“Independence is measured not by the tasks one can perform without assistance but by the quality of one’s life with help.”

- Ed Roberts, founder of Independent Living Movement

Don’t accommodations give some students an advantage over other students?

No. Academic accommodations provide accessible opportunities for students with disabilities to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and capabilities so that they have an equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, the programs and activities of the university. Academic accommodations also allow students to demonstrate what they know rather than being academically limited by the effects of their disability. Providing auxiliary aids and services is not considered special treatment. 

Accommodations are reasonable, right?

NIU is committed to providing inclusive learning environments. Equal access can often be achieved through course design; however, barriers to learning may still exist for students with disabilities. Members of the NIU community are expected to provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations and related resources to decrease those barriers. 

Accommodations are not required if they are seen as:

  • “unreasonable” 
  • a “fundamental alteration” of a program and/or
  • imposing an “undue” financial or administrative burden. Note: The “financial or administrative burden” falls to the university, not individual programs.  Proving such a burden upon the institution is a very high standard to meet.

How do I let students know about availability of accommodations?

To make sure that students know about the availability of accommodations, put the NIU accessibility statement on the course syllabus. Using this statement also creates a more welcoming environment and encourages students who have disabilities to meet with you.

The Disability Resource Center (DRC) and NIU’s Presidential Commission on Persons with Disabilities have both reviewed and endorsed the use of the statement and strongly recommend that you use it in all of your course syllabi.

How do I create an accommodation for a student?

“Disability is not a brave struggle or ‘courage in the face of adversity.’ Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live.”  - Neil Marcus, playwright

You do not need to create accommodations on your own; that is the area of expertise of the DRC. As such, direct students to the DRC to obtain approved accommodations. The DRC can collaborate with you and other departments and faculty across campus to implement accommodations as well as create a more universally designed learning environment. 

Academic accommodations commonly occur in these areas: 

Auxiliary aids or assistance

Auxiliary aids may include the use of an adaptive computer and/or alternate format of materials (e.g., Braille, enlarged print). Assistance may include priority registration, route-training, note-takers, interpreters, service animals, human guides, personal care attendants and real-time captionists. Please note: NIU is not responsible for providing personal care attendants. 

Reasonable modification of policies and procedures

The reasonable modification of policies and procedures can also be an example of a reasonable accommodation to a disability. Please remember that a modification to a policy or procedure is not considered reasonable if it would fundamentally alter the underlying program.

Consideration for absences

The Office of Civil Rights has determined that, under certain circumstances, it may be appropriate to modify course attendance policies. When attendance policies are in place, the faculty or staff member should be able to justify why attendance is an “essential function” in the class. Faculty are encouraged to consult with the DRC on the question of attendance policies. 

Exam and testing accommodations

Exam accommodations for students with disabilities minimize the impact of the disability by affording students an equal opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and ability. Eligibility for exam accommodations is determined by DRC staff on the basis of the student’s disability documentation and informational interview. Some of the most typical accommodations include an alternate format such as an auditory version, large print or Braille version of the exam; a low distraction room; extended time; and scribe assistance. 

Non-curricular accommodations at NIU include:

Accessible housing - NIU Residence Halls have rooms and facilities that are accessible to students with disabilities. 

Accessible parking - Arrangements for parking permits are made through NIU Campus Parking Services. 

Accessible transportation - The Huskie Bus Line runs throughout campus and some areas of the DeKalb community. The Freedom Mobile offers an accessible paratransit system that runs during the same hours as the Huskie buses and provides on-call door-to-door service throughout the DeKalb community.

How do I make sure that students’ accommodation needs are met? 

Everyone has a role to play in making sure that students’ accommodation needs are being met at NIU. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and its amendments requires students, faculty, administrators and the DRC to each fulfill certain responsibilities to ensure that courses are accessible.


  • Students work with the DRC to obtain academic accommodations or assistance. To initiate this process, students schedule an interview with a DRC staff member. During the interview, students may provide disability documentation and discuss how the disability impacts their education. Any additional necessary documentation is provided by the student at his or her expense.
  • Students collaborate with the DRC to get letters of accommodations from the DRC to faculty that identify their approved accommodation(s). 
  • Students are encouraged to meet with the faculty member privately to discuss their accommodations. There may be times when a student needs more specific accommodations in relation to a particular course than the approved accommodations provided by the DRC.  If a question of whether an accommodation is required arises, conversations between the faculty member, the DRC and the student should occur to make a determination on what reasonable accommodations need to be made.
  • Students are asked to request any accommodation(s) as early in the semester as possible. It is a student’s right to disclose and request accommodations at any time. Accommodations are not required to be applied retroactively. 
  • Students with disabilities are expected to meet the same academic and conduct standards as their peers. 

Note: Students are not required to pay for academic accommodations.


Faculty may have multiple roles including employee, classroom instructor, employer, and web/technology developer. Accessibility must be a consideration across all professional activities. 

  • As an employee, faculty members have the right to any reasonable accommodation needed to do their job. Requests regarding job-related accommodations should be directed to Human Resources.
  • As instructors, faculty should expect students with disabilities to meet the same academic and performance standards as their non-disabled peers. Strategies to increase accessibility include but are not limited to:
    • providing approved accommodations
    • adding a syllabus statement notifying students about disability-related support services
    • verifying the accessibility of online technology and websites
    • incorporating principles of Universal Design
  • As employers, faculty involved in hiring processes must make sure that hiring practices are not discriminatory and that appropriate accommodations are provided to employees who have disabilities.
  • As web/technology developers, faculty should verify that all software and web content is accessible to students who use screen readers.


NIU encourages its administrators to work with the DRC and Human Resources to meet the University’s legal obligations as well as create a welcoming and accessible environment for students who have disabilities. 

  • Administrators are expected to have fundamental background knowledge of disability legislation and university policy regarding disability law, particularly the ADA. They are also expected to educate and inform faculty and staff under their direction about the University’s policies and procedures for students who have disabilities. They have a similar responsibility to assist in responding to accommodation requests made by students.
  • Chairs and administrators may also need to serve as a coordinator or liaison between the student, faculty member(s) and DRC when disagreements arise. 
  • Accessibility is required of all purchased goods and services, including technology. Physical accessibility of all locations where classes, programs and events are held is also required to the extent provided in law. 
  • Departments and programs are responsible for providing accommodations for meetings, events and presentations that are open to the public.

Disability Resource Center 

The University has designated the DRC as the entity to verify, determine and provide appropriate accommodations for qualified students. 

In addition, the role of the DRC is to:

  • consult regarding reducing barriers for persons with disabilities
  • ensure the effective delivery of accommodations
  • increase the recruitment, transition, retention, and graduation of students with disabilities
  • promote and facilitate access through creative outreach and training, collaborative partnership, innovative programs and proactive solutions
  • maintain test security and provide proctors for exams and quizzes taken in the DRC office
  • engage and support the campus community in progressive system change

What if I have questions or disagree with an accommodation?

Faculty members may have legitimate questions or concerns about a student’s specific accommodation. Concerns should be shared with DRC and the student jointly. While the dispute is being resolved, the student maintains the right to the original accommodation. When disagreements arise the University and student should engage in a conversation regarding the student’s request for accommodations in an effort to identify reasonable accommodations that the University can provide. Students should not be put in the position of “negotiating” his or her accommodations by themselves.

What do I tell students if they have a grievance or concern?

If a student has a disability-related academic grievance or concern about a department, faculty or staff member at the University, he or she can:

  • contact his or her DRC staff member who may be able to assist the student in resolving the problem
  • speak with the NIU Ombudsperson
  • file a written grievance with the Chair or Director of the department involved
    • Written complaints should state the concern, the steps already taken to resolve the issue, the results of those steps and the requested resolution to the problem. 
    • If the student is not satisfied with the resolution, the student may appeal to the appropriate Dean and then to the Vice-Provost. The decision of the Vice-Provost is final.

Non-academic grievances or concerns may be addressed through the Office of Community Standards & Student Conduct as described in NIU’s Student Code of Conduct (revised August 2012). Students file an incident report. If they are not satisfied with the resolution, they my appeal to an Administrative Hearing or Conduct Board. Disagreements with the Board’s decisions may be appealed to the Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management whose decision is final. Students may also contact the Office of Affirmative Action and Diversity Resources as an additional option for complaints based on discrimination and /or harassment.

What campus resources are available to my students and me?

Disability Resource Center 

The mission of the Disability Resource Center is to create an accessible, inclusive, sustainable learning environment, where disability is recognized as an aspect of diversity that is integral to the campus community and to society. The center is on the 4th floor of the Health Services Building, and can be reached at 815-753-1303 (V/TTY) or

Disability and Accessibility Online Portal

The NIU homepage has a link that provides additional information, resources and websites to supplement material in this tutorial. The Division of Information Technology provides assistive technology in computer labs in multiple locations across campus. All assistive technology stations have screen reading software, screen enlargement software, text-to-speech software and scanners.

Library services for people with disabilities

The library system offers specialized library-use assistance to any person with a disability. Assistance will be specifically tailored to the needs of the individual. Assistive equipment is available in a specialized study room. The coordinator of library services for individuals with disabilities is available to discuss paper topics, library assignments, etc. 

Presidential Commission on Persons with Disabilities (PCPD)

The Commission serves as a university-wide advocate promoting awareness, educating the university community and assisting individuals on disability-related issues. The PCPD’s vision is to have a university community characterized by dignity, respect and equal access where all individuals are valued members of NIU’s living, learning and working environment. 


  • The purpose of academic accommodations is to provide full and equal opportunity for students with disabilities to participate in all activities, events, programs, and classes offered by the University.
  • Academic accommodations may include but are not limited to:
    • auxiliary aids or assistance (e.g., adaptive computers, note takers, sign language interpreters).
    • consideration for absences.
    • exam and testing accommodations.
  • Students must take the initiative to obtain accommodations. They must first meet with a DRC Coordinator to discuss and potentially document their disability. After appropriate accommodations have been determined, students then share this information with their instructors via a letter from DRC.
  • Typically, students must register with DRC to implement accommodations.
  • Faculty and staff have a responsibility to honor approved accommodation requests. Disagreements about a student’s specific accommodation should be shared with DRC and the student jointly. While the dispute is being resolved, the student maintains the right to the original accommodation.
  • Administrators are expected to have a working knowledge of disability legislation, particularly as applied to higher education. They must ensure that faculty and staff under their direction are informed and educated about the University’s policies and procedures for students who have disabilities. They are encouraged to inform students about the availability of accommodations as well as assist in responding to accommodation requests.


True or false: Faculty decide what disability-related accommodations a student receives.


True or false: The Disability Resource Center makes the final determination in all academically related disputes.


True or false: Faculty are strongly encouraged to include an "accessibility statement" in their course syllabi.