Disability-Related Modification of Attendance

Office of Accessibility Resources

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Circumstances for Modification

Attendance during scheduled class time is a necessary part of the learning process at Bucknell University. While most faculty consider class attendance and participation mandatory, the Director of the Office of Accessibility Resources (OAR)—working under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act—may recommend modification in attendance for some students registered with the OAR.

The ADA clearly stipulates that academic accommodations and adjustments must not alter essential features or requirements of courses. The ADA also, however, protects students with disabilities from discrimination. Faculty members still have the responsibility of setting the class attendance policy, but this accommodation is simply a request for additional modification. Variables such as the course, the material, and the necessity of interaction in the classroom should all be considered.

The amount of modification will depend upon the nature of the class and whether class participation is a factor in the final grade—thus it is important for students to be proactive about this request as well as understand that this is a course-by-course accommodation. In some rare cases, attendance is a fundamental/essential requirement in meeting course objectives, and therefore leniency in attendance would be deemed unreasonable.

Students who are approved for this accommodation are responsible for completing all coursework. This accommodation should not make allowance for students to miss a large number of classes for any course.

This accommodation is in accordance with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) decision regarding Cabrillo Community College, Case no. 09-96-2150 (OCR Region IX, 1996), regarding classroom attendance. Please note that OCR accords significant deference to a college’s determination that attendance is essential in a particular course.

Procedure for Request

  • Register with the OAR.
  • The Director will review documentation as well as meet with student to consider the student’s self-report to determine eligibility and necessity of the request as well as assess the appropriateness for each individual class with a strong emphasis on professor input.
  • If this accommodation is approved, the director may reach out to the professor(s) of each course to determine the allowable number of absences for each course. Typically, the student should be at least provided 1 absence in addition to what is stated in the course syllabus.
  • If this accommodation is not approved, the student is encouraged to work with the academic advisor or academic dean on course scheduling.

NOTE: Students who request this accommodation or provide documentation after absences have occurred will not be eligible for retroactive accommodations.

Student Responsibilities

  1. Student provides appropriate documentation of a disability to the OAR and discusses the impact of the disability with the Director of the OAR.
  2. Student schedules an appointment to meet with the professor and discusses the parameters of absences for the class (1 absence should be the minimum) and to understand the plan for making up missed work. Student will sign the Flexible Attendance Agreement form so that all parties are aware of the number of missed absences allowed and how to provide make-up work.
  3. If modification in attendance is an approved accommodation, the student is responsible for contacting the professor as soon as possible when a disability-related absence will occur/has occurred/is occurring.
  4. Student will adhere to the agreed upon plan and complete make-up work within the agreed upon alternate timeline.
  5. At any time, the student can contact the OAR with any questions or concerns.

NOTE: It should not be assumed that because a student has received a certain number of absences in the past or from a particular professor that it will be automatic for all classes. This accommodation is determined on a case-by-case, course-by- course basis.

Faculty Responsibilities

  1. Please refer to the guidelines below from the Office of Civil Rights decision regarding Cabrillo Community College, Case No. 09-96-2150 (OCR Region IX 1996) in determining whether attendance is an essential aspect of a course:

    Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students, and among students? Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process? Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method for learning?

    To what degree does a student’s failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?

    What do the course description and syllabus say?

    Which method is used to calculate the final grade?

    And what are the classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?
  2. After these factors have been examined, a reasoned judgment should be made about whether a waiver of the course attendance requirement would be acceptable.
  3. Pay attention to possible claims of differential treatment. Occasionally, a professor has a strict attendance policy on paper but has modified it for others. It is important to consider any exceptions you may have made; either to your own policy or that of the program/school, especially for nondisabled students (athletes, death in the family, unplanned surgery, flu outbreak, etc.).
  4. Regardless of the outcome, the deliberative process should be well documented, so that others who were not involved in the process can understand the alternatives considered and the reasons for the final decision.

Faculty Considerations When Determining Parameters of Modification in Attendance

  • What does the syllabus say about attendance?
  • If you do have an attendance policy, do you require all students to provide a doctor’s note if absent?
  • Is attendance factored into the student’s final grade?
  • What is the “time in seat” expectation for this class?
  • Are students required to actively participate in class discussions/activities?
  • How is participation figured into the final grade?
  • How are students expected to interact with each other (in class, group work outside of class, e-mail, etc.)?
  • Is the material being learned in the class sequential? Does each week’s material build on the material learned in
    the previous week(s)?
  • Are there other sections of the class that the student could attend to catch up on missed material?
  • What policies exist for making up missed exams, pop quizzes? Turning in late work?
  • Could missed assignments be turned in via discussion board/e-mail?
  • Are tests to be taken at a specific time and place, or is there a window when the test can be taken?
  • Is it possible for students to “work ahead” in this class?

NOTE: Students who have disabilities that affect attendance often do not go to the doctor when feeling poorly and most likely will not provide a doctor’s note. The LOA should cover this need.

OAR Responsibilities

  • OAR discusses accommodation needs with the student and reviews student’s documentation. Through a discussion with individual faculty if needed, the Director may or may not establish that flexibility. in attendance is an appropriate, necessary accommodation.
  • OAR will generate student’s Letter of Accommodation and send out via email to appropriate, applicable professor(s).
  • OAR will address student/faculty questions and concerns regarding accommodations.

Incomplete/Course Withdrawal/Medical Withdrawal

In cases where absences will affect the ability of the student to complete the course “on time” or the student cannot keep up with the course, the student may consult with the professor regarding the advisability of an incomplete.

In cases where the student is unable to demonstrate the skills required to complete the course, the student must contact the Dean of the respective college.

The Director of the OAR can participate in a meeting to discuss these issues upon request.

In the event of a medical withdrawal, the student must submit the Application for Undergraduate Leave of Absence and follow the University’s withdrawal procedures.