines set forth by the faculty member and closely monitor students while they take the exam. Any inconsistencies in the test-taking situation are reported to the faculty member (i.e., student reports to the DRC after the regular time for the class to take the exam). If a student is caught cheating or attempting to cheat, instructors are notified by the DRC staff, and the faculty member should proceed as with any student.
Is providing exam accommodations to students with disabilities fair to other students?
Determination of exam accommodations is made after reviewing documentation of a disability and the effects of the disability in a test-taking situation. Accommodations are determined so as to minimize the disability, not to give the student with a disability an advantage. Faculty should express any concerns to the student's DRC coordinator.
What do I tell other students regarding exam accommodations for students with disabilities?
Nothing! Confidentiality is of extreme importance, so refrain from discussing any information regarding a student's disability in the presence of other students and/or faculty without that student's consent. If other students inquire, simply inform them that you are not at liberty to discuss any information regarding other students.
What if I have questions, concerns, or need to verify a student's eligibility for DRC exam accommodations?
Contact the DRC office at 753-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.