Frequently Asked Questions

We have complied responses to frequently asked questions about students’ disability accommodations. These are not meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive but meant to be brief responses to commonly asked questions. For other questions and clarifications, please contact drc@niu.edu.

Who is responsible for determining students’ disability accommodations?

The Disability Resource Center has been designated by the university to determine appropriate disability accommodations for NIU students in consultation with several entities. Decisions for accommodations are based on the student’s clarification about specific needs and limitations as well as past history; documentation as needed from a qualified care provider; and assessment of the student’s functional limitations.

How can a faculty member know that the student truly has a disability and needs accommodations?

Faculty (refers here to all those who provide instruction) may ask a student to provide a Letter of Accommodation (LOA) verifying that the student has registered with the Disability Resource Center. Such students, if registered, will be given an LOA within 48 hours of requesting one. Due to confidentiality requirements, the specifics of a disability cannot be disclosed to anyone without the student’s consent.

Are providing accommodations legally required or are they optional?

Providing accommodations are a legally mandated requirement of the university according to federal ADA guidelines. Accommodations must occur in all courses unless the accommodations alter the fundamental objectives of the course. If a faculty member believes an accommodation alters the course objectives, then he or she should contact the student’s Access consultant at the Disability Resource Center. The Access consultant will work with the faculty and the student to determine whether an accommodation can occur in a course and in what format.

Can a faculty member decide disability accommodations for a student on their own without the student going through the Disability Resource Center?

No. It is not advisable to do so for several reasons:

  • Accommodation decisions must be based on the student’s clarification about specific needs and limitations as well as past history; documentation as needed from a qualified care provider; and assessment of the student’s functional limitations,
  • The student may need consistent accommodations in similar courses and in such cases individual faculty may differ in deciding such accommodations on their own.
  • Accommodations decided by the faculty member may or may not adequately meet the student’s need and learning goals.
  • The university may need record of accommodations provided to students with disabilities for ADA compliance and reporting purposes.
Therefore, it is best to go through the Disability Resource Center for accommodating students with disabilities.
Do accommodations give an unfair advantage to students with disabilities?

When accommodations are objectively based upon the documented evidence of functional limitations due to a disability, they simply compensate for the limitation, and therefore are not advantageous. Accommodations are employed to level the playing field so the students with disabilities have full access to lectures, books and to sharing what they have learned. Accommodations are not designed to provide students with disabilities an advantage or ensure success. Students with disabilities, just like other students, are responsible for their own success.

What obligations do faculty have to honor requests for disability accommodations that are made late in the academic semester?

The DRC continuously reviews documentation and registering with the office is a process that may take several days to weeks. Reasons why a student may appear to have registered late with the office include: medical offices’ delay in sending appropriate documentation and recent discovery and diagnosis of a previously unknown disability. Whatever the reason, students may make requests for accommodations at any time during the semester or their academic career, and all faculty are therefore required to honor them upon receiving the Letter of Accommodation. However, faculty are not required to provide accommodations retroactively for prior assignments, exams, etc., before receiving the Letter of Accommodation from the student.

Can faculty call the DRC to speak with an access consultant about a specific student with a disability?

Faculty should feel comfortable contacting access consultants at the DRC to discuss students’ disability accommodation issues. Access consultants are able to provide insight, guidance, and possible solutions to disability accommodation needs in the classroom. DRC access consultants often converse with faculty about complex accommodation situations and they are excellent resources for help in understanding policies, accommodations, or how to help a student. That said, unless the student in question has signed a release of information, access consultants are not able to discuss with faculty the nature of that student’s disability.

What recourse do faculty have if they disagree about student’s requests for accommodations?

While registered students’ requests for accommodations have been verified and are supported by the DRC, some students may occasionally ask for unreasonable accommodations which are not authorized by the DRC. To clarify any confusion, faculty should first contact their student’s Access consultant. If further attention to the issue is required, the Director of the DRC is also available to discuss any concerns.

Are faculty required to lower the standards of a required assignment because a student has a disability?

All NIU students, including those registered with the DRC, are expected to perform the essential functions of the course. Work performed by students with disabilities should be equivalent to their peers’ and should be graded according to the same standards.

At times, a student registered with the DRC may ask for additional accommodations that are above and beyond what has been specifically mandated or approved. In other cases, an Access consultant may contact a faculty directly to discuss a student’s request to modify an assignment. In these circumstances, collaboration between the DRC access consultant, the student and the faculty member will reveal how best to assist this student. Such situations are never cut and dry; faculty should contact a DRC access consultant whenever they are unsure about approved accommodations.

What are some faculty responsibilities/best practices with respect to students’ disability accommodations?
  • Include a statement in the course syllabi about disability accommodation. View a sample statement.
  • Consider accessibility to all students when designing course materials such as presentation materials and course activities such as assignments and examinations. Learn more about accessibility course guidelines and university design for learning.
  • Plan ahead for selecting text books and course materials so that students with disabilities enrolled in the course can also plan to get accessible versions of those course materials.
  • Announce at the beginning of the semester in class that students with disability accommodations can meet with the faculty member confidentially at the end of the class or in the office to share the Letter of Accommodation from DRC or to discuss accommodation needs.
  • Know that students’ disability accommodations are confidential information and cannot be disclosed to anyone without student’s consent and cannot be discussed or disclosed in class. The Letter of Accommodation should not be placed in student’s files in the department or college offices.
  • Get more information about for best practices on disabilities and accessibility.
What if a faculty member anticipates some expenses (for example, special software) related to providing the necessary disability accommodations for a student?

The faculty member should contact the department chair/director of his or her department/school, who may work with the college office of the Provost’s Office in meeting the need.

If a student needs disability accommodations and is also an employee, who should that student contact? DRC or some other office on campus?

If the student who is also an employee needs disability accommodations for course-related purposes then that student should contact DRC. Graduate assistants who need disability accommodations as part of their academic duties should also contact DRC. Employees who need disability accommodations as part of their employment should contact the ADA coordinator ada@niu.edu or 815-753-6038 at NIU.

Who can faculty contact if they have any questions or need additional information about disability accommodations?

Faculty can contact an access consultant in the DRC at our main office at 815-753-1303, email at drc@niu.edu or visit us at the fourth floor of the Health Services Building.

Contact Us

Disability Resource Center
Health Services, 4th Floor
Monday-Friday
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
P: 815-753-1303
F: 815-753-9570
drc@niu.edu